Weminuche Wilderness/Elk Park-Chicago Basin Loop June 2013

In June 2013, we had planned to go on a 7 day canoe trip down the beautiful spring-fed Current River in Missouri.  However, extreme rainfall caused the river to flood and we had to come up with another plan. The second week of June is normally earlier than we like to start our hikes in Colorado because we don’t have ice axes or crampons for the snow you may encounter at that time of year.  After consulting various message boards and calling some ranger stations regarding the season’s snow totals and spring temperatures, we decided a hike near Durango would be our best bet for safe travels.

We spent a day driving from Wichita to Durango and set out the next morning on the Durango-Silverton historic train to the Elk Park Trailhead. Oddly enough, we were the only ones to get off of the train before reaching Silverton.  I thought the lack of hikers was a bad omen and surely meant that the high country was completely impassible with too much snow. Sweet Train Ride to the TrailheadOnce we hopped off the train, we quickly rearranged a few items in our packs and set out on a well worn path. Joe and I don’t get lost very often, but when we do, it is almost always at the beginning of the trail (we briefly lost our way in Yosemite Valley and had to use our compass to find the backpackers camp). As the trail gently faded away into the shrubs, we realized that we had picked up some sort of random use trail or game trail.  After about 45 minutes of bushwhacking, we made our way to the real trail and started over.  We camped about 5 or 6 miles in and probably a little too high because Joe got altitude sickness that evening.  Nothing like getting lost and throwing up to get your trip started off right!

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The next morning, Joe recovered from his altitude sickness and we headed up to the Continental Divide.  I was relieved to see that the snow had largely melted out and that we would probably be able to avoid any precarious snow crossings on this adventure. Whew!
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As we continued down the trail, we ended up following another random side trail and proceeded to get lost again.  This time it took us about two hours to get find to the trail again.  Returning to where you were last known to be on the trail is always the best way to get yourself un-lost, no matter how demoralizing it may be to backtrack.

That evening we camped near a waterfall and Joe had his bandanna half-eaten by a mysterious creature. The next day we hiked over Columbine Pass to Chicago Basin.  This was the only day of the trip with a thunderstorm. Fortunately, the thunderstorm was short-lived and we made it safely to our final campsite of the trip.   This was also the first time we encountered other people – which is surprising because I thought this hike was one of the more popular hikes in Colorado.  Oh well, I will take the solitude when I can get it, which is apparently the second week of June.
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Click here to see more pictures from our trip. Questions and comments are always welcome!


Chelsea likes mountains, adventures, good weather, laughing, and drinking fancy beer. Preferably all at the same time.

One Reply to “Weminuche Wilderness/Elk Park-Chicago Basin Loop June 2013”

  1. Awesome post, thanks for the useful information.

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