register help
This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Animas River Trail #675, CO

no permit
5 0
Guide 5 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CO > Southwest
4 of 5 by 4
clicktap icons for details
Distance One Way 5.34 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,684 feet
Elevation Gain 610 feet
Accumulated Gain 797 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 8
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
13  2016-07-02
Purgatory Animas River
19  2016-07-02
Purgatory Animas River
8  2016-07-02
Purgatory Animas River
40  2014-09-01
Molas Pass to Bolam Pass Road - CT #25
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   May, Sep, Oct, Jun
Sun  5:52am - 6:21pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Likely In-Season!
The Animas River Trail is an alternative to taking the train to get to Chicago Basin. The trail follows the riverbanks for much of its distance, offering fishing possibilities. The river canyon walls are steep and rocky, making the sun come up late and set early. There are many good campsites along the way. Since this is a major drainage, all water used should be filtered to prevent possible Giardia contamination. This trail is used by horse outfitters, so expect to see horse traffic.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot
  • Forest Service PDF Supplement - 1
    guide related
    Forest Service PDF Supplement - 1

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Animas River Trail #675
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
The San Juan National Forest reopened on Thursday at 3pm and Chloe and I hit the road 24 hours later with Chicago Basin from the Purgatory TH as the goal. We arrived at the trailhead parking lot at 1am Colorado time and despite being exhausted, I couldn't fall asleep. Between being cold, the anticipation of waking up a few hours later, and Chloe growling at another hiker who pulled up next to us at 4am, I barely got any sleep. Luckily I had an iced coffee ready to go for the morning! After repacking by bag four times (it has never been so full!), Chloe and I hit the trail just before 6:30am.

The Purgatory Flats trail is a misnomer; it is not flat at all! There was a steep decline right off the bat that I knew would kick my butt on the way out (it did). The next few miles are rolling hills along Purgatory Creek (very scenic and peaceful) until the first bridge crossing at the Animas River Trail junction. After crossing the railroad tracks and scoffing at the lazy way most people approach the basin ;) we continued on the Animas River Trail, which was quite possibly my favorite section of trail the entire trip. This portion is mostly flat, allowing you to properly gawk at the gorgeous Animas River right next to the trail. I still had those fresh hiking legs, so Chloe and I averaged 3 mph until the Needle Creek junction 10 miles in. We took a snack and water filter break at the Needle Creek bridge, then headed out on our climb up to the basin. After a few minutes on the Needle Creek trail, we passed the cutest wilderness sign I've ever seen - but this was just the beginning of photo ops on this trail. The countless waterfalls along the trail made the next 7 miles of steady - and at times very steep - climbing much more bearable. However, I think our speedy start eventually caught up to me and the last 2-3 miles to the basin were pretty tough.

I've had Chicago Basin on my list for a few years, but was always deterred by its popularity. But when backpacking alone, I really don't mind having a few camping neighbors. When I talked with a ranger on Friday, he warned me that I would have a hard time finding a campsite because there would be 30-40 people camping in the basin this weekend. However, when Chloe and I reached the basin, I was shocked to see no one... no one at all!! We passed a few amazing campsites, but I was weary about camping completely by myself, so we continued on towards the meadow in hopes of finding a few people. We passed one tent (never saw its owner), and I decided to claim a spot somewhat nearby. I hung my food bag and backpack and grabbed a day bag to continue exploring and searching for a better campsite. There were two herds of mountain goats (each about 15 goats, with babies) that had laid claim to this entire area and kept blocking the trail every time Chloe and I needed to pass to filter water or check out campsites. Yeah, mountain goats are cool to see, but not when you have a dog that's whining and pulling towards them. A few of the larger goats were getting pretty aggressive with us, and actually cornered us back in our campsite a few times. After seeing one of the herds surround the lone tent we saw on the way in, I decided we definitely needed to find a new campsite, as the goats were unlikely to leave us alone the rest of the night. (I later learned from some other hikers that goats are attracted to human urine, so you shouldn't pee right outside your tent. They also said that goats hate coyote urine, so these guys actually brought some out with them...)

