“A fairly flat trail along the Animas River, providing an alternate approach to Chicago Basin.
— Tyler Prince
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Swimming · Waterfall · Wildlife
Due to its proximity to a major road, the Purgatory Trailhead can be reached year-round.
As with any national park, the USFS requests dogs in this area be leashed. The Durango-Silverton Railroad prohibits dogs, so this is the easiest option for getting your dog into Chicago Basin (beware, most of the peaks there are too technical for Fido).
While this is certainly an excellent trail to run - low grades, good distance, few rocks or roots - it's also extremely anticlimactic. Runers will spend much of their trip along the Animas River, which, while beautiful and with unique blue-green hues, can be seen just as easily and for longer while riding the train into Chicago Basin Trail. Runners would likely be better spent saving their energy for a more ambitious Chicago Basin trip than wasting their time on this fairly boring trail.
Prior to facilitating your run with a description, please allow me to first make a plea to your senses. Why are you running this trail? The Durango-Silverton Railroad drops you off near the end and provides a unique experience involving views, beer, and rest. More information can be found in the Chicago Basin Trail description, or at their site, durangotrain.com/ride-us
Maybe you have a dog who really wants to run Chicago Basin's class 3 peaks. Maybe you're a glutton for punishment. Maybe you suffer from an incurable case of siderodromophobia. In any event, it seems you have decided to forego an awesome train ride in favor of a 10-mile slog through the desert. If this is the case, start your run at the Purgatory trailhead off US 550. This is conveniently located on the east side of the road, right across from the well-signed Durango Mountain Resort, 27 miles north of downtown Durango. Find parking at the well-signed trailhead. Run along clear trail before dropping about 500 ft and continuing along the class 1 terrain. In a little over 4 miles, cross the Animas River. The rest of this trail passes along its side, with little elevation gain (about 100 ft per mile). Wave at the trains passing by on the other side of the river. Yes, its passengers are having more fun than you are, and yes, you should've just paid the $50 or so for the damn ticket. At a little under 10 miles, come to a junction with the Chicago Basin Trail. Turn right to continue up into the basin, or turn left and run 0.8 miles to make it to the Needleton stop on the train.
Flora & Fauna
Down this low there isn't much to see - it's mostly desert. Expect some prairie dogs and the occasional wildflower, but not much else.