El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

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El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse


  • Looking at Wilson Peak (left) and Gladstone Peak (right) from the summit of Mount Wilson.- El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse
  • The ridge traverse from El Diente (pictured) to the summit of Mount Wilson.- El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse
  • Looking east over the San Juans from the summit of Mount Wilson.- El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse
  • Traversing the ridge toward Mount Wilson.- El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse
  • The beginning of the ridge traverse from El Diente to Mount Wilson.- El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse
  • Summiting El Diente from the North Buttress route.- El Diente to Mount Wilson Traverse
Overview + Weather
Great views. Old-growth forest. Beautiful lake. Big mountains.
Exposure. Inclement weather. High altitude.
San Juan Mountains, CO
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
5,000.00 ft (1,524.00 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
9,439.00 ft (2,877.01 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The San Juan Mountains are Colorado’s biggest mountain range, and they contain some truly wild terrain and landscapes. The Wilson Group is a cluster of 14,000-foot mountains located near Telluride that offer incredible opportunities for mountaineering, fishing, and wilderness solitude.

While the three 14,000-foot mountains in the area can each be done individually as a day hike, they are best done as an overnight trip, and there are plenty of backcountry sites available at Navajo Lake. Navajo Lake is just 5 miles from the trailhead, but the route climbs 2,000 feet through skunk cabbage fields and mature aspen forests. The lake is stunning: crystal clear water, big mountain vistas, and plenty of spacious campsites.

From Navajo Lake the trail ascends through a boulder field into the basin below the major peaks. From the basin, turn north and ascend the North Buttress route of El Diente. This route requires commitment, but it is the quickest, most direct route to the summit. The crux of the North Buttress, which is just shy of the summit, is Class 4. However, careful movements and strong route-finding skills make this route an obvious choice.

 From the 14,160-foot summit of El Diente, take in the sweeping views of the Navajo Lake Basin, and then begin the ridge traverse to Mount Wilson (14,246 feet). The traverse to Mount Wilson has a crux that is Class 4, but it requires constant attention and route finding throughout the entirety of the ridge. There are several natural obstacles, such as the large gendarmes, that require careful negotiations. Once the ridge is completed, the summit is only a few hundred vertical feet away. Ascend the summit ridge with extreme caution and you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the entire San Juan Range. Descend via the standard route up Mount Wilson. 

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Field Guide

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(33 within a 30 mile radius)

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