Middle Fork Lake Trail Hike – 08/21/2020

Casting about for alternatives, on AllTrails we tracked down the Heart Lake Trail. The  comments in particular appealed to us: “georgeous”, “very green”, and it appeared to follow a stream. We did not plan to go the full length, but set our sights in reaching the junction where it splits for the Latir Peak Loop Trail (per AllTrails).

Later when gathering References and Resources, I found that it appears AllTrails has misidentified the trail. Forest Service references identify the trail starting at Cabresto Lake as the Lake Fork Trail #82. It continues for some 7 miles to a cutoff for the Heart Lake Trail that leads to Heart Lake. And the junction noted for the Loop is the intersection of the Lake Fork Trail and the Bull Creek Trail #85.

The Drive In

To reach the trailhead at Cabresto Lake, from Cuesta “find” NM 563. From the main intersection in Cuesta, go east for a few yards, turn left on Cabresto Road, also identified as NM 563. (If you miss this turn, continue east on NM 38 for 2/3 mile; a sign will point left to Cabresto Lake. Look for another sign to turn left on South or North Kiowa Rd to get back on NM 563.) Continue on NM 563 for 6 miles, to a turnoff to the left; a large parking area is located there.

Now comes the challenging part – turn left onto FR 134A. It is wide enough to pass meeting vehicles, but … it is -very rough-, a very rocky surface all of the 2 miles to the lake. A medium-high clearance vehicle is required (a Subaru Forester will be able to  handle the road but anything less will likely suffer damage). There is ample parking at the reservoir, Lake Cabresto. And the number of people, families and fishermen, showed this is a popular destination despite the road.

The Hike

Middle Fork Lake Trail Hike.Pat.2020-08-21

From the parking area above the lower end of the lake, the trail skirts the western shore for half a mile. It then follows the western slope above Lake Fork stream. The trail is well used and thus easy to follow. Most of it is easy walking tho’ there are occasionally rocky outcrops to be traversed. The stream is always within earshot, down in its narrow stream bed making loud water-rushing sounds – there was a strong flow of water over cascades and occasional small waterfalls. And with all that water, it was “very green”.


While hiking here in New Mexico, things that flash colors and present interesting patterns capture my attention. Throughout the year, I encounter flowers of one kind or another on nearly every hike. And on many hikes I encounter something colorful or a new pattern that I haven’t seen before. And such it was on this hike. Now in late summer, with autumn approaching (and cooler nights particularly at the higher elevations), colors are coming from plants beginning their transition to winter. Here are examples from this hike:


Total Distance:  5.38 miles
Elevation: start  9,190 ft, maximum  10,178 ft,  minimum 9,581 ft
Gross gain: 1,010 ft.  Aggregate ascending 1,849 ft, descending 1,846 ft
Maximum slope: 38% ascending,  39% descending, 9.2% average
Duration: 5:08

GPS Track Files for Download
I urge you to explore our hiking tracks with Google Earth. With the virtual 3-dimensional presentation, achieved by panning and tilting the view, you can get a much better idea of the hikes and terrain than you can get from the 2-dimensional screenshot above. For assistance: Using Google Earth Track Files.

References and Resources

USDA Forest Service: Cabresto Lake Road/Lake Fork Trail
                                        Map of Latir Trails (KML)
                                        Lake Fork Trail #82
                                        Heart Lake Trail #85
                                        Bull Creek Trail #85
AllTrails: Heart Lake Trail
                  Latir Peak Loop Trail
Taos News: Summer Hiking in Taos: Heart Lake in the Latir Peak Wilderness
MountainZone.com: Heart Lake, New Mexico

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