Last weekend, Christy and I went down to the Weminuche, in the heart of the San Juans. It’s an incredible place, one of our favorite spots in the state.
The Weminuche Wilderness handily takes the award as Colorado’s largest wilderness area. At nearly 500,000 acres in size (Maroon Bells/Snowmass is 181,000 acres by comparison) it is so vast, with so many impressive peaks, lakes and valleys, that a single trip can’t do it justice. It’s something you just have to visit and revisit, exploring different sections on different trips, and if you’re lucky, after a good half-dozen forays into its depths, you might just cover enough ground to get a basic sense of what it’s all about. Christy and I– having hiked the trails and climbed the surrounding peaks of Ruby, No Name, Vestal and Weminuche Creek(s), and after making several trips to Chicago Basin and the Needle Creek 14ers, with a combined 14 backpacks to various areas here– feel as though we’ve barely scratched the surface.
So in an effort to explore new parts, we ventured in from a quiet and curiously-named trailhead known as “Beartown”, which was new for us and accessed the eastern Grenadiers, a mountain sub-range within the Weminuche. After camping at the trailhead we started in the next morning with some pretty large backpacks, and after cresting the aptly named Hunchback Pass, we were in the Weminuche. Unfortunately we saw no bears in Beartown but as a consolation, after departing the lonely trailhead for our 3-day backpack, we saw no people either– not one.
Our destination this time was Trinity Creek, a tributary of Vallecito Creek, below the easternmost peaks of the Grenadiers– The Guardian, Silex Peak and Storm King Peak. After a four-plus hour backpack, we were there, and had two days to scamper around the area during what was the last weekend of summer and our first wedding anniversary. The photos tell it best:
On the third ridiculously beautiful day, our anniversary, we hiked out over Hunchback Pass. Following a different route home, west over Stony Pass to Silverton, the fall colors were exploding. What a trip, we’re already looking forward to going back.
Awesome pics, Ted. The Weminuche is simply an amazing place. I live 7+ hrs away now, but I’m already planning next year’s trip back to CO and the Weminuche… and the NEXT year’s trip…
Great anniversary! Those lakes are unreal, and the geography looks different even from the other San Juans. Fun stuff.
I’ve just begun to get into that part of the state, and some of it’s pretty darn remote. I’ve considered running from 550 to the Needles; doable, but a long day… with no realistic “plan B” in case something goes wrong (wait for the next train…?). May finally have to break down and buy that overnight gear.
Jake- Thanks, and 7+ hours isn’t all that bad, it was almost that long for us to get to Beartown via RG reservoir. We’ve actually decided the Beartown way is better than the train b/c it’s a whole lot cheaper and you don’t eat up a half-day or more trying to accommodate the schedule, so long as you have a 4WD to take on Stony Pass.
mtnrunner2- Aron Ralston always claimed that it was “reasonable” to do the Needle Creek 14ers in a day from Purgatory, I’ve never tried. He’s also attempted to traverse all 8 or 9 Grenadiers from Molas Pass in a day, only getting the first five done, but he and Jason Halladay finished in 18 hours RT. I think that loop of 5 peaks isn’t an entirely uncommon thing to do, and so long as you’re taking any of them on in a weather pattern like we’ve been in, you’ll be good. Makes me think about doing it myself someday….
You two are the luckiest people on the planet. While you’re up there in paradise, I’m fighting Atlanta traffic…could be much worse and I mustn’t grumble really but it just proves my point that you two take the trip of a lifetime every week.
On another point, the first ‘crazy blue’ lake was not crazy blue but actually the color of the alternate jersey the Panthers use…so it was Panthers blue.
Just wanted to clear that up.
What a great anniversary weekend!
Loved the pictures.
Looks like another awesome trip – nothing like having the wilderness all to yourselves!
‘Crazy Blue’ is my new favorite color.
Despite the Panthers playing the worst half of football I have ever seen them play (and that’s saying something), I stick with my earlier comment.
How was the dirt road up to the Beartown trailhead? I’m thinking of taking that trailhead this week but am a little worried about how difficult the road is
The road isn’t too bad. We’re always in a Tacoma and had no real issues. Standard Colorado jeep road I’d say. A bit loose in the final few hundred yards up to the actual TH, but otherwise isn’t any worse than the rest of the drive. Having gone from both Rio Grande Reservoir and Stony Pass, I’d recommend the Stony Pass approach– the Timber Ridge section from RG Reservoir was pretty tough.Either way it’s a long haul in there, but it’s nice and quiet once you’re there.
Have a blast.
where did you set up a base camp. We are heading there in a few weeks with 3 teenagers. Hoping to set up a basecamp and then explore.
Suzanne, in the case of the trip in this post it was quite a long approach before we reached our “basecamp.” We were in Trinity Creek which required a drive from Silverton over Stony Pass to Beartown (semi-rough 4wd road) and we first camped there at the trailhead. The next morning we hiked over Hunchback Pass and down Vallecito Creek and then up to our camp in Trinity Creek. It was a two day approach. Not sure if that would work with your setup?
For an easier approach I might recommend a start at the High Mary Lakes trailhead outside of Silverton. You can catch the CDT easily from there and get into the north section of the Weminuche Wilderness that same day.