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Navajo Lake Approach

Difficulty:  Class 1 
Exposure: Mild exposure in the area but not along the immediate route.
Upper Elevation: 13,000 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 9,350 feet
Elevation Gain:2,000' - 3,700'
Round-trip Length: Navajo Lake: 9.5 miles RT
Upper Navajo Basin: 12 - 14 miles RT
Trailhead: Navajo Lake
USGS Quad.: Mount Wilson
County Sheriff: Dolores: 970-677-2257
National Forest:  San Juan
Wilderness Area:  Lizard Head
Author: BillMiddlebrook
Last Updated: 11/2014
TH:  From Telluride, drive south on Colorado 145 to Lizard Head Pass. Continue south for 5.1 miles and turn right onto Forest Road (FR) 535. Drive 4.1 miles on the 2WD dirt road to a large meadow and junction. Stay straight on 535 and pass the Kilpacker road intersection at 5 miles. Drive another 2 miles (7 total from CO 145) to reach the Navajo Lake trailhead entrance on the right. Turn right and continue for 0.1 mile into trailhead parking area.

Route: Its just over 4.5 miles to Navajo Lake. From the trailhead (Photo #1), hike about 0.25 mile and pass the Groundhog trail junction - Photo #2. Stay right and hike through some meadows (Photo #3) before returning to the trees. At 9,500, cross a bridge (Photo #4) that spans West Dolores River and continue up a steep hill. Continue to 9,800 where the trail enters a large meadow - Photo #5.

Cross the meadow and continue through trees and more small meadows - Photo #6 and Photo #7. Near 10,700, hike up through a meadow that becomes a bit more steep. The trail has several switchbacks as you climb above 11,000 - Photo #8. During this ascent, the trail crosses the roots of a large tree - Photo #9. Continue up a few more switchbacks and traverse east across the hillside and back into the trees. Soon there is a junction for the Woods Lake trail. Stay right and descend a bit through the trees - Photo #10. Navajo Lake is about 0.5 mile from the Woods Lake trail junction. You now have a view of Gladstone Peak (13,913) to the east (Photo #11) and El Diente Peak towers above to your right. Within 0.25 mile of the lake, campsites start to appear along the trail. The majority of the sites are on the right side of the trail. Reach Navajo Lake at approximately 11,160 - Photo #12 and Photo #13.

From the Lake its about 2 miles to the upper, east end of the basin and the remaining routes to Wilson Peak and Mt. Wilson. For El Diente Peak, its 1.5 miles to the point where the El Diente route leaves the main Navajo trail. Taken from above the north side of the lake, Photo #14 shows the route past the lake. Taken from the same location, Photo #15 shows the route from the lake to the upper end of the basin. Photo #16 is a closer look at some of the hike above the lake.

From the lake, follow the trail along the left side (Photo #17) and back into the bushes east of the lake. Nearly 0.5 mile east of the lake, leave the bushes/trees and hike northeast onto the talus on the north side of the basin - Photo #18. Traverse east across this rocky hillside towards a headwall east of the lake. Taken from above 11,700, Photo #20 looks back on the hike up from Navajo Lake. Continue up the left side of the basin as you approach the top of the headwall - Photo #21 and Photo #22. Photo #23 is another look down on the lower basin. After reaching the top of the headwall (approx. 11,900), the terrain flattens out - Photo #24. Photo #25 looks down on the area from a bit higher on the trail.

If youre climbing the North Slope of El Diente Peak, you dont have to continue much farther up the trail. If climbing Wilson Peak or Mt. Wilson, refer to those route descriptions from here. The Navajo trail continues all the way to 12,300‘ before turning left and ascending to the Rock of Ages Saddle, at 13,000‘.

Notes:    There are several place to camp just below Navajo Lake - 4.5 miles from the trailhead. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Lizard Head Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Lizard Head Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.

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Route Photos: (Did you know?)
Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3 Photo #4 Photo #5 Photo #6 Photo #7 Photo #8 Photo #9 Photo #10 Photo #11 Photo #12 Photo #13 Photo #14 Photo #15 Photo #16 Photo #17 Photo #18 Photo #19 Photo #20 Photo #21 Photo #22 Photo #23 Photo #24 Photo #25

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