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San Juan National Forest Re-opened

The Stage 3 fire and access restrictions to the San Juan National Forest have been rolled back to a Stage 2 condition which means access to the forest is once more open to the public. However, fire conditions still remain high and we are currently in the middle of a strong heat wave. Consult current regulations with the San Juan NF before planning any trips. Fines for violations are significant. 

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The trailhead for the Weminuche Pass trail is shared by the trailhead for Squaw Creek. There is a kiosk there with the usual Forest Service information and a box to register your hike or backpack. This trailhead is located on the south side of the campground, across the loop, campsite road and more toward the west end of the campground. The trailhead coordinates are for the actual trailhead and not some other spot in the campground. The correct trail number is 818.

When it comes to backpacking, approach hikes, this is one of the easier. A little over five miles of walking with only 1,325 feet of elevation gain places you in great position for five 13er summits that can be done from a very nice base camp. Our last trip here in 2008 still did not show much beetle kill damage to the forest, however, the Squaw Creek trail a little farther east showed at least 60% kill of the forest. We recently re-visited this trail I 2017 and found however, that the beetle kill has hit the Weminuche drainage as well with up to 80% kill in some areas.

For the Weminuche Pass trail, walk west from the kiosk on an old roadbed that shortly becomes trail which stays above the south shore of the reservoir, gaining little elevation for the first 1.25 mile. After that, in the next half mile it gains a few hundred feet and then makes a pronounced turn south, away from the reservoir. At just under 2 miles, you'll come to a major crossing of Weminuche Creek as it cascades down from above. There is a sturdy footbridge here and the location makes a great place for your first break and to take some photos.

Beyond the creek crossing, the trail first heads up along and above the creek on the west side, does a brief switchback north to gain some elevation, then returns to a more southwesterly direction. Not far past the stream crossing, you'll leave the denser forest behind. Much of the trail now follows along the edge of the forest with views of the open, grassy meadow that surrounds Weminuche Creek. The walking gradient is gentle. There is a campsite located on the east side of the trail perhaps a mile up from the bridge. The last mile to the pass, the trail enters more trees. You'll begin to see some possible campsites, but our preferred camping location has been just north of the pass, and just after you have crossed a stream coming in from the west that is a major tributary of Weminuche Creek. There will also be a trail branching off to the west near here. On the east side of the main trail, there are some clusters of trees and several flat places that offer excellent camping with the shelter of the tall trees. This was a very pleasant backcountry campsite, however our 2017 visit here showed that the trees in this location are  now mostly dead. Lower growing vegetation is starting to fill in obscuring some of the flatter camp spots, but there are still two very good campsite locations. The tributary stream nearby offers an easy water supply. We should warn, this is primitive country and on our visit on 2008, we spotted an old, somewhat grizzled bear only a few hundred yards form the campsite. Remember this is wilderness and take the usual precautions with food and cooking.

Some additional trail information for those wanting to continue south: It's about one mile south to the intersection for the Rincon La Vaca Trail. Before reaching La Vaca Creek, there's a marked, trail intersection. Take the left fork that crosses an old diversion ditch for continuing down valley. Maps do not show it, but the right fork veers into the La Vaca drainage to then join the main trail there. The actual crossing of La Vaca Creek can be a little difficult as there is no bridge and no logs to use. Either plan on a wade or take your chances on a running splash through. Beyond there, the Pine River trail is easy to follow on down to the Rincon La Osa Trail. Shortly before reaching the La Osa Creek, you'll notice some trails heading off to the right after a steeper downhill section on the main trail. These lead over to a horse-packers campsite located on a knoll. They had several large tents set up there, but we found the camp unoccupied at the time. The following coordinates are for a good campsite, just off the main trail on the west side, and located about 50 yards from the horse-packers campsite. This camp comes just after crossing a small creek that originates a short distance west of the trail. N 37° 38' 47.3"  W 107° 19' 56.4". When you reach these coordinates, just look west off the trail and you should see a good area among some beetle-kill trees.

From this campsite, in 2017, we followed the Rincon La Osa trail west for three miles up valley. We found this trail to be rather boggy in numerous places and highly damaged by a horse-packing group or multiple groups making walking on the trail very difficult at times. The forest through here also has a high percentage of beetle-kill. Our main motive in supplying this additional trail information is for those who might be interested in climbing Mesa Lato - one of the top five highest 12ers. From three miles up the Rincon La Osa trail, you can turn off the trail to cross a large, wide open meadow and begin the main part of the ascent to Mesa Lato. In general, getting off the boggy, horse-trodden trail will lead to easier terrain to handle. Coordinates for the summit of Mesa Lato are: N 37° 36' 01.5"  W 107° 23' 58.6". These are field validated.



Camping

See description above.

Campsite Locations

Weminuche Pass Campsite N 37° 41' 06.21", W 107° 19' 15.32"
Camping elevation is 10,650 ft.
Rincon La Osa N 37° 38' 47.3":, W 107° 19' 56.4"
Elevation is appx. 10,200 ft.
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