Goose Lake

Red River, New Mexico (Taos County)

Last Updated: 09/27/2019
4.9 /5 ( 7 reviews )
Nearby Trails
Status: Partially Open
Typically Open: 05/01 - 12/31
Difficulty: 4-5
Length: 7.28 miles
Highest Elevation: 11656 feet
Duration: About 1 hour
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Red River
Nearest Town w/ Services: Red River
Official Road Name: Goose Lake 66/ 486
Management Agency: Carson National Forest
District: Questa District
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Highlight: Goose Lake
Goose Lake is the best known trail in the Red River, NM area. The trail can be full of surprises that can take a seemingly easy trail and offer you challenges. Seasonal changes create fun adventures ranging from easy family favorite water crossings to adrenaline junkie snow wheeling. Immediately you are faced with a drive through the river with depths that have ended more than one adventure before it could start. From the river the trail climbs the mountain which leads to a shelf road with plenty of room for one vehicle, but will make for creative parking when you pass opposing traffic. A "cave" and remnants of mining cabins from the late 1800s and smaller water crossings further the adventure. Reaching the crystal clear lake provides photo opportunities as well as fishing, hiking, or primitive camping. Wildlife like Marmots and Rams can often be seen on the ridge surrounding the lake.



7 day forecast for Goose Lake

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
The trail gets its rating due to the water crossing at the entrance and the off camber portion on the narrow shelf road.

Technical Rating: 4-5

Rocky or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 24" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 24" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 54" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.
Read more about our rating system


At the trail head you will have to cross the water which is 12" to 30" depending on season and route through the water. The trail gains altitude through the forest before turning into a single vehicle width shelf road for another 2 miles. The narrow trail can create a challenge as Goose Lake is an Out and Back trail so you may come across opposing traffic and will have to find the nearest spot to pullout for passing. Forest returns for approximately the next 3 miles. The last few miles to the lake becomes more rocky, there are no major obstacles but the rocky road can be bouncy. The trail is easiest from middle of summer until early fall. Snowfall creates challenges at the higher altitude. It is common to have snow pack remaining in the middle of June, this can create a fun challenge for those experienced with snow wheeling, but the unstable snow packs will often create stuck situations, so go prepared and bring multiple vehicles for assistance. At the lower altitude, spring can be challenging because of downed trees which will require a saw to progress.
The trail is narrow at the shelf road area with limited pull out spots for allowing traffic to pass each other.


1. Parking
There is a small parking area as you pull in from the highway, approximately 8 cars, or 3 trucks with trailers. Additional Trailer parking is available as pullouts on the highway above, as shown in Photo 1, signage marks how close to highway parking is available. The parking area is available to air down, as well as drying out from the river crossing, as shown in Photo 3. Word of caution to those driving directly from Highway 38 or returning down from the trail, do not attempt to cross the river with hot brake rotors. Stories abound of vehicles that have cracked a rotor or pads due to hitting the ice cold water with the excessive heat that builds up from coming down the Highway 38 decline or riding their brakes coming down the trail, use low gear in your transmission for both scenarios.
2. Trailhead River Crossing (0.00 mi)
The trailhead is the largest obstacle for the late summer and early fall season. Passenger vehicles must cross the river to access the trail, the water is a minimum of 12"deep and can approach 30" in the center of the river. Vehicles need to cross in a U shape away from the bridge to avoid the deepest center, this track will put you closer to the mesh fence with no trespassing warnings, You WANT to be near the fence line before returning towards the trail. The video will detail the path to take, along with a Pinzgauer showing how deep the center can be. The bridge is used for hikers and accessible to UTV and side by sides. With a standard transmission, remember to choose a proper gear and not use your clutch while in the river, stalling or using neutral while in the river may cause problems with the internals of the clutch and starter. DO NOT enter the water with extremely hot brake rotors from the highway decline or returning down the trail, if you can smell your brake pads, take a moment and enjoy the scenery before entering, so that you can enjoy the rest of your trip.
3. Little Cave (1.50 mi)
At waypoint 3 is an interesting highlight for the young or young at heart. The remnants of a mining cave, or maybe just someones shelter. The room is only about 8 feet into the mountain and probably 20 feet wide, but offers the chance to tease others about the presence of bears, and during the heat of the day creates a nice air conditioned room.
4. Cabin Cluster (2.04 mi)
Through out the trail you can find old cabins, but this point offers the greatest cluster of former homes. Remember to be careful around the old cabins as they are returning to nature, and after every season they become less stable than the year before.
5. Quadruple Junction (3.80 mi)
The quadruple junction can seem confusing at first. If you will look for the sign in the tree, as pictured in Photo 1, there is an arrow directing you on to Goose Lake. Also, the trail you are seeking is directly ahead of the trail you have been traveling. At the junction there are three other paths, two are unmarked and the third is FR 486A. FR486A is a tight trail for any fullsize vehicle but will take you less than a mile to another cabin before forcing you back down the trail returning to the junction. At the junction is also the remnants of a former home.
6. Triple Junction (4.85 mi)
The Triple Junction will require you to take the left trail to continue on your shortest path. All three weave back into the trail within 500 feet, but can leave you with the feeling of being in a maze. The trail marked 171 on the right is marked as No Jeeps further down the trail, so save your gas and avoid it if you don't want to be disappointed.
7. Parking Vault (7.24 mi)
The only vault toilet on the trail is at the entrance to the destination parking lot. Depending on season, it may or may not be open for business. Parking is spacious with room for 20 or more vehicles.
8. End at Lake (7.28 mi)
At the southern most point of the parking area is the the gate to prevent any further motorized activity. It is a short walk to the lake, with hiking paths around the lake, as well as to the top of the surrounding peak. Fishing is a summer option and primitive camping spots are available just below the parking area. On the peak side of the lake, marmots as well as rams can often be spotted. When you are exhausted from the activities or just the altitude, return down the mountain the same way you arrived. Remember, use low gears instead of riding your brakes, it is a steep descent, and you have the ice cold water to cross at the bottom.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 36.696640, -105.392616

