Navajo Lake Approach
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(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 1 |
|Upper Elevation:||13,000 feet|
|Total Gain:||2,000' - 3,700'|
|RT Length:||Navajo Lake: 9.5 miles RT|
Upper Navajo Basin: 12 - 14 miles RT
|USGS Quad.:||Mount Wilson|
|County Sheriff:||Dolores: 970-677-2257
|National Forest:||San Juan|
|Wilderness Area:||Lizard Head|
From Telluride, drive south on Colorado 145 to Lizard Head Pass. Continue south for 5.2 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, pass the Kilpacker trailhead at 5 miles and continue another 2 miles (7 total from CO 145) to reach the Navajo Lake trailhead entrance on the right.
It's 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 and ascend several switchbacks to reach 11,000' - Photo #8 and Photo #9. Traverse east across the hillside and back into the trees to reach a junction with 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 right side of the trail. Reach Navajo Lake at approximately 11,160' - Photo #12 and Photo #13.
From the Lake it's 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, it's 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 and Photo #15 shows the route to the upper end of the basin. Photo #16 is a closer look at some of the hike above the lake.
Pass the lake on the left (Photo #17) and pass through the bushes east of the lake. Nearly 0.5 mile east of the lake, leave the bushes/trees and hike northeast onto talus on the north side of the basin - Photo #18. Traverse east across this rocky hillside towards a headwall. 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, Photo #22 and Photo #23. From 11,900', on top of the headwall, the terrain flattens out - Photo #24 and Photo #25.
If you're climbing the North Slopes route on El Diente Peak, your climb of El Diente starts off to the right. If continuing to Wilson Peak or Mt. Wilson, refer to those route descriptions. The Navajo trail continues all the way to 12,300' before turning left and ascending to the Rock of Ages Saddle, at 13,000'.
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 Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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