Santa Fe, NM: Stewart Lake

Wind through wildflowers and climb more than 2,000 feet on this 12-mile out-and-back in the Pecos Wilderness that visits an alpine lake below Santa Fe Baldy.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Wind through wildflowers and climb more than 2,000 feet on this 12-mile out-and-back in the Pecos Wilderness that visits an alpine lake below Santa Fe Baldy.

A perfect weekend getaway, this 12-mile out-and-back climbs steadily through wildflower-filled landscapes to Stewart Lake, one of the easier-access alpine lakes in the Pecos Wilderness. From the Cowles Trailhead, the route follows a well-marked path through fir and pine before transitioning to aspen and small rock shelves offering panoramic views.
Just 200 yards long, Stewart Lake is 6 miles from the trailhead and just north of the Skyline Trail beyond a small, marshy pond. Climb north on a secondary trail for a few hundred yards to a drainage bench—you'll spot this petite lake beneath Santa Fe Baldy and the Lake Katherine basin.
Note: Because this is a relatively high-traffic wilderness area, follow Leave No Trace principles. Use existing trails and camp on established sites at east 200 feet away from water.
-Mapped by Bill Velasquez
LOCAL LINKS
GAS
Chevron - St Francis Plaza
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
505-983-9749
Conoco Phillips
215 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe, NM
505-820-0431
GEAR
REI
500 Market Street #100
Santa Fe, NM 87501
505-982-3557
Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works
328 S. Guadalupe St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
505-984-8221
GROCERIES
Kaune's Neighborhood Market
511 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-982-2629

Whole Foods Market
753 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-992-1700
RESTAURANTS
Back Road Pizza
1807 2nd St # 1
Santa Fe, NM 87505
505-955-9055

Aztec Café
317 Aztec
505-820-0025

Five & Dime General Store
58 E. San Francisco St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
505-992-1800

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 19.3

Waypoints

STL001

Location: 35.8119841, -105.659219

The trail begins in the northwest corner of the Cowles Trailhead parking area, just before the road crosses the Pecos River. There is plenty of parking for cars and horse trailers, but no toilet or drinking water at this lot.

STL002

Location: 35.8127403, -105.66185

Stay straight at this junction and follow Winsor Ridge Trail #271 toward a gradual climb and out of the busy campground basin.

STL003

Location: 35.8163528, -105.668602

A series of switchbacks begins just before this point at the wilderness area boundary. Eastern views of the Santa Fe National Forest open up in this transition zone to higher, cooler elevations.

STL004

Location: 35.8263037, -105.6823611

Before reaching the lake and ridges at mile 2.2, this route dips into a draw carved in the grassy hills by a seasonal creek.

STL005

Location: 35.8337822, -105.6969604

Deer often follow the seasonal creek that runs down from the grassy hillside above this point. Keep an eye out for both hunters and deer that frequent this area.

STL006

Location: 35.8331871, -105.6984863

This aspen-surrounded meadow at mile 3.8 offers good camping, especially when conditions allow you to find water nearby.

STL007

Location: 35.8335061, -105.7049131

This creek, though seasonal, is relatively reliable and can provide water most of the time.

STL008

Location: 35.8301659, -105.7056856

During wildflower blooms in the spring and summer, meadows on these south-facing slopes are brilliant with golden sunflowers. You'll cruise conifer forests, aspen groves, scrub oak, and flower-filled meadows before reaching this point where the climbing mellows.

STL009

Location: 35.8321796, -105.7197779

Turn left onto the Skyline Trail #251 and continue west. You'll cross a small creek up ahead. Monkshood blossoms and huckleberry ground cover are a sign that you're well above 10,000 feet.

STL010

Location: 35.8305182, -105.7220095

This camping area is large enough to support multiple groups and is a LNT-approved distance from the lake. The site is spotted with campfire rings and is a hangout for elusive snowshoe hare.

STL011

Location: 35.8311358, -105.7242626

Spend some time enjoying the Stewart Lake basin and views of Santa Fe Baldy's eastern slope. The spillway supports lush clusters of fireweed and other native plants and is an ideal place to filter water. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

Stewart Lake

Location: 35.8311641, -105.7242733

Stewart Lake, at 10,232 feet above sea level sits nearly 2,500 feet below the peak of Santa Fe Baldy. Both the peak and the basin of Katherine Lake (1,500 feet higher than Stewart Lake) are visible from this shoreline.

Winsor Ridge Trail Sign

Location: 35.8119841, -105.6591117

Wilderness Boundary

Location: 35.8163951, -105.6684244

Santa Fe National Forest

Location: 35.8162124, -105.6675553

Skyline Trail #251

Location: 35.8321492, -105.7197189

Follow signs for the Skyline Trail #251. Stewart Lake isn't visible from the trail, so you'll have to turn right up ahead to find it.

Monkshood

Location: 35.8321187, -105.7196707

These bluish-purple buds are in the buttercup family.

Swampy Pond

Location: 35.8311467, -105.7210279

This swampy pond before Lake Stewart is visible from the trail, but isn't as striking as what lies ahead.

Rattlesnake Orchid

Location: 35.8305965, -105.7220042

A blooming threesome of rattlesnake orchids. When the spear-like bud isn't present, look for the tell-tale white stripe on the leaf.

Snowshoe Hare

Location: 35.8305639, -105.7219988

Hiding in the high-altitude forests near Stewart Lake.

Butterfly

Location: 35.8304834, -105.7219961

Huckleberry

Location: 35.8304508, -105.7219961

Huckleberries, though generally edible, have larger seeds than blueberries and a sometimes bitter taste. Never eat a berry you can't positively identify.

See the Bee?

Location: 35.8312076, -105.7242706

Fireweed

Location: 35.8312402, -105.7242814

A pioneering species, fireweed tends to colonize open areas with little competition, like the spillway near Stewart Lake.