During the long hot New Mexico summer we were beginning to feel the need to see a sizeable body of water. New Mexico has the least amount of water area (0.7%) of all US States, your random fact of the day. We had heard great things about Nambe Lake a lush alpine lake in the Pecos Wilderness just beyond Ski Santa Fe. Since it’s a relatively short hike (suitable for our pup) with easy trailhead access and a clear weather report we headed out.
The trail starts at Santa Fe Ski parking lot just a few miles beyond Hyde State Park and a mere 15 miles outside Santa Fe. Be warned the starting elevation at 10,000 feet makes this hike much more difficult for those coming from sea level. The trail starts at the Winsor Trailhead and follows the Winsor for approximately 2 miles. The 1st mile is a moderate climb through a heavily shaded pine forest until you reach a small clearing and the gate for the Pecos Wilderness. Beyond the gate it’s a slow and steady drop in elevation which you will soon have to earn back the hard way. Along the way Santa Fe Baldy teases with glimpses of its magnificent peak. After roughly 2 miles on the Winsor Trail you will reach a small creek crossing and a sign for Nambe Lake.
Up until the sign for Nambe Lake this hike is pretty much a breeze but from the sign to the lake prepare for some huffing and puffing as you steeply climb 1100 feet in 3/4 of a mile. As you steeply climb from the small creek crossing you will follow a pretty stream (Rio Nambe) with several small but beautiful cascades. The trail is sometimes faint but it’s easy to regain the trail as you climb up the gorge. We lost the trail a few times in a meadow but as long you generally find a path going uphill all these faint trails end up merging multiple times.
We were in a bit of a rush to avoid hiking in the dark so we really booked it through the climb. After what seemed like an eternity we made one final push up a rockfall and were greeted by a stunning vista of Nambe Lake.
The wind was starting to pick up and the temps started to drop but we hiked around the lake and soaked in the view of the surrounding peaks. It’s totally worth it to continue the hike around the lake to the meadow and campsites at the far end of the lake to grab a view of Lake and Deception Peaks. With the sunlight running short we grabbed a few pictures and headed back to the car.
I would definitely recommend having poles for this hike to save your knees on the descent back. If you’re looking for a short intense hike with a fantastic alpine lake as a reward look no further than Nambe Lake!
Distance: 6.8 miles
Elevation: 2200 feet