Best of the Weminuche Guided Backpacking
Backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness
This 5 day 4 night backpacking trip traverses the incomparable Weminuche Wilderness in the San Juan Mountains. We’ll see areas like Elk Creek, the Colorado Trail, the Continental Divide, and the ever popular Chicago Basin. This is the ultimate wilderness backpacking trip in Colorado’s largest and most remote wilderness area. Awe-inspiring scenery, uncrowded trails, and the perfect trip itinerary make this an unforgettable experience for those who really want to see the best of what Colorado and the Weminuche has to offer backcountry enthusiasts.
We utilize the historic Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR) to access the wilderness area. A relic of the mining trade of the 1880’s – 1930’s, the train is world famous as it is one of the few narrow gauge railroads left in existence. This is a unique experience and adds an interesting start and finish to our backpacking trips. Come and join us this summer on one of the most adventure packed and unique trips you’ll ever experience!
The Best of the Weminuche backpacking trip is offered from Tuesday – Saturday so that participants have the opportunity to travel to Durango (Monday) and then have Sunday to travel home, enjoy Durango, or however you might like to use that day. Either way, this 5 day trip is exactly the trip you’ve been looking for to experience one of Colorado’s iconic backcountry destinations!
I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a few days in the backcountry … great trip plans with friendly, experienced guides … my wife, daughter and I couldn’t have been happier. I wish we were there now! – Fred R.
Best of the Weminuche Itinerary
We meet at the San Juan Mountain Guides’ office in the afternoon or early evening in order to go over equipment, food, and logistics issues for the following morning.
We will meet at the San Juan Mountain Guides’ office at 0730 and then proceed to the D&SNGRR Station where we board the historic Narrow Gauge Train. We ride the narrow gauge train to the Elk Park stop, where our trek will begin. After adjusting our packs and preparing to hike we begin by hiking up Elk creek to a camp just beyond the “Beaver Ponds” along the Elk Creek (Colorado) Trail.
Today we continue our hike along the Elk Creek (Colorado) Trail towards the Continental Divide and Hunchback Pass (12,500′), eventually camping in the Vallecito Creek drainage.
Today we continue our trek down the Vallecito Creek drainage towards the junction with Johnson Creek and the ascent towards Columbine Pass (12,700′), which allows us to gain access to Chicago Basin. We will camp in the Johnson Creek drainage near Columbine Lake.
Today we will trek up and over Columbine Pass and into Chicago Basin, the home of the 14’ers in the Weminuche Wildnerness, to a camp at approximately 11,000′.
Our final day is spent hiking out to the Needleton train stop via the Needle Creek trail for a 1545 pick up. 6 miles of easily navigable trail make this a great finish to the trip. There is an option to climb a 14’er on the final morning (Windom Peak) for those pariticipants who’d like that option.
Backpacking Equipment List
- Backpack: Internal frame, 50-80 liters. Guides’ pick: Osprey Aether 60
- Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic bag rated between 15-30 degrees with compression stuff sack. Guides’ pick: Neutrino Endurance 400
- Sleeping pad: Guides’ pick: Thermarest NeoAir
- Bowl, spoon, cup: Plastic/lexan
- Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
- Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Osprey
- Water purification system: We recommend simple iodine tablets, but pumps are acceptable. Guides’ pick: Potable Aqua
Clothing and Personal Equipment
- Hiking boots: Sturdy, waterproof, comfortable boots. Please contact us with questions or further recommendations.
- Socks: 2-3 pair of medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
- Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
- Soft shell pants: warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
- Soft shell jacket: light weight. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
- Insulated vest: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
- Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Helium
- Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
- Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
- Headlamp: with extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
- Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
- Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
- Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
Training & Follow Up Programs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great trip.
1Before Your Trip
In order to successfully carry a 35 lb. pack up to 7 miles a day, endurance is key. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.
2Follow Up Programs
I could go on and on for this one! It was a fantastic trip all around. I would 100% recommend it to anyone and consider SJMG for my future treks. – Michele A.
Durango, Colorado: Getting Here
Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip.
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.
Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Durango. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.
- Denver, CO: 6 hours
- Albuquerque, NM: 3 hours
Hotels: Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.
- Cost Includes:
- Guides/trip leaders
- All dinner and breakfast meals
- Group camping and cooking equipment
- D&SNGRR Train Tickets
- Incredible mountain scenery
- Not Included:
- Hotel costs before, during, or after the trips
- 5% land use surcharge, trip cancellation insurance
- Personal camping equipment
- Trail lunches
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System. All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.