username
X
password
register help
GuidesRoutes
 
Photosets
 
 Comments
triplogs   photosets   labels comments more
Needle / Johnson Creek Trail #504 - 2 members in 5 triplogs have rated this an average 5 ( 1 to 5 best )
5 triplogs
  All Months
5 Triplogs
Jan
0
Feb
0
Mar
0
Apr
0
May
0
Jun
0
Jul
1
Aug
0
Sep
4
Oct
0
Nov
0
Dec
0
 
Sep 05 2016
chumley
avatar

 Guides 80
 Routes 681
 Photos 15,084
 Triplogs 1,551

47 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Durango & Silverton NG Railroad, CO 
Durango & Silverton NG Railroad, CO
 
Scenic Drive avatar Sep 05 2016
chumley
Scenic Drive12.20 Miles
Scenic Drive12.20 Miles   1 Hour      12.20 mph
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
clairebear
John9L
To access the Needle Creek Trail to Chicago Basin, we opted for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad rather than the 12 mile hike from Purgatory.

Departing from Durango at 8:30a was a little early since we were driving from Arizona, so we opted for the 2:30p departure from Silverton. This doesn't work for everybody since you have to start hiking so late in the day. But Silverton has benefits such as free parking. Plus it's a fun little historic mountain town to spend some time in.

The train ride from Silverton to Needleton is about an hour and didn't disappoint. We had seats in the closed passenger cars, but I'd recommend the open air car in all but the most miserable of weather. It was raining for part of the trip and it was still nice in the open air car (it has a roof). If it's not too busy you can always wander from car to car if you need and there's a bar car with snacks, booze, and Ska beer! :)

Apparently weekends are not the busiest times, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are busiest. So keep that in mind.

The full trip from Durango to Silverton might be a little much ... I think it takes 3.5 hours, but using it as a means to get to a cool backpacking destination is highly recommended. The Animas River valley/canyon is spectacular.
_____________________
33s over 45s
Sep 03 2016
chumley
avatar

 Guides 80
 Routes 681
 Photos 15,084
 Triplogs 1,551

47 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Needle Creek Trail #504 to Chicago BasinSouthwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Backpack avatar Sep 03 2016
chumley
Backpack14.80 Miles 3,287 AEG
Backpack14.80 Miles1 Day   18 Hrs   41 Mns   
3,287 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Partners partners
clairebear
John9L
Chicago Basin is an outstanding backpacking location ... if not a little bit overcrowded. Despite our arrival on Saturday evening on Labor Day weekend, we were happy to find a pretty good campspot out of the way of the numerous others. In fact, despite there being well over 100 people in the basin, it was actually surprising how peaceful it was. There was quite a bit of room for everybody to spread out.

The hike up after the train dropped us off in Needleton was steady but not difficult. The grade was moderate with only a couple of short steeper sections. The trail was almost always along the creek, so the sound of flowing water was plentiful. We reached the basin just before sunset, got camp set up and dinner finished before staying up for a couple hours. I'm pretty sure we were the only camp in the basin with party lights. :y: They're a near necessity here since there is a permanent fire ban.

In the morning we stayed in our tents and waited out some rain before heading out on various day hikes (described in a separate triplog).

That night the skies cleared and it got really cold. OK, it wasn't that cold (mid to upper 30s) but without a fire and a steady breeze, plus the air and ground raw with moisture from the earlier rain, it just felt cold. We all retired to the warmth of our sleeping bags fairly early.

Monday morning we hit the trail at 8, leaving plenty of time to get to the train before 11:15. For a Labor Day departure, we were not alone! :o Nonetheless, the hike downhill was pleasant and it was great to hop on the train back to Silverton.

