The trail starts in a dry and dusty section where there is little water and ends with abundant water in the Cochetopa River watershed. It traverses six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges with an average elevation of 10,347 feet. This might be the more favorable option as well if you need to start your hike later in the season - you end in the lower and warmer elevations surrounding Denver. Pack plenty of sunscreen and/or UV-protecting clothing and a sun hat. If you go east, expect a nice forest walk through groves of pine and aspen and the occasional road walk. Easy access and free parking. The Centennial State's namesake route offers a tour of some of the country's best high alpine scenery in one monthlong hike. This first section of the trail extends from Denver to Kenosha Pass through the South Platte rivershed and Long Gulch, a six-mile meadow filled with wildflowers, abundant water and animal life. The Colorado Trail is nearly 500 miles of awe-inspiring terrain through the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It’s suggested to allot 4 to 6 weeks for your trek, which will give you time to explore more if you finish up early. Hikers hit the trail in Colorado amid fields of wildflowers Dogs are allowed along most of the Colorado Trail, with some exceptions. Basically a level shaded trail for all ages,following the creek most of the way. Resupplying food and gear on the Colorado trail is more similar to the PCT than the AT. The Denver side is logistically easier to get to than Durango. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail. New waterproof 7th edition coming out in 2018) The Colorado Trail Map Book by Jerry Brown; The Colorado Trail app by Guthook Guides. Which Direction Should I Hike the Colorado Trail? It would be incredibly difficult to carry a full month’s worth of food at a time, so resupplies along the route are vital, allowing you to carry just enough food for a few days at a time before getting off the trail and heading in to town to pick up more. These require a reservation and often have a wait list though. How to beat the crowds and find solitude in the Rockies. Overall, hiking the Colorado Trail is a means of solitude, peace and beauty. Here is an example of a complete thru-hiking gear list for the Colorado Trail. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. As you end this section, you will encounter Marshall pass, a 668 foot climb in a half mile that is considered to be the “steepest portion” of the Colorado Trail. If any long trail is likely to induce a headache, it's the Colorado Trail. Alternative Northeastern terminus points include Indian Creek Trailhead or Roxborough State Park. Hike into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and you'll enjoy Colorado's best summer school. Hikers traveling the full length of the trail from Denver to Durango will climb a cumulative 89,354 feet. Mount Elbert (Colorado’s high point) and Mount Massive (number two behind Elbert) are both near the Leadville/Twin Lakes area, and are only side hikes from the CT, making them both popular detours, separate or together. The Colorado Trail, one of the nation's premier long-distance hiking trails, spans 500 miles from Denver to Durango, and it's arguably one of Colorado's greatest outdoor recreation and education achievements. I started on August 1st in Denver and finished in Durango on September 6th. Others will take on the route later, closer to the fall, to take advantage of smaller crowds, less lightning danger, cooler weather, and fluorescent aspen trees and other fall foliage. We interviewed last year’s crop of thru-hikers (plus Colorado Trail Foundation staff) to find the most spectacular sections. From an aerial point of view, visualize these two routes forming a vertical eye shape - separating at the bottom point and rejoining at the top point. Sandburg says that he learned the song from Dr. T. L. Chapman, of Duluth, Minnesota, who heard it from a badly injured cowboy being treated in his hospital. Circle the Rockies on this high-alpine route. But taking on this classic middle-distance long trail is no small feat: Due to its rugged nature, the Colorado Trail requires almost as much planning and prep as longer hikes like the Continental Divide Trail (which shares over 200 miles of its route with the Colorado Trail) or the Appalachian Trail. There are also more bailout points if you need to leave the trail in the beginning. If you’re heading to the Colorado Trail for a quick day adventure, you can pick from 28 different drop-off spots along the trail. With nearly 500 miles of length from Denver Metro to Durango, it may take up to six weeks to complete its entire length. Awesome viewpoint. Find your hike on the country's highest footpath. They’re also convenient bail-out points should something go wrong (i.e., injury or bad weather), and determine where hikers can resupply. Get epic tips, guides and how-to's in your inbox every two weeks. A lightweight puffy for