- North of Durango
- 16.6 mile roundtrip
- 8.5 to 10 hours
- Trailhead Elevation:
- 8200 feet
- Elevation Change:
- 4600 feet
- Summer - Fall
The Needle Creek Trail follows the creek until it reaches the lower end of Chicago Basin, 5 miles up the trail. There are few legal camping spots until you reach Chicago Basin. There is a permanent fire ban in Needle Creek and all of its headwaters. At 6.5 miles you begin the steep climb to Columbine Pass. There are switchbacks for the next 2 miles and an ascent of 1,500 feet. The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and August. This area has excellent views and photographic possibilities. Water can be found off the trail in most of the tributaries, but, due to Giardia, it should be filtered. As with all high-altitude areas, storms can move in rapidly, bringing severe wind, lightning, rain, snow, or hail. Plan accordingly.
Fishing is fair for cutthroat trout in Needle Creek below Chicago Basin. Please check the fishing regulations regarding limits, allowable lures, and restrictions on certain lakes, rivers, etc.
1)11-mile hike in on Purgatory Trail #511 and #675, which takes about 5 hours. Trailhead can be reached via U.S. Highway #550, with parking at the trailhead across from Durango Mountain Resort main entrance.
2)Ride in on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. NOTE that on an average summer day, 50 people will disembark from the train to head to Chicago Basin–a beautiful, but crowded, backpacking destination.