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The Rico Mountains & Lizard Head Wilderness

Independence Day Weekend | Friday – Sunday, July 1-3, 2022

This year for the extended Fourth of July holiday weekend I decided to head back to the same area I did last year and returned to the Rico Mountains so I could hike to a couple more twelve-thousand foot peaks along the Calico Trail. I left from work on Friday afternoon and made my way south to the San Juan Mountains via the Dallas Divide and Lizard Head Pass. I drove through a bit of rain on and off from Ridgeway until I reached Lizard Head Pass, where I found the mountain-tops hidden in the clouds. After following the headwaters of the Dolores River for a bit, I turned off onto the Taylor Creek Road and drove up onto Taylor Mesa in search of campsite for the night. I found a pretty nice campsite on the ridge between Stoner Creek and Priest Gulch with a great view of the nearby Rico Mountains and the distant La Plata Mountains, but the mosquitoes were pretty terrible! After a colorful sunset I went to bed early so I could get an early start on Saturday morning.

The mountains were still in the clouds as I drove over Lizard Head Pass.

Mountain in the Clouds

Driving up the Taylor Creek Road in search of a campsite.

Taylor Creek Road

There was a nice view of the Rico Mountains from camp this evening.

Rico Mountains Evening

A closer look at Storm Peak and Anchor Mountain, which would be my destinations in the morning.

Storm Peak & Anchor Mountain

There was a colorful sunset before I got into my sleeping bag for the night.

Clouds at Camp

 

Rico Mountains: The Calico Trail, Part III

I was up before sunrise on Saturday morning and headed over to the trailhead in Priest Gulch. I had originally planned to start my hike at a different location to the west of Storm Peak, but had found that road closed the previous evening, so I changed plans and followed the Priest Gulch Trail until it intersected the Calico Trail up on top of the ridge. I followed the ridge to the top of Storm Peak but was almost turned around by some cows and elk that were grazing on the flanks of the mountain, and they didn’t seem to want me there. Thankfully, I was able to stay closer to the edge of the ridge and gave them a wide enough berth to get around. It would have been a little embarrassing if I had to skip the peak because of some cows!

Following the Calico Trail on top of the ridge.

Trail on the Ridge

The trail passed below this rocky knob.

Rock Knob

Following the grassy ridge to the summit of Storm Peak (12,095). The angry cows were not far off to the left, out of the frame.

Storm Peak Ridge

On the summit of Storm Peak looking south to the La Plata Mountains.

Storm Peak Summit

I descended down the other side of Storm Peak and caught back up with the Calico Trail again on my way to Anchor Mountain.

Trail Marker

As I got closer to Anchor Mountain I had a good view of Calico Peak and the western San Miguel Mountains.

Calico Peak

A view from the summit of Anchor Mountain (12,327).

Anchor Mountain Summit

Looking down Horse Creek and Darling Ridge towards Rico.

Horse Creek & Darling Ridge

I had hoped to make it over to Expectation Mountain next, but I just wasn’t feeling it today, so I decided it was time to turn around and head back. Here’s a view of Eagle Peak with Groundhog Mountain and Lone Cone in the distance as I started my descent back to the trail.

Eagle Peak

The Calico Trail & Storm Peak

The Calico Trail & Storm Peak

In order to avoid the cows on the way back, I dropped down to the Burnett Creek Trail and went around the east side of Storm Peak.

Burnett Creek Trail

Following the top of the ridge on the way back with Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute Mountain on the horizon.

Calico Trail

Top of the Ridge

Colorado Columbines

Colorado Columbines

After returning to my Jeep I decided to avoid the afternoon storms by heading into Dolores for gas and food. Then on my way back from town I went for a scenic drive on the Hillside Drive Road above Bear Creek in the rain.

Rain

I then headed over to The Meadows at the edge of the Lizard Head Wilderness and relaxed in camp for the rest of the evening.

Afternoon View

Well, I didn’t quite relax the entire time since I went for a short hike on the nearby Winter Trail until it started raining.

Winter Trail View

I caught this faint rainbow when I returned from the hike.

Faint Rainbow

Camp After the Rain

Camp After the Rain

 

Lizard Head Wilderness: Navajo Basin

The forecast for Sunday was calling for wet and stormy weather to start early in the morning, so I decided to skip the peaks today and hike to Navajo Lake in the Lizard head Wilderness where I would be able to stay in the trees most of the time. It had rained heavily on and off during the night, so the trail was pretty wet and muddy and my pantlegs got soaked as I started hiking from the Navajo Lake Trailhead early this morning.

Welcome to the Lizard Head Wilderness.

Lizard Head Wilderness Sign

Although it was mostly cloudy this morning, there was a little nice light and texture to the clouds at times.

Morning Trail

Crossing the West Dolores River.

West Dolores River Bridge

The tops of the San Miguel Mountains were hidden in the clouds.

San Miguel Mountains

In The Clouds

Looking down the West Dolores River Valley behind me.

West Dolores River Valley

El Diente Peak in the clouds.

El Diente in the Clouds

After a steep climb up a couple of switchbacks I entered Navajo Basin.

Welcome to Navajo Basin

Entering Navajo Basin

Soon I reached the edge of Navajo Lake.

Navajo Lake View

I could see just a little bit of blue sky to the southwest, but it didn’t stick around long.

Navajo Lake

This beautiful bouquet of Columbines was near the shore of the lake.

Columbines

One last shot from near the outlet before I turned around and headed back down.

Navajo Lake Outlet

It seems that I take at least one photo like this each summer, so here you go for 2022…

Inside

The clouds were looking dark on my way back down, but I never encountered any rain or lighting during the entire hike.

Dark Clouds

Next up I headed back over to Lizard Head Pass to drive the Galloping Goose Trail and took this photo of Black Face since I planned to hike it the following morning.

Black Face

Near the end of the Galloping Goose Trail I stopped to check out the Trout Lake Trestle.

Trout Lake Trestle

Trestle

Then I returned to the Cross Mountain Trailhead to hike part of the eastern end of the Groundhog Stock Driveway. This part of the trail wasn’t as scenic as the western end and I was stuck in the trees the entire time without any views of the surrounding mountains.

Groundhog Stock Trail

Center Stock Driveway

Center Stock Driveway

I returned to camp early and had planned to stay another night so I could hike Black Face in the morning, but then I started not feeling well. After taking a nap and hoping I would feel better afterwards, I didn’t, so I decided it would be best to head home a day early. I will have to come back for Black Face another day…

A parting shot as I started my drive back home.

Parting Shot

The light was looking nice on the rock above Ophir as I drove by.

Light on Stone

Mount Sneffels was also looking nice as I drove over the Dallas Divide, so I had to stop for a quick photo just before sunset.

Mount Sneffels

I saw one more rainbow from the Dallas Divide as I made my way down to Ridgway.

Broken Rainbow

Although I ended up cutting this trip a little short, I still managed to have another nice weekend in the Rico Mountains and Lizard Head Wilderness!

>> The Rico Mountains & Lizard Head Wilderness Photo Gallery

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