cold alpine nights, A wind shirt or breathable, light shell to protect you from the breeze when it’s warm out, Jefferson/Fairplay (72 trail miles from Denver), Silverton (410 miles, and 75 from Durango). If you’ve never hiked a long trail before, start with our list of the best gear for hiking the Continental Divide Trail, and pay special attention to the following gear: In the Rocky Mountains, the temperature swings when the sun goes down, and the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Before you begin your descent down into Durango, you must first cross Indian Trail ridge, an open and exposed ridge that, much like most of Colorado,  is known for its afternoon thunderstorms. While mountain bikes aren’t allowed in the Colorado Trail’s wilderness areas, a series of detours from the official route make a Denver to Durango ride possible. The relentless ups and downs continue in this portion of the Colorado trail but you won’t care. Just personal preference. The Collegiates East option is preferable for anyone who wants to do less climbing (the western route has over 2,000 feet more of it, and its average elevation is much higher), anyone who cares less for exposure, and when the weather is questionable. Because of this, most hikers use bear canisters and/ or scent-proof bags to store their food. Some towns like Breckenridge and Salida have shuttles and affordable lodging while others only have small convenience stores. Collegiate West is an alternate route on The Colorado Trail that follows the existing Continental Divide National Scenic Trail through western side of the Collegiate Peaks. Get ready for some thigh-busting ascents and high altitude exposure as the trail climbs through two passes. Cell phone reception will be limited and unreliable. 41 Backpacking Food Ideas from the Appalachian Trail, Ultralight Backpacking Gear List | 8.5 lb Base Weight (Full Comfort), 14 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tents in 2020, 14 Best Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Bags for 2020, Waterton Canyon Trailhead to South Platte River Trailhead, South Platte River Trailhead to Little Scraggy Trailhead, Little Scraggy Trailhead to FS-560 (Wellington Lake Road) Trailhead, FS-560 (Wellington Lake Road) Trailhead to Long Gulch, Copper Mountain to Tennessee Pass Trailhead, Tennessee Pass Trailhead to Timberline Lake Trailhead, Timberline Lake Trailhead to Mount Massive Trailhead, Mount Massive Trailhead to Clear Creek Road, Clear Creek Road to Silver Creek Trailhead, Silver Creek Trailhead to Chalk Creek Trailhead, Saguache Park Road to Eddiesville Trailhead, San Luis Pass to Spring Creek Pass Trailhead, Spring Creek Pass Trailhead to Carson Saddle, Kennebec Trailhead to Junction Creek Trailhead, Twin Lakes (near the middle of Section 11) to Sheep Gulch, Cottonwood Pass Trailhead to Tincup Pass Road, Boss Lake Trailhead to Ridge Above South Fooses Creek (rejoins near the middle of Section 15). Option 1: East to West (Denver to Durango). However, in one particular section, there is a fork in the trail that gives you the option to take the eastern or western route through the Collegiate Peaks. Overall the average trip length reported in the survey was 33 days. See more on Collegiate West route. The Colorado Trail ("CT") was first conceived by Forest Service ranger Bill Lucas in 1973, organized by Gudy Gaskill, and officially completed in 1987. It’s a must-stop for a zero day. In between those two points are sweeping views, gorgeous wildflowers and an experience in the mountains you will not forget. In short, there are plenty of road access points to get to towns to resupply food and gear. The trail is more difficult and the elevation higher in the San Juan Mountains around Durango than it is at the relatively mild start closer to Denver, so most choose to head southwest, easing into the difficulty. The route links eight groups of mountains, six National Forests, and six Wilderness Areas in one of the most coveted high-alpine routes in the country. DENVER – The ride from DIA to Waterton is 50 miles and takes abour 4.5 hours. The CT comprises 567 miles of trail between Denver and Durango and passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Colorado Rockies. Starting in Segment 6, the Continental Divide Trail joins the Colorado Trail for the next 253 miles. You'll also want to pack a hydration system that can hold ample water as sun exposure can make you dehydrated very quickly. It usually takes thru-hikers 4-6 weeks to complete but it can be completed in sections over several years. For those reasons, most hike the trail over the summer, taking advantage of longer daylight hours, warmer temperatures, and readily-available water. The Colorado Trail Databook, 7th ed. Hiking the Colorado Trail allows a person to get away from the rat race and get into the backcountry The newer Collegiates West option follows sections of the Continental Divide Trail, diving deep into the mountains for a more scenic, rugged, and