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Purgatory Trail #511 - 6 members in 6 triplogs have rated this an average 4.2 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Jul 02 2016
chumley
avatar

 Guides 78
 Routes 679
 Photos 14,656
 Triplogs 1,525

47 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Purgatory Animas River, CO 
Purgatory Animas River, CO
 
Hiking avatar Jul 02 2016
chumley
Hiking12.81 Miles 2,400 AEG
Hiking12.81 Miles   5 Hrs   29 Mns   2.69 mph
2,400 ft AEG      43 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners partners
clairebear
John9L
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!
Flora
Flora
Quaking Aspen
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Championing breakfast since 1994.
Jul 02 2016
John9L
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 Guides 6
 Routes 172
 Photos 4,970
 Triplogs 1,630

male
 Joined Mar 12 2004
 Scottsdale, AZ
Purgatory Animas River, CO 
Purgatory Animas River, CO
 
Hiking avatar Jul 02 2016
John9L
Hiking12.75 Miles 2,379 AEG
Hiking12.75 Miles
2,379 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
chumley
clairebear
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.
Culture
Culture
Intrepid Back Shot
Named place
Named place
Purgatory Flat
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1 archive
Jul 02 2016
clairebear
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 Photos 178
 Triplogs 158

38 female
 Joined Oct 26 2011
 Tempe, AZ
Purgatory Animas River, CO 
Purgatory Animas River, CO
 
Hiking avatar Jul 02 2016
clairebear
Hiking12.81 Miles 2,400 AEG
Hiking12.81 Miles   5 Hrs   29 Mns   2.69 mph
2,400 ft AEG      43 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
chumley
John9L
I have had my sights on this trail now for about a year after seeing some beautiful photosets and great triplogs for the area :D. So Hike ARIZONA put this on the radar for me lol.


Longwinded back story-
I really wanted to do a backpacking trip in Colorado and Chicago basin seemed like an ideal location. I would have been fine with Chicago basin via purgatory trail however we opted for the train and 9L made arrangements for the train to Needleton via Silverton. Anyhoo, some health and weather issues thwarted our initial train/backpacking plans. Instead we came to Colorado, set up a nice basecamp and opted for day hikes instead. Therefore this is how we ended up spending a nice day exploring the Purgatory trail and Animas trail afterall ~^^

A few miles in on the trail in Purgatory Flats we came across a young man leading a group of 14 year old backbackers. They paused to let us pass so we found out they were returning from a few days camping Chicago Basin! He used some descriptive word (that I cant recall) that made their stay in C.B. sound wet and uncomfortable. They also looked relieved when we told them they only had two miles to go to the top! lol.


After Purgatory Flats the trail follows Cascade Creek for a few miles along a nice ledgy trail with a steep drop off and scenic views of the Creek below. The trail quickly descends into a basin and river access leading to a footbridge. Great views here of the confluence of Cascade Creek and the Animas River. The river basin has some camp sites so we stopped for a break. Across the river a pair of white water kayakers come ashore for a break as well. It would have been cool to see them hit the rapids but they outbreaked us. The site proved to be a bit mosquito-y so I got anxious and decided to hit the trail again. The next stretch of trail brought us across the railroad and then followed some fast easy trail next to the Animas. Vegetation along this portion is incredibly lush and beautiful emerald green and there are great views of the Animas. We passed a couple of tents along the way. After about 2 miles we paused again for snacks before heading back the way we came. Near the Footbridge the rain started to pick up again. On the way out we passed a large group of backpackers and made good timing back to the T.H. Rain and mist was pretty on and off the whole way out but by the time I got back to the car the sun was shinning again.
I loved this trail~ it was a memorable day.
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1 archive
Jun 04 2016
hippiepunkpirate
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 Guides 25
 Routes 36
 Photos 2,877
 Triplogs 657

34 male
 Joined May 30 2008
 Peoria, AZ
Purgatory Trail #511Southwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Hiking avatar Jun 04 2016
hippiepunkpirate
Hiking1.50 Miles 300 AEG
Hiking1.50 Miles
300 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Just a short little hike down to a rocky outcrop above Purgatory Flats. It packed a definite scenic punch in a short distance though! Just a taste of what lies further down the trail I'm sure.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
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My website: Mountain Tripper
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1 archive
Sep 01 2014
nonot
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 Guides 93
 Routes 236
 Photos 2,001
 Triplogs 477

male
 Joined Nov 18 2005
 Phoenix, AZ
Molas Pass to Bolam Pass Road - CT #25Southwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Backpack avatar Sep 01 2014
nonot
Backpack85.00 Miles 20,000 AEG
Backpack85.00 Miles7 Days         
20,000 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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.
Named place
Named place
Vallecito Creek Vestal Peak
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Little Molas Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full
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Aug 11 2013
Al_HikesAZ
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 Guides 11
 Routes 88
 Photos 2,645
 Triplogs 242

88 male
 Joined May 16 2005
 Scottsdale, AZ
Purgatory Trail #511Southwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Hiking avatar Aug 11 2013
Al_HikesAZ
Hiking8.20 Miles 1,079 AEG
Hiking8.20 Miles   3 Hrs   45 Mns   2.52 mph
1,079 ft AEG      30 Mns Break6 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Went on vacation with my wife to Durango. Our first time to Durango so lots of sightseeing and not a lot of hiking. Lunch at the Cypress Café then to Gardenswarz Outdoors on Main. I bought Hiking Trails of Southern Colorado by Paul Pixler http://hikearizona.com/books.php?STu=6&C=1 and I bought the Durango Colorado Trails Recreation Topo Map by Latitude 40 http://hikearizona.com/books.php?ID=1230&STu=6. I give the book 4 1/2 stars and the map 5 stars.

We were guests of a friend who owns a place at Durango Mountain Resort at the Purgatory Ski Area. So DMR was our base of operations.

I hiked out the front door and across the road to Purgatory Trail #511 which basically follows Purgatory Creek down to Cascade Creek. A pleasant enough trail. Drops down a series of switchbacks. Some AEG but not difficult. Lots of mushrooms at this time of year. This was monsoon season so lots of afternoon thunderstorms. The weather reminded me of Flagstaff. Some pleasant little waterfalls.
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Anybody can make a hike harder. The real skill comes in making the hike easier.
life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. Andy Rooney
average hiking speed 2.63 mph

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.

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