Lizard Head Peak is one of the most recognized peaks in Colorado because of its unique shape. While it’s too dangerous for most people to climb the peak due to its crumbling rock, you can hike near the peak.
There are two main ways to get there. Option one is the Lizard Head Trail. However, via that trail, the hike is at least 5.6 miles one way and one section of the trail has 1,600 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile.
Option two is the Cross Mountain Trail. While most trip reports say the views are not as good on this trail, it’s only 3.5 miles to the top with 1,900 feet of elevation gain.
With a concern about weather moving in early, we choose the Cross Mountain Trail. The trail starts right on the side of Highway 145, south of Telluride (directions below).
At the trailhead, take a photo of Lizard Head Peak in the distance. You’re heading there! Now sign the trail register, cross the bridge and follow the trail through the meadow.
The trail winds through one meadow, a few trees and another meadow until you pass the Groundhog Stock Trail about a half mile from the parking lot. That’s your last trail junction until you reach the top of the mountain.
Now the trail winds through meadows and forest as it climbs. While there are lots of places where the trail climbs in elevation, there are a few mellower sections where you can quickly catch your breath.
About two miles in, you’ll come to the sign for the Lizard Head Wilderness. The Forest Service says the 41,496-acre Lizard Head Wilderness lies astride the San Juan Mountains, within Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests. At this point, you’ve gained about 1,000 feet in elevation.
It’s another quarter mile from here to a large, open meadow and a great view of Lizard Head Peak. As you hike this next section of trail, don’t miss the views to your right and left. To your right is the Trout Lake Basin and to your left is a series of colorful peaks. One of the peaks in that group is Gladstone Peak – a centennial. A centennial peak in Colorado is one of the tallest 100 peaks in the state.
You’ll also notice the trail gets steeper in this area and soon the ground you’re walking on will turn black. That’s volcanic rock. Lizard Head is a volcanic spire, according to the Forest Service.
As you get closer to the top, the trail begins the level out. Enjoy the views in every direction as you head up to the junction with the Lizard Head Trail, about 3.5 miles from the trailhead. If you’re out of breath at this spot, it’s because you’re now at 12,000 feet. The top of Lizard Head Peak is 13,113.
The Forest Service website says, “The summit of Lizard Head Peak has been voted as one of Colorado’s most dangerous and difficult climbs.”
Now it’s decision time. You can turn left and hike about third of a mile or so to see a view into Bilk Creek Basin on the other side of this ridge. Or turn right on the Lizard Head Trail and make a loop. The loop is about 9 miles, plus a 2.2-mile shuttle, or a total hike of about 11.2 miles. We choose to hike a short distance to a view of Bilk Creek Basin and return the way we came up.
Details: The hike to the base of Lizard Head is about 7 miles roundtrip with 1700 feet of elevation gain. Add the Bilk Creek Basin view and the hike is about 7.7 miles with 1900 feet of elevation gain.
If you’re looking for more hiking in Telluride, don’t miss Bear Creek Falls, Cornet Falls, the Jud Wiebe Trail, Blue Lakes above Telluride and Hope Lake. Find more than 400 great Colorado hikes in this list of 400+ hikes across the state. Don’t miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.
Directions: From Telluride, take Highway 145 south about 14 miles to the top of Lizard Head Pass. Go pass the parking lot there and drive about 2.2 miles to the Cross Mountain Trailhead on your right.