register help
This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Navajo Lake Trail #635, CO

no permit
251 8 1
Guide 8 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List CO > Southwest
4.6 of 5 by 5
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 7.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,341 feet
Elevation Gain 3,714 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,862 feet
Avg Time One Way 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.17
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
8  2018-08-19
El Diente Peak
8  2018-07-27 friendofThunderg
14  2017-09-02 knmurphy
16  2015-09-16
Cross Mountain Trail #637
91  2012-09-29
Colorado Fall Colours 2012
100  2011-07-02 Vaporman
22  2010-06-16 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:00am - 6:09pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Alpine sweetness!
by PrestonSands

Likely In-Season!
The Navajo Lake Trail #635 follows the West Dolores River to Navajo Lake, located in a high basin in the San Miguel Mountains. The trail is popular with hikers, backpackers, and those who come to bag El Diente, Mount Wilson, and Wilson Peak, all 14ers that overlook the lake. The entire area consists of spectacular glacier carved scenery. Please note that Navajo Basin is closed to campfires. Mileage and stats listed here are for a round trip hike to Navajo Lake only. A one way hike to the end of the trail at Rock Of Ages Saddle is approximately 7.3 miles with 3900 feet of accumulated elevation gain.

Leaving the Navajo Lake Trailhead, the Navajo Lake Trail travels alongside the West Dolores River, through pristine forest. The trail passes a junction with the Groundhog Stock Driveway Trail then continues along the river awhile, before crossing it on a footbridge. At this point the trail climbs above the riverbed into a broad sloping valley. Forest gives way to a mountain meadow with views of El Diente Peak and Mount Wilson. To the west of the trail are several small glacially derived lakes. Dolores Peak looms in the background.

The trail passes a waterfall on the way to a marked junction with the Kilpacker Trail #203 at 2.15 miles, before climbing through dense spruce-fir forest to the head of the valley, where the trees part to reveal Navajo Basin directly ahead, with a waterfall spilling over its lip. The trail makes several steep switchbacks across an open mountainside, reaching a junction with the Woods Lake Trail at the 4 mile point.

Now at treeline, the Navajo Lake Trail drops to the rocky floor of Navajo Basin, arriving at Navajo Lake at 4.6 miles. Navajo Lake, which is the destination for most hikers on this trail, is a frigid sapphire jewel guarded well by high peaks all around. The awesomely rugged horn of 13,913 foot Gladstone Peak, above the eastern wall of Navajo Basin, is particularly impressive.

If you are feeling adventurous, the Navajo Lake Trail continues past the lake along the rocky, treeless floor of Navajo Basin. Upon reaching the basin's upper end, the Navajo Lake Trail switchbacks up the north slope to the Rock Of Ages Saddle at 13,000 feet, where it comes to an end at a junction with the new Rock Of Ages Trail, and the currently closed Silver Pick Trail #408, at about 7.3 miles. The saddle is a popular starting point for the off trail scramble to 14,017 foot Wilson Peak.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2010-07-23 PrestonSands

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Navajo Lake Trail #635
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Backpacking in the Lizard Peak Wilderness. Steep and tough trails, but with amazing views.

    Day 1: Up Cross Mountain Trail, to Lizard Head trail, and down Bilk Creek trail and along Wilson Mesa. 16 miles. Bilk Creek trail is amazing and probably was the best part of the entire trip. Wilson Mesa is extremely mucky due to allowing motorcycles during the summer, which tear it up.

    Day 2: Climb to Rock of Ages TH, then up Rock of Ages to Elk Ridge trail and onto Navajo Lake. I had high hopes for this day, but the people who routed the Elk Ridge trail should be shot. The trail adds a ton of unnecessary elevation for what would otherwise be a nice trail along the treeline. Navajo lake is nice but it gets very cold as the sun sets and the cold air tries to leave the basin.

    Day 3: Climbed Wilson Peak, met several people who almost died sliding off the mountain on snow. With being really close the the peak, so that I could probably hit it with a rock, encountered an icy patch, and turned around about 100 yards from the true summit, the trail routing to Wilson Peak is a complete disaster, for being a popular 14K'er.

    Day 4: Down Navajo Lake Trail and Kilpacker and Groundhog Stock trail back to the vehicle.

