Colorado Trail – Silverton to Durango – day 1

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

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Durango – Silverton – Molas Pass – Lime Creek

Arrived Durango, Colorado (pop. 18,000) by Roadrunner, the only long distance bus in and out of town. My plan was to take the train to Silverton. Hike back.

durangomapMany had recommended the very LAST section of the 500 mile Colorado Trail – the San Juan’s – as the best part. 🙂

An excellent hostel having closed a couple of years ago, the cheapest room I could find was US$120. (This tourist trap is expensive during high season.)

Therefore I would sleep rough.

I found an excellent campsite hidden along the edge of the river in a Park currently under construction. Slept well in my tent.

I was using McDonald’s WiFi by 6am next morning.

DSCN1897The ticket office for the Silverton train opened at 7am. Though officially “full”, one of the ticket officers managed to squeeze me on to the 8am train.

Problem. I had planned on taking the 9:30am train. Where would I store the gear I didn’t want to carry on the hike? In the 20min I had available before boarding?

No lockers at the train station. No lockers at the transit station. 😦

I ended up stashing a black garbage bag in bushes adjacent to the nearest grocery store. Hidden in plain sight in the Albertson’s parking lot.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad …  operates 45.2 miles (72.7 km) of track between Durango and Silverton …

The steam-powered locomotives used today on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad were built during the 1920s. …

DSCN1898 DSCN1899 DSCN1900Plenty of hikers use the train to get up into the San Juan’s.DSCN1904One way scheduled trains take 3½ hours …

Elk Park is the last siding, wye, and flagstop before Silverton. Not as popular as Needleton for hikers, Elk Park is where the railroad crosses the Colorado Trail …

hikers Needleton

I stayed on the train at both Needleton and Elk Park. Rode it all the way to Silverton.

DSCN1905 DSCN1910 DSCN1915 DSCN1927 DSCN1930 DSCN1931One essential task left – laundry.

The campground is happy to have hikers stop by for a wash and dry. (Or a $7 shower.)

For lunch I hit the southern Barbecue joint – Thee Pits Again.DSCN1933Pork ribs, baked beans, cornbread … and very British bread pudding for desert. My last restaurant meal before hitting the trail.DSCN1936I wandered the town while my togs were drying. DSCN1944DSCN1941 DSCN1943Getting out of Silverton was another blunder. I started hitchhiking … in the wrong direction. A local gent drove me up to the correct highway and to the best place to hitch. I had a ride within minutes. Hikers are hitching back and forth the 7 miles to Molas Pass all the time.

Arriving at the pass I met a European who was nearly finished the 500 mile Colorado Trail. But he needed to resupply in Silverton, staying at the hostel there one night.  Oddly, he got a 7 mile ride with this truck driver. Some scam was in the works, I suspected. DSCN1953 DSCN1954Actually, Silverton has no grocery store. But does have a gear shop (fuel) and plenty of restaurants.

The vista looked great from Molas. Here I’m looking back at the section prior the one I was about to do.DSCN1949  Across the highway. Off and up.DSCN1956Gorgeous scenery. Though my pack felt heavy. I should have left more STUFF hidden in a garbage bag.DSCN1959DSCN1965The wild flowers are shoulder high in places.DSCN1963I set up in a lovely spot.DSCN1968DSCN1970Failed to get the campfire going this time. (Tried to skimp on kindling.)

The Colorado Trail is mostly dispersed camping. Put up your tent anywhere you like.

Clear skies. Nearly a full moon.DSCN1967more high resolution photos of day 1

day 1 | day 2 day 3 | day 4 | info page

One Reply to “Colorado Trail – Silverton to Durango – day 1”

  1. Excellent info; thank you! A co-worker just told me about this hike/train ride yesterday and was looking for additional information. Well detailed & photographed!!

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