Deception & Lake Peaks
- Closest city: Sante Fe, NM
- Trail Name: Raven’s Ridge to Deception Peak (12,343 ft) & Lake Peak (12,408 ft)
- Trailhead: Winsor Trailhead (GPS: 35.7956440, -105.8047919)
- Distance: about 6 miles RT (out and back)
- Dog Friendly
Directions: From Sante Fe, take State Road 475 (Hyde Park Road) all the way up to the Santa Fe Ski area, where the road will dead end at Winsor Trailhead (about 30 minutes from the city).
Having recently moved to New Mexico, my husband Sam and I have been anxious to bag some peaks in our new area. Just over an hour from where we live in Los Alamos is the Sante Fe Ski Area, that gives access to multiple amazing hikes via the Winsor Trailhead. From here you can access Sante Fe Baldy, Nambe Lake, and Deception and Lake Peak.
To hike Deception and Lake Peaks, head up the initial switchbacks of the Winsor trail. After about .7 miles, you real reach a fence. Many people will continue through the fence to hike towards Nambe Lake or Sante Fe Baldy. For Deception Peak, however, you will turn right at the fence and follow the Raven’s Ridge trail along the fence line for less than a mile.
Eventually, the trail will turn you right and uphill away from the fence (you can’t miss this turn, the fence dead ends at a steep drop off and simultaneous view of the canyon that leads to Nambe Lake). From here, the true elevation gain begins but is very doable if you take your time. When we did this hike in June 2020, there was almost no snow which made for easy passage and route finding (there are occasional trail divergences but they always seem to meet up).
As you continue up and the trees begin to thin, you will come across an opening with this gorgeous view looking down on Nambe Lake and the basin below Deception and Lake Peaks. Stop and snap a picture, and then keep going- you’re close!
You’ll reach tree line soon after this point, and Deception Peak will be visible just up to the left. You’re on the final uphill push to the summit! If you’re lucky, you might be greeted by a marmot at the summit like we were! (Which, if you know Sam, seeing a marmot or two is his definition of a worthwhile hike).
Rest for a minute or two as you take in the gorgeous view, but I’d recommend pushing on to Lake Peak before you get too comfortable! There’s a gorgeous ridge connecting the two peaks, and it’s more daunting then it looks. If you follow social trails, they will take you to the right of the actual ridge and down a bit lower through less exposed terrain. You will have some scrambling and route finding, but in just another 15-20 minutes you’ll be at the top of Lake Peak! For the more daring, following the top of the ridge is also quite fun 🙂
Enjoy the views overlooking Sante Fe Baldy (left photo) and Nambe Lake (right photo) from the summit of Lake Peak. Sante Fe Baldy is another gorgeous hike in the these mountains that also starts from Winsor Trailhead.
After taking photos (pics or it didn’t happen) and fueling up on snacks, head back down the way you came and retrace your steps on Raven’s Ridge back to your car. If you’re interested in an exciting scramble and alternate route that will take you to Nambe Lake on your way back, keep reading!
As we made our way back down the trail and re-entered the trees, Sam looks down at Nambe Lake and says to me, “Want to scramble down there?” My initial reaction was “Uh yeah, no” because I like my legs and wasn’t looking to break one that day. But as we worked down the edge of the trail, we checked out the multiple cliffs and gullies that lead to a large boulder field in the basin just below Lake Peak and just above Nambe Lake. We found one that looked reasonably doable (still VERY steep, I was glad to have my hiking poles) and started slowly working our way down in a zig zag fashion. I only recommend this route for experienced route finders and confident hikers, as you could get cliffed out if you choose the wrong route. Here’s a rough gps coordinate of where we were scouting a way down (we used google maps after the fact to find this coordinate, so please don’t think that this is marking the EXACT spot we went down!).
Before long, we emerged from the loose dirt and snow to find ourselves in a beautiful boulder field above Nambe Lake. Navigate the rocks for 20 minutes or so until you reach the southwest side of the lake. The hard part is over! Enjoy the STUNNING view and pet all the doggos 🙂 And smile to yourself when everyone there wonders where the heck you came from because they didn’t see you on the trail up.
From Nambe, you’ll take the main trail back to your car at Winsor Trailhead. Doing the scramble down to Nambe will add about a mile to your total mileage, making it closer to 7 or 7.5 miles roundtrip. Worth it! Enjoy the beautiful streams and wildflowers on the way down.
As always, please practice Leave No Trace and leave this beautiful place better than you found it!