This is part of our Guest Blog Series. Copy and Photos by Will Moorman, used with permission.
A few weekends ago, I made the drive up to Sante Fe National Forest to hike to Nambe Lake. For those of you who have not been, the Nambe Lake Trail is a doozy. This 6.4 mile (7.3 for me, and you’ll see why later) out and back trail offers beautiful views of aspens, rolling hills [editor's note: Will, I know you're from the Midwest, but I think out here we typically refer to them as "mountains"] and depending on the time of year you go, a beautiful frozen stream. The last three quarters of a mile is the hardest part as you gain 1500 feet and the trail is sporadic at best.
Morning Prep/The Drive
I started out my Saturday morning a tad groggy from one too many cold ones with the boys the night before. However, in the hours following the previous night’s revelry, I had packed my bag and laid out everything I would need for the hike, giving me no excuse to sleep in. As I live in Albuquerque, I wanted to give myself plenty of time to be up and down without having to worry about sunlight. So, after smashing some morning spaghetti, I hit the road at 7:30 a.m. The drive into Sante Fe National Forest is beautiful from any angle, but this one was especially fun with all of its twist, turns and ample camping/restroom stops along NM-475.
The hike starts out with a pretty serious series of switchbacks for the first mile or so. From there, things stay relatively even on the trail as you pass through the beautiful aspens. I had an interesting time finding the right combo of gear to stay warm, but not too warm. My Patagonia R1 paid for itself on this trip. There was rather large patch of ice from the stream that you must cross to stay on trail, which presented the perfect opportunity to try out my new Kahtoola Microspikes. They worked like a dream over the thick ice!
The Final Slog
The final slog was where things got... interesting. The trail, which runs next to the stream, takes a sudden serious climb. I found it very easy to get lost on this portion of the hike as the trail seems to open up into several different options, all of which look fairly bushy. This climb continued until things leveled out into a beautiful snowy meadow where, after taking some pictures, I lost the trail again. I followed a set of footprints in the snow that led to nowhere, so I backtracked and followed a different set of footprints that also led to nowhere. Eventually, I found a little bit of a trail to follow that led further up the mountain.
After eating a few more Shot Bloks (total lifesaver on a strenuous hike after a long night), I made my final ascent to the lake that I’d been working towards all day. I abandoned any notion of staying on trail as it was non existent. My aim was straight up the side of the mountain. This eventually led to another clearing where I lost my way. I was listening to a podcast, so I did not hear the couple of other lost hikers trying to get my attention. When I turned around, I almost jumped out of my skin. They were helpful in finding the way as we all split up and shouted when one of us found the “trail.” We all hiked to the lake together and waved our goodbyes as they made their way to the other side of the lake. I sat down to catch my breath, enjoy the scenery and destroy the beautiful Italian sandwich I had created just for this occasion. The frozen lake was beautiful. The air was crisp, the sun was shining and the silence was golden. I had accomplished my goal. After resting and collecting myself, I began the uneventful descent back to the trailhead.
Please, if you plan on hiking this trail, bring lots of water. I went through two liters during this hike. I am by no means an expert hiker, but I am capable of hiking many miles on very long days. That being said, this was a pretty difficult hike. The last three quarters of a mile was not only physically challenging, but it was made all the more difficult by the lack of a clearly defined trail. All of that being said, I would recommend this trail to anyone looking for a great workout and beautiful scenery.
Will is an avid adventurer, podcast connoisseur, and maker of fine beers - available at Flix Brewhouse in Albuquerque. Follow him on Instagram @wheeliams