Photo of The Colorado Trail and CT logo


Volunteer Button

Mailing List Button




Home > Trip Planning > Equestrian

Riding The Colorado Trail Horseback

CT Segment 24, Elk Creek, now (Oct. 2009) PASSABLE TO HORSES. Click here to download more information. Mother Nature had, in 2008, caused the tread to collapse and had made this CT Segment impassable to horses. But, thanks to the US Forest Service and Southwest Conservation Corps trail work crews, passable tread has been rebuilt.

Horse users will appreciate the CT Guidebook as a planning tool and on-the-trail guide. It details the Trail and access roads, etc. The Guidebook also includes brief information about riding horses and using pack stock on The Colorado Trail. However, the Guidebook does not go into major detail about all equestrian-related considerations. The information posted below will be of help.

In addition to what's below, CT Friend and horse user, Rich Johnson, has carefully written Tips and Checklists for Equestrians. After riding about 1,500 miles of The Colorado Trail, Rich contacted the CTF office and offered to write suggestions for other horse users. For a printable version of Horse Tips and Checklists, click here.

This information assists equestrians in planning their trips. You will find recommendations here as well as mention of other resources. Enjoy The Colorado Trail!

For a printable version of this information, click here.

Horseback riders on The Colorado TrailPreparation

  • Maps
  • The Official Guidebook of The Colorado Trail Foundation
  • Altitude training for horse and rider
  • Know the area you are riding - fire restrictions, water, and check with CTF on newly reported Trail obstacles; for unusual conditions, check the Trail Resources by Segment page of this website
  • Equipment – what you need and have it accounted for, including cell phone
  • Get your stock used to all new feed before you go
  • How much feed will you need, before, during and after the ride. Mock up daily ration and multiply
  • Shoeing – one week before your trip
  • Food Drops
  • Support Crew
  • Contingency Plans


  • Plan to ride only 2.5 to 3 miles an hour -packed
  • Depending on the grades, plan no more than 10 to 20 miles a day (at most)
  • Plan to start early everyday in hopes to get over the passes before afternoon storms
  • Ride agenda – carefully read CTF Guidebook for overall planning i.e.: overnights where to camp, water, alternate exits incase of emergency
  • Daily duties – Setting tree lines, pitching tents, cooking, cleanup
  • Place important items within reach of packs while on the trail as in saws, first aid kit (people and horse), easy boots, rain gear water filters, any items you may need on the ride
  • Wild animal concerns
  • Check all equipment against list at least a week prior to departure, ensure all equipment is in good repair (personal and group)

Day Rides

  • Anywhere from the Front Range, Segment 1 at Waterton Canyon to the end of Segment 5 at Kenosha Pass. These segments can easily be driven to and done in a day, if planned properly
  • Can ride more miles per day if not packed
  • Don’t forget the important items such as - first aid kit, warm clothing. Bring enough minimal equipment for overnight survival, extra food, emergency blanket

More Than a Day Ride

  • Horseback rider along The Colorado TrailKnow where to start Trail with trailer access and pull out with trailer access. (If it is still listed as trailer access then plan in advance to drive and check it out)
  • Ideally group size should not exceed 10 stock animals
  • If you have no support crew, plan extra time to move vehicles from beginning to end this may take hours so an extra day may be needed
  • Plan campsites carefully and allow enough time to get there. i.e.: don’t camp at top of mountains, take grades into consideration
  • Be careful not to vary from original plan if you get to your destination early (just enjoy the time) the next segment could be more difficult then anticipated and may stress the horses
  • Camp sites should be large and open enough to allow plenty of room for the horses and tents, without disturbing the land more than necessary
  • Chose your dates carefully for the segments you plan to ride. i.e.: altitude, temperatures, snow, and water
  • Have support crew lined up with agenda of night camps, and expected time of arrivals at end point
  • Contingency plan discussed if late or alternate take out place is necessary
  • Know all available alternative exits in each segment in case of emergency

Through Rides from Beginning to End

  • Riding the entire length of The Colorado Trail is extremely demanding
  • From north to south you gain and lose 89,354 ft.
  • Once the Trail has climbed from Waterton Canyon to Georgia Pass, a distance of about 80 miles, it almost never descends to 8,000 feet until its terminus near Junction Creek
  • Most of the CT crosses the state at nine, ten, eleven, twelve and even thirteen thousand feet
  • This makes for countless magnificent vistas, but possible hazards

Things to Consider

Trail Use and Etiquette:

  • Stay on the trails and avoid shortcuts
  • Be courteous and yield to others when you can
  • Travel in small groups


