Trip Reports: 8 Days In The Weminuche, San Juans, Colorado - August 2018

In mid-August Claudia and I backpacked for eight days into the Needle Mountains in the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. This was I think the sixth or seventh time I've done a week-long trek in this particular range, but I was still able to find some new routes to take and new places to camp and photograph along with some old favorites. These mountains never fail to challenge and inspire!

Animas River, Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, train, photo

The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train crosses a bridge over the Animas River on its way from Durango to Silverton, Colorado.

Normally we take the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to access this mountain range, but this summer they aren't offering the wilderness dropoff service - I'm not sure exactly why, but suspect is has to do with the possibility of fire bans and/or mudslides which have both happened this summer, and the worry/liability that hikers might get stranded if the train can't pick them back up.

In any case, without the train dropoff it added 10 miles of hiking each way from the nearest trailhead, adding basically two extra days to the trip as well. An already tough trek got a bit tougher!

Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, mountain goat, photo

A mountain goat poses for the camera in a high basin of the Weminuche Wilderness.

It's always fun to meet the friendly local mountain goats up there; if they are anywhere nearby they usually come around to check us out. By the end of this trip I kind of felt like a mountain goat myself, after all the scrambling over high rocky passes.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Needles, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, photo

Blue skies and pink spires reflected in a high lake.

This lake above is an old favorite; you can see some of my previous/better photographic efforts here or here or here.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, photo

A curvy lake in the Needle Mountains.

But we also explored some fun new cross-country goat trails and passes to visit some new [to me] lakes and basins, such as the one above and the one below.

Colorado, Knife Point, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, sunset, photo

Sharp peaks reflected in a remote pond in the Needle Mountains.

Colorado, Knife Point, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Sunlight Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, 14er, panorama, sunset, photo

Sunset light illuminates the Needle Mountains near Sunlight Peak.

Colorado, Knife Point, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, panorama, sunrise, photo

A sharp peak knifes through sunbeams on a hazy morning in the Needle Mountains.

During the first four days we had some smoke haze from distant wildfires (it's been a horrific wildfire summer in the West this year). The haze made for some unique light and photography conditions, but I was happy when it totally cleared out for the latter half of our trek.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, Animas Mountain, panorama, sunset, photo

Sunset behind Animas Mountain, the light diffused by a slight haze from distant wildfires.

Colorado, Knife Point, Milky Way, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Sunlight Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, stars, Mars, photo

Mars and The Milky Way rise over the Needle Mountains.

Animas Mountain, Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, mountain goat, photo

A shy mountain goat inspects the photographer.

Animas Mountain, Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, hiking, photo

Hiking over one of many steep talus passes.

Colorado, Jagged Mountain, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, photo

Mist swirls around Jagged Mountain after a heavy rainstorm.

Colorado, Jagged Mountain, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, panorama, sunrise, photo

Rich amber sunrise light illuminates the basin below Jagged Mountain.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Sunlight Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, Windom Peak, 14ers, photo

Morning clouds above Windom Peak, Sunlight Spire, and Sunlight Peak.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, rainbow, sunset, photo

A rainbow connects two mountains above Chicago Basin.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, mountain goat, photo

Mountain goats in the woods.

Animas River, Colorado, Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Weminuche Wilderness, photo

Animas River at sunset.

Animas River, Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, sunrise, photo

A brilliant sunrise over Pigeon and Turret Peaks as seen from the Animas River.

I've done a lot of backpacking in the San Juans over the years, but this is one area I will never get tired of returning to time and time again.