One of two rangers I spoke with (rangers who actually hike and spend time in the wilderness! :o ) said he counted 62 tents in the basin on Sunday morning and from his count at the train stop it was girl power weekend with the ladies outnumbering the gents. : queen :

I'd love to come back here again sometime. There are so many worthy destinations that are accessible from Chicago Basin! :)
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
_____________________
33s over 45s
Sep 03 2016
John9L
avatar

 Guides 6
 Routes 174
 Photos 5,073
 Triplogs 1,634

male
 Joined Mar 12 2004
 Scottsdale, AZ
Chicago Basin from Purgatory THSouthwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Backpack avatar Sep 03 2016
John9L
Backpack20.22 Miles 5,332 AEG
Backpack20.22 Miles3 Days         
5,332 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Partners partners
chumley
clairebear
We originally planned this trip for 4th of July but heavy rain in the forecast forced us to reschedule till Labor Day weekend. There was more rain in the forecast but this time it was more manageable. We would spend three days in Chicago Basin and had a fun train ride into the backcountry.

Friday, Sept 2nd
We left Phoenix after work and found the highways a disaster. The I-17 NB was closed for a brush fire and the alternate route through Payson was backed up at least an hour. We ended up taking the I-60 east and headed up through the Salt River Canyon. We arrived in Gallup, NM around midnight and got a hotel for convenience. I slept really crappy and this would affect me all weekend.

Saturday, Sept 3rd
We got up early and hit the road. We had to be in Silverton to catch our train at 2:30pm. The drive up was uneventful, besides the rain, and I felt awful from a lack of sleep. We arrived in Silverton with a couple of hours to spare so we had lunch and got all geared up. We parked Chumley’s truck at the Train Depot and walked over to 12th St where the train boards. We’re riding the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to Needleton where it will drop us off. The train ride was nice but more bumpy than I anticipated. Plus there was a light rain falling for the hour train ride.

The rain let up when we stopped at Needleton around 3:30pm and at least 30 backpackers exited the train. Everyone retrieved their backpacks from the cargo hold and then started the hike into Chicago Basin. The going is very easy for the first mile and then the trail gradually gains elevation. The hike in was seven miles and gains roughly 3,000 ft but wasn’t too bad. I felt better as we hiked in plus a light rain fell and the temps were cool.

The three of us arrived in upper Chicago Basin around 7pm and got lucky with a prime campsite on the east side of Needle Creek. We set up camp on a cold evening in the basin. We’re camping at roughly 11,000 ft elevation. I’m very tired from my lack of sleep and know I sleep poorly at elevation. It’s going to be a long night & weekend. After having dinner and hanging out for a bit all of us were in our tents by 10pm. I slept on and off all night and it started raining right before sunrise and lasted into the morning.

Sunday, Sept 4th
We woke and took our time in camp as the rain finally cleared. I felt okay and decided to hike up to Twin Lakes with Chumley & Claire starting around 10am. We started our hike up and Claire was not feeling all that great. She had a lot of congestion and sinus issues. She decided to head back to camp. Chumley and I continued to Twin Lakes which sits at roughly 12,500 ft. Once to the lake we took a short break and talked about our options. I decided to explore the basin and then head back to camp to check on Claire. Chumley continued up towards Mt Eolus. I had a nice time checking out the lake and then headed back down. The return was very easy and the weather looked better with each passing hour. Once back to camp I found Claire doing much better compared to the morning.

Claire & I hung out in camp for a couple of hours and then Chumley returned after his successful summit of North Eolus. We talked about heading to lower elevation to camp but decided to stay put. Chumley took a nap while Claire & I explored Chicago Basin. Afterward we returned to camp as evening set in. The temps were much colder tonight and all of us were in our tents by 9pm. I was warm in my zero degree bag but couldn’t sleep at all because of the elevation. It was another long night!

Monday, Sept 5th
The three of us woke around 7am and immediately started packing up camp. We had to return to Needleton for 11:10am to catch the train back to Silverton. The hike out was very easy and we made quick time down. We arrived in Needleton at 10:30am and found a large group of backpackers waiting for the train. A rough count tallied 50+ people. Once the train pulled up there was a long line to load backpacks and then everyone boarded the train. It was a beautiful day today and a very pleasant hour riding back to Silverton. From there we loaded up and headed for Durango where we spent a night and then returned to Phoenix on Tuesday.


