Posted February 18, 2020, and this remains true every year…
Suppose you’re planning to travel a lengthy distance on the CT this summer. When should you start?
Our suggestion for distance travel is to START NO EARLIER THAN JULY 1 when, most years, the high elevation snowpack has substantially melted off. A July 1 or later start will typically trim the snow travel to a level most distance travelers consider manageable. Further, waiting until July 1 or later will lessen the snowpack-worry you’ll experience in the lead-up to your trip. This schedule often really helps trip planners with a rigid schedule because seldom will a July 1 start need to be delayed because of deep snowpack.
Every year there are some distance travelers who want to start in June. Some years a late June start works okay but seldom is this knowable until, say, early June. An earlier than normal start can work well for those who are equipped for and enjoy lengthy sections in the snow or for those whose start date is flexible enough to allow for last minute changes.
By what date should you finish?
We think you should FINISH NO LATER THAN SEPTEMBER 30. Most CT travelers are okay with the fleeting snowstorms that September usually brings as it is typical for these storms to be here today and gone tomorrow. But because October snowstorms in the Colorado mountains typically bring deeper snow and it is often longer lasting, not many CT distance travelers consider October conditions a good fit.
JULY, AUGUST, and SEPTEMBER add up to the season for distance travel on The Colorado Trail, due mainly to snowpack at high elevations.
Worth honorable mention are the relatively low elevation CT Segments 1-3, Denver to Bailey, as they are seasonal exceptions. Beyond being good choices in July-September, normally 1-3 are snowpack free in all of June and often in May as well, when they present great opportunity for short, multi-day shakedown trips. In fall they are sometimes snow free in October too.