The dramatic Navajo Lake basin sits nestled between three San Juan 14ers just southwest of Telluride. This 10.2-mile out-and-back to the lake begins at an elevation of 9,400 feet and climbs a multi-use trail through a mixed aspen-conifer forest. The trail skirts Woods Lake within a quarter-mile of the trailhead then zigzags across a few small streams in its first 3 miles. The climbing is steep and steady until the Woods Lake Trail meets the Elk Creek Trail in an open hillside just above treeline.
From there, traverse the hillside where you’ll catch views of Dolores Peak and the surrounding Lizard Head Wilderness area until rounding a corner where the dramatic slopes above Navajo Lake become the main attraction. A short, but steep, descent to the mouth of the basin levels out as it winds between huge pine and rocky outcroppings—including a shallow trailside cave—before touching the lake at mile 4.8.
The lake itself is surrounded by a rocky shore at the base of El Diente’s crumbling slopes. Though no fires are allowed in the high-traffic basin area, there are several choice campsites on the lake’s north side and sites below the mouth of the basin (where fires are allowed).
This out-and-back is a great day or overnight hike and the area is a great base-camp for peak bagging, or as the start of a loop with the Rock of Ages Trail which was re-routed and re-opens in 2010.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland and MacKenzie Ryan