    This is a decent loop that packs a lot of elevation. The horrible trail routing makes the trails way too steep, you can observe many places where people and horses are sliding/falling and probably horses are breaking their legs. It seems that the goal of the wilderness trail routers is to ensure every uphill section is at least 30% grade, especially when it is scree on hardpack. Why bother creating an extra switchback when you can simply discourage anyone from travelling the trail in the first place.

    Except for Wilson Mesa, which is muddy and depressing, the wilderness is very nice and even dayhikers should find many of these trails accessible from nearby trailheads.
    Navajo Lake Trail #635
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Colorado Fall Colours 2012
    Colorado Fall Colours 2012

    I'm in the habit of booking a quarterly "wilderness adventure" months in advance so I can work my schedule around the dates. After having my first Colorado Adventure into the San Juan Mountains this past summer (check out :next: ), I snapped up the offer from one of my Phoenix Coyotes' season ticket partners to use his Colorado Cottage during the height of fall colours. With a 5-day weekend booked the end of September/beginning of October, I began researching primo fall colour photo ops weeks in advance (check out :next: viewtopic.php?t=7211 ) narrowing down to 5 selected shots from various pro's and trying to figure out the exact location they captured their image.

    Image #1 "Highway and Farm near Telluride" by Shane McDermott (check out :next: ... 2&lb=1&s=A ). Thanks to a tip from the photographer, I was able to confirm location on Airport Road (aka Last Dollar Road) near Telluride and enter GPS coordinates into Google Maps (N 37.952726, W -107.877846). My "interpretation" certainly doesn't do Shane McDermott's wonderful image any justice (check out :next: ), but I had fun doing the detective work trying to figure out the location (thanks also to Jake for the Google Maps tip!).

    Image #2 "Hay Rolls near Sneffels Range" by Derek von Briesen (check out :next: ). Thanks to a tip from HippyPunkPirate (aka Jake) and others, it turns out that this is an iconic view taken from the Double R L Ranch along Highway 62 near Ridgway. It took a Colorado resident to clue me in that Double R L Ranch, as in Ralph R. Lauren's ranch, is known to everyone in the Ridgeway/Telluride area. Take County Road 9 off of Highway 62 and spot the field near GPS coordinates I entered into Google Maps (N 38.118892, W -107.829008). My "interpretation" certainly doesn't do Derek von Brieson's stellar image any justice (check out :next: ), but once again I had fun doing the detective work trying to figure out the location (thanks Jake for the Google tip - Google RRL Ranch images and see what you get...).

    Image #3 "Aspen Stand and Fence near Sneffels Range" by Jason Hatfield (check out :next: ). Hats off to Jason and his most informative eBook "A Photographer's Guide to Colorado's Fall Colors - the Best Locations & How to Photograph Them" (check out :next: ), 14 locations are in the San Juan Mountains! Take County Road 7 off of Highway 62 and spot the open field near GPS coordinates I entered into Google Maps (N 38deg 2' 58.42", W 107deg 48' 31.01"). My "interpretation" certainly doesn't do Jason Hatfield's awesome image any justice (check out :next: ), but once again I had fun doing the detective work trying to figure out the location (thanks Jason for sharing your inside information - highly recommend if you are heading into the San Juan's to pick up Jason's bargain priced eBook :next: ).

    Image #4 "Dallas Divide in the Sneffels Range" by Darren Kilgore (check out :next: ... large.html ). I found the "Dallas Divide" on the map and noted a Scenic View turnout along Highway 62 between Telluride and Ridgway. Taking a leap of faith, I entered GPS coordinates into Google Maps (N 37.952726_tbd, W -107.877846_tbd) and hoped for the best. Although my "interpretation" certainly doesn't do Darren Kilgore's splendid image any justice (check out :next: ), I had fun exchanging thoughts with about 20 other photographers jamming the turnout along Highway 62 trying to capture an image in the waning afternoon light.

    Image #5 "Wilson Mesa Property for Sale - $12,995,000" by unknown realtor (advertisement had photo of San Miguel Mountains reflecting off lake surrounded by flaming yellow aspens - unfortunately no internet link). Armed only with a real estate ad from a Telluride Homes magazine I picked up at a Telluride gas station during my July 2012 visit, I looked for various clues in the photo and the map and could only conclude that this had to be Woods Lake on Wilson Mesa. Taking another leap of faith, I entered GPS coordinates into Google Maps (N 37.952726_tbd, W -107.877846_tbd) and marked a route along Fall Creek Road that seemed to connect to Woods Lake. Although my "interpretation" doesn't justify the real estate asking price (check out :next: ), I had fun meeting a photographer from Maryland (sorry, forgot your name!) also trying to capture the perfect reflection off the lake.

