Wheeler Peak is the highest peak in the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is located northeast of Taos in the northern part of the state. It lies in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains.
Formerly named Taos Peak, after the nearby town of Taos, New Mexico, it was renamed Wheeler Peak in 1950.
A plaque at the summit states that the mountain was:
"Named in honor of Major George Montague Wheeler (1832–1909) who for ten years led a party of surveyors and naturalists collecting geologic, biologic, planimetric and topographic data in New Mexico and six other southwestern states."
Nearby peaks and features
Just north of Wheeler Peak is Mount Walter. At 13141 feet it is the second highest named summit in New Mexico, but it is not usually considered an independent peak as it has only about 80 feet of topographic prominence. It is sometimes mistaken for Wheeler Peak, since it is along the standard route to Wheeler. Lake Fork Peak at 12881 feet lies just across Williams Lake and to the west of Wheeler Mountain.
The Taos Ski Valley lies to the northwest of Wheeler Peak, while both the town of Taos and Taos Pueblo are about 15 miles to the southwest.
Wheeler Peak is the focus of the 19661 acres Wheeler Peak Wilderness area in the Carson National Forest. Much of the mountain area just south of the peak is on Taos Pueblo land. Some 48000 acres was returned to the pueblo from the Carson National Forest in 1970
and another 764 acres in 1996.
The standard route on Wheeler Peak is along the north ridge. The route starts at the parking lot for Taos Ski Valley, and proceeds east along an old road to a broad saddle at Bull-of-the-Woods Meadow. It then turns south and winds its way among minor peaks and small valleys to gain Wheeler Peak from the north, going over the summit of Mount Walter along the way. This is a practical route, even in winter, due to low (but nonzero) avalanche exposure.
An alternate route is to hike south from Taos Ski Valley to Williams Lake, and then climb directly up the 2000 feet west flank of the mountain. This is more direct than the standard route but involves a great deal of climbing on unpleasantly loose scree.
Other possible routes include the Horseshoe Lake/East Fork Trail and the Lost Lake Trail, both part of the Carson National Forest trail system, although neither of these trails go directly to the summit.
Wheeler Peak has a summit register as do many major western peaks.