Agua Piedra to Indian Lake

Indian Lake
A steep trail through a spruce-fir forest up to a small lake. Along the way, might see lots of wildflowers and get some nice views.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Carson National Forest; Camino Real Ranger District
Region: North-central; Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
start: 8559ft; 2609m end: 9507ft; 2898m
min: 8559ft; 2609m max: 9557ft; 2913m
elevation gain/loss: 875ft; 267m.
Length: 4.14mi; 6.66km. Out and back distance
surface: mixed dirt/rock
condition: Good, slightly eroded in places
ease of following: Mostly no problem; see notes
obstacles: None
The trail becomes faint to missing at the meadow right before the lake. There are two cairns, but you cannot see them from where the trail becomes too faint to see.
Fee: $0.00. Park only at the trailhead (corral); parking in the campground requires paying.
Season: May 01 to October 31. Actual season depends on weather and funding.
Dogs: Yes. on leash
Bikes: Yes.
Handicapped accessible: No.
Trailhead facilities: water, vault toilet(s).
Hike attractions: wildflowers, scenery, lake.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2013-09-07
Time it took us: 4:50. Moving time: 2:19
Usage (people/hour): 0.62. Only three people with three dogs.
Cleanliness: 9. 3 small pieces of litter.


Waypoint Type Description
19A THTrailhead19A trailhead at Agua Piedra CG


Paper maps:
Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Carson National Forest US Forest Service 2002 1:126720 N from Amazon (purchase) Camino Real and Questa ranger districts and Valle Vidal Unit side of the map
Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah Automobile Club of Southern California 1998 1:0 N from Amazon (purchase) Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.
Taos BLM 1994 1:100000 Y from Amazon (purchase)
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the trailhead:

From Santa Fe, take US 84 to El Valle del Arroyo Seco (after Pojoaque, and before Española). Take La Puebla road to the right, which is also highway 88.

After 2.8 mi, turn onto NM 76 N, which is also Chimayo and Santa Cruz roads.

After 25.9 mi, turn right on NM 75 E.

After 6.9 miles, turn right on NM 518 S. In this leg, you will pass Sipapu Ski area.

After another 6.9 mi from the 75/518 junction, turn right on forest road 708.

The trailhead is on the right, beside a corral. The Agua Piedra campground is just past the trailhead.

Trailhead for 19A

About the hike:

hikers on the trail
The trail climbs away from the trailhead. Get used to climbing, as you will be doing plenty on this trail.
Keep your eyes open as you hike. We saw this small mushroom along the trail.
red-colored mushroom
Hikers at the junction
After about 0.25 mi (0.44km) you comne to this junction (GPS: 19AX19C). Turn left and go uphill.
Right after the turn, you hike through a small meadow. Depending on the recent weather, you might see lots of wildflowers. A bit over 100 yards/meters from where you turned, you encounter this gate. Fallen trees have removed the usefulness of the fence, which probably explains why the gate was open when we went through.
gate and down trees
hikers climbing the trail
The trail climbs through the forest. It varies from rocky to mostly dirt. You will make several switchbacks as you go up the side of the canyon.
As you get up the canyon wall, you will see nice views through the trees to your right. When you are done climbing, the trail opens into a meadow. In this picture of the meadow, the hikers are heading back down the trail.

Again, if the weather has been good for the plants, you might find it full of wildflowers.

The meadow near Indian Lake
hikers heading to the second cairn
Of note is that the trail fades to nothing in the meadow. Stay on the left side of the meadow and look for the trail leaving the left side down through some trees. There are a pair of cairns that help you know where to go, but they are easy to miss. The second cairn is in this photo.

In this photo, the lake is just over the ridge and slightly left; it is in the valley you can see here.

When we visited, the lake was small, even though it was just at the end of a good monsoon season. We could see that the lake has sometimes been much larger.

In any case, it made a nice lunch spot.

Return by the same route you took to get here.

Indian Lake

Plants we saw along the trail:

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