    DAY #1 - Saturday 9/29 After a Friday airplane commute to and from our Diabetes division in Northridge CA, I headed on the road early Saturday to start a 5-day weekend with Lynn and the dogs at the Danzl Cottage along the Dolores River between Dolores CO and Telluride CO. Lynn packed everything we needed except some choice Colorado brews. Stopping at the Dolores Liquor Store, I picked up a 6 pack of Dark Lager by Durango Brewing Company (Durango CO) and 90 Shilling Ale by O'Dell Brewing Company (Fort Collins CO). I thought it was strange that none of the Dolores Brewery or Telluride Brewery beers were available here. Arriving at the Danzl Cottage with about an hour of daylight, I got the well pump primed and the hot water tank filled (while evacuating all the airlocks) and the electric heats plugged in and fired-up (low of 29degF forecast for tonight). With the cottage up and running, time to focus on tonight's BBQ dinner - burgs and dogs...

    DAY #2 - Sunday 9/30 After rustling up breakfast of maple sausages and eggs on the BBQ, we loaded up the F-150 and headed along Hwy 145 and the Dolores River Valley towards Telluride. There were multiple stops along the way taking in the riot of colour. Hard to judge if we missed the peak, some trees were bare, some were still green, others where ablaze in yellows and golds. Arriving in Telluride, we headed up Airport Road to find "Image #1" location to re-create Shane McDermott's "Highway and Farm near Telluride". As we rounded the first bend to the north, it was found! Near the Telluride Airport, the road becomes Last Dollar Road (IMO - a fall colour "must" route). We found a roadside clearing onto a bench outcrop that made for a perfect lunch location - mountain views, fall colours, perfect temperatures! After a Tibber-mode flurry of photo stops, we popped out onto Hwy 62 and headed east towards County Road #9 and the Double RL Ranch. Hay rolling was in progress, but not in the field captured by Derek von Briesen in "Image #2". I did find another field with the hay rolls in situ to create my own composition. Next on the list was County Road #7 to recreate "Image #3" by Jason Hatfield. CO#7 has a number of choice locations noted in Jason Hatfield's eBook and I think I found them all. With the sun beginning to set, we left CO#7 and headed back to Telluride (also discovering the Dallas Divide scenic viewpoint on Hwy 62 and recreating "Image #4"). With an alpenglow on the peaks, had enough light to show Lynn Bridal Veil Falls and downtown Telluride. It must have been 10pm when we got back to the Danzl Cottage and fired up the BBQ for our evening meal in the glow of the full moon. There was a strange banshee screaming at the moon - a bobcat in heat?
    Hike of the Day :next: Dolores River Trail (actually an abandoned bridge and section of old Hwy 145 near Rico CO) ~5 miles.

    DAY #3 - Monday 10/1 Perfect weather in the forecast again as we headed to Durango and up the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton. Animas Forks Ghost Town was the objective of the day - thwarted by a misplaced boulder hitting my skid plate and damaging an airflow/sound barrier plate. Unable to do a field repair, we heading back to Silverton to the lone garage mechanic for miles around. We removed the off-road customized airflow/sound barrier plate and were on our way. Adjusting our plans, we headed north on Hwy 555 towards Mineral Creek and Kendal Camp Ground for lunch. Next up, the Red Mountain Mining Area followed by Ouray, Ridgeway, and another stop at the Dallas Divide (another "Image #4" recreation attempt). Our adjusted plans allowed us to tour Fall Creek Road and the Wilson Mesa area in search of Woods Lake. To my great surprise, there was ample signage to Woods Lake where I made numerous attempts at recreating "Image #5". With all 5 of my "pre-work" images now in the bag (or on the FLASH card), it was time to drive back to Danzl Cottage and a choice steak waiting to be BBQ'd...
    Hike of the Day :next: Woods Lake Campground Trail ~5 miles. Check out :next: ... Campground

    DAY #4 - Tuesday 10/2 Today's agenda includes CR38/Township Route 535 (aka Dunton Road - IMO another Fall colour "must" route) and the Lizard Head Wilderness area. With multiple photo ops along the route, we decided to take a lunch break on top of Stoner Mesa via CR-M/FR875 (aka Stoner Mesa Road). I found a meadow/camp area on the top of Stoner Mesa surrounded by aspen stands on every side where we broke out the tailgating chairs and had lunch. IMO - Stoner Mesa Road had the BEST Fall colours of any route we had been on during our 5-day weekend. We had time to hike a few miles towards Navajo Lake from the Kilpacker TH and The Meadows. Great views of the San Miguel Mountains and the Lizard Head Wilderness area!
    Hike of the Day :next: Kilpacker Trail ~5 miles (intersects with Navajo Lake Trail ). Check out :next: ... trail.html

    DAY #5 - Wednesday 10/3 Getaway Day - back home to the Valley heat in Ahwatukee. Quite the contrast being treated to 5 days of 72degF Hi and 29degF Lo in the Colorado San Juan Mountains...

