Trip Report, September 2010
Llama Trekking on the Colorado Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness
This page provides a brief report of our hike up Elk Creek along the Colorado Trail
in the Weminuche Wilderness in southwestern Colorado.
We left Amarillo late Friday, September 10, 2010 and drove to Durango arriving early
Saturday morning. Along the way, we stopped at the Owl Cafe in Albuquerque for some
green chili cheese burgers.
Saturday, we shopped around Durango and organized our gear. We had a superb dinner
on the rooftop patio at Cosmopolitan (now renamed to
Sunday, we drove to Silverton and loaded our panniers onto and boarded the
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train for the 30 minute ride
to Elk Park.
We picked up our llamas that had been walked to Elk Park by
Buckhorn Llama Company. It is possible to walk llamas along the east side
of the Animas River from the bridge below the Molas Pass trailhead to Elk Park.
It is not necessary to climb up the bench along the Colorado Trail and then back
down the bench to reach Elk Park from the bridge.
We then hiked up the Elk Creek trail, a section of the 483 mile long
Colorado Trail. In recent years, this trail has been intermittently impassable
to live stock, including llamas, at a point about 1 mile from Elk Park. The trail
had been a ledge carved out of a step rock face immediately beside Elk Creek. The
rock face sloughed off obliterating the trail. The Forest Service has relocated
the trail to the base of the rock face at the river's edge. It is easily passable
on our trip but it may be subject to being washed out by the river each spring or
to additional rock collapse. If you are contemplating making this trip with livestock,
I would check with the Forest Service before embarking.
We hiked about 3.75 miles with 1,241 feet of elevation gain to a nice campsite at
10,200 feet. The campsite was at the east end of a large meadow about 1.06 miles
up from the beaver ponds. Along the way, we had a great view of Arrow Peak and the
iconic Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak
that I climbed in 2006. The campsite had abundant space and food for the llamas.
We spent the next day lounging around camp. There were lots of
pikas in the talus beside our camp. We could hear the rutting elk bugling
day and night.
Tuesday, we set out for the head of Elk Creek. We accidentally found a beautiful waterfall
at about 10,300 feet, 0.9 miles up from our campsite. At this point on the trail,
the path becomes braided as the trail(s) cross a creek coming down from Lost and
Verde Lakes. We inadvertently took a path veering left while looking for a crossing
and found the waterfall.
We lacked the energy to make the steep climb I had planned. We back tracked, and
with difficulty, found a place to camp and stake out the llamas at 10,750 feet about
1.75 miles up from our previous camp.
The next day, Bill and I hiked up Elk Creek to the miner's cabin at 12,080 feet,
6.6 miles up from Elk Park. We then bushwhacked west-northwest to "Lake 12,191".
The surrounding vistas were incredible. This would make a good campsite on a future
trip. We ran into a volunteer ranger patrolling the backcountry. We could see the
switchbacks leading up the 600 foot climb to the Continental Divide.
The next morning we broke camp and descended to Elk Park. The following morning,
we turned over the llamas to the Buckhorn
wranglers and rode the train back to
Saturday we drove to Telluride for a day at
The Blues & Brews Festival before driving back to Amarillo on Sunday.