On the trail: Lizard Head Pass
September 30, 2009
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Anyone who finds themselves heading south out of Telluride on Highway 145 toward Dolores is in for a gorgeous drive and a chance to stop for a worthwhile hike.
The highway climbs over Lizard Head Pass and accesses the Lizard Head Trail, which climbs 12,147-foot Black Face Mountain in the Lizard Head Wilderness Area of southwest Colorado. The ascent isn’t overly taxing, though, as the trailhead is at 10,280 feet.
The trail quickly leads through conifer forests and aspen groves. After a series of switchbacks, it forks. Go right to Wilson Meadows (I made quick note of a future backpacking destination) or veer left to continue on the Lizard Head Trail.
Near the summit – about a 3.5-mile hike – the trail breaks out of the trees onto a ridge of open tundra dotted with trees. That’s when this hike really shines. The 360-degree views of the rugged San Miguels and expansive Wilson Meadows below had me reaching for the camera. There are several fourteeners in the neighborhood, but I have no idea if I was looking at any of them.
Unmistakable is the lone, 13,113-foot pinnacle of volcanic rock dubbed the Lizard Head, which juts into the sky to the northwest, though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how someone decided it looks like the head of a lizard. I didn’t have a long time to study it, however, given the seriously threatening clouds gathering over me in this exposed spot. I snapped some photos and made a hasty descent back into the cover of the forest.
The hike can be done as a fairly quick out-and-back, but if you’re willing to spend more time, follow the trail along the ridge south of the Lizard Head. A backpacker could then continue northward into Bilk Basin. From there, if you’ve got a shuttle car waiting, you can hike out Bilk Creek back to Highway 145, well to the north.