Just 40 miles north of Durango lies the West Needle Mountains, which are perhaps the most accessible peaks in the area when compared to their parent range—the Needle Mountains.
With the highest point in the range being the majestic North Twilight Peak (13,158 ft), the West Needle Mountains are a perfect getaway for weekend warriors, mountaineers, and seasoned athletes.
In the summer, this mountain range is the perfect destination for hiking, fishing, backpacking, camping, and peak bagging.
In the winter, there are plenty of opportunities for backcountry skiing, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Visitors looking for a nice, long hike in the West Needle Mountains should consider hiking the 5.5-mile Crater Lake Trail. Beginning at Andrews Lake just off Highway 550, the trail gains almost 1,000 ft of elevation and offers enrapturing views of Twilight Peak (13,163 ft).
For visitors looking for a quiet, easy camping experience, look no further than the primitive Little Molas Lake Campground. At the campground, there are 10 campsites with various amenities like horse rails, fire pits, and four RV hook ups.
High country explorers will also appreciate the bountiful opportunities for overnight backpacking trips in the area. The 0.8-mile Andrew Lake Trail is a popular access point for backpackers looking to get some time in the West Needle Mountains.
In this region, the best route for OHVing or Off-roading is the 5.8-mile Old Lime Creek Road. With various spots for dispersed camping and boondocking along the path, visitors can score sweeping views of the West Needle Mountains and the Needle Mountains.
In the West Needle Mountains, both Twilight Peak (13,163 ft) and North Twilight Peak (13,075 ft) have great runs and couloirs for thrillseekers who are willing to make a lengthy trip into the backcountry.
If you are unsure of your level of ability, 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.
For a gentle winter experience, try the shorter Andrews Lake Trail.
If you want more of an adventure, hit the Crater Lake Trail but mind avalanche paths and conditions.
Andrews Lake, a popular access point for the West Needle Mountains, is open year-round and stocked regularly by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. There are opportunities for pier and shore fishing along the lake, and anglers can find rainbow trout and steelhead trout in abundance.
For mountaineers itching to summit some scree, there are five named 13ers in the area: Twilight Peak (13,158 ft), South Twilight Peak (13,080 ft), Snowdon Peak (13,077 ft), North Twilight Peak (13,075 ft), and West Needle Mountain (13,062 ft).
Many experienced mountaineers have been able to summit all five in one day.
Stop by Farm to Summit to get gourmet backcountry meals for your trip!
The sun is much stronger at higher altitudes, so apply and reapply sunscreen liberally every two hours.
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.
If you want to view the peaks from a comfortable distance, there is an overlook on Highway 550 where a sign marks Twilight Peak.
Know and obey the fire restrictions before heading out.
Purchase a CORSAR card before going out into the backcountry.
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.