Sun protection. As you near the Animas River, listen carefully for the shrill whistles from the trains navigating the narrow gauge railway that connects the old mining towns of Silverton and Durango. The 539-mile bike route can take riders anywhere from between 8 and 18 days—far quicker than the boot-sole method. 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. However, the road crossings are a little farther apart (between 20 and 70 miles) and, often times, several miles from the actual trail. Hikers hit the trail in Colorado amid fields of wildflowers The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until September. For 485 miles between Denver and Durango, the Colorado Trail (CT) winds over rocky, 13,000-foot peaks and passes, through wildflower-filled meadows, in and out of dusty mining towns, and past snow-clad vistas as it draws a line through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. We break down the prep, practice, and travel you'll need to bag it. The Colorado Trail is nearly 500 miles long and climbs 75,000 feet through eight mountain ranges and six wilderness areas. It usually takes thru-hikers 4-6 weeks to complete but it can be completed in sections over several years. Hike into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and you'll enjoy Colorado's best summer school. 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. Because of the scarcity of bears, many people don't bear bag on the CT. You will only see the support vehicles while in camp. Cows, cowboy ranches and wide open views. Other than in Waterton Canyon, there are no restrictions on camping (of course, Leave No Trace principles apply). Trail Summary: The Colorado Trail is a 485 mile hike that starts near Denver and ends in Durango, Colorado. Dogs are allowed along most of the Colorado Trail, with some exceptions. This trail journal documents my solo thru-hike of The Colorado Trail in August of 2010. Highest Elevation: 13,271 feet; Jarosa Mesa just below Coney Summit, Lowest Elevation: 5,520 feet; Waterton Canyon terminus in Denver. 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. Sometimes signage can disappear or cairns can crumble from rough weather, which can make it possible to get lost. Here are a few more recommended resources to help you get started planning your CT hike. However, only about 150 people of these completely thru hike it every year. Hikers traveling the full length of the trail from Denver to Durango will climb a cumulative 89,354 feet. The Colorado Trail is a traditional American cowboy song, collected and published in 1927 by Carl Sandburg in his American Songbag. If any long trail is likely to induce a headache, it's the Colorado Trail. Nothing more. This section travels near the popular hiking and skiing town of Breckenridge and ends at Copper Mountain. 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 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. Overall the average trip length reported in the survey was 33 days. Hitchhiking can be difficult because of the long distances between the towns and trail. Pack some sturdy rain gear and a map so you can find an exit route if you need to get below treeline quickly. The Chalk Creek section brings you to one of the best towns on the trail -- Salida. The time frame to hike the Colorado Trail is narrow because of the deep snowpack and high chance of snow in the Rocky Mountains in the shoulder seasons. The longest dry stretch on the trail is on Segments 17-19, where hikers can go as far as 40 miles encountering little or no water. Black bears are known to roam the backcountry, but they are not commonly seen on the trail. 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. A relative newcomer to the nation’s long trail repertoire, the Colorado Trail came into being in the 1970s and 80s as a cooperative project between the US Forest Service and the Colorado Mountain Trails Association. Pedal enthusiasts can hop off the official route for a serious of detours that make the Denver to Durango ride possible. Hikers on the CT get their water from mountain streams. Note both route options will get you back to the same point of the trail. Wahoo! From here, the Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail are one and the same for about 150 miles, though mountain bikes have to detour 50 miles around the La Garita Wilderness. The CT comprises 567 miles of trail between Denver and Durango and passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Colorado Rockies. Most of the Colorado Trail is a single route. It is a long-distance trail stretching for 782 km (486 miles) from Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango. There are a few campgrounds - some free and some for charge. A trail video of my 31 day journey across the 485 miles of the Colorado Trail 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. The Holy Cross Wilderness is a wild and scenic part of the trail that climbs steeply over high ridges and jagged peaks before descending into densely forested valleys. Awesome viewpoint. 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. Colorado has 58 of these “Fourteeners,” many of which sit in the mountain ranges that the trail winds through. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. 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). Accommodations on the trail are few and far between and should not be relied on. Collegiate East Route Option: The original 78 mile route. Most thru-hikers start no earlier than late June (preferably July 1st) and finish no later than the end of September (preferably September 15). Hike at your own risk outside of the warmest months of the year. This comes at no extra cost to you. Taking a month or so to thru-hike the entire length would be a … Traveling through 6 wilderness areas and 8 mountain ranges, the trail offers the full spectrum of Colorado lakes, peaks, creeks, and ecosystem diversity. Thru hikers tents most night in flat spots that have already been established and used previously for camping. You should always have a guidebook and/ or map on you though. 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. Easy access and free parking. If a few days of wandering through nature doesn’t quite cut it for you head for the Colorado Trail. Which Direction Should I Hike the Colorado Trail? 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. Just personal preference. It can be sparse for thru-hikers to find fellow thru-hikers to socialize and form a trail family ("tramily"?). Soak it all in as some of the most scenic sections of the trail are in this part of the San Juans. It traverses six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges with an average elevation of 10,347 feet. New waterproof 7th edition coming out in 2018) The Colorado Trail Map Book by Jerry Brown; The Colorado Trail app by Guthook Guides. All you will be thinking about are the breathtaking views of the expansive surroundings. I finished the trail in 37 days, taking three “zero days.” Day 1 – Waterton Canyon to the South Platte River – Segment 1 Most hikers take advantage of the warm temperatures and longer days to hike in the summer, though some prefer a later start that avoids the frequent summer thunderstorms and crowds. Much of this, however, depends on the previous winter, and getting a lucky weather window will always be part of the long trail experience. Users traveling end to end encounter the high mountain lakes and towering peaks of six wilderness areas and eight … With nearly 500 miles of length from Denver Metro to Durango, it may take up to six weeks to complete its entire length. By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. 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. 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. In between those two points are sweeping views, gorgeous wildflowers and an experience in the mountains you will not forget. In general, your typical lightweight backpacking setup will get the job done on the Colorado Trail. At higher elevations, bear bagging is not possible. 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. It’s a must-stop for a zero day. 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. However, ending in Denver makes it easier to travel home, and later in the season, hikers can extend the good weather longer by traveling northeast. 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. The trail starts in a dry and dusty section where there is little water and ends with abundant water in the Cochetopa River watershed. Because of this, most hikers use bear canisters and/ or scent-proof bags to store their food. 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. 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. Find your hike on the country's highest footpath. Length 18 miElevation gain 2795 ftRoute type Point to point Colorado is a hiker's paradise, and the Colorado Trail will let you enjoy all its beauty to the fullest. Alternative Northeastern terminus points include Indian Creek Trailhead or Roxborough State Park. This 28-segment route runs from Denver to Durango and … 4.0 If you go east, expect a nice forest walk through groves of pine and aspen and the occasional road walk. Added to the CT in 2012, Collegiate West is a must-hike section that takes hikers through the higher peaks and exposed ridges of the Collegiate Peaks. Once you reach Durango, you are at the southwestern terminus. However long you take, plan on finishing before mid-September. The Colorado Trail Foundation breaks the trail up into 28 different sections. For those reasons, most hike the trail over the summer, taking advantage of longer daylight hours, warmer temperatures, and readily-available water. 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. Circle the Rockies on this high-alpine route. Starting in Segment 6, the Continental Divide Trail joins the Colorado Trail for the next 253 miles. 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. Dogs are not allowed in Waterton Canyon from the terminus to about trail mile 6. 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