This was a solid trip but my lack of sleep put a damper on things. I need to figure out a way to get better sleep before and during a trip like this. I know a big part of it is drinking plenty of water & proper nutrition. It’s something I need to work on. Besides that the train ride was really fun and I can’t thank Chumley enough for doing all the driving and putting up with Claire & myself.
Culture
Culture
Bridge Campsite
_____________________
1 archive
Sep 01 2014
nonot
avatar

 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
_____________________
http://hikearizona.com/garmin_maps.php

Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, ankle-twisting, HAZmaster crushing ROCKS!!
Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, shin-stabbing, skin-shredding plants!
Hike Arizona it is full of striking, biting, stabbing, venomous wildlife!
Jul 31 2013
Carioca43
avatar

 Routes 1
 Photos 150
 Triplogs 35

53 male
 Joined Nov 03 2008
 QC AZ
Needle / Johnson Creek Trail #504Southwest, CO
Southwest, CO
Backpack avatar Jul 31 2013
Carioca43
Backpack25.60 Miles 4,800 AEG
Backpack25.60 Miles3 Days         
4,800 ft AEG32 LBS Pack
 no routesno photosets
1st trip
Linked linked
Partners partners
sguffey
Trip Stats: 12 participants 4 adults 8 youth/sons (12-16)

Drove from Phx area Wednesday PM arriving between 2 AM - 4 AM @ Vallecito Campground. Slept in Cars in Parking lot. Got up early to leave one and park others at Durango Railroad.

Caught the 8:45 train to Silverton & dropped off @ Needleton Station about 11:30. Animas was very muddy today from the night's rains. Began the hike up into Chicago Basin.

The group did great except for me. I had difficulty acclimatizing and after 4 miles had to stop and literally take a nap. :zzz: Flies were unbearable so the nap didn't last long. Fortunately not long after one from our party came back down to help me out :stretch: He took my pack and I walked slowly up feeling the effects of the altitude as I arrived in camp I hurled and nearly passed out as I laid down. I quickly got some gatorade in me and some food and even more water. And I then went to bed. Lots of greenery, lots of running creeks really nice area to hike into, but I prefer the ruggedness & emptiness of Johnson Creek with it exposed cliff edges and majestic waterfalls.

Day 2: Plan was to hike Windom Peak then backpack over Columbine Pass and down to the confluence of Vallecito & Johnson Creeks. I chose to pass on the peak based on my previous day horrors. I didn't even know if I could make Columbine Pass based on my previous days performance so my Son and I took our time as the rest of the group went to Twin Lakes & Windom. It took us about to 9:30 to get going. Took it nice and easy but got feeling better the farther we went and was to the top of the pass by 11:15. Views were amazing and I felt very satisfied as I now had hit a new elevation hiking best for myself of 12,750 after the previous days disaster. My only complaint is my camera stopped working ](*,) We ate a quick lunch and made our way down to Columbine Lake and beyond. The Wildflowers were out in force and we saw the Mountain Goats, Marmot, Rabbits, Pika. A little storm hit as we approached the first tree line campsites and so we popped up our tent to wait out the storm. Got back going about an hour later and meandered down Johnson Creek taking in all the view points and enjoying the hike DOWNHILL :DANCE: . We arrived about 5:30 to the confluence and made camp. About an hour & 1/2 later the rest of our group surprisingly arrived. :wlift: Only 3 had chosen to climb Windom while the others waited @Twin Lakes.

Day 3: Up and going about 8:30 and arrived at the trailhead about 12:15. Only 2 groups encountered from Chicago to Vallecito Creek Confluence. Ended up catching up to a group at Bridge 1 that were doing the same route but had left Tuesday not Thursday and then ran into the day hiker crowd from Vallecito TH.

Had Lunch @ Serious Texas BBQ :y:
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Columbine Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Johnson Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Lighter than last year but plenty of water by AZ standards this is a small river

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Needle Creek Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max New York Creek Medium flow Medium flow
_____________________

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.

help comment issue

end of page marker