Weminuche Wilderness Trails
Almost a half-million acres in size, the Weminuche Wilderness is Colorado’s largest, more than twice the size of Flat Tops, the second largest. As might be expected, the area contains the headwaters of dozens of major streams and rivers, feeding both the Rio Grande and San Juan rivers, two of the Southwest’s most ecologically and culturally significant waterways. Weminuche’s great size encompasses broad and diverse environments: cascading rivers swollen with snowmelt; immense glacial valleys; windswept ridges of the Continental Divide; and the seemingly unreachable summits of skyscraping granite crags that cast magical reflections in alpine pools at dawn’s soft light. Though huge by Colorado standards, Weminuche is still pint-size in comparison with the two-million-acre wilderness behemoths of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Nevertheless, in the larger ecological picture of the Southwest, Weminuche offers the last best chance for wilderness-dependent species such as grizzly bears, wolverines, lynx, and wolves. These far-ranging creatures need vast areas free from human disturbance to thrive and reproduce. Wildlife biologists believe that large, roadless preserves best serve these functions, and the Weminuche Wilderness has long been a refuge for animals. The Colorado Division of Wildlife brought back lynx to Colorado beginning in 1999 with the release of 50 lynx into the Weminuche Wilderness near Creede. Another 150 lynx were released in subsequent years, and as of 2004 the lynx were thriving as evidenced by a dozen litters of wild-born kittens. The Weminuche Wilderness offers spectacular examples of dramatically different mountain landscapes. The granitic Needle Mountains in the western end of the wilderness contain its three 14,000-foot peaks as well as equally inspiring summits, such as Arrow and Vestal peaks in the nearby Grenadier Range. To the south, limestone mesas slope gently toward the high summits. Farther east are ragged peaks and soaring cliffs, formed over millions of years as volcanic eruptions covered the landscape. Several periods of glaciation later scoured the sharp peaks and valleys characteristic of the San Juan Mountains, creating the dozens of cirque lakes (63 to be precise) that dot the high country. The Animas River gorge cuts through the westernmost segment of the wilderness, beneath the distinctive metamorphic peaks of the West Needle Mountains. Thousands of tourists annually marvel at the area’s beauty from the clacking cars of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which parallels the river, clinging precipitously to the walls of the narrow canyon. This trail guide includes descriptions of Cascade Creek, Fourmile Lake, Archuleta Lake, Chicago Basin, City Reservoir, Crater Lake, Highland Mary Lakes, Rainbow Hot Springs, Goose Creek, Los Pinos River/Lake Creek, Ute Creek, Williams Creek, Colorado Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Needleton to Vallecito, and Vallecito to Los Pinos River.
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Directions to: Weminuche Wilderness Trailsprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Skill Level||Easy to Strenuous|
|Season||Best Spring through Fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||8,000 ft|
|Top Elevation||14,083 ft|
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