remote hike. Hikers have the option of traveling the Colorado Trail starting in either either Denver or Durango. The Colorado Trail is nearly 500 miles long and climbs 75,000 feet through eight mountain ranges and six wilderness areas. How Long Is the Colorado Trail? © 2020 Pocket Outdoor Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Colorado Trail: Segment 1 is a 18 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Littleton, Colorado that features a river and is rated as difficult. Pedal enthusiasts can hop off the official route for a serious of detours that make the Denver to Durango ride possible. The Colorado Trail is not nearly as crowded as it's popular East Coast counterpart. Cows, cowboy ranches and wide open views. Water resupply points are usually plentiful on the CT with only a few long dry stretches - notably the Cochetopa Valley and the Indian Trail Ridge. A trail video of my 31 day journey across the 485 miles of the Colorado Trail Some wilderness areas on the path require permits, but they are free. The Colorado Trail, Durango: Address, Phone Number, The Colorado Trail Reviews: 5/5 This might be good or bad depending on your preference. Here you will climb to the top of San Luis Peak (14,014 feet)  in the La Garita wilderness and pass by the town of Creede, considered by many to be the best resupply town on the entire trail. There are a few campgrounds - some free and some for charge. Mounts Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and Princeton are the dominant peaks of the Collegiate Range, and are popular extensions for those hiking the Collegiates West leg of the CT. Late-season hikers can catch electric fall views like this. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. Most thru-hikers start no earlier than late June (preferably July 1st) and finish no later than the end of September (preferably September 15). The Colorado Trail is a traditional American cowboy song, collected and published in 1927 by Carl Sandburg in his American Songbag. Soak it all in as some of the most scenic sections of the trail are in this part of the San Juans. The Colorado Trail is a 486 mile backpacking route starting in Denver, Colorado and ending in Durango, Colorado. Summer thunderstorms are frequent; if you see lightning, descend and seek shelter. Hikers can enter or leave the trail allowing them to do section hikes if a full-length hike isn't possible. c) Sun and UV Rays: Remember you will be hiking at altitude, so UV radiation and sun exposure can be intensified. This is a great way to hike the whole trail, one day at a time. Wilderness areas may also impose their own rules on dogs; the Colorado Trail Foundation recommends that hikers check with the National Forest and District offices that manage the areas where they’ll be traveling. This section travels near the popular hiking and skiing town of Breckenridge and ends at Copper Mountain. The Colorado Trail is packed with gorgeous vistas. In general, a permit is not necessary to hike the Colorado Trail and there are no quotas. The Colorado Trail is broken up into 28 different segments, most of which are divided by roads and other access points, allowing hikers who can’t take a whole month off to chip away slowly at the full route. Ultrarunner Bryan Williams set the current Fastest Known Time for the Colorado Trail in 2017, finishing the route in eight days and 30 minutes with the help of a support crew. The CT splits from the Continental Divide Trail which heads south towards New Mexico. Most people hike from east to west because the snowpack melts first on the lower elevations on the easternmost part of the trail, meaning you can start slightly earlier in the season if you go this direction. At the bridge crossing it is uphill switchbacks til you summit at Gudys bench. The 14,000 foot peaks that surround the Colorado Trail are irresistable objectives for many hikers, and once you’ve seen them, it’s easy to understand why. Trail Summary: The Colorado Trail is a 485 mile hike that starts near Denver and ends in Durango, Colorado. Highest Elevation: 13,271 feet; Jarosa Mesa just below Coney Summit, Lowest Elevation: 5,520 feet; Waterton Canyon terminus in Denver. Colorado has 58 of these “Fourteeners,” many of which sit in the mountain ranges that the trail winds through. Pack some sturdy rain gear and a map so you can find an exit route if you need to get below treeline quickly. This section of the trail also is not as steep allowing hikers to break in their legs before they hit the higher elevations in the west. See the map on our maps page for a quick look at the segments. He ran between 54 and 89 miles a day. Women of the Colorado Trail Facebook Group. Don’t forget sunglasses! Hikers looking for a social experience, like the Appalachian Trail provides, might be disappointed. However, only about 150 people of these completely thru hike it every year. Waterton Canyon Trail is a 12.4-mile, out-and-back trail that follows the South Platte River