  • Plan to encounter others along the Trail, including cyclists and motorcycles
  • Choose horses that aren't spooky when encountering others
  • Be ready and willing to educate other users on pointers when encountering horses
  • Recommend to other users that they begin talking with horse riders at their earliest chance and explain that their voice is calming to the horses; explain that horses' eyesight is poor and the human voice help them identify oncoming users, lowering the risk of them getting spooked

Stock Containment:

  • Use highlines and tree saver straps
  • Learn about various temporary corrals & fences

Pack it in – Pack it out:

  • What comes in must come out – no exceptions
  • When you leave, scatter rocks, logs, unused wood, and horse manure so your spot looks undisturbed

Trail Concerns


  • Snow storms, gale force winds, stifling heat, lightning, hail, hypothermia-inducing rains and crisp days of utter perfection can materialize on any given summer day

Losing your horses in the backcountry:

  • Put dog tags on their halters
  • Only graze a few horses at a time even with hobbles

Health and wellness:

  • Ensure good health and wellness of human and horse due to demands of the Trail


  • Responsibility to remove a deceased horse is of the horse owner
  • Segment 1 — Motorcycles
  • Segment 21 — Steep ridge, rock slide
  • Segment 22 — Coney Summit – Highest point on the CT (13,271) is just below Coney (13,334) in Segment 22 at mile 15.6
  • Segment 24 — Elk Creek – 30 switch backs (500 ft elev. loss), rock wall, steep narrow trail, Narrow Gauge Train, 35 switch backs up
  • Segment 27 — Indian Trail Ridge – Steep, narrow, drop offs on both sides, bridge, drop into Taylor Lake
  • Segment 28 — Kennebec Pass – drop offs are precipitous in places; Sliderock Canyon – steep narrow trail, steep decent

Favorite Places to Camp

  • Segment 6 — Georgia Pass
  • Segment 12 — Rainbow Lake
  • Segment 16 — Marshall Pass (cabin)
  • Segment 16 — Camron Park
  • Segment 17 — Baldy Lake (0.5 miles off the Trail)
  • Segment 22 — Town of Carson (cabins)
  • Segment 23 — Pole Creek
  • Segment 25 — Molas Lake and Hidden Lake (10.3 miles in to the alpine lake, just a 1/8 mile off Trail)
  • Segment 28 — Taylor Lake

Access Points for Horse Trailers

Good Access:

  • Segment 1 (Waterton Canyon) to Segment 19 (Eddisville Trailhead) has trailer access at each segment, with the exception of Sargents Mesa. You can access Sargents Mesa it is just a little tight, recommend access is Cameron Park
  • Segment 22 (Spring Creek)
  • Segment 24 (Rio Grande)
  • Segment 25 (Molas Pass)
  • Segment 26 (Bolam Pass)

Difficult Access:

  • Segment 23 (Carson Saddle)

No Access:

  • Segment 20 (San Luis Pass)
  • Segment 26 (Hotel Draw) road states no trailers
  • Segment 28 (Cumberland Basin) 4x4 at the top

Refer to CT Guidebook and Databook for Forest Service road conditions
Do research prior to departure

Possible Places to Stay with Your Horses

  • Segment 13/14 — Mt Princeton Stables/Hot springs (Cogins required)
  • Segment 18 — Quarter Circle-Circle Ranch
  • Segment 22 — Ryan’s Roost, Lake City
  • Segment 25 — Molas Lake
  • Segment 28 — Horseman’s Lodge, Bayfield
  • Other locations may be available just call Chamber of Commerce or scout out other locations

Resources (Are available at The Colorado Trail Office or ordered on line)

The Official Guidebook of The Colorado Trail Foundation provides the following:

  • Detailed Trail information, section by section. Don’t do the trail without it
  • Completely updated with all the latest re-routes
  • Expert advice on planning your CT experience
  • Fascinating information on CT natural and human history
  • Detailed descriptions for every mile
  • Information for re-supply and nearby towns
  • Trail profiles showing all the ups and downs
  • Full color maps for every segment
  • Complete GPS mapping information
  • Over 90 gorgeous full color photos
  • Trip logs to record your adventure

CT Trailside Databook:

  • Details miles, significant areas, elevation, latitude-longitude, profile of elevation gain and loss in miles

CT Topo Map Book

Packing in the Backcountry

Please refer to numerous books on the subject and web sites, including:

Equipment list can be found at:

Do not under estimate the importance of education in proper packing techniques:

  • Accurate weighing and balancing
  • Trained and conditioned pack animals
  • Proper equipment


Please feel free to contact Pam Doverspike at or Signe Wheeler at

Equestrian Groups

Colorado Horse Council
211 Livestock Exchange Building
4701 Marion Street
Denver, CO 80216
Back Country Horsemen of Colorado

horseback riders on The Colorado Trail

To purchase a CORSAR Card, click here.

[top of page]