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Elk Park/Needleton Loop – Weminuche Wilderness, CO Aug 2013 (Backpacking Trip Report)

cdt trail runs along the top of the mountains in the weminuche wilderness, colorado - san juan mountain range

Weminuche Wilderness, CO – Elk Park/Needleton Loop Hike

Complete Weminuche Wilderness Photo Gallery | Weminuche HD Video

  • Trail Name – Elk Park/Needleton Loop
  • Location – Weminuche Wilderness in the San Juan National Forest, CO
  • Park Type – National Forest, Wilderness Area
  • Fees & Permits – None
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 6 days, 5 nights
  • Trail Type – Semi loop – Train drops you off and picks you up
  • Miles Hiked – 48
  • Trail Difficulty – 8
  • Fires Allowed – Yes (No fires in Chicago Basin or Needleton drainage)

 

Total distance: 49.99 mi
Max elevation: 14088 ft
Min elevation: 8238 ft
Total climbing: 17139 ft
Total descent: -16804 ft
Download

 

elk park needleton loop hike statistics

 

Elk Park to Needleton Loop Hike Map – Weminuche Wilderness Maps

Here’s an overview map of the Weminuche Wilderness, which includes trailhead locations.

a map of the weminuche wilderenss that shows trailhead locations

Weminuche Wilderness Map With Trailheads

Here’s my caltopo map of the Elk Park/Needleton hike: 

 

Fees & Permits

There are no fees or permits needed to hike or camp in the Weminuche Wilderness. However, to hike this trail as I did, you will need to secure a train reservation through the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This was $90 each person for a round trip ticket, plus $10 to each to haul your backpack. Not cheap by any means, but it was a cool way to enter and leave the wilderness.

 

Day 1 – Monday August 5th, 2013

Miles Hiked – 5.4
Route – Elk Park train stop to camp along Elk Creek at ~10,300ft

Finally, it was time to start this hike. We’d been in Colorado a week now, doing other cool stuff like the Colorado National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Denver & Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Telluride, etc. This time, we were sure to be acclimated to the elevation. 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. Not this time though! (more…)


My Goals And Planned Hikes For 2013

After an amazing year of backpacking in 2012, I’m eager to keep the ball rolling in 2013. Living in Michigan makes it pretty hard to hike a lot though, and especially if I want to hike anywhere remotely worthwhile. I’ve realized that where I want to be ultimately is out West somewhere, and I’m in the process of formulating a 2-3 year plan to get the hell out of here. Right now, Denver is looking like my best option, but it’s still way too early and I have a lot to ponder. I just know that I don’t want to live here, and I do want to live closer to the things I enjoy.

As far as planned hikes go for 2013, I don’t have any set in stone yet. Of course, there’s about a million that I want to do! The reality of this year is that I probably won’t have the time to go on long trips like I did in 2012. I really hope this is not the case, but it’s looking that way. However, if I can get the time, one trail that I would really like to hike in 2013 is the John Muir Trail. Located in California, this 210 mile trail runs from Yosemite to Mt Whitney through beautiful High Sierra country. It passes through 3 National Parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia. About 160 miles of this trail is also part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  The John Muir Trail is more than 4 times longer than anything I’ve hiked so far, but that’s why I want to do it.

Yosemite National Park, northern terminus of the John Muir Trail

Yosemite National Park, northern terminus of the John Muir Trail

My hikes in 2012 were a big step up from what they were in 2011. I hope to continue to push myself in the coming year by hiking longer trails and increasing my mileage per day. In 2012, I wasn’t concerned with covering a ton of miles each day, but rather to have time to explore the little things along the way. I love that stuff… the little unexpected discoveries that are everywhere just off the trail. But, I feel it’s time to push myself harder and I’d like to be able to cover around 20 miles per day. The most miles I’ve covered in one day so far is 13.8 I think. Of course, this means that I won’t be able to take any of my friends with me… everyone I’ve taken with me so far leans much more on the side of taking it easy, covering the least amount of miles per day as possible and having a lot of time to relax and explore. So clearly that’s not going to fly considering my goals. So, I might be planning my next few trips solo. Besides, I really enjoyed hiking solo when I had the opportunity to do so in the past.

This year I am going to look into lightening my back weight as well. If I want to cover more miles, this is the best place to start. I normally hike with a heavy pack, so I’m going to have to make some sacrifices. This will also lessen the stress to my knees, and in conjunction with joint supplements I hope to be done with knee problems. I also want to look into hammocks. I have been looking at the Hennessy Hammock and like what I see, but still want to do more research before buying one. I never get a good night’s sleep on the ground, so I figured I’d give hammocks a shot. They look really comfortable, especially for me since I like to lay on my back. On the ground, this isn’t comfortable at all no matter what sleeping pad I’ve used.

Skills I’d like to work on for the coming year are mainly navigation. I’d like to take an orienteering class if I can find one in my area. I want to be proficient in navigating by map and compass, without GPS. Everywhere I’ve hiked so far, there’s pretty much always been a clear path to follow, only losing it occasionally. But what about off trail navigation? I haven’t had much chance to do this yet, but am eager to leave the constrains of the trail behind.

That’s all for now. Questions? Comments?