Social media groups discussing hiking The Colorado Trail are often packed with questions about how to get from one end of The Colorado Trail back to the other. Regardless of whether you hiked the entire trail from Denver to Durango or the other way around, or if you are a section hiker looking to avoid hitchhiking, finding a ride can be seen as a complicated problem.
But, no more! We here at The Colorado Trail Foundation have broken down the best way to reach your destination using the Bustang, a Colorado Department of Transportation service that purports to offer “regular and reliable statewide service”. The service might be reliable, but the website can seem daunting to many users (including me, the Community Outreach Manager of the CTF). These steps should alleviate your post-trip anxiety about getting back to your vehicle without hiking! Note this blog was written on October 18th, 2023 and the Bustang website is subject to change at any time. Fares and schedules are not included for this reason.
The gist of the confusion is that to get between Denver and Durango, you will need to go through Grand Junction. The Bustang will take you to and from Grand Junction and Denver, but the Bustang Outlier will get you to and from Grand Junction and Durango. This is made clear by viewing the map of all the routes. This is a great map if you are a section hiker looking to get to and from specific destinations. In Denver, the Bustang will drop you off or pick you up at Union Station. There are a variety of transportation options, including yet another bus, to get you to Denver International Airport if that is your starting or ending point. If you’re tired of riding on a bus by now, you can hop on the A Line train to DIA.
One of the most peculiar aspects of purchasing a ticket is that you don’t buy a ticket for a specific date. You buy a ticket, and it is good for 6 months from the date or purchase. Getting a seat on the bus is first come, first served. So it is possible that you show up for the bus you want, and that bus is full. However, Bustang has said this scenario is exceptionally unlikely. May the winds of fate be your guide on this policy.
This can all be done on a mobile device but it’s easier to see route maps and schedules on a desktop or laptop computer:
- Visit https://ridebustang.com.
- Click on Routes.
- Under “Bustang Routes & Maps” choose West Line. This will show you the route from Denver to Grand Junction with all the stops in between.
- Click on Fares to be taken to a page where you can purchase a ticket.
- Click on Buy Tickets and you will be taken to a page where you can download the Bustang app. There is no option to purchase tickets on the website.
- While the West Line to Grand Junction is a Bustang route, the other leg of your journey will be a Bustang Outrider route. You will need to download both apps.
- Review the schedule carefully and make sure to choose an option that terminates in Grand Junction, not all of them do.
Now that we are on the Bustang app, things get a little easier, especially because you have already gone through the above steps.
- Open the app and select Buy Tickets.
- Select your Origin Station.
- Select your Destination Station.
- Choose “Single” as you are probably only buying one ticket, not 10 or 20 or 40.
- Make your payment.
To get from Grand Junction to Durango, move on to the Bustang Outrider app. Yes, this is an inconvenience but seems to be the only option as of the writing of this blog.
- Open the app and select Buy Tickets.
- Follow the same steps as you did in the Bustang app.
There are other bus or shuttle services in popular trail communities that may be able to assist you in visiting some ‘off-trail’ destinations, do some peak bagging, or simply checking out other mountain communities. These include but are not limited to:
- Eagle County has a very affordable bus that will get you from Leadville to Vail.
- Chaffee County has the Chaffee Shuttle, a donation-based service with several options.
- La Plata County has Animas Transportation and Buckhorn Limousine are both friendly to hikers and bikers.
If you see comments and questions about getting from place to place in any of The Colorado Trail social media groups, please refer them to this blog! Happy Trails!