Chicago Basin

Chicago Basin is a small part of the 487,912-acre Weminuche Wilderness within the San Juan National Forest. Owing to its easy access via the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, its proximity to three of Colorado’s 14-ers, and its scenic beauty, Chicago Basin is a very popular backpacker destination in the Weminuche Wilderness. During its peak period of use (July 4th through Labor Day), Chicago Basin is “crowded” by wilderness standards, and campsites can be hard to find. Each year this area receives about 10,000 visitor use days. If you are planning a trip to the Chicago Basin area during this time, you will have to share your wilderness experience with quite a few other people.

  • Access and Trail Information: Access via train and trails, statistics, and more.
  • Trip Planning: Backpacking in the basin, safety information, wildlife you might encounter and much more.
  • Regulations and Recommended Practices: Because Chicago Basin is a heavy use area, the USDA Forest Service has instituted certain special regulations and recommended practices to help protect the area, in addition to the overall Weminuche Wilderness and Forest Wide Regulations.
  • History of Chicago Basin: Weminuche (whem-a-nooch) is the name of one of the seven bands of Ute people who made the Southwest Colorado their home. Learn more about these people and those who came afterwards.
  • Maps and Guidebooks: Shop Chicago Basin maps and books at our online store.

“Wilderness is a place where the imprint of humans is substantially unnoticeable, where natural processes are the primary influencers and human activity is limited to primitive recreation and minimum tools.”   Wilderness lands “are protected and valued for their ecological, historical, scientific, and experiential resources.” Wilderness requires that the visitor be mentally and physically prepared to take nature on its own terms and to be able to travel without mechanical transport. As a visitor, you must be able to exist with what you can take in (and out) and rely on your own outdoor skills.