Hiking and Backpacking
Although The Colorado Trail has become increasingly popular with mountain bikers, and is still a favored destination for many equestrians, day hiking and backpacking continue to be the predominant activities on the Trail.
The Colorado Trail is divided into 33 segments (including the five that make up the Collegiate West alternative route) and each is accessible at the beginning and ending trailheads as well as at other points along the way. The Trail also covers a wide range of elevations and terrain, offering something for hikers of all skill levels. Point-to-point hikers often shuttle a vehicle ahead to their destination point to avoid having to retrace their steps.
Whether planning to be out for two hours or ten hours, plan to carry essential equipment, including warm clothing, rain gear, sunscreen and bug repellent, water, snacks, maps or guidebook, compass. Don’t expect to have cell service, which can be spotty all along the Trail. When hiking at higher elevations, time your hike to avoid thunderstorms and lightning that often form in the afternoons.
Backpackers and thru-hikers have described the CT as an amazing and life-changing experience. Thru-hikers should allow at least 4-6 weeks between July 1 and Sept 30 to cover the entire 485 miles between Denver and Durango.
All multi-day users should be familiar with basic backcountry techniques and orienteering skills and exercise caution. Hypothermia, dehydration, and lightning hazