by Margaret Hedderman | Most people who hike into Chicago Basin either hike in from Purgatory Trailhead on US Highway 550, a distance of about 14 miles, or they elect to ride in on the Durango to Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad, which stops at Needleton to discharge and pick up hikers twice per day, which cuts the hike down to about 7 & 1/2 miles. Needle Creek Trail #504 from Needleton is the easiest and most common access to the basin. The ones on the creek side are not legal camps because they are not 100 feet from water. The trail to Twin Lakes in the Chicago Basin, Windom Peak behind right . Trail Summary: The Purgatory Creek trail is the shortest and most common way to access the Chicago Basin if you do not want to or are not able to take the Silverton/Durango train. More information Elk Creek to Chicago Basin via Colorado Trail, to Continental Divide Trail, to Vallecito Trail, Johnson Creek Trail, finally Needle Creek Trail From CR 501 continue to North end of the Lake and bear left (North) for 2.8 miles on CR 500 to reach Vallecito Campground and trailhead parking. Take the Vallecito Creek Pack Trail north for 8 miles until you reach the Johnson Creek split in the trail. Make a week out of it. It appeared at THAT time we may have been the first party to hike out that way in quite some time. The plan was to follow the Vallecito creek trail down 9 miles to the Johnson creek trail junction. And this was while traveling from 11,000 to 14,000 feet. Tristan and friends had hiked the Vallecito Creek drainage north from Vallecito Reservoir, and found it so lovely that he proposed to hike up Vallecito Creek to the intersection with Johnson Creek, camp overnight, and hike into Chicago Basin over Columbine Pass the following day. The only difficult creek crossing was of Rock Creek, which I think was the most difficult of all of them that we encountered. I hiked from Vallecito Lake up V. Creek and Johnson Creek into Chicago Basin in 2003? Elevation gain again played an important part of the day. A secondary route climbs steeply to Twin Lakes. Vallecito Creek Trail – Easy/Moderate. If you have any questions about your order please email: info@sjma.org, Thank you, San Juan Mountains Association, Junior Naturalist Field Camps (Grades 1-6), Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad website. I hiked to the Chicago Basin in September 2018 via the Purgatory Creek Trail. Note: Hiking down the Vallecito Creek trail, it seemed as though we were about as remote as possible in the mountains of Colorado which is why I was startled to round a switchback and nearly stepped on a hiker sitting on the ground resting. As we neared the pass and Columbine Lake, the threat of a thunderstorm was replaced by a downpour of sleet. The Weminuche is massive. Aufgrund der Steigung und Distanz ist die Strecke als moderat einzustufen. Some may decide to exit the basin via the Vallecito Trail, which travels southeast to the Vallecito Reservoir. More information Elk Creek to Chicago Basin via Colorado Trail, to Continental Divide Trail, to Vallecito Trail, Johnson Creek Trail, finally Needle Creek Trail There is a slide debris pile near Rock Creek … Comments have to be approved before showing up. The trail continues on the east side of the creek to the Johnson Creek trail. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/colorado/vallecito-creek-trail The Needle Creek Trail junction is at just over 9.5 miles, with the Needlton Train station another mile or so to the north. From there a few more miles on the CDT. The Emerald Lake area and Vallicento Creek Trail seemed to be popular as well. Columbine Pass: From Chicago Basin, the trail to the pass is clear, except for one small snowfield. August 31, 2016 Sign up for our eNews updates and be the first to know... SJMA was created in 1988 to assist the San Juan National Forest in providing education and interpretation of public lands in Southwest Colorado. We are working to be sure all orders are filled as promptly as possible. My trip coincided with archery and muzzle loader season for elk. Dec 14, 2014 - Search over 100,000 trails with trail info, maps, detailed reviews, and photos curated by millions of hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you. Use the Chicago Basin as a basecamp, and access a number of trails: three fourteeners are accessible as day hikes, and the ambitious can tackle all three in one day—Mt. That's me in the red cowgirl hat. For most, it takes four to five hours to reach the basin, putting you there around supper time. Chicago Basin comprises the upper portion of the Needle Creek watershed in the Needle Mountains (Colorado), a subrange of the San Juan Mountains in the US State of Colorado.It lies within the Weminuche Wilderness, part of the San Juan National Forest. The weather was not looking ideal for a three-day backpacking trip through the San Juan Mountain high country. Up a few 14s. The goal of this post is to offer information about another, less-known route of entry to Chicago Basin from Lime Mesa Trail Head. Following the cascading