Starting Point: Red River

Start at the east end of the town of Red River where Hwy 38 and Hwy 578 (main street) meet at a "Y" junction. This is easily identified by a standalone gas station with no convenience store or facilities at the "Y". From the "Y" head southeast on Hwy 578 for 0.7 miles. The parking area and trailhead is on the right hand side, marked by a "Goose Lake" road sign.


Primitive camping spots are most available near the lake with a vault toilet adjacent the lake parking lot. It is National Forest so dispersed camping is available with many small turnout trails found on the drive up to the lake. The only restriction on camping is the first 1/4 mile of trail which is posted no camping. Carson National Forest also offers 3 campgrounds west of the town of Red River with potable water, they are: Fawn Lakes Junebug Elephant Rock Lodging is available nearby in Red River with hotel rooms or cabin rentals. Multiple RV parks are also available in town.
Camping: Goose Lake

Trail Reviews (11)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This should be taken with a grain of salt, and I say that because these ratings seem extremely subjective to both experience level and mostly with what type of vehicle you're driving. This is the most technical trail I've been on and I was driving my 2016 Toyota 4runner on 33s with a 2.5 inch lift. This trail definitely took me out of my comfort zone, and I was on edge the whole time (both figuratively and literally), the trail is narrow and has technical aspects to it that are close to a very long drop down. I did about one third of the trail just because I had my family in the car and because we were all way past our comfort zone. The toughest part about the trail is definitely the width of the trail, or lack thereof. there are parts of the trail where two vehicles can pass but they are strategically located for this purpose. The vast majority of the trail can only accommodate one full size four-wheel drive truck. It looked like the side-by-sides and ATVs were making easy use of the trail as they didn't have to worry about the width. But if you are in a larger vehicle like I was I will definitely say it is worth its weight in gold to have a good ground guide. The review of the water crossing was spot-on, you definitely need to make a horseshoe pattern while entering the river. I did see a Nissan Xterra cross over the bridge but he barely had three inches on either side and was using a ground guide. The deep spot of the river is over three and a half feet for sure. Ride as close to the dam as you possibly can and you'll be alright. Overall the trail is not very technical it's just very nerve-racking because of the width, if you encounter another vehicle coming your way one of you is going to be backing up, and there's no way around it. For me this was a extremely tough, 5/5 trail; but remember that's completely subjective to my experience level. My vehicle was more than capable of handling anything on that trail that I saw though though I barely made it past the cabin ruins, by far the toughest stretch was the first mile or so which is right on the edge of the cliffs and leaves no room for error. Amazingly beautiful though that cannot be overstated.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The Aspens leaves have started to change color. Peak Leaf Watching is expected between now and Oct. 15 2019.

Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
The trail is blocked by a drift about 150' long and up to 3' deep about a mile from the lake. Not sure what additional snow may be on the road after that as we didn't walk up any farther. The snow is soft but a few people with a concentrated effort could probably winch through the worst of it if they got an early start on it.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The creek is high but manageable in four wheel drive and steady momentum. I was able to get to about the 3 mile mark before hitting a steady stretch of snow that I didn't want to risk getting stuck alone.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This trail was a lot of fun. I drive a stock 2013 RAM 1500 with Michelin LTX A/T2 275/65-20. The trail was muddy down low and snowy at the top. We didn't run into anything that was too much to handle until 3/4 of the way up the trail. There are quite a few shear drops and places that feel like you are about to take a roller coaster ride to the bottom, but the lake at the end is well worth it. The two sections that almost made us have to turn around where on account of needing more ground clearance and a shorter wheelbase to be able to travel over some rocky sections without hitting my step bars as well as not get high centered. I had a few points where rocks hit my step rails and my skid plate. We loved the trail even if it was a little tense in some spots.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Fire Restrictions are lifted.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Carson National Forest Questa District has opened but is still under Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, meaning no fires or any kind including smoking and spark arrestors on all vehicles. Please keep fire extinguishers with you.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Carson National Forest Questa District is currently under Stage 3 Fire Restrictions meaning no access of any kind until December 31, 2018 or until Rescinded

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The Carson National Forest- Questa District still has a Stage 2 Fire Restriction in place. This means absolutely no campfires or smoking outside of a vehicle. It is necessary to be very careful with anything that could create a spark. This district is currently one of the very few in the state that even allows access into the forests at this time. Keeping a fire extinguisher available is ideal.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
There is currently a large fire burning in between Ute Park and Cimarron NM. At this time Red River is not affected, nor expected to be affected. Smoke is a possibility. The Carson National Forest -Questa District that covers the Red River area is still open. There is a Stage 2 Fire Restriction at this time, so be very careful and keep a fire extinguisher with you. Absolutely no camp fires allowed!

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Great trail. We actually had difficulties getting up to Red River so we didn't start the trail until 11 PM. Luckily we had some great aux lights and we lit up the trail like midday. It was actually a great experience driving that late at night, we had no issues whatsoever and it actually made you focus on the trail itself instead of any drop offs or scenery. We made it up in 1 1/2 hours and the worst part was setting up camp in the dark. The drive back down two days later was gorgeous. I would rate it as easy, however we saw a stock "fancy" Jeep Cherokee trying to head up as we went down and they kept sliding. I don't think he had 4 wheel drive? I would highly recommend 4 wheel drive....

Questions & Answers (4)