After exploring around and checking out a couple waterfalls, I finally heard some voices and was excited to run into three guys who were coming down from summitting a couple of the 14ers. In addition to imparting the coyote urine knowledge on me, they told me that the train from Silverton hadn't started running again yet (it apparently will start back up on the 30th), hence the lack of backpackers in the basin. I ended up relocating my campsite closer to them, about 1/4 of a mile away from their spot. It ended up being possibly the MOST AMAZING campsite I've ever had. The view of the peaks was incredible, and I couldn't take my eyes off them for the rest of the night. I had a little more difficulty hanging my food bag at this site than I did at the first one. All the trees in the area were skinny pines with really short branches. I enlisted one of the coyote urine guys to help me, and he basically just tried to convince me not to hang it. I ended up finding a decent spot later on and was pretty impressed with my food hanging abilities (first time I'd ever done it!). Chloe and I turned in around 8:30pm and again, despite being exhausted, I did not get nearly enough sleep. I really wasn't concerned about bears (or any other animals), but little Chloe woke me up several times throughout the night - shaking uncontrollably, wedging herself into the back corner of the tent, acting more terrified than I have ever seen her. She was on high alert most of the night, which obviously freaked me out. We were camped next to a creek, so I couldn't hear anything above the sound of the water, but Chloe must have. I'm assuming it was just deer, sheep, or goats, but I guess I'll never know! The nighttime temps were perfect. I was worried about being cold, camped over 11k feet, but it was very pleasant.

We woke up fairly early and enjoyed a lazy morning of breakfast, coffee, and strolls along the creek before packing up. I had originally planned on hiking about 10-12 miles out on Sunday and saving the last bit for Monday morning. However, after two sleepless nights, I really didn't feel like camping alone and dealing with Chloe's freakouts for another night. I figured the hike out might take all day - but what else did we have to do? Within the first mile, I realized I was totally beat and the entire hike out would be a struggle. I had bouts of energy for a few miles at a time and despite being exhausted, I still reveled in the absolute beauty of this area. We were super lucky with wildlife on this trip, and saw a moose and four bighorn sheep on our hike out! (More perks of not seeing a single soul in 17+ miles). The last couple miles out were really tough for me; I seriously can't remember being more exhausted on a hike or backpack. That last mile climbing out of Purgatory Flats was even steeper than I remembered and my back was killing me. Back at the car, I let Chloe cool off in the lake while I packed up and changed into Chacos, and then we were off for celebratory beer at Animas Brewery!

Mileage/AEG: This is based on my watch, which is sometimes over and sometimes under. I low-balled both the mileage and AEG quite a bit just to make sure I wasn't overstating what we did.

Final Thoughts: Although I had specifically selected this trip in order to have plenty of people to camp near to ease my nerves about bears, murderers. etc., I'm actually super happy we had the basin largely to ourselves. I'll never forget the views from our campsite, and the feeling of accomplishment in being completely self-sufficient and crushing nearly 40 miles at elevation in two days. I may never get the opportunity to have Chicago Basin to myself again and I'm very thankful that I was able to share this amazing experience with my badass trail dog.

*For anyone that actually read this entire trip log, sorry for its excessive length; this is what happens when you write trip logs while watching the Bachelorette for two hours...
Animas River Trail #675
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Purgatory Animas River
On our second day in Colorado we headed over to the Purgatory Trail. The parking area was very busy and we had to park on the side of the road. We then hit the trail and made good time as we descended towards Purgatory Flats. It was another overcast day and we would deal with wet weather.

Once down in Purgatory Flats we headed down canyon as the trail parallels Cascade Creek. The hiking is relatively easy and the views are wonderful. We continued down and eventually dropped to the Animas River around the four mile mark. There is a footbridge and lots of camping sites to choose from. We took a short break and ate some snacks as some kayakers pulled up across the river. I wish I saw them run some of the rapids.

After our break we headed up the trail on the east side of the river. This is a beautiful canyon and the Animas River is majestic! The going is very easy along this stretch and we hiked about two miles up canyon and then turned around and started our return. A hard rain started falling when we returned to the footbridge and we all put on our rain gear and continued. Several backpacking groups were hiking in and I was a tad bit jealous. We’ll return another time.

The rest of the hike back to the trailhead went smooth as we made the climb back to Purgatory Flats and then on to the trailhead. This was a fun hike and I hope to return via the train to Needleton and then on to Chicago Basin.
Animas River Trail #675
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Purgatory Animas River
Another rainy day in the San Juans :y:

We opted for a trip to the river via Purgatory 511, and then Animas 675 upstream a couple of miles. In an ideal world, we would have gone all the way to Needleton, but that would have made it about a 20-mile out-n-back, which wasn't in the cards for today.

After pushing through soaking grass on Friday, we were happy that Purg 511 was a popular double-wide trail which allowed for dry feet. Decent views over the West Needles on the way down, and a very pleasant valley at Purgatory Flat. There was a surprising amount of uphill as the trail descended toward the Animas. The rain began when we got to the river, and kept going sporadically for the rest of the hike.

The river corridor is outside of wilderness boundary and it was interesting that there were some picnic tables set up at the numerous (and excellent!) dispersed campsites here. We missed the train passing, but spent a few minutes investigating the tracks and bridge before heading upstream on the very pleasant Animas River Trail 675 (which is different from the Animas River Trail that runs through downtown Durango).

