Lizard Head Wilderness: San Juan


The 41,496 acre Lizard Head Wilderness lies astride the San Juan Mountains, (10 miles southwest of Telluride and 40 miles northeast of Cortez) within Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests. The area is named for a prominent rock formation said to look like a lizard's head. Lizard Head itself is 13,113 feet (3,997 m) and is a volcanic spire of crumbling rock. The summit of Lizard Head Peak has been voted as one of Colorado's most dangerous and difficult climbs. The Wilderness also includes the headwaters of the west fork of the Dolores River. 

The Lizard Head Wilderness is part of the 109 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Backcountry wilderness trails in this infrequently visited wilderness are mostly above 9,000 feet in elevation and are strenuous and should be only be attempted by more advanced backpackers with adequate experience and equipment.

The area includes three prominent fourteeners

  • El Diente Peak (14,159 ft / 4316 m)
  • Wilson Peak (14,017 ft / 4272 m)
  • Mount Wilson (14,246 ft / 4342 m)

Always follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Lizard Head Wilderness to help keep this area wild, clean, and pristine. 

PLEASE NOTE: It is prohibited to build, maintain, or use a campfire: 1) within 100 feet of any lake, stream or National Forest System Trail; 2) above tree line; or 3) within Navajo Basin.

At a Glance

Restrictions: Specific Lizard Head Wilderness Restrictions: It is prohibited to build, maintain, or use a campfire: 1) within 100 feet of any lake, stream or National Forest System Trail; 2) above tree line; or 3) within Navajo Basin. Please review the full list of Wilderness Regulations which include the following:
  • Group size is limited to 15 people.
  • Combination of people and stock = 25.
  • Dogs under control.
  • No unattended campfires.
  • Camping is not allowed within 100 feet of any water source.
  • Outfitter-guides who receive any form of compensation must obtain a special-use permit to operate on public land.
  • Possession of motorized equipment and mechanized means of transport are not permitted.
  • Please check trailhead signs or Forest Service Offices for site-specific camping, campfire, and livestock regulations.
  • Do not fly drones over congressionally designated wilderness areas or primitive areas as many people seek these places for the opportunities for solitude and quiet that they provide.
  • Practice leave no trace ethics.
Closest Towns: Telluride, Colorado; Cortez, Colorado; Ophir, Colorado; Rico, Colorado
Water: Treat all non-potable water before consuming.
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace
Information Center:

General Information

General Notes:

Topo maps

Recommended maps for the Lizard Head Wilderness are the Latitude 40 Telluride, Silverton, Ouray TrailsNational Geographic Telluride, Silverton, Ouray, Lake City #141, or the Mountains of Silverton, Telluride and Ouray.

Colorado’s Fourteeners

Find more information about climbing Colorado’s peaks at the Rocky Mountain Region 14ers page.

Go to for additional maps and information about Wilderness.

See also: 

Uncompahgre National Forest Lizard Head Wilderness information.


Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities