A Bull of the Woods in the Winter

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February 23, 2014

One of our favorite hiking trails in the Taos Ski Valley is the Bull of the Woods Trail, which leads hikers up to the Wheeler Peak Trail, that hikers take to summit the high point of New Mexico. Those not heading to the summit may follow the trail up to the Bull of the Woods Pasture, a lovely mountain meadow that makes a great spot for an impromptu picnic lunch. Up until this month, however, we have only experienced this trail during non-winter months.

Bull of the Woods Trailhead, Taos Ski Valley, NMLast weekend, up for a new adventure, Terry and I headed up to the Ski Valley with the goal of conquering a snow-covered Bull of the Woods Trail.  Much of it was firmly tracked and serene, just as we had imagined. It was a lovely day and a pleasant hike. The YakTrax I had on my hiking shoes prevented me from slipping and the solitude we found on the trail was regenerating.

Ski runs are visible from the trail in winter

Ski runs are visible from the trail in winter

However, it was not without peril. On several sections of the trail, most of which were about six to ten feet in length and covered the entire width of the trail, glaciers of ice prevented our smooth transition from one section of the trail to the next. Initially at a loss for how to traverse these challenging sections, we eventually discovered, via trial and error, that by leaning heavily on our hiking poles which we dug firmly into the ice and walking slowly and deliberately giving the YakTrax a chance to catch hold, we were able to successfully negotiate even these trying sections of trail.

Bull of the Woods Pasture, NMWe were amply rewarded for our efforts. The views were spectacular and the hike was delightful. Once we had traversed these challenging sections, we had the trail all to ourselves.

We reached the Bull of the Woods Pasture, then turned to head back down. We explored the idea of hiking a short section of the Wheeler Peak Trail, but soon realized that, as it was winter, this trail was now a ski run. As soon as a skier sped past us, we thought better of attempting that feat and turned back.

RVs are welcome to camp in the parking area

RVs are welcome to camp in the parking area

The hike down was as delightful as the ascent had been. The glaciated areas were challenging, but through slow and careful maneuvering, we again traversed them successfully. We arrived down in the main parking area, replete with the RVs of visiting skiers and hikers, feeling renewed and refreshed. With a few precautions and the right equipment, this hike is even more enjoyable and serene during the winter than during the busy summer months.

Read more about New Mexico camping and things to do in New Mexico.

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