“An easy approach into Navajo Basin with access to all Wilson Group 14ers.”
— Tyler Prince
Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Winter access is poor, as the road is generally closed low on Forest Road 535, miles below the trailhead.
While dogs will do fine on this trail, they will not be able to cover the vast majority of the terrain above around 12,500 ft.
From Telluride, drive south on CO 145 over Lizard Head
Pass. Continue south for 5.1 miles and turn right onto Forest Road (FR) 535. Drive 5 more miles on 2WD dirt road to reach the signed Kilpacker Trailhead. Turn right and drive 0.1 miles, passing Kilpacker Trailhead. Continue about 0.3 more miles to Navajo Lake Trailhead.
Hike up low grade, excellent dirt trail. Shortly after leaving the TH, pass the Groundhog Trail junction. Stay right and hike through some open meadows. Head back into the trees and cross a bridge at 9,500 ft. Continue up the trail and enter a large meadow at 9,800 ft. Continue meadow-jumping until the grade gets a little steeper at around 10,700 ft. Switchback up above 11,000 ft and back into the trees. Pass another junction, this time for the Woods Lake Trail, and stay right again. Navajo Lake is just 0.5 miles further.
At this point, El Diente towers above to your right, and 13er Gladstone Peak stands in front of you. Once at the lake, it's 2 more miles to the upper basin. Hike to the left of the lake on some talus, and continue along the left side of the basin on rocky trail. Come to a steep headwall at 11,800 ft, with the terrain flattening out at 12,000 ft. Continue up the trail into the upper basin. Mt. Wilson Trail
is to your right. Hang a left and switchback up some red dirt to the Rock of Ages Saddle (13,000 ft). Wilson Peak Trail
is to your right, and Silver Pick Trail down the other side of the saddle.
NOTE: Navajo Lake Trail makes for an excellent bailout for hikers stuck in bad weather (or just tired). Avoid higher elevations (passing Rock of Ages Saddle en route to the Rock of Ages Trail
) by dropping down this trail and hiking a short distance on the road back to Kilpacker. If the weather turns once you're already headed up to the Rock of Ages saddle, however, it's probably faster just to head down to that trailhead.
Alternatively, camp in the upper basin and split up your Wilson Group
excursion into two days: Mt. Wilson and El Diente one day, and Wilson Peak the next.
Flora & Fauna
This trail boasts some of the most dense forest in Colorado. Otherwise, there are deer, pika, and marmots, but not much else. If you're lucky, you might see the famed Wilson wolverine high in the basin, meandering near the mine ruins below Wilson Peak.