Knowing that we were not going to make it all the way to Needleton, we turned around and made the return trip back the same way we came.

I had been interested in checking out the trail that heads up the north side of Cascade Creek to an old mining prospect, but was unsure if there would be a safe crossing back to the trail side so decided not to try. The trail cut is evident looking across canyon, but it looks like there would be no way to continue upstream and connect without hiking in the creek, which was not an option due to level of water flow today. Oh well, maybe next time!
Animas River Trail #675
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
In Durango on our way up to Telluride and Moab. Found a nice trail by the Animus. Didn't go too far since dinner reservations were just a little later. Watched some kayakers and group of rafters. The kayaker was doing great. The rafters not so much. They had a dog in the raft who looked VERY concerned. We yelled for him to save himself and swim to freedom. Loyalty won out and he stayed in the raft. Hope he made it to firm ground and sober owners. LOL
Animas River Trail #675
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Day 1: Little Molas Lake to Elk Creek Trail, about 11 miles. See the narrow gauge railroad train making its 11:30 stop in Elk Park. Crossing the Animas river, it wasn't as big as I thought, but the trail is great. Most people are out there trying to bag Vestal Peak. Once you get past the ponds the population thins significantly.

Day 2: Elk Creek Trail over the Continental Divide to Beartown, going back up and over Hunchback Pass, and down into Vallecito Creek, about 16 miles. Passed a cool miner cabin and many mines, and the continental divide is reasonably easy to bag. Pretty quiet for the rest of the day. Vallecito would be nice except there is too much horse crap all over it.

Day 3: Vallecito Creek to Johnson Creek and up and over Columbine Pass to Chicago Basin, about 12 miles. Johnson Creek Trail is very nice all the way to Columbine Lake. I saw a herd of mountain goats in the distance past the lake. The worst part of this trip was Columbine pass. The trail is bad getting to the pass, and terrifying for about 150 yards on the other side. The trail is pitched about 20 degrees sideways and 15 degrees down. You are trying to place your feet on tiny scree pellets hoping your feet don't start sliding and you die falling into the gully to your left where you won't stop for at least 1000 feet. Once past this the trail gets better. It was quite crowded in Chicago Basin.

Day 4: Woke up to mountain goats in my camp. Took many photos, then climbed up to Twin Lakes and decided to climb Mt Windom, my first mountain peak over 14k. The toughest part is to control your pace and breathing, with the thin air. You want to go fast but the body will quickly break down on you if you go too fast. The trail gives out about 500 ft above twin lakes, but there are many cairned paths to choose from. It is a hike until you get to a large saddle, then the last 600 ft is class 2+ climbing over boulders all the way to the peak. After 300 ft of climbing there is a narrow saddle to cross, past this is where the physical effort really increases. The last 300 ft seemed to take 3 times as long as expected. Snow and lack of desire ended up with me deciding to not scale any more peaks. Rained at night for many hours.

Day 5: Down Needle Creek, along the Animas River and up Purgatory, about 13 miles This hike was relatively straightforward and the scenery was great. Heard a couple of trains pass by. Saw only one of them. It didn't seem hard but I was perhaps the most sore after this day.

Day 6: Up Purgatory, along unnamed trails and the highway, then up Cascade Creek and Engine Creek, about 11 miles. This was a lot of elevation gain but it is spread out except for a portion of Engine Creek that is steep. Took a side trip to see the falls along the cascade creek trail. Found a perfect campsite along the Engine Creek Trail with a picnic table, miles from anywhere. Nice way to finish off the camping.

Day 7: Up Engine Creek and Engineer Mountain Trail to the Colorado Trail, which I follow all the way back to Little Molas Lake, about 12 miles. Once gaining the elevation a bit of rain rolled through but it cleared up. Saw a bunch of marmots, and a ton of sheep at the end.

Most people do about half this loop using the train to get in to Elk Creek and Take out at Needleton. Given the cost and the reviews I've heard, I was glad to take the 2 extra days and do the extra miles to do this as a loop rather than take the train. I packed enough food for 9 days expecting the possibility of thunderstorms. Several days it almost turned bad but the weather stayed just good enough that I was able to stay on schedule. Lightning was the biggest concern, as I might not have be able to go over treeline, so best to plan for a few extra days. However, the pack is quite heavy with all that food. The first few days were a drag with the big pack.

I would recommend this loop to anyone, but halving it by using the train appears to be the more popular option you may also want to check out.

Permit $$
no fees or permits reported

if incorrect tell us about it

Map Drive

To hike
page created by joebartels on Jul 17 2013 12:13 am
help comment issue

end of page marker