Tucked away in the San Juan Mountains lies the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness: the Grenadier Range. Forming an eight-mile arc from the Animas River to Vallecito Creek, the Grenadier Range is a treasured gem for mountaineers and winter athletes because of its sequestered location.
Any trip into the Grenadier Range will require at least a one-night backpacking trip. The range is 32 miles northeast of Durango, so trips require dedication, adequate planning, and proper gear.
Should visitors find their way into the range, they will be richly rewarded with paramount views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
There are multiple opportunities for thru-hiking in the Grenadier Range. One of the best ways to see its entirety is to hike the 1.8-mile Cunningham Gulch Trail. At the trail’s end, thru-hikers can hook up with the Continental Divide Trail and eventually continue off the beaten path—following the peaks.
While there are no developed campsites in the area, dispersed camping is allowed in the region—provided that you stay on public lands. Be sure to bring ample supplies with you on your journey and to have a method for purifying water.
Backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the Grenadier Mountains is a complete winter adventure that requires time, expertise, and constant vigilance. To access the range for backcountry skiing and snowboarding Approaching via the Continental Divide Trail is your best bet to access the range for backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
If you are unsure of your ability level, it is highly recommended that you contract with a guide service like San Juan Mountain Guides.
Please educate yourself on avalanche safety and best practices, and remember that mountain slopes are not the only place where avalanches can occur.
The two most famous peaks in the Grenadier Range are Vestal Peak (13,870 ft) and Arrow Peak (13,809 ft). Arrow Peak was once considered one of Colorado's most challenging climbs before a new trail was cut for its ascent. On the other hand, Vestal Peak is home to the famous “Wham Ridge,” which can be seen from multiple vantage points in the San Juan Mountains.
The sun is much stronger at higher altitudes, so apply and reapply sunscreen liberally every two hours.
Stop by GardenSwartz Outdoors for backcountry gear and advice on your trip.
If you plan on going into the backcountry, leave an itinerary of your trip with someone you trust. Also, bring a satellite-capable communication device if you can afford it.
Bring plenty of water and food with you.
If you plan on bagging peaks, get an early start to beat the afternoon storms.
Purchase a CORSAR card before going out into the backcountry.
Know and obey the fire restrictions before heading out.
Tread lightly as the alpine environments in the Grenadier Range have been well-eroded in recent years.
Do not disperse camp within 100 feet of any water source.
Please pack out all trash and waste, including your pet's waste.
Protect fragile alpine environments and stay on marked trails.
Follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.
Do not pick the wildflowers.
Do not engage with or feed the wildlife.
Dogs must be leashed or otherwise physically restrained. Do not leave pets unattended.
Store your food in a designated bear cache, vault, or hang.