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How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby scottrappold » Wed May 06, 2009 9:32 am

I'm curious how many days it has taken folks to do this loop, hopping off the train at Elk Park, over the Divide, down Vallecito Creek, over Columbine Pass into Chicago Basin and getting back on at Needleton. We're planning six days in late August, including one at Chicago Basin to climb one of the peaks.
Thanks.

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby scottrappold » Wed May 06, 2009 9:34 am

Also - can you leave your car in Silverton?

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby Jon Frohlich » Wed May 06, 2009 9:54 am

scottrappold wrote:Also - can you leave your car in Silverton?


At least a few years ago you could. I left my car on the street a block or two north of the train for 3 nights. The guys that owned the photo gallery I parked in front of saw us leaving and were nice enough to keep an eye on the car while we were gone.

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby Presto » Wed May 06, 2009 9:56 am

That should be an adequate amount of time. We've done all that you are speaking of previously. There's some beautiful camping at Eldorado Lake (above treeline ... elk are prevalent). You can go up and over Hunchback Mountain with your full pack on (as opposed to losing elevation) and connect up easily with the Vallecito trail by descending to the trail. There will be wading of the Vallecito so bring some teva's or some sort of wading shoe for the crossings (there is no avoiding the crossings; level will depend on how the "monsoon" season is going in August). Enjoy the backpack up to Columbine Pass from the Vallecito drainage. It is very beautiful. That's a nice loop. Happy trails! :D
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby Jim Davies » Thu May 07, 2009 11:47 am

I did this with a scout group (mostly pretty strong hikers). We spent five days hiking the loop, with a couple extra days spent in Chicago Basin. The first and last days were shorter (about six miles each) due to the constraints of the train schedule; day 2 (13 miles from the beaver ponds down to Beartown, over Hunchback pass, to Rock Creek) was kind of a killer, but we only lost two group members along the way :D. (One of them had a back-strain problem and had to give up early in the day, actually.) Six days should work out pretty well.

At that time (2003) there weren't any real stream-crossing issues; is the bridge out at Johnson Creek now, or does this only apply if you make the side trip to the lake?
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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby Presto » Thu May 07, 2009 12:13 pm

The Johnson Creek bridge is alive and well (as of last summer). I was just letting the OP know that there are some stream crossings.
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby scottrappold » Thu May 07, 2009 12:26 pm

Thanks. Just bought a new pair of Tevas for the trek after seeing that.

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby Presto » Thu May 07, 2009 1:01 pm

Your feet will also thank you profusely for those tevas when you are in camp everyday (after hiking/climbing). :wink: We just got back from doing 48 miles of hiking/backpacking in Moab. Only 13 of those were in hiking boots ... the rest were in tevas. Boy, were my feet glad!

Happy trails! :D
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby BlindDrunk » Sun Jun 07, 2009 7:45 pm

When are thinking about doing this trip? I am also in the planning stages to do this trip the first week of August. I'm still trying to decide which way I want to tackle this....

Has anyone tried this Loop from Molas Park by taking the trail down to the ELK Trail. (4 miles) From here I was thinking about taking the trail that follows the Animas River to Needleton and then entering the loop.

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby jchughes77 » Mon Jun 08, 2009 1:46 pm

I too am planning to hike this loop... mid August. Can anyone here point me to a few trip reports? I have found a few but none very recent, as in the past two or three years. Also, any other advice with regard to prep for this trip is appreciated.

-jason

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby MtHurd » Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:06 pm

BlindDrunk wrote:When are thinking about doing this trip? I am also in the planning stages to do this trip the first week of August. I'm still trying to decide which way I want to tackle this....

Has anyone tried this Loop from Molas Park by taking the trail down to the ELK Trail. (4 miles) From here I was thinking about taking the trail that follows the Animas River to Needleton and then entering the loop.


Are you talking about hiking from Molas Pass down to the Elk Creek Trail? If so, it is 4 miles and the "loop" starts there at Elk Park, not Needleton. I am not sure if there is a trail all the way from Elk Park to Needleton following the Animas. The train is the only way I know of to make it a loop so you can get back to where you started from.

jchughes77 wrote:I too am planning to hike this loop... mid August. Can anyone here point me to a few trip reports? I have found a few but none very recent, as in the past two or three years. Also, any other advice with regard to prep for this trip is appreciated.

-jason


As far as prep goes, you will need rain gear and some rope to hang your food, especially if you decided to make a stop in Chicago Basin (marmots, goats, and rabbits). Other than that, nothing out of the ordinary is needed. You can make the trip in 4 days, but more will make it more enjoyable as you will have to cross 3 high passes. You will be busting your butt to get it done in 4 days. Be aware of the train stop times. If you are late, you may have to wait until the next day to get outa there.

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Re: How long for the Elk Park-Needleton backpack loop?

Postby rijaca » Mon Jun 08, 2009 3:43 pm

BlindDrunk wrote:Has anyone tried this Loop from Molas Park by taking the trail down to the ELK Trail. (4 miles) From here I was thinking about taking the trail that follows the Animas River to Needleton and then entering the loop.


What trail? There is a trail that goes along the east side of the Animas from the Needleton bridge as far north as No Name Creek, but I'm not aware of a trail going further north than that.
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