Goose Lake

Red River, New Mexico (Taos County)

Last Updated: 05/17/2022
4.9 / 5 ( 9 reviews )
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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.


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

Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 18" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 18" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 36" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.
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Community Consensus

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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 ( mi)
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 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 (1.5 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 (3.8 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

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 (19)

Questions & Answers (5)

Q: What time of year is the river at its lowest? I'm in a leveled f150 on 35s. Do you think i would have any issues?
–Isaac (03/22/2021)
A: September would probably be the lowest month. But there would be windows of highs and lows, consider snow melt during early summer would be highest, then drop late June/ early July, then rise again with Monsoon season late July/Early August. I don't think you would have problems with the river, the more challenging parts would be traffic with a fullsize rig further up the trail. Its not impossible, others have done it, just be aware that passing lanes are few and far between, and less experienced traffic will often take the high side of the trail. The local club has planned work scheduled for early summer including widening of some areas, so later summer/fall might be ideal for water level and extra passing areas.
–Brett Brogdon (03/23/2021)
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 (07/10/2018)
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 (07/02/2018)
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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