By the time Lisa made it to the top, we had to continue down the other side immediately. It has a mesh frame that holds the weight of the pack slightly off your back. None of them seemed very dry though. After climbing about a third of the way up to the CDT, I hit a switchback, which I gladly used the rest of the way up. There was goat hair all around the campsite, but we had yet to see one. It didnt rain extremely heavily at any time, but it was just so damn frequent. Just as I hit that switchback, a few hikers came into view on the way down from the CDT. Its relatively easy to walk over/around them, but be patient and expect a slight delay. Early morning at the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad station. Here comes my ride! What a place for a cabin! I dont know why these animals are so persistent about going to a specific location when there are humans there. They were all well marked but took extra time to navigate. 18-21 September 2017. After a nice relaxing break, we hit the trail again. Thats for water drainage, and maybe goats. I laughed and told him how I lost the trail before it headed up. Learn more about this exciting opportunity for outdoor recreation youll find only in Durango. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 5 h 9 min to complete. The weather was holding out all morning, shine shining and blue skies. The skies were pretty blue now and there was abundant sunshine. However, from the trailhead sign it was another 1/2 mile or so before we actually reached the train stop. A mine along the trail leading down into Chicago Basin. Patreon is a service that allows you to provide monthly financial support to your favorite content creators. Without going closer, theres no way of knowing what the rest of it looked like. Where did you get the map? I took it out of its stuff sack and unrolled it and the looks on their faces were just priceless. Because of this we consider it to be a hard trail but the views were worth every single second. Miles Hiked 5.4 First, dont forget your sunglasses! To my amazement, the sky was 100% clear when I woke up at 5:30 this morning. A Garmin InReach is one of the pricier emergency options, but there are also less expensive satellite emergency locator beacons (with less functionality). Between the trailhead marker and train stop was actually private property with a few shacks, cabins, and homes built. Not cheap by any means, but it was a cool way to enter and leave the wilderness. We heard later that there was a porcupine in the area chewing on things, so it couldve been the culprit. Route Eldorado Lake to Vallecito Creek Bridge. Great hike! Dark skies now approached from all sides, and there was even some lightning in the distance. We were thrilled when a ranger who had just cleared out the trail told us the three 12,000-foot passes on our route were free of snow. As we waited by the tracks, one of the hikers we were talking to in the shack was showing another guy his sleeping pad. It took us 7 days to complete it. This snowshoe hare looks as if it could shoot lasers from its eyes, Campsite along the Elk Park trail, around 10,300ft. Everyone in the shack jumped up immediately, rushing to put on boots and grab their gear as we rushed towards the tracks. They ran downhill and out of sight, and I kept moving. Awesome, thanks! I did see a lot of goat hair stuck in the trees and bushes now, which we had not seen anywhere else yet along our hike. To board at a flagstop, you must be on the east side of the tracks. We made the decision to cut our trek short. Back, finally! We got to the train station around 7:15am, as we were told to be there 45 minutes early. Thanks for sharing this one. Here, there were several more mountain goats hanging out on the rocks by a small pool of water. After crossing the bridge over the Animas River to the train tracks on the other side, we spotted an abandoned shack. The rain sucked, but it sure did make you appreciate what little sunshine we did get. We knew that the odds were pretty good that goats would wander near us too, eventually. A really incredible trip with unbeatable views! My husband had an offline map downloaded in his Google Maps app, although we found it to be unreliable in the Vallecito Creek area. Complete Weminuche Wilderness Photo Gallery | Weminuche HD Video. For shelter, we carried a backpacking tent, as well as a double sleeping pad, Sea to Summit Thermolite sleeping bag liners, and a compressible backpacking quilt. It was raining up here and quite cold. Esta ruta es popular para mochilear, disfrutar de la observacin de aves y ir de camping, sin embargo, podrs disfrutar de algo de paz durante los momentos ms tranquilos del da. Here, theres a good view of Vestal Peak. Finally, some views! See this list of my favorite freeze-dried meals if youre curious about what theyre like. There was a snowshoe hare, or multiple hares, that I kept seeing as I gathered wood. For suggestions, see my guides to the best womens hiking boots and hiking gear for men. Wilderness access gives riders an opportunity to book with the intention of getting off the train and getting outdoors. We brought along this Weminuche Wilderness National Geographic map. Cachanilla83. Of course, now it starts to rain for the first time today. I used a Deuter Kids 40 pack (it has an adjustable torso section for short people!) Elk Park flag stop to Needleton flag stop between Durango and Silverton Elk Park flag stop to Needleton flag stop between Durango and Silverton. Still a good ways from the pass, we pushed on as the rains started in their usual off and on fashion. Elk Park is a wide spot in the Animas River canyon located at milepost 490.5 on the Silverton Branch of the San Juan Extension. We had a couple of long days and some short days with lots of time to relax. Two other climbers reached the top during my stay up here. Our brakeman Sam was a wealth of knowledge about any kind of train-related questions we had. I guess thats good, because that was less people we saw on the other days. Lisa had a bit of trouble last year in the Maroon Bells when we hiked the Four Pass Loop, and I may have had a slight headache that first day as well. Apparently, they felt more threatened by that than the rocks whizzing by their heads. Since youll be hiking in the Rocky Mountains, you should be Bear Aware. Elk Park to Needleton Loop, plus side trips including:-Vestal Basin . . Comment * document.getElementById("comment").setAttribute( "id", "a9fc6034fcd46f19ce6730fcccb725d8" );document.getElementById("b86db021e5").setAttribute( "id", "comment" ); Hi, I'm Sarah! Continental Divide Trail (2018), "His breathing is measured as he narrates his journey, describing the personal allure of the great outdoors, the difference between mere hobby and real passion. Elk Park to Needleton Backpack Loop 5,560 views Aug 5, 2008 9 Dislike Share Save Elizabeth Black 394 subscribers From the steam engine train we backpack for 6 days on a 40 mile loop out in. Soon enough, wed be overtaken by the unavoidable fog. If youre boarding the train at a flag stop, you need to alert the conductor. This is a popular trail for birding and hiking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. For some reason, the mileage the GPS reports to me in the field is always more than the mileage it gives me at home when I am reviewing the final data. This was worth the trip alone and something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime! Im taking a group on essentially this same trip in a couple weeks, and your pictures and story are very inspiring. Looking up, it looked very easy and straight forward. Its also a good idea to drink lots of water (more so than at sea level). We loaded our backpacks in the baggage car. The skies did not look good and I was not sure whether or not I would be climbing tomorrow. Once past the tricky part near the top of the pass, it was your general steep descent via switchbacks. When taking a train leaving from Durango, you need to be in your seat 30 minutes before departure. Chicago Basin area was very pretty, and not too crowded with tents. Debris form 2020 avalanches on the elk park section have been cleared but theres quite a bit of fallen trees blocking the needle creek trail out of the Chicago Basin. I figured the total mileage for today would be about 14 miles, but everything after mile 4 or so would be downhill. I was . Get around Durango in style with rental vehicles. I dont like to sit in the tent if I dont have to. we get old because we stop hiking" on the back. Thats why, if you come from a lower elevation like us, I recommend easing yourself into it while youre preparing for the Elk Park to Needleton hike! This looks more like some of the pictures Id seen of the San Juans before our trip. On day one, between the Elk Park Train Drop Off Trail Head and Beaver Pond, we encountered 3 large debris fields. There is no road access to either the Elk Park or Needleton trail access points. You can purchase a ticket to or from Elk Park onboard as long as space is availableno reservations are taken for this flag stop. Weve also been testing this Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 pack and love it. Campsite in Chicago Basin for nights 4 and 5. Sarah is the primary creator at Champagne Tastes. Dogs are also able to. On day two, we encountered an even larger debris field between Beaver Pond and the ascent to the miner's shack. Tips for Camping With Your Kids in Durango, Colorado. San Juan National Forest. But we opted to take the train! There were cairns here and there marking the way as well, which could be seen since the Twin Lakes. I climbed up the highest hill along the edge which was roughly 12,700ft, which provided awesome views of Eldorado and everything else around. I purified some more water for todays hike and ate breakfast, a Metrx bar and some granola & almonds. It was pretty hot when the sun was shining, but it didnt shine too long. Eolus. Then, we saw 2 mountain goats on the other side of Needle Creek that had just walked into someones camp. Other hikers trickled in to the area as time went on. Going down always looks much harder! From there, youll have a choice of where youd like to go. One of the biggest drawing points of the Elk Creek trail is the unique opportunity to combine a Wilderness trip with a ride on a steam locomotive. The trail was much easier to hike than I was anticipating, and I was covering pretty good ground. We just finished this trail. The altitude on this backpacking loop varies from around 8,000 to nearly 13,000 feet above sea level. When we visited in September, the days were hot and the nights were cold. We hardly saw any other hikers until Chicago Basin. We camped at ~9300 ft. Nice! Very nice trip report! I used a Garmin InReach Mini 2 to track our location, and any time we came to an unmarked trail junction, we knew which way to go. You write quite well. Arriving via a coal-powered train on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, this excursion into the dramatic Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado gets off to a unique start. We had about 7 miles of downhill hiking to the train, which arrives at 3:30, and thus were not in a hurry. We chatted for a while and took turns taking pictures of each other before they headed down. It also didnt hurt that we pampered ourselves a little afterwards with a leisurely day at Pagosa Springs. Besides that, she was very happy to have a day off to rest. Bob Marshall. They didnt seem to concerned with our presence though. Comments are not currently showing up on my site right now, need to troubleshoot that. For example, early access to youtube videos, stickers, t-shirt, behind the scenes info on my new thru hiking route creations, special thank you card and more! The Elk Park to Needleton loop in the Weminuche Wilderness, to be precise. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. It was a little windy last night, which can make it hard to sleep. This is where Eldorado Lake drains off the mountainside and down to the Miners Cabin area we passed earlier today, Looking up at 13,627ft White Dome from the Eldorado Lake drainage. All in all beautiful scenery and a great hike. Everything was still pretty wet from the rains overnight, and it was cold. Im considering doing this loop this summer and you have really helped! Now through this little plateau area, the trail starts heaving down pretty quick. The train kept on going though, as this one wasnt scheduled to stop here. The oldest cart on the train was built in 1879, and the oldest engine was from 1925 I believe. Some of the rocks were covered in ice making them extremely slippery too, so I had to be very careful once I neared the top. I do regret getting the open-cart seats though, because it was raining and it was not dry inside. View Profile They really wanted to be right there, and werent taking no for an answer. Strider1. We used a Sawyer Squeeze water filter. I was very surprised that there were no seats available, the train was pretty packed. We got to the train stop at noon and the train picked us up at 3pm. To reach this trail on foot, some hikers make a longer loop from the Molas Trail (about four miles). We followed Bear Creek down to the Rio Grande by following the 4wd road and used our sat phone to arrange for transportation to Silverton. Learn more about the wildlife in the area. Twin Lakes, still waiting for early morning light to hit tis waters. The Needleton stop also gives you access to the Needle Creek Trail, Johnson Creek Trail and the Chicago Basin. Highly recommend. Youll be hiking in a wilderness area. I wanted to make it farther though, and we pushed on to about 5.5 miles where we made camp along Elk Creek, elevation ~10,300ft. Excellent trip report, thanks for doing this. Try this 60.4-km point-to-point trail near Silverton, Colorado. They can be a lifesaver on a long hike. This was our third trek on this trail. Highly recommend! We were able to cross the creek by hopping rocks and logs, just as we were able to with every other