Chicago Basin Trip Planning Guide

Updated August 2015


"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.

Chicago Basin is a small part of the 487,912-acre Weminuche Wilderness, which in turn is part of 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. If you are planning a trip to the Chicago Basin area, especially during the peak period, you will have to share your wilderness experience with quite a few other people.

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. These are in addition to the overall Weminuche Wilderness and Forest Wide Regulations. By following the Wilderness regulations and practicing Leave No Trace Principles, the Chicago Basin area may not need more restrictive regulations in future years. Backpackers as a group are known to be among the  most compliant public land users. We commend you and count on you to help inform other users of the importance of minimizing impacts. If you are planning a trip for a group, please contact the SJMA (San Juan Mountains Association) to obtain more information for planning your trip and educating your members on group-specific Leave No Trace Principles prior to your trip.