Purgatory Trailhead


Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 37.62988, -107.80641
14ers: Mt. Eolus, Windom Peak, Sunlight Peak, North Eolus
Elevation: 8,770'

Road Difficulty

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

Driving Directions

From Durango, drive approximately 27 miles north on U.S. 550 to reach the Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort. On the opposite side of the road from the resort, turn right into Tacoma Village. Drive 0.3 mile to reach the trailhead parking area, on the left next to a small lake. The Purgatory Flats trail starts a short distance back down this road, on the east side.

Winter Access

Off of Highway 550, and no winter closure.

More Info

Parking: Room for ~18 vehicles
Camping: No camping in the area but there are campgrounds nearby.
Restrooms? No
Fees? No
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: Kiefer
Info: Just a quick update for those considering Chi Basin. The Purgatory TH is currently CLOSED for the winter. You must use the Nordic Center slightly north. Park in the back as it gets a lot of use.
Posted By: Kiefer
Info: Trailhead has been consistently half to 3/4 full for the past couple weeks. Recent rains probably are the reason why. I believe they are largening the trailhead by putting in additional parking across the road (some heavy machinery). Trail down to the valley floor is firm but moist. Some expected muddy spots but reasonable. The grass/fields are drenched. Stay the trail.
Posted By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: Some spots available on Monday 7/5 mid-afternoon; completely packed Friday 7/9 afternoon. People waiting for spots as we were leaving. No issues leaving car for the week.
Posted By: angry
Info: Parking was full when I arrived at 6am on Thursday morning, and when I exited on Sunday at 930am.
Posted By: Marsh
Info: Purgatory trailhead parking was full when we got there at 10pm. There is overflow parking on the other side of the lake (see pic). Despite the cars, Chicago Basin was not crowded. Go figure. 15+ miles to campsite at 11,200 feet. Excellent trails all the way. Plenty of camping along the Animas River.
Posted By: Unknown
Info: Parking was almost full on a Sunday morning, no issues with water as long as you fill up when necessary. Usually carried 1-2L without problem, once above needleton the trail finally gains elevation, and water sources are few until 10.5k or so. Parts of the trail from 11k to Twin Lakes can be muddy, waterproof shoes advised. Woke up to goats and porcupines a few times but no real issue when food is hung up
Posted By: emily_m
Info: Water crossings that don’t have a permanent bridge are very low with good logs to step across on (if not totally dry). Sufficient water to filter and fill up on if you take each opportunity. Not many streams on the upper section between Needleton and Chicago Valley, so definitely plan on filling up at New York Creek and a stream I don’t know the name of between NY creek and the basin.
Posted By: S-Parx
Info: I believe this TH is open year round, but wanted to add a little more detail to it.

It is in a subdivision with fancy houses on either side, next to a lake and a town park. No "No Camping" signs and got away with sleeping in my car the night before and after my trip. Did not cook or hangout outside though. Cell reception was great with Verizon and I would assume other carriers as well.

The trail starts across the street from the lake and main parking area and goes downhill to Purgatory Flats. Having had no previous idea why this area was called that, once arriving, I understood. Right as you gain the "flats" you cross a small trickle of a stream, maybe dry later in the summer and come upon an immediate junction. Go right here. The trail parallels Cascade creek on the hikers left when descending. There is another junction shortly after, I think the main trail is on the right, but another trail on the left meets up with the main trail ~1/4mi later after passing some camping near the creek and a nice little beach. From here on the trail is easily followed to Chicago Basin and junctions are labelled.

Photo is "The Flats" returning from Animas River up to my car.
Posted By: HikerGuy
Info: Trailhead parking lot is located next to a lake in a neighborhood of new homes. The turnoff is directly across from the ski resort entrance on 550. I parked my car there for three nights with no problem. The hike in to 11,000 feet was 15.16 miles. 4.39 miles from trailhead to train track crossing. 5.38 miles from train track crossing to Needle Creek bridge. And 5.39 from Needle Creek bridge to 11,000 feet.
Posted By: nyker
Info: Hiked into Chicago Basin from Purgatory on Jun 30; Packed out on Jul 3. Trail is free and clear, no snow, no mud, no closures. Downed trees have been cut and all is clear....just LONG.
Posted By: zxbraves
Info: Purgatory TH: 37.629668,-107.806526
Posted By: d_baker
Info: A couple of feet at the TH and for the first 1/8mi or so, but beyond that it‘s mostly melted out. The TH itself is N facing and is on steep treed slope, therefore is in the shadows a lot.
Beyond Purg. Flats, and in the canyon, I crossed over 4 avy debris piles, other than those, the trail to Cascade/Animas is dry.
Tracks from Cascade to Needleton is dry. Across the bridge and at the TH for Needleton Creek is dry, but I didn‘t go beyond the sign. I went to the north.
S and W aspects up to at least 9200‘ is mostly melted out, from my observations and what I encountered.
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
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