whitewater of Needle Creek, the trail leads hikers deeper and deeper into the Weminuche. From here it’s a 30-mile loop over three mountain passes into Chicago Basin. Columbine Pass ascends the eastern reach of the canyon to Columbine Lake. This connecting trail exists because of a cooperative agreement with the landowners. From the beginning of the Johnson Creek turn-off to … Beyond Johnson Creek, the views open up. If you want to avoid spending $100 on the train, the other two popular routes of entry are from either Vallecito Trailhead, up Vallecito Creek to Johnson Creek and over Columbine Pass, or Purgatory Trailhead to the Animas River and up Needle Creek. We generally cruised down the valley all day, taking in the view of the mountains up the drainages around us. The skies were fairly clear when I woke up at 5:30 this morning, but I’ve grown weary of the weather in the Weminuche Wilderness at this point. The sun broke through briefly and we were barely able to dry our tents out before it let loose again. The section you mentioned was a fairly straightforward off-trail bushwhack. The goal of this post is to offer information about another, less-known route of entry to Chicago Basin from Lime Mesa Trail Head. I expected the roll of thunder at any moment. For most, it takes four to five hours to reach the basin, putting you there around supper time. I fell asleep around 8:00 to the sound of rain splattering on my rain fly. When we were just a mile from Columbine Pass when a crack of thunder exploded across the basin. My trip coincided with archery and muzzle loader season for elk. Colorado Hiking, Logjam on Johnson Creek. Beyond the basin, the main trail climbs another 1,400 feet over two miles to Columbine Pass where it meets up with the Johnson Creek Trail, which drops into the Vallecito Creek drainage. After 9 miles, we would turn off onto the less-frequented Johnson Creek Trail and climb over Columbine Pass at 12,680 ft. We would then descend into the fabled Chicago Basin and take the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad back to Durango from the Needleton Flagstop along the Animas River. Want to learn more about our current projects, ways to stay involved and news from the San Juan Mountains Association? As one of the entry points for the very popular Chicago Basin, a number of more developed backcountry campsites dot the intersection, but you'll have to cross the bridge to find them. End of Camping Area in the Chicago Basin. We drank our coffee in a small patch of sun the following morning. Columbine Pass ascends the eastern reach of the canyon to Columbine Lake. You will take the Johnson Creek trail to the west until you decide to camp... unless you decided to camp before this point. At 6.5 miles you begin the steep climb to Columbine Pass. Chicago Basin Whether we went up or down we were a long way from shelter. During the summer of 2018, train access to the Chicago Basin was stopped due to a controversy around the Durango Fire , so the Purgatory Creek trail became much more high trafficked. The route: Purg Flats Trail to Animas River Trail to Needle Creek Trail ending at Chicago Basin. To our … I saw a few hunters and horse outfitters, particularly in the Pine River Trail corridor. Sarah was especially excited to be on top of her fourth 13er, all with me. The Needle Creek Trailhead is a ½ mile walk south from the train stop. You follow rapidly flowing Vallecito creek tumbling down a narrow glacial valley; the creek is among the loveliest in the West. I had organized this trip through the Durango Hiking & Backpacking Group on Facebook. Chicago Basin is a high-use area, not just for it's dramatic beauty, but for its easy access to four mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet. Please do not trespass on this private property! From there a few more miles on the CDT. For schedules, fares and reservations visit the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad website or call 1-888-TRAIN-07 (1-888-872-4607), local 247-2733. The trail climbed nearly 3,000 ft. through a lush, mossy forest. I hiked from Vallecito Lake up V. Creek and Johnson Creek into Chicago Basin in 2003? From the top of Columbine Pass you descend 680 feet in 0.4 mile to Columbine Lake. Vallecito Creek to Johnston Creek (great campsite at the junction of the two creeks). When you board the train, you need to drop off your backpack at the baggage car behind the engine, and then go to your assigned seat in a different car. At just over 11 … A stunning day hike on the first few miles of the trail, or a wonderful four-to-five day backpack trip. Creek Trail - Easy to Moderate A stunning day hike, or a great four-to-five day backpack trip. There is a slide debris pile near Rock Creek … Additional Trail Info. Dear valued customer. From Durango, take Florida Road (CR 240) out of town (approximately 16 miles). The well-maintained Needle Creek Trail climbs steadily up Needle Creek to Chicago Basin. Elevation gain again played an important part of the day. From either vantage point, a commanding panorama of the Needle Creek drainage is possible. Chicago Basin hiking, Eventually you hit the confluence of Vallecito Creek and Johnson Creek and cross a bridge to start heading towards Columbine Pass up the Johnson Creek drainage (the second of the two major climbs on the trip). A secondary route climbs steeply to Twin Lakes. Many years ago mining was common throughout these lands. With upwards of 75 campers in the basin on a peak weekend, it can be a race against the other hikers to find a campsite for the night. Purgatory Trail (#511) – approximately 4 miles, 1500 ft descent; Animas River Trail (#675) – approximately 5.5 miles; Needle Creek Trail (#504) – approximately 5-6 miles to Chicago Basin, 3000 ft ascent; Vallecito Creek Trail: Access from the east. A secondary route climbs steeply to Twin Lakes. To our … From the lake the hike is easy to moderate terrain to … Most people arriving by train (around 11 AM when coming from Durango) hike the 6 miles to the Basin the same day, arriving in late afternoon. Following the cascading whitewater of Needle Creek, the trail leads hikers deeper and deeper into the Weminuche. It is easy to crank out the miles as you had down Vallecito Trail and then the opposite becomes true when you hit Johnson Creek. The goal of this post is to offer information about another, less-known route of entry to Chicago Basin from Lime Mesa Trail Head. Johnson‘s Creek is much more ascending than Vallecito Creek, and it took about four hours for me to reach Vallecito Basin, at which point, again the storms were rolling in. Note: Hiking down the Vallecito Creek trail, it seemed as though we were about as remote as possible in the mountains of Colorado which is why I was startled to round a switchback and nearly stepped on a hiker sitting on the ground resting. Here’s an overview map of the Weminuche Wilderness, which includes trailhead locations. Around 7 miles in, there was an avalanche along the trail, and so suddenly I found myself in a class 2 scramble over fallen trees. The section you mentioned was a fairly straightforward off-trail bushwhack. Johnson Creek Trail: Beyond the basin, the main trail climbs another 1,400 feet over two miles to Columbine Pass where it meets up with the Johnson Creek Trail, which drops into the Vallecito Creek drainage. Lastly, I wanted to get some fun star trails over Chicago Basin, and again this proved quite effective. We packed up and trudged up to Trimble Pass. Beyond the basin, the main trail climbs another 1,400 feet over two miles to Columbine Pass where it meets up with the Johnson Creek Trail, which drops into the Vallecito Creek drainage. The Animas River trail here was long, flat and well groomed. Er führt entlang eines Flusses, durch schönen Wald und es gibt einen Wasserfall. “There are all these interpretive calls,” Watts said. A secondary route climbs steeply to Twin Lakes. 8/13/19 Johnson Creek Trail: Navigable via foot; Vallecito Creek Trail between Johnson and Hunchback: is all navigable by food but NOT STOCK. I never could account for the voices, but the footsteps were explained when a big, black moose stomped past our tents! You follow rapidly flowing Vallecito creek tumbling down a narrow glacial valley; the creek is among the loveliest in the West. Vallecito Creek Trail - Easy to Moderate A stunning day hike, or a great four-to-five day backpack trip. Johnson Creek, approaching Columbine Pass. I felt fortunate to have him. At the T-intersection, take a left on CR 501 which will bring you to the lake. Down to the beginning of Vallecito Creek. There are no plans at this time to replace the bridge, so it is necessary for hikers to ford the creek. In the first 2 miles you will rise more than 500 ft. above the creek with fantastic vistas, then the trail drops down right beside the creek. While yesterday we had gained 3,000' in about 6.5 to 7 miles, we were now going to gain that amount in 2.5 miles. And this was while traveling from 11,000 to 14,000 feet. The Needleton train stop area and the first ½ mile of the trail going south to the Needle Creek Trailhead is on private lands. While yesterday we had gained 3,000' in about 6.5 to 7 miles, we were now going to gain that amount in 2.5 miles. The trail continues on the east side of the creek to the Johnson Creek trail. We're committed to building a better, more inclusive home for the modern outdoors. The Colorado Trail, Pine River Trail, CDT, and the trails leading to Chicago Basin were probably the busiest. You follow rapidly flowing Vallecito creek tumbling down a narrow glacial valley; the creek is among the loveliest in the West. Down to the beginning of Vallecito Creek. Purgatory Trail (#511) – approximately 4 miles, 1500 ft descent; Animas River Trail (#675) – approximately 5.5 miles; Needle Creek Trail (#504) – approximately 5-6 miles to Chicago Basin, 3000 ft ascent; Vallecito Creek Trail: Access from the east. The six-mile hike into Chicago Basin is a steady, relentless uphill trudge. The Emerald Lake area and Vallicento Creek Trail seemed to be popular as well. The plan was to hike up the Vallecito Creek Trail and into the Weminuche