Continental Divide Trekking
The Remote Weminuche Wilderness
There is hiking the continental divide trail, and then there is hiking the Continental Divide! Although much of the “official” continental divide trail actually walks beneath the ridges and highpoints of the actual divide our experienced guides will navigate you safely along the very crest of the continent descending the beautiful ridgeline only to evade weather and for prime camp spots. This spectacular journey through one of the lower 48’s highest and remotest wildernesses will give our trekkers views of the east and west Rockies enjoyed by only a select few.
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 Continental Divide trekking trip is offered from Tuesday – Saturday so that participants have the opportunity to travel to Durango on Monday prior to the start of the trip 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.
Continental Divide Backpacking 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 on an approximately 3 hour drive to the remote Weminuche Pass Trailhead near the historic and quirky mining town of Creede. Our first days’ hike is up a gentle trail that helps to acclimate and warm of the party to the high altitude ridge trekking that lies ahead. After less than five miles we will spend our first night camping just below treeline but directly on the Continental Divide at Weminuche Pass!
Today we will continue our hike on a climbers trail very near the crest of the divide and passing through the majestic “window” right next to the towering and remote Rio Grande Pyramid. This is real wilderness. This days hike brings us to the shores of Ute Lake deep in the Weminuche and just off of the Divide.
6.5 miles on and off trail, all along the spectacular crest of the continental divide itself makes this day one of the most memorable of the trip. The high altitude ridge walk ends with excellent camping at West Ute Lake.
Continuing right along the spine of the divide, brings us first over historic Hunchback Pass and then over to the highest stop on our traverse – Eldorado Lake at over 12,500 feet, well above tree line and with excellent campsites commanding views of the entire Western San Juan Mountains.
We end the trip with a full adventure as we make our way off trail up and around many small peaks through alpine tundra over and into the expansive Highland Mary Lakes region for our pickup at a remote trailhead. We will finish the trip with a cold drink and food in the storied town of Silverton – only 47 miles north of Durango.
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
- Chicago Basin 14’ers
- Vestal Peak Climb
- Jagged Mountain Climb
- Wilson/El Diente
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
- TrailHead shuttle
- 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.