Train Access: Chicago Basin can be accessed by riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and getting off at Needleton. For schedules, fares and reservations visit the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad website or call 1-888-TRAIN-07 (1-888-872-4607), local 247-2733. When you board the train, you need to drop off your backpack at the baggage car behind the engine, and then go to your assigned seat in a different car. The train stop at Needleton is very brief, so expect yourself and your backpack to be unloaded (or loaded) very quickly. If you hike in and decide to take the train out, you can purchase a ticket on the train, but you need to pay in exact cash.
The Needleton train stop area and the first ½ mile of the trail going south to the Needle Creek Trailhead is on private lands. This connecting trail exists because of a cooperative agreement with the landowners. Please do not trespass on this private property! Also note that there are no toilet facilities at Needleton.
Trail Access: Chicago Basin can be reached by trails from several directions. Coming in by trail will lengthen your trip by one or two days each way. Consult guidebooks and maps and carefully plan your route before you arrive.
The San Juan National Forest website provides descriptions of area trails, including access from the west via the Purgatory Trail (#511) + Animas River Trail (#675) + Needle/Johnson Creek Trail (#504) and access from the east via the Vallecito Creek Trail (#529) + Needle/Johnson Creek Trail (#504).
Note: On the Vallecito Trail, the third bridge (counting from the South) crossing Vallecito Creek is gone due to an avalanche in the winter of 2004-2005. The avalanche debris was cleared from the trail in fall 2007. There are no plans at this time to replace the bridge, so it is necessary for hikers to ford the creek. Vallecito Creek is challenging to ford, and is especially dangerous during the spring runoff (mid May through Mid June). Use good judgment and extreme caution if you choose to ford Vallecito Creek.