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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

Backpacker Adventure Guide: Weminuche Wilderness

Try a stunning new hike–or two thrilling classics–in the Colorado Rockies' top spot for big backpacking adventures.

by: Steve Howe

Lobo to Fourmile Ridge, Steve Howe
Lobo to Fourmile Ridge, Steve Howe
Descent from Trimble Pass, Steve Howe
Descent from Trimble Pass, Steve Howe
Pittsburgh Mine, Steve Howe
Pittsburgh Mine, Steve Howe
Endlich Mesa, Steve Howe
Endlich Mesa, Steve Howe

More Weminuche Hikes
Lobo to Fourmile Ridge
Start high and stay high on this Continental Divide traverse.
This 36.5-mile hike stays at or above timberline for most of its course around the Cimarron Creek headwaters in Weminuche's southeastern corner. Beginning at 11,800 feet near Wolf Creek Pass, it follows the CDT north, then west along high ridges to Piedra Pass. Minimal climbing makes this stretch feasible even for flatlanders. From the Piedra River headwaters, you climb south on the Turkey Creek Trail across benchlands with excellent views of rugged Red Mountain, and fine camping at scenic Turkey Creek Lake. Along the way, keep an eye out for large elk herds in the Puerto Blanco region. From there, drop through an increasingly lush, timbered valley on the Fourmile Trail, passing several gigantic waterfalls before ending your journey in aspen groves north of Pagosa Springs. Budget at least four days.

The Way
Begin at Lobo Overlook, beneath the radio towers atop Wolf Creek Pass, north of Pagosa Springs on US 160. End at Fourmile trailhead: From Main Street in Pagosa Springs, turn north onto N. 5th Street, which turns into Fourmile Road; go 12.5 miles to road's end.

Trails Illustrated 140 Weminuche Wilderness. USGS topos Wolf Creek Pass, South River Peak, Palomino Mountain, and Pagosa Peak

13S 0334202E 4154775N Spotted Lake, scenic camp for first night
13S 0322250E 4154191N Red Mountain panoramas; watch for elk
13S 0319533E 4145773N Views of huge waterfalls & Eagle Mountain

West Needles Wilderness Area
Summit a handful of rugged 13ers while basecamping at timberline tarns for a weekend or more. The massive, metamorphic West Needle Mountains form the core of a 28,740-acre parcel of land added to the Weminuche Wilderness in 1995. From Molas Pass, you get an excellent overview of this pristine alpine landscape, which glaciers scraped into a wildland of aesthetic rock slabs and pocket lakes. Four 13,000-foot peaks–Snowdon, Twilight, North Twilight, and West Needle–makes this a peakbagger's paradise. The six-mile approach trail ends at popular Crater Lake, but there's plenty of lonelier low-impact camping among slabs dotted with ponds in the miles beyond. Adventurous hikers can depart the Crater Lake approach trail and strike cross-country 1.3 miles to isolated lakes west of Snowdon Peak. Another scenic and adventurous trip is to cross the saddle east of Crater Lake and traverse southwest to an unnamed pond in Twilight Cirque. There you'll get a primo balcony view east across the Animas River Gorge to the main Needles Range. Short trips don't get any better than this.

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Reader Rating: -


jay durbin
Jan 30, 2012

Sounds like a great hike. We are planning a trip to Weminuche this late spring, early summer! Hoping to stay in the high country. Can't wait

Sep 03, 2008

Awesome Pictures

Aug 21, 2008

Cool adventure ! Loved the picture... check out <a href="" target="_blank"rel=follow" Colorado Outdoor Center</a>

Apr 30, 2008

too bad my thirteen day trek through this wilderness was the best place I have been yet

Apr 28, 2008

here ya go, bud-

Apr 02, 2008

The printed article said that the route taken would be posted on this website. I can not seem to find it.


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