Weminuche High Loop

Animas Mountain, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, Weminuche Wilderness, sunset

Animas Sunset : Prints Available

A brilliant sunset above Animas Mountain deep in the Weminuche Wilderness, August. 

Last week we did a 7-day loop trek in and around the Needle Mountains, the rugged heart of the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. As usual, we had some crazy weather during our trip, including lots of lightning, thunder, and several stunning sunrises and sunsets. See lots more photos below!

Jagged Mountain, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Jagged Dusk : Prints Available

Jagged Mountain (13,824 ft.) reflects in a small pond at dusk.
Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, Eolus, Monitor Peak, Animas Mountain

Dawn in the Needles : Prints Available

Dawn reflection at a remote lake high in the Needle Mountains.  Mt. Eolus (14,039 ft.) is at left, Monitor Peak (13,695 ft.), Peak Thirteen (13,706 ft.), and Animas Mountain (13,786 ft.) are at right.
Mt. Eolus, reflection, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, sunrise

Eolus Reflection #2 : Prints Available

North side of Mt. Eolus (14,039) reflection at sunrise.
Needle Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, hiking, august

Hiking over a high pass in the Needle Mountains - August. 
Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, dawn

Purple Dawn : Prints Available

Magenta dawn light high in the Weminuche Wilderness. 
Sunlight Peak, Windom Peak, sunrise, reflection, Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Sunlight Sunrise Reflection : Prints Available

An incredible sunrise light show at a high lake in the Weminuche Wilderness.  These surreal clouds formed out of a clear sky in a matter of minutes right during the brilliant sunrise light.  The mountains here are Windom Peak (14,083 ft., left) and Sunlight Peak (14,059 ft., right).
mountain goat, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, Sunlight Lake

Sunlight Mountain Goat : Prints Available

A mountain goat and her kid check the scene at Sunlight Lake - August.
mountain goat, Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Mountain Goat on Rock : Prints Available

A mountain goat walks towards the camera, high in the Weminuche Wilderness. 
Jagged Mountain, Weminuche Wilderness, reflection, sunrise, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Jagged Sunrise Reflection : Prints Available

Jagged Mountain reflects in a small pond at sunrise in the Weminuche Wilderness - August. 
Weminuche Wilderness, hikes, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Claudia hikes up a 13,600 ft. pass high in the Weminuche Wilderness. 
Chicago Basin, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, sunset

Chicago Basin Sunset : Prints Available

A brief sunset seen from Chicago Basin.

This is the fourth time I’ve done a week-long trek in these mountains; here are some links to photo galleries previous similar treks I’ve done in the Weminuche Wilderness in August 2010, August 2008, and September 2007.

For those of you interested in knowing more details about the routes I’ve done in the Weminuche, in the spirit of exploration all I can say is get yourself some topo maps and have at it. These are wild mountains, fit for experienced backpackers who are comfortable navigating off trail by map and instincts in remote, complex, and rugged terrain. Those of you who fall into that category may agree that half the fun of these kinds of trips is the sense of exploration and discovery which is becoming ever rarer these days. If you prefer fully detailed route descriptions and guidebooks, it would be more enjoyable to stick to the trails – and believe me the Weminuche Wilderness has plenty of amazing trail hikes to last many summers!

34 thoughts on “Weminuche High Loop

  1. These pictures are amazing, the backpacking up there looks great. One question, do you have to worry about bears, or other animals, while out there?

    1. Thanks Jeff! I don’t worry about bears too much, but I DO take all the precautions I can to avoid problems. For instance, we NEVER keep food in the tent – I put all the food into smell-proof bear bags and tie them up pretty far from the tent at night. And when bushwhacking through the forest or bushes, we talk loudly, whistle, and yodel to try to avoid surprising any bears. But, actually I’ve never seen a bear in the wild yet! I’ve seen plenty in the streets of Boulder and Ouray, but so far none in the wild. I’m sure they’re out there though…

      1. Such nice pictures there again, Jack! And I know where you’ve learnt to yodel, so if you’re anywhere close as loud as that lady in Engelberg, it’s no wonder you’ve never met a bear in the wild..

      2. I saw four bears in the Raggeds this weekend! A mama and her three cubs were grazing a wild raspberry patch. I was far enough away i could just sit and watch for a while and she was none the wiser. It was pretty cool. Then I found one on my back deck the other night too. Lots around this year I think because the berry crop is late.

      3. Crazy that you’ve never seen one in the wild yet. I have a weird fear about bears, so I’m glad you answered my curiousity!

        It also looks like that mountain goat was about to come in for a head butt!

  2. Damn, Jack. You and your fiance (congrats!) are taking some stunning trips these last few weeks. Jagged Sunrise Reflection and Chicago Basin Sunset are my picks, but the entire series is sweet. What stunning clouds over Windom and Sunlight. Any more trips planned before Fall?

    1. Thanks Justin! We might have time for one more (shorter) backpacking trip in the next month, but my plate is full with other obligations before our big trip to South America at the end of Sept!

        1. Argentina and Chile for three months! We’ll be working our way down the Andes from Mendoza/Santiago all the way to the tip of Patagonia. No lottery winnings… just been saving up money…

    1. Thanks Pam! I use a Canon 5DII with the 17mm and 24mm tilt/shift lenses, and a 35-70mm Contax/Zeiss lens. I also carry a small Panasonic GF1 with 20mm pancake lens for the hiking and goat shots.

  3. Amazing work, indeed, Jack!
    The more I read the post, and saw the stunning photographs, the more
    I was impressed with the sheer number of photographs; all unique with all kinds
    of light conditions.

    Glad to see that your enjoy your summer, Jack.
    Me on the other hand, now look forward to autumn.

    Best Wishes
    Seung Kye

  4. Beautiful photos Jack. Nothing quite like the San Juans. We are spending the summer in Salida…doesn’t compare. I miss being there.

  5. Awesome trip Jack. It looks like it is one backpacking trip after another for you this summer. I personally like the Chicago Basin Sunset and the Jagged Reflection Sunrise the two best. Thanks for sharing!


  6. Dang, I knew I should have called you! I was just out there for 6 days myself (Silex, Leviathan and Sunlight Basins) and was thinking of you and your photography, wondering if you’d been there before–but sounds like you were there the same time! I was out there solo; would have been nice to hook up with a couple friends!

    1. Hey Christina, that’s funny you were in there at about the same time! Too bad we missed you. How was Leviathan Basin? We were planning on going in there but I took one look at the rock-filled basin and wanted no part of that. I’m still curious to get in there though, at some point.

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