to the Strontia Springs Dam near Littleton, Colorado. The trail winds through nearly 500 miles of the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains drawing hikers from around the world and is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. The 539-mile bike route can take riders anywhere from between 8 and 18 days—far quicker than the boot-sole method. If you are stuck on ridge, then get into the lightning position by crouching down on the balls of your feet, putting your head down towards your legs and covering your ears with your hands. The trail winds through nearly 500 miles of the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains drawing hikers from around the world and is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. The Colorado Trail “End to End” Guide by Paul Magnanti. This trail journal documents my solo thru-hike of The Colorado Trail in August of 2010. You will need sunglasses and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun's damaging rays. Here are a few places to get information to make your navigation easier: The Colorado Trail Foundation has a guidebook, a databook, and topo maps for you to chose from. Note both route options will get you back to the same point of the trail. Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. Hiking from west to east is less common as you start in the steep San Juan Mountains and end in the rather anticlimactic Waterton Canyon area. Before mid-June, the higher elevations and passes can still be thick with snow, and after late September and early October, there’s a very real risk of experiencing a snowstorm at the same elevations. The original eastern option skirts the edge of the range, staying lower and closer to civilization. San Luis Peak is only 1.5 miles from the top of San Luis Pass, making it another easy offshoot. Workers pounded in “golden spikes” at Molas Pass, Camp Hale, and Mt. At higher elevations, bear bagging is not possible. In certain wilderness areas you’ll be required to fill out a free self-issue permit before entry, but you don’t have to worry about fighting a quota to secure any sought-after permits for the trail before you hit it. Slightly lower elevation and slightly shorter in length. Other than in Waterton Canyon, there are no restrictions on camping (of course, Leave No Trace principles apply). There are a few huts that are part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut System. Traveling through 6 wilderness areas and 8 mountain ranges, the trail offers the full spectrum of Colorado lakes, peaks, creeks, and ecosystem diversity. Most hikers don’t stop in between each section, so for those buying as they go, there are a handful of typical resupply locations from Denver to Durango: In many cases, hitchhiking is the best and quickest way to get to many of these towns to resupply. The Colorado Trail ("CT") was first conceived by Forest Service ranger Bill Lucas in 1973, organized by Gudy Gaskill, and officially completed in 1987. It is a long-distance trail stretching for 782 km (486 miles) from Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango. When you enter this part of the trail, you must decide if you are going to take the traditional east collegiate route or the new west collegiate route. The Colorado backcountry is teeming with animals including marmots, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and several types of birds. ELEVATION: average ~10,300 feet ROUTE: well maintained, popular trail, signed junctions GUIDEBOOK: Colorado Trail 9th Edition DATA BOOK: 7th Edition The Colorado Trail is divided into 33 segments which includes a choice of two routes in the middle, Collegiate East and Collegiate West. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until September. Otherwise, you can usually expect to encounter a water source at least once every day. Some popular towns where thru-hikers usually resupply: The Colorado Trail is well marked and relatively easy to follow. When you cross a permit-only wilderness area, there are self-serve permit stations where you can easily fill out the form for your free permit and drop it in the box. Most of the Colorado Trail is a single route. Thru hikers tents most night in flat spots that have already been established and used previously for camping. Sun protection. Day hiking the Colorado Trail. Once past Marshall Pass and onto Sargents Mesa, the trail really starts to feel isolated. Wahoo! The trail is maintained by the Colorado Trail Foundation which organizes groups of volunteers to work on the trail. Most towns along the trail have everything a hiker could need, but for anyone in a rush (or anyone negotiating specific dietary needs), shipping packages to various post office along the way is another viable option. Expect to see a lot more hikers in this area and don’t forget to stop at Leadville, a booming mining town in the 1800s that is now known for its hiking and running trails. 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