CO – Lizard Head Loop – San Juan NF (Part 1)

I know, I know, I rushed through the smoky skies of Colorado to Utah. I played in the La Sals and upon my return to Moab I reviewed the smoke map which left me confused. I’d seen reports the Sierra were clear but I knew there fires in Yosemite. The Ruby Mountains of Nevada were clear. Parts of Colorado had been clear over the weekend. But with a shift in wind direction everything could change in a few hours. I was tired of feeling like a dog chasing it’s tail. It was still much too hot to hike in red rock land. My adventure buddy Joan encouraged me to go back to Colorado since it was only a couple hours away.

I stopped in at the Dolores Public Lands Office for recommendations on trail options and dispersed camping. One of my new phrases is the most WOW per mile. The rangers recommended a loop in the Lizard Head Wilderness. I decided to start from the Kilpacker Trailhead as it would minimize the road walk needed to close the loop. 

My first destination was Navajo Lake. Kilpacker Trail #203 which merges into Navajo Lake Trail #635.

The first five miles were fairly unremarkable through mixed meadows and forest. At the next junction I decided to take a detour up to the ridge above Woods Lake for a look see. 

Look at those colors. Now we know what this state is called Colorful Colorado! I believe these are the San Miguel Mountains.

This mountain really charmed me. 

Soon enough I was headed back toward Navajo Lake with El Diente Mountain on the right side of the trail. 

Navajo Lake with El Diente Mountain (14,159′) on the right, and Gladstone Mountain (13,913′) in the back. 

My goal for the next day is the ridge and a hidden surprise between it and Gladstone. 

Although I’d only hiked 7 miles, the dark clouds and feeling uncertain about the challenges ahead, I stopped by mid afternoon. I found this protect campsite and had the lake to myself. 

As is true in the high country, storms came and went. I talked to a few hikers returning from a summit of Wilson Peak (14,017′). The trail I’d be taking in the morning is midway up the left boulder field. 

El Diente Mountain reflecting in Navajo Lake

As I wandered around, I was a bit disturbed discovering this as a kill zone. 

Not a bad room with a view . . . while trying to dream of something besides the slaughtered remains or my next day challenges.

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: September 13, 2017
  • Mileage: about 7 miles (per View Ranger)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: about 2,250′ up and 1,140′ down between 10,008′ and 11,584′ (per View Ranger)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal (Kilpacker trail a little worse than Navajo Lake trail)
    • Overgrowth: minimal (Kilpacker trail a little worse than Navajo Lake trail)
    • Signage: moderate
    • Terrain: easy accept for some moderate climbs and descents
  • Navigation Skills: minimal
  • Water availability: moderate (review map in advance)
  • Camping availability: moderate
  • Solitude: I met a group of hunters at the trailhead, a couple groups leaving Navajo Lake, and a couple day hikers, plus a group of a couple guys camped near the lake.
  • Bugs: nearly non existent
  • Wildlife: lots of pikas!
  • Precip: be prepared, yep I got wet
  • Temp: 38 overnight low in my tent
  • LNT: Although this is a high use area I saw very little abuse of LNT.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4 cherries (out of 5)


  • Check in with the ranger station in Dolores
  • Plan on a long drive to the trailhead
  • Plentiful dispersed camping near the trailhead



One thought on “CO – Lizard Head Loop – San Juan NF (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Oh Colorado, It’s a Wrap . . . at least for 2017 – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Broken Links? I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s