stream crossing on this trip. After driving around town, we realized that there was zero parking available anywhere. Success! I forced myself to get out of the tent and go explore the area. Im assuming forest service will clear this soon. There are a lot of trees down throughout the Johnson Creek and Needle Creek drainages - another hiker counted 155 trees across the trail on the way down from Chicago Basin to Needleton, but it looks like the FS is working their way up, clearing from the bottom up. Not too bad, but this was definitely not a class 2+ as described on 14ers.com. Down to Eldorado. Making reservations to ride the train to the wilderness is easy. I modified my workout regimen before this hike to try and strengthen certain parts of the leg muscles that support the knee function, some intense stair climb sessions (45lb pack), as well as doing a lot more stretching. It rained a little very briefly when I got back, then was party sunny the rest of the day with only a few intermittent showers. Had to climb over a hundred trees, no joke. Amherst and Organ mountains in the background. Looking for a slightly larger backpacking pack that will still fit a short torso? Mojave-Sonoran Trail (2021) There are a lot of down trees and we had rain and some route finding to cross streams. Before you head out into the wilderness, make sure you know where youre going! Id say we averaged 5 people seen per day on days 1-4. Eventually, I was able to scare them off pretty good by simply throwing my arms up in the air. Keep a close eye on your belongings: these feisty critters can chew threw packs quickly. Heres my caltopo map of the Elk Park/Needleton hike: There are no fees or permits needed to hike or camp in the Weminuche Wilderness. Unlike Snowmass though, the trail here was more open and very well worn, and not much here to get me wet. My group did it in 5 days, but I would recommend giving yourself 6 or 7 so you aren't having to push yourself to get to the train on time. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 19 h 35 min to complete. I found a semi dry spot under a pine tree to hang out during the rain while Lisa took cover in the tent. Here's an overview! I packed a peanut butter sandwich, some jerky, and a Metrx bar to eat later, as well as 2 liters of water. On day three, we made our way up and over the Continental Divide and into the beautiful meadow just below Hunchback Pass. There were no beavers. Finally, with any backpacking trip, you should look for an emergency out. Avalanche debris was cleared. Go to the print button at the top and choose print to pdf. The train showed up about 5-10 minutes late, but was a welcome sight nonetheless. Continental Divide Trail At the Divide, the trail connects with the Continental Divide Trail. As the evening progressed, we saw several deer both near our camp and off in the distance. There was another meadow a mile or so past our camp that would have been a nice place to spend the night. The San Juan mountains are notorious for being snowy and the best time is probably mid July to Mid September. This section of trail is also part of the Colorado Trail, a 400 mile trail that goes from Durango to Denver. But there would be no sleeping in tomorrow morning though, because we were off to the Great Sand Dunes National Park! The four debris fields we crossed we scary enough. The unincorporated community of Needleton is very secluded east from the Highway 550. Leave from Durango or Silverton and get off to explore at Elk Park, Needleton or one of the flagstops. I was a little nervous after getting dropped off at the trail via train and watching it ride away! Miles Hiked 10.4 It worked perfectly. It was around 1:45pm when we rolled into camp today. It was slippery and a little scary in the rain. The times we've done this, the train departed Silverton about 2:45 PM and dropped us of by 3:45 PM. This cabin would be a good place to wait out a storm, but its not suitable as an overnight shelter due to its condition. We kept the food bags in our packs too, which is kept in OPsaks. It seems that most people in Chicago Basin came from the Needleton stop, hiked here, and turned around and went back the way they came. I love being above the treeline, and I was excited to hike today. This trail is great for hiking, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring. We recommend it as long as you are ready to stay 7 days in the backcountry! For that reason, a small cart follows the train to check for any fires started by the train alongside the tracks. Most were quick to check out the shack as we did, so the cinder block and wood plank benches filled up fast. A hiking boot is preferable. The low clouds