Wilderness. Needle Creek is an east-side tributary of the Animas River.The basin is a popular destination in summer for climbers and backpackers. On the Vallecito Trail, the third bridge (counting from the South) crossing Vallecito Creek is gone due to an avalanche in the winter of 2004-2005. Up Elk Creek on the CT to the CDT and a night at Eldorado Lake. We left our packs here and strolled up to the summit of Florida Mountain's 13,076 ft. summit to enjoy views of Chicago Basin and Johnson Creek. Wilderness rangers frequently patrol the trail, and will ask you to move if they find you camping in an illegal site. Coming in by trail will lengthen your trip by one or two days each way. Also note that there are no toilet facilities at Needleton. The Weminuche is massive. It can be done in three nights, but what’s the rush? I only did it for about 30 minutes, so it is not as impressive as it could be; however, we needed to get some rest for the big day ahead of us. © 2018 - All Rights Reserved - San Juan Mountains Association | Web Design by Sweet P Web Development. In the first 2 miles you will rise more than 500 ft. above the creek with fantastic vistas, then the trail drops down right beside the creek. The state’s most remote point suffers from the same problem: A four-wheel-drive road that leads to an old townsite called Beartown, only 6 miles up Vallecito Creek. I saw a few hunters and horse outfitters, particularly in the Pine River Trail corridor. On the way we passed an old mine. It is easy to crank out the miles as you had down Vallecito Trail and then the opposite becomes true when you hit Johnson Creek. Leaving the trailhead and Vallacito Campground behind, steep switchbacks gain 415 feet towards rocky outcrops at 1.6 miles. Some may decide to exit the basin via the Vallecito Trail, which travels southeast to the Vallecito Reservoir. A stunning day hike on the first few miles of the trail, or a wonderful four-to-five day backpack trip. Columbine Pass Weminuche, Chicago Basin can be accessed by riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and getting off at Needleton. This trail junction has some ok spots to set up camp. Weminuche Wilderness. eNZees Foot Soother is a registered trademark. Vallecito Creek Trail - Easy to Moderate A stunning day hike, or a great four-to-five day backpack trip. The avalanche debris was cleared from the trail in fall 2007. Most people arriving by train (around 11 AM when coming from Durango) hike the 6 miles to the Basin the same day, arriving in late afternoon. The bear bag was hung and all our dinner mess cleaned up, so we ran into our tents for the night. To continue on to Chicago Basin, take the trail to the right from the Needle Creek Junction. There was a crunchy frost upon the ground. The Vallecito Creek Trail is a popular hiking trail to access the Weminuche Wilderness Area, which is the largest wilderness area in all of Colorado, encompassing some 499,771 acres in the San Juan Mountains north of Durango and Pagosa Springs, CO.The trailhead is located north of Vallecito Reservoir and is an easy, scenic drive from downtown Durango. I sat in my tent, curled up in my sleeping bag, knocking the slush off my fly. The avalanche also took out a bridge, so you have to ford the creek. The only difficult creek crossing was of Rock Creek, which I think was the most difficult of all of them that we encountered. The Animas River trail here was long, flat and well groomed. Vallecito Creek to Johnston Creek (great campsite at the junction of the two creeks). It can be done in three nights, but what’s the rush? The plan was to hike up the Vallecito Creek Trail and into the Weminuche Wilderness. The goal of this post is to offer information about another, less-known route of entry to Chicago Basin from Lime Mesa Trail Head. If you want to avoid spending $100 on the train, the other two popular routes of entry are from either Vallecito Trailhead, up Vallecito Creek to Johnson Creek and over Columbine Pass, or Purgatory Trailhead to the Animas River and up Needle Creek. Southwest Colorado Hiking, From either vantage point, a commanding panorama of the Needle Creek drainage is possible. A heavy cloud sat comfortably between the distant 14,000 ft. peaks, obscuring the tremendous view. We're committed to building a better, more inclusive home for the modern outdoors. Over Hunchback Pass. Down to Chicago Basin. We rely on your community trail reports to keep our trail conditions up to date. Down to Chicago Basin. Legal sites along the first 4 miles are limited in number, and are on the left (north) side of the trail. Chicago Basin can be reached by trails from several directions. Additional Trail Info. 8/13/19 Johnson Creek Trail: Navigable via foot; Vallecito Creek Trail between Johnson and Hunchback: is all navigable by food but NOT STOCK. It appeared at THAT time we may have been the first party to hike out that way in quite some time. The train stop at Needleton is very brief, so expect yourself and your backpack to be unloaded (or loaded) very quickly. 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