From the trailhead follow the Pawnee Pass Trail a quarter mile to Long Lake. This is a very Long Lake, about a mile in length, go figure. Its source is the combined melt-off from the Navajo and Isabelle Glacier. Along the rest of the route you notice the effects of having a constant melt-off, this place is very lush with wildflowers, and also alive with bugs. At any rate, continue 2.25 miles to Lake Isabelle, another magnificent high alpine lake. The views from here of Navajo, Apache and Shashoni are excellent and allows for many “reflection photo” opportunities. Continue another mile to an unnamed lake at 11,420 ft. At the lake, go north and hike up into the boulder field under Navajo and Apache Peaks east face. At this point you can see your north facing standard route up Airplane Gully. This is unfortunately the only reasonable passage to ascend to Niwot Ridge. The gully is a steep 500 ft. of loose rock and scree.
After picking your way up this gully you are rewarded with the wreckage of a small plane, the debris is all over the place. Soon after, you finally arrive at the ridge crest of Niwot Ridge and you get a good view of Arikaree Peak nestled within the state property of the Boulder Watershed. This is also a good spot to plan your remaining ascent of Navajo Peak. Traverse Niwot Ridge on solid rock, and begin picking your way op the broken class 2+ ledges toward the summit cliff wall. Use some route-finding skills to loop around to the north side of the Navajo summit cliff wall. Once on Navajos class 3, north ridge, take the path of least resistance. Make a few committing moves up through the cliff wall and the summit is finally yours.
The summit is small and has sheer drop-offs in almost all directions. There are great views of North Arapahoe Peak and the Shoshoni rock wall. Descend the standard route.
Be prepared to stay the night in an emergency situation and bring enough food and water for the night as well.
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