were back, engulfing Mount Kennedy southwest of us. The train follows the overall route of the Animas River northward from Durango and stops at Silverton, however, we werent going that far. Thanks for the great report! Trees blocked most of the views. On the Elk Park to Needleton loop, the emergency outs are limited. Weminuche Wilderness National Geographic map, Black Diamond Alpine carbon trekking poles, MSR PocketRocket Deluxe backpacking stove, Sea to Summit Thermolite sleeping bag liners, Elk Park to Needleton Backpacking Loop (Silverton, CO), Supplemental Privacy Notice For California Residents, Supplemental Privacy Notice For Nevada Residents. My knees were holding up very well so far this trip and I figured, why not? I feel like my extra efforts in training before this trip really made the difference in my knees. The weather looked like it was holding out as we neared the top, but it looked like it could turn bad at any moment. There were at least 5 if not 6 avalanche debris fields on the Elk creek trail. Expect to pay for the train tickets, a baggage fee (for your backpack, which goes in the boxcar train), and an overnight parking fee. If youre doing the whole Elk Park to Needleton loop, take the Durango-Silverton diesel train north from Durango to Elk Park. Finally below the clouds after descending Hunchback Pass, These deer practically walked right up to us while we ate lunch. Looking back, I wish I had checked it out. I chucked some rocks and shouted at them, but theyd just walk 5 feet away and stare back at us. The Durango-Silverton railroad heading north to Elk Park. Ran I to some bad weather that chased us out on the 2nd day but we saw a few moose on this trail. It was one of our Black Diamond Alpine carbon trekking poles, which was extra sad. Did this in and back turning around a waterfall. Farther downstream revealed a tall but tiny waterfall before the land leveled out near the lake. There was only one other campsite occupied the we could see in the area, so it wasnt too crowded. I have backpacked in the Weminuche three times, all in September, and each time we encountered some bad rainy weather. After staring me down for a minute, they decided to move in my direction. More views ruined by the weather, and as a result I took few pictures in this area. The bridge at Vallecito Creek, near Johnson Creek, is still good. The trail leading down to Kite Lake from the CDT, View of Kite Lake, before it disappeared in the growing fog. As the sun went down, the goats headed back up the mountainside for the evening. This was a pizza by the slice kind of place, and the slices were enormous! It's mainly visited for hikers departing on overnight backpacking trips into Chicago Basin. The people were yelling at them and throwing rocks to try and scare them away, but the goats were pretty stubborn. The trail is always very clear and easy to follow. I have done this one twice!! The water tasted great and was very cold. My group is collectively only able to go last week of May/first week of June. They could not believe how small the pad was, but I got the impression it was too ultralight for them. There was a new amazing view after every turn. We didn't want to risk going up and over Hunchback, down Vallecito, up Johnson Creek, over Columbine Pass and into Chicago Basin. I'm a traveler who loves to eat. It was eerie and mesmerizing at the same time. Dogs are welcome and may be off-lead in some areas. Obviously I skipped this route on our way up here, opting to go the traditional way up the switchbacks to the CDT, but I was curious if it was doable. There were a few more mines along the trail here, and one appeared to be deeper than the others we had explored. I figured more people would be out here doing the full loop like we were doing, but that clearly wasnt the case. Bugs were pretty bad this year. Or some come at it from the opposite (Needleton) end, via Purgatory Flats Trail and the Animas River Trail (about 10 miles). Please be aware that reservations can only be made from Durango and Silverton originations. I used to do that, but it gets expensive to print out those big maps all the time, especially for places I likely wont return to for years. I decided to take pictures of the lake later and just head up Windom now. Done over 5 nights and 6 days. The top of Hunchback Pass offered no views, as the visibility was around 200 feet. You can use this file with your GPS unit, or load it in caltopo.com (or your favorite mapping website or application). Cant wait to try this trip myself! The rock is slippery and there is nothing to help you balance yourself on this very narrow section of trail, which happens to have a BIG drop on your left.