CT Season Including Coronavirus April 28

Posted April 28, 2020 –

Deep snowpack remains on The Colorado Trail.

Deep snowpack remains on The Colorado Trail.

The season for long distance travel on The Colorado Trail (July, August and September) is still a bit distant. Because many of you have been planning your CT trip, here is an update. As we’ve become more and more familiar with this information, we try to pass it along to you as best we can. Please note that the CT Foundation has no jurisdiction; we don’t make or enforce any rules.

Coronavirus restrictions are still a reality and there are multiple jurisdictions involved as shown below. But restrictions are beginning to relax a little. Because they’ve been changing so fast and will likely continue to change, we suggest you continue monitoring the particulars and reassess as the weeks go by. We will try to update this ColoradoTrail.org/blog page in the hope that it helps you and others.

Nearly all of The Colorado Trail is on National Forest, the main jurisdiction being the U.S. Forest Service. It is worth knowing, though, that the USFS very often goes along with state and county guidance. That reality is why, below, we present summary info from all jurisdictions. They all matter.

April 28, 2020:

Snowpack – Most of the Trail is still under deep snow and it’s becoming rotten and unsupportive as the weather warms. In very rough terms, the northeastern parts of the CT have above average snowpack while the southwestern parts are a little below average. This ColoradoTrail.org snow web page includes snowpack-helpful info and links.

Snow Passable Segs 1-3 – A small portion of the CT has already become what we call snow “passable,” meaning not overly arduous or hazardous. Already CT Segments 1, 2 and 3 are snow passable with just a few icy patches left that have been melting fast. Of course, we might still get a May snowstorm or two, but any new accumulation probably won’t last long.

Coronavirus Things – Now in late April, there are the following considerations related to the pandemic.

Hitchhiking and Shuttles – Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, etc., we are guessing that hitching and engaging shuttlers this summer will be more challenging than normal. (Some who are still hoping to do a long CT trip this summer have begun making plans for a household member to meet them at trailheads with resupply so they won’t need to deal with challenging transportation or limited-service towns.)

Town Services are Limited – Lodging in the resupply towns is still limited. Some hostels are closed (or limited) and so are some hotels and motels. Restaurant activity is limited to mostly take-out although on the horizon we think is some careful outdoor dining with attempts at distancing.

Fire Ban Entire CT – The USFS has already placed a Forests-wide fire ban that affects the entire Colorado Trail. (Wildfire stresses emergency personnel.) Campfires and charcoal grills are prohibited. Backpacker stoves lacking shut-off are also prohibited including alcohol, esbit and twig/wood stoves. Here is the USFS fire restriction order.

Waterton is Closed – Authorities have closed Waterton Canyon, the first 6.7 miles of The Colorado Trail, until further notice. However, alert CT users will realize this is practically a non-issue. There are two very good alternative approaches into CT Segment 1 and they are briefed on this ColoradoTrail.org web page.

Forest Developed Amenities Closed – Statewide in Colorado and beyond, the USFS has closed developed campgrounds, meaning those with developed features such as toilets, trash collection and potable water. Trailheads and TH parking lots remain open but users will find any developed amenities at the trailheads closed, for example bathrooms and dumpsters.

County Restrictions Visitors Stay Out – There are 5 counties that the CT travels through that have either asked or demanded that visitors stay away. These are Chaffee, Gunnison, Mineral, Hinsdale and San Juan counties. This affects large portions mostly in the southern half of the CT. Some are issuing tickets to visitors. A CT trip planner can get an idea of which counties involve which segments on the sheriff emergency pages in either the CT Guidebook or Databook.

Colorado State-Wide “Safer At Home” – This began on Monday April 27. Highlights include that gatherings of more than 10 are prohibited and everyone is advised to wear a mask whenever in public. People vulnerable to the virus including older folks and ones with preexisting conditions are supposed to stay home. Here is an official government web page.

Mask and Sanitizer – Given the state-wide (and other) recommendations, and thinking about normal aspects of a distance trip on The Colorado Trail, it would be sensible to consider adding mask and possibly sanitizer to your kit.

Downed Trees – Currently there are some Forest Service prohibitions on volunteer activity and, unless these change, 2020 CT travelers should be prepared to encounter many more than the normal few downed trees that block the Trail.

We think some of these things will relax a bit by July and beyond. Other challenges probably won’t ease much or at all, like those associated with hitchhiking and shuttling. Regardless, we hope this info helps you if you are still hoping for a CT trip this summer.