Q: Planning on a late November trip. Hummer h3. Hoping the snowfall won’t keep us out. Any suggestions?
–Mike (11/06/2018)
A: This time of year is difficult to guess how much snow will be around the next week, we had a storm of 10" in the valleys last week so I would expect atleast that much is still at the upper half of Goose Lake. To give you reference the upper half of Goose Lake area adjoins the Red River Ski Area and they plan on opening for Thanksgiving. My suggestion if you want to go would be to go with a second vehicle and a good shovel, as the trail is narrow in many spots and you are more likely to get stuck and need a pull backward. Even if you are adventurous and feel like track packing the trail to continue moving forward, it has often involved me needing a tug backward to be able to work my way forward. If there is snow on the lower section where the shelf roads are then I would not attempt it as there is a 3 foot rock slide area that is often unstable during the summer and is off camber enough that a slipping tire could cause a roll down the hill. An alternative if the conditions are too risky, would be to go to Greenie Peak, most of the trail is south facing so there is usually a better snow pack or no snow in places and does not have as high of risk factor for rolling. There was a fatal rollover on Goose Lake this summer, so I would advise that it is a trail to take seriously, especially if there is a slick ice pack. Also if you just want to snow wheel, Pioneer Creek has no shelf roads and is a snow machine trail during the later winter months so it would be the safest trail if you are exploring without a second vehicle. Remember low air pressure is your friend if you are gonna be traveling on deep snowpack!
–Brett Brogdon (11/07/2018)
Q: I have 8 1/2 inches clearance on my jeep renegade 4x4, do you think that will be high enough to clear all the rocks and obstacles on the trail?
–Scott Carey (07/09/2018)
A: I think my biggest concern would be the water crossing at the trailhead, simply because you may not be able to see what rocks might be under the water. From there the largest rocks are at the top of the trail and you would be able to choose a line appropriately. So I would say it would be a judgement call for you about crossing the water, the water has been down significantly this year and from the foot bridge you could possibly scout a safe route through the water (or wade through the water if you are feeling adventurous). The Carson National Forest is scheduled to reopen on 7/10/2018 so you should be able to check it out soon.
–Brett Brogdon (07/09/2018)
Q: Once it opens up again, do you think I would be ok to get up in my Stock 1992 F150 reg cab long bed 4x4? Wanna take the wife for a picnic.
–Matthew Reynolds (06/30/2018)
A: As long as you know your rig, I would say you will be fine. Last Weekend when I went up I crossed paths with a 1994ish one ton Ford long bed crew cab near the top of the trail, and then discussed with another person at the lake that they had met him at the lake parking lot and couldn't believe he managed to get it all the way up there. So if what is probably the longest wheelbase production truck ever made could make it, yours should be no problem! We are still in closures and they say it will take several long rainstorms before they will open again, but when they do then you should have a great picnic! Thanks
–Brett Brogdon (07/01/2018)
Q: I have 2007 Jeep Wrangled 4 door with Toyo Open Country allterrain tires are 31". There is no lift. Can my Jeep make it from beginning to end? Tim
–Tim (05/23/2018)
A: Tim, you should have no problems. I was up in Red River this weekend and the creek crossing at the entrance is much lower than last year due to the low snowfall amounts. I have encountered stock Suburbans and Escalades in the past on the trail. You may traveler slower than someone with larger tires due to the rough road, but your ground clearance should be fine. Trail officially opens 5/29, Have Fun up there!
–Brett Brogdon (05/23/2018)

Writer Information

Brett Brogdon

Mapping Crew - New Mexico

My first vehicle was a 1987 Isuzu Trooper, as a sixteen year old that meant mudding behind the local lake. After cracking the transfer case in half I almost traded it for a 1970 El Camino, boy would my life had turned out differently! Instead I went down the rabbit hole of classic Chevrolet Blazers, until one night in Hot Springs, Arkansas I was introduced to rock crawling with Jeeps. As I sat there completely vertical, staring straight up the hood of an old CJ7 at the stars above, I knew I had to have a Jeep. So in the summer of 2001 I found "Goldie" sitting brand new on the local lot, no one wanted her because she was a four cylinder and therefore sat on the lot for a year. She took me all over Arkansas during college, and slowly grew as did my driving skills. When you are working with two (to four) cylinders less than the rest of the guys, it takes a little more gas pedal and finesse. I became a believer in driving my rig, wheeling it hard, which sometimes meant a trail side repair, but then driving it home. That little gold Jeep is still sitting in my garage, and still with a four cylinder engine, it has driven me all over the United States and created excitement for me and spectators for over 16 years now. There have been a few more Jeeps added to the roster, because sometimes you need a spare, but I am a firm believer that knowing your rig and your own skills will take you farther than most people believe. In the summer of 2007 I moved to Telluride, Colorado. My friend needed a caretaker for his cabin for a month while he was working in Alaska, so it seemed like a great opportunity to experience the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, his soon to be ex-girlfriend decided she was going to move back into the cabin with her new boyfriend. I was left homeless with all my friends worldly possessions. Lucky for me he was a mountain guide with lots of cool camping gear. My new boss told me it was fairly common in mountain towns to have experiences like that and suggested that I just camp for a week until I could find a new place to live. Well that week turned into five months, as I went to work during the day and returned to my tent at night. I was the first one to make it into the ghost town of Alta that year, winching myself through the snow and pitching my tent next to the building that Nikola Tesla used for his first commercial use of electricity. It was a great summer, just me and my pet wolf experiencing Mother Nature at its finest. "Overlanding" wasn't a common term in the USA at that point, and my gear wasn't very fancy so I guess I was still officially camping, but it did instill a passion that grew into Overland Expedition Specialists LLC. Maybe some day there will be a new phrase to describe it, but I think we can be both Rock Crawlers and Overlanders. If you are out there exploring, call yourself anything you want, just remember to always Tread Lightly!
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