Late summer hiking: Indian Lake at Aqua Piedra

The trail to the lake begins at the Agua Piedra campground, located southeast of Taos.

Cindy Brown
Posted 9/1/15

Indian Lake is nestled in a small mountain meadow. A profusion of wildflowers can be seen along the trail through the woods and in open areas. Although the aspen leaves are still green, there is a faint touch of fall in the breeze that hints at the …

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Late summer hiking: Indian Lake at Aqua Piedra

The trail to the lake begins at the Agua Piedra campground, located southeast of Taos.

Posted

Indian Lake is nestled in a small mountain meadow. A profusion of wildflowers can be seen along the trail through the woods and in open areas. Although the aspen leaves are still green, there is a faint touch of fall in the breeze that hints at the change of season to come.

Indian Lake may have received its name because the area was important to the Picuris Pueblo Indians who passed this way on their treks to the plains to hunt for buffalo, according to Skip Miller, an archeologist with the Carson National Forest.

The trail to the lake begins at the Agua Piedra campground, located southeast of Taos. The trailhead is at the corral where a sign indicates it is the start of the Agua Piedra Trail. Follow the path for about one-half mile, along a rising meadow to the Indian Trail (19C) sign. Turn left here and pass through a gate.

The path begins a steady climb next to a green and fern-filled ravine to the left. In the shadows of the trees, there are many wildflowers, including the lavender-colored aster and the dramatic deep blue-purple parry gentian. Birds can be seen on this section of the trail, including the black and white downy woodpecker. Many small chipmunks and squirrels are here, as well. Other wildlife that might be seen are deer and elk.

Soon the trail begins to steepen and follows a series of switchbacks up through the aspen and pine forest. At the top of a crest, the path enters a long meadow filled with wildflowers, including the scarlet gila fairy trumpet, bellflower, and Indian paintbrush. To the southwest, there are views towards Los Esteros ridge, Ripley Point and Jicarita Peak.

Stay to the left, and follow the faint trail across the meadow. At about two miles, the trail drops into a clearing surrounded by the forest. Indian Lake is just ahead. It is a small green lake, reflecting the many cattails that grow on its shore. This is a satisfying spot for a picnic, before returning down the trail.

Total hike length is 4.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 1,100 feet: beginning at 8,400 feet and ending at 9,500 feet.

Weather/Gear

Temperatures are beginning to cool and there is always a possibility of afternoon thunderstorms. Be sure to bring rain gear, along with a fleece vest or other warm layer. Carry plenty of water, including water for dogs, as there is none on this trail until the lake. There are still bugs in the shady parts of the woods, so you may wish to have bug spray with you.

History

At the entrance to the Agua Piedra area, there is a log cabin that is now used for picnics, family reunions, and other events. The cabin was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a warming hut for the Agua Piedra ski area, one of the first ski areas in New Mexico.

Riverside Café at Sipapu

The nearby Riverside Café is open during the weekend this summer. For information, call (800) 587-2240.

Directions

From Taos Plaza, drive south 3.5 miles on Paseo del Pueblo to the traffic signal at NM 518. Turn left here and go 23 miles on State Road 518. Look for the sign to the right for the Agua Piedra Campground. Cross the bridge and turn left. Go up the hill less than a mile and park at the corral.

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