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General Information

Carson National Forest
Copyright: - US Forest Service
Carson National Forest
Description - Some of the finest mountain scenery in the Southwest is found in the 1.5 million acres covered by the Carson National Forest. Elevations rise from 6,000 feet to 13,161 feet. The scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains include Wheeler Peak, (13,161) the highest peak in New Mexico. Other ranges flank the upper Rio Grande Valley.

There are a number of scenic drives on the Carson. Travel the "Enchanted Circle" loop - Taos, Eagle Nest, Red River - with an optional drive to Cimarron-Valle Vidal-Questa and then back to Taos. Drive up to Taos Ski Valley, or one of the most beautiful drives in the State, U.S. Highway 64 from Tres Piedras to Tierra Amarilla or El Rito. Another scenic option is State Highway 76 to Penasco and Truchas.

Ghost Ranch Living Museum near Abiquiu offers live plant and animal displays. The Living Museum is home to nearly 40 animals indigenous to New Mexico, which have been orphaned, abandoned or relinquished as pets. Visitors to the area can also tour picturesque Spanish villages, float down Chama River Canyon, sample the Taos art colony and visit Taos Pueblo. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad runs from Chama to Antonito.

There are four designated Wilderness Areas on the Carson: Wheeler Peak, Latir Peak, Cruces Basin and Pecos Wildernesses, as well as the Columbine-Hondo proposed wilderness.

Recreation - The Carson National Forest offers recreational opportunities in any season. The magnificent mountain scenery and cool summer temperatures lure vacationers to enjoy the peace and quiet for camping, horseback riding, pack trips, lake or stream trout fishing, and elk, deer, or turkey hunting. Winter activities include downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

The Carson has thirty-nine campgrounds. For those who want to get away, the Carson provides opportunities for dispersed car camping and backcountry camping as well.

There are 330 miles of trails where opportunities abound for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and 4-wheel drive exploring.

Many summer hiking trails and forest roads become cross-country ski and snowmobile trails in winter. Trail guides are available at any Carson office. Some of the finest downhill skiing in the country is found at Taos Ski Valley, Red River and Sipapu Ski Areas. Angel Fire and Rio Costilla Ski Areas are located on nearby private lands.

Climate - The day to night temperature change is extreme, especially above 7,000 feet. Even in summer, nights are cool to cold depending on elevation. You'll find snow at timberline until June. Expect frequent afternoon showers in July and August. Winter brings heavy snows to the higher elevations and temperatures can dip well below zero. Sunny days are common however, even in the winter, with temperatures reaching into the 30's and 40's.

Location - The Carson National Forest is located in Northern New Mexico, around the communities of Taos, Questa, Penasco, Tres Piedras, Canjilon and El Rito. The Rio Grande River runs between two sections of the forest.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Climbing Wheeler Peak via Williams Lake is a worthwhile hike, but may not be the best route. I have rated it as difficult, but must consider the fact that I flew from sea level about 36 hours before the hike. This hike starts out very easily with a nice hike to the lake. The lake and valley are beautiful and the summit awaits a mere one mile or so (on a map) away. Most of this route, however, cannot truly be called a trail. This is a steep grade with lots of talus and will take about three times longer than the typical one mile hike. The summit is, however, amazing and this is probably the hike of choice for anyone who has limited time.

More Information

Contact Information:
Carson National Forest, 208 Cruz Alta Road, P.O. Box 558 , Taos, NM, 87571, Phone: 505-758-6200

Additional Information:
New Mexico National Forests and Parks - The wide range of terrain and climates found in the state of New Mexico creates diverse settings in its National Forests and Park sites.
Santa Fe, NM -

Carson National Forest - Official agency website.


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