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Purgatory Creek Trail and Animas River Trail to Needleton


An alternative approach to the Needleton trailhead.

Hiking Difficult

29 km
776 m
776 m
7-8 hrs
Low Point
2.3 km
High Point
2.7 km
Purgatory Creek Trail and Animas River Trail to Needleton Map

The Needleton Trailhead is the standard beginning of a long trek into the Weminuche Wilderness to bag four of Colorado's famed 14ers: Mount Eolus, North Eolus, Sunlight Peak, and Windom Peak. Most climbers catch the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad to Needleton, but if for some reason you can't get on the train or the train isn't running, you can access Needleton via this hike.


This route follows the Purgatory Creek and Animas River trails to reach Needleton from Highway 550. Needless to say, tacking on an additional 18 miles of hiking cranks up the difficulty of this expedition dramatically!

Purgatory Creek itself is a beautiful trail that "winds down a steep slope through large aspen groves along its eponymous stream, making it a cool and shady spot to hike in the heat of summer, as well as an ideal area to search for colorful aspen leaves come fall," according to Terri Cook on 5280.com. The trail drops 1,500 vertical feet from Highway 550 down to the banks of the Animas River in four miles.



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

between June and October


  • Picturesque
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area