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San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Colorado 13er questions, conditions, and other info should be posted here. Also includes topics related to 13ers.com. 13er Trip Reports
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Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 2:23 pm
Location: Edwards, Colorado

San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Postby new england kid » Fri Jul 20, 2012 8:24 pm

I am looking for some recommendations for a 3-4 day backpacking trip in the San Juans with a possible peak or two thrown in the mix. I will not have access to a car shuttle so a loop would be preferable or a short "lollipop" or short hitch would also work.

Some areas I've managed to piece together loops already are in the Weminuche (Continental Divide and Rincon La Osa Trails with a climb of Rio Grande Pyramid) and Lizard Head (up to Navajo Basin from Woods Lake up and over Wilson Peak to the Lizard Head and Wilson Mesa Trails).

Looking at a few maps, I am wondering if it possible to make a full circle of the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area. The complete circle seems to hinge on the west slopes of Gilpin Peak. Does anyone know if it is possible to ascend/descend Gilpin Peak from the Mill Creek Basin?

I'd also like to check out Ice Lake Basin as the peaks above it are so appealing. Looks possible to maybe piece together something there hiking south from the Basin and then looping back east on the Colorado Trail for a hitch back to Silverton. Maybe?

Anyway, I'm just postulating here. If you've done a great backpacking trip and would like to share your route, I'd love to hear it!

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Re: San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Postby Eph 2 5 » Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:20 pm

The Vestal Creek area is great as is Chicago Basin. I thought taking the Durango/Silverton railroad to the trailheads was a lot of fun too, but there are other ways (pretty long hikes, though) to get to them.

Re: San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Postby highplaces » Sat Jul 21, 2012 7:07 pm

Weminuche Trip: Start at Molas Pass TH and take the Elk Creek trail ~11 miles and turn south (off trail) between Peaks One and Two. Camp at the unnamed lake at the base of the Peak Two/Three saddle. Climb up to the 2/3 saddle with options to go up 2 or 3, or just wander over the plateau to the west for an incredible view of Arrow/Vestal/Trinity's.

Next day hike to the Storm King/Peak 8 saddle, and around and over the Peak Seven/Eight saddle and over to camp at Leviathan Lake. If you have never seen LL in person, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. Option to climb Storm King Peak along the way. From LL camp, you can climb Leviathan or Peak Seven, or just set out for some wandering around the various passes and basins. I'd spend 2 nights at LL just to take it all in.

For the return, you can head out via Leviathan Creek to Valecito trail back to Molas Pass. Or just retrace your route in. We opted for the second choice, the scenery was just too damn fine to pass up another walk through. We managed a 1 day return from LL camp to Molas Pass TH, but it was a long day/grind at the end. You could plan it a bit better.

We saw one other person the entire trip.

PM me for more details if interested.

Re: San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Postby traderaaron » Sun Jul 22, 2012 3:27 pm

East or Middle Fork of the Cimarron River to the beautiful basins north of Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre, then loop around both of those mountains with climbs of each and back out the same way.

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Re: San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Postby Writhdar » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:45 am

The Cimarrons are, in my opinion, fantastic. I would suggest starting at the West Fork of the Cimarron - you do need high clearance for the last part of the road and to cross the West Fork but you start hiking at ~ 10,700' and you are in the open more quickly. The one downside is that returning from a loop will require uphill back to West Fork Pass. You can do Redcliff & Precipice coming or going from the West Fork Trail. From West Fork Pass, you can do a long trip (through Wetterhorn Basin to upper Matterhorn Creek and around Wetterhorn & Matterhorn to the East Fork Basin) or a shorter trip (over Coxcomb Pass & up the Middle Fork Basin to an unnamed pass into upper East Fork, down the East Fork a bit to gain the Middle Fork Pass and back to Coxcomb Pass --- there is a lot of up & down on this route). On the longer route, Wetterhorn, Matterhorn, and Uncompahgre can be done.

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Re: San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Postby ClimbingCooneys » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:51 pm

If you have a reliable 4WD with decent clearance, you can jeep from Silverton over Stony Pass, then up to Beartown & Kite Lake for an easy access to the northern end of the Weminuche. The main Vallecito Trail takes you over Hunchback Pass in less than a mile and only 900 ft of gain, then it's all downhill along Vallecito Creek. From along the main trail, you can branch out to several locations, accessing peaks like Storm King, Guardian, Silex, Leviathan, Vallecito, or head up the Rock Ck trail to Rock Lake & beyond for tamer territory and access Mt. Oso. From rock Lake you could turn back north then NW to the Ute Lakes, around Mt. Nebo and back to Hunchback Pass. Few people seem to access the Weminuche from this point, but it's easy, far less expensive than the train and gets you into the heart of that wilderness.

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Re: San Juan Backpacking Trip Recommendations

Postby new england kid » Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:16 pm

Thanks for all the great recommendations! We ended up checking out the Cimarrons over the weekend. Entered via the East Fork Trail and camped in the shadows of Uncompahgre. Climbed Uncompahgre and Matterhorn then hiked around the base of Wetterhorn. The next day we climbed up through Wetterhorn Basin and over Coxcomb Pass. We exited via the Middle Fork Trail and hiked back to our car. I think we saw Wetterhorn from every conceivable angle - what an incredible mountain and wilderness area.

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