Needleton Trailhead


Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 37.63333, -107.69278
14ers: Mt. Eolus, Windom Peak, Sunlight Peak, North Eolus
Elevation: 8,220'
Photo Photo Photo Photo Add

Road Difficulty

Paved Road 0   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)

Driving Directions

Drive to Durango and follow signs to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It's near McDonald's and has a large parking area nearby. Buy a ticket for the train that stops at Needleton and ride the train 2.5 hours (~30 miles) to the Needleton stop. From here, it's a 6 mile hike to reach Chicago Basin.

Winter Access

No train access in winter months.

More Info

Restrooms? No
Fees? No
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Trail is great all the way to the basin. Biting flies are bad along the way and it’s buggy in the basin. Very green up there.
Posted By: cmgaut
Info: An awesome trail crew had cleared 100+ trees in the day and a half we were in Chicago basin. They were almost done on our way out, so the trail to Chicago Basin is probably completely clear of trees by now. Huge shoutout to the trail maintenance crew.
Posted By: BenjiTheThird
Info: 164 trees down on the upper end of the approach to Chicago Basin
Posted By: yaktoleft13
Info: Bad news: the McDonalds is closed until at least October. Gotta get your constipation somewhere else
Posted By: mtn_nut

The trailhead will not be accessible by train anytime in the near future.

The best alternatives would be starting at Purgatory Flats TH or Vallecito Campground.
Posted By: CO Native
Info: All wilderness access services are cancelled for the remainder of the year.
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Due to the 416 Fire, near Durango, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has suspended service through at least June 17th, 2018. More Info...
Posted By: kayleenann8
Info: Trail is clear of snow. Some water in the trail but nothing major. Tons of camping spots along the trail.
Posted By: Hypersnow
Info: Snow solid starting at 12,500 ft in Chicago basin. It’s not going anywhere for a few weeks. Recommend anyone trying to climb bring crampons and ice axe. Snowshoes prob not worth it as you should be out of the basin by 11am or risk hip deep postholing.

photo#1 - looking back down the trail from the upper basin
photo #2 - Sunlight/Windom basin from above Twin Lakes
Posted By: Roca
Posted By: freeinthehills
Info: not a lot of snow on trail. expect to cross a few snow patches starting at 10K or so. there are trenches and frozen debris trails and foot prints to follow to 11.4 or so
Posted By: schrund
Info: Just hiked out from Chicago Basin yesterday, and summitted North Eolus on Saturday. Some snow remains but it‘s not significant below Twin Lakes. Above Twin Lakes there are some sizeable snow fields but no show stoppers. The catwalk appeared to have snow on it as viewed from the North Eolus summit ridge.
Posted By: summitbound
Info: Lots of snow up there still. Spotty post holing/flotation begins at around 9600‘ all the way to 11,100‘ At least one good dry campsite there. From camp nearly continuous flotation required all the way to twin lakes. Stopped there due to questionable snow conditions, warm temps and saw several wet slides . My recommendation is to get a "very very" early start on any of these peaks right now. Overnight lows are not cold enough to make any boot pack and it warms up so quickly that all routes are questionable for ascent by as early as first light.
Posted By: vorticity
Info: When you get to Chicago Basin there are a zillion choices for campsites. Seems like there is a common tendency to camp too low. We wish we had gone to 11,200 for what we thought was the best campsite in the basin at 37 36.530N, 107 37.029W. Look in the trees to the north of the trail ... if this exceptional spot is taken, you will have to back track a quarter of a mile.
Posted By: crossfitter
Info: Mud slides have taken out a couple sections of the trail in, but overall it is in good condition. The lower part of the trail is remarkably dry considering the amount of rain the area has received. Expect a few puddles past treeline.
Posted By: san juan johnny
Info: Boot about halfway to Chicago Basin and melting fast as of 5/7. Skiing great on all four peaks (from C. Basin) except Windom. Widowmaker is "skiiable" but the rest of the face is very patchy.
Posted By: WeminucheRanger
Info: Mt. Eolus, Windom Peak and Sunlight Peak are located within the Weminuche Wilderness. Most people chose to camp in the Chicago Basin area of the Needle Creek Drainage. Please be aware that several special rules apply to the Wilderness and Needle Creek area.

-Weminuche Wilderness-

1. Group Size is limited to 15 people.

2. Camping is not allowed within 100 feet of any water source (lakes, streams, etc).

3. Dogs must be on a leash or under voice control.

4. Disposal of human waste and gray water within 100 feet of any water source is prohibited. Dig a cathole 6-8" deep for human waste. Trash must be packed out (not burried).

-Needle Creek Drainage-

Due to high use and limited wood, camp fires are prohibited in the entire Needle Creek Drainage.

-Twin Lakes Basin-

As it is a sensitive, confined area above treeline with very high use, camping is prohibited in the Twin Lakes basin through which the trail leading to the most common approaches for the 3 14ers passes.

Call the Columbine District of the San Juan National Forest for additional info on rules and regulations. (970) 884-2512
Posted By: IHikeLikeAGirl
Info: 9/8/08 Bridge is still up and no construction materials were at the site.
Posted By: tundraking
Info: Just got back from trailhead on 8-24. Bridge was still intact and there is still no sign of construction activity in the area. I spoke with Forest Service last week and they said that the contractor had dropped off some materials in Durango but did not give them a start date. As of last week the the Forest Service was advising hikers to carry extra food and water in case the contractor shows up and hikers have to walk the extra 7 miles from Cascade.
Posted By: Chicago Transplant
Info: Bride was still there on July 7th with no sign of any work in the near future, call the Forest Service for additional information on schedule.
Posted By: s_tuning
Info: The bridge over the Animas at Needleton is closed from Sept.5 through late October. The train is stopping at the Cascade Wye and adds 7 miles to the trip.
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Call the train station for schedules and reservations.
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