Navajo Lake
excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

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Incredible Backcountry Trails
  • access info for 120 trailheads
  • 90 colorful trail maps
  • 305 full color photographs
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    Distance: 8.8 miles (round trip)

    Walking time:  6 hours
    : 2,060 ft. gain/loss
      Navajo Lake Trailhead (start) 9340 ft
      Navajo Lake: 11,154 ft. 

    Trail: Well marked, well maintained

    Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are usually covered with snow from November through early July.

    Vicinity: Near Telluride

    Navajo LakeNavajo Lake


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    Navajo Lake is probably the most popular destination in the Lizard Head Wilderness Area. Not only is the lake itself an alpine gem, but it is located in a ruggedly beautiful basin that is surrounded on three sides by 13,000-foot ridges and three 14,000-foot peaks (Wilson Peak, Mount Wilson, and El Diente Peak). Peak baggers often use Navajo Basin as a base for climbing these three peaks.

    The trail starts out in a northerly direction and proceeds through a series of grassy meadows along the east side of the West Dolores River. After five minutes you will see a wooden footbridge on the left where the Groundhog Trail crosses the river. Continue straight on the better-used Navajo Lake Trail at this point.

    0.7 mile from the trailhead the path comes to a newly constructed footbridge across the West Dolores River, and then it continues to follow along the left side of the river for the rest of the way to the lake. For the next mile the western skyline is dominated by views of Dolores Peak, a dome-shaped volcanic cone 2.5 miles west of the trail that tops out at 13,290 feet. The treeless almost perfectly symmetrical peak seems to stand all alone above the flower-laden meadows that surround the trail.

    For the first 3.3 miles this trail ascends gradually through a series of intermittent meadows that are often filled with dense beds of skunk cabbage. As you gain altitude the other types of wildflowers gain more prominence, and when you reach about 10,500 feet the fields become alive with the purples, blues, yellows and reds of larkspurs, bluebells, sunflowers, and paintbrushes.

    After walking 2.1 miles you will pass the junction with the Kilpacker Trail, and about fifteen minutes later you will notice the trail getting much steeper. As you approach Navajo Lake Basin the terrain near the river becomes too rough for the trail, so the route veers up the north side of the basin before dropping back down to the lake. Look for a nice waterfall on the south side of the basin in this area.

    After the trail has climbed 400 feet above the West Dolores River you will come to another trail junction where the Woods Lake Tail branches off to the north. Then, immediately after leaving the junction, the path drops 250 feet back down to the river. It arrives at the west end of Navajo Lake 300 yards later.

    If you are planning to camp in the area you will find several good campsites near the point where the trail first meets the lake. Most of the sites are on the opposite side of the river from the trail, but fortunately there is a nearby log across the stream that provides easy access to the other side.


    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    If you are interested in a supplemental map of the Navajo Lake Trail
    we recommend:
    Silverton, Ouray, Telluride (Trails Illustrated, map #141)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

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