    MUCHO GRACIAS to the Danzl Family for the use of their Colorado Cottage on the Dolores River
    Many elk, deer, mountain goats, beaver, and bald eagles
    No TV, internet, or cell phone reception
    1 tank of gas from Phoenix to Colorado
    5-days in the San Juan Mountains
    420 images on 2 cameras
    Spectacular fall colours
    Perfect weather
    Navajo Lake Trail #635
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Such an amazingly beautiful area! :y: This alpine lake was actually the first leg/night of a 3-day backpacking loop around this cluster of mountains. :sweat:

    I started at the Cross Mt TH and soon felt the affects of high altitude on my cardio as I contoured along the Groundhog trail thru thick forests & open meadows with majestic mountain in the distance. :sweat: After briefly walking the FR535, hopped on the Kilpacker trail and started slowly climbing again thru some thick forests while taking a couple long altitude breaks along the way. :) Eventually the Kilpacker trail dumps into the Navajo Lake trails and quickly climbs up to the super scenic alpine lake at 11,200ft. That last mile really kicked my rear! :sweat: The lake was a great place to stay my first night, loads of snows on the peaks, sun setting thru the mountains, great tasting water, and marmots running thru the rocks. Due to lingering snow in the high passes & private property issues, I decided to loop around the mountain on the equally scenic Elk Creek trail with loads of sweeping views as it contoured above the treeline with about a dozen snowbanks & fields to traverse. :) Eventually the Elk creek trail passes a mine and drops down an old mining road below the treeline and then i headed east on the Wilson Mesa trail thru the wet forest until I found an amazing lake to camp near on the NE side of Wilson Peak with of course great views of that 14K foot peak. :GB: The next morning I was spooked by a momma Black bear and her cub twice coming within 100ft of my camp as I was packing up. :o Afterwards I continued east dropping into Bilk Creek and taking the awe inspiring Lizard Head trail up and over the 12K foot pass while passing by many gushing waterfalls and of course the funky looking Lizard Head Peak with snowy Wilson & Gladstone Peaks looming up above. So flipping jaw dropping! :D Having got my fill of Colorado goodness, I dropped down from the pass & back below the treeline and finally back to my car at Cross Mt TH to make the LONG drive back home... :zzz:

    I certainly can't wait for my next Colorado trip next month! :y:
    Navajo Lake Trail #635
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This had been on my wish list for over a year, so I had to do it. Plus it would help acclimate me for 14k foot country in a couple of days. Left Cortez mid morning, and made the drive into the San Miguel Mountains. Only saw a few others on this outstanding trail; one young lady had attempted a solo climb of Mount Wilson, but had turned back near the summit due to dangerous ice and snow. I felt like a complete amateur turd at that moment. Snapping photos like crazy along the way, I made it up to Navajo Lake by mid afternoon. Wow! A beautiful alpine lake, surrounded by mountains rising thousands of feet higher. My plans to hike farther were shot down by gathering thunderstorms, so I lingered at the lake awhile, taking it all in before heading back. After the hike I drove up to Lizard Head Pass to gawk at more insanely rugged peaks. 8) Days like this make me want to move to Colorado. But then I think about winter snow up there, and I have my doubts...

    T'was a great trip! ... -cNZUh8auU

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Cortez, follow Colorado Highway 145 north (toward Telluride) for 53.9 miles to the signed turnoff for Dunton Road. Turn left onto (gravel) Dunton Road (Forest Road 535) and follow it for 7.4 miles to the signed turnoff for Navajo Lake Trailhead on the right. Follow the little trailhead spur road for 0.1 miles to its end at the large trailhead parking lot. A large sign and information board marks the start of the Navajo Lake Trail.
    page created by PrestonSands on Jul 23 2010 1:18 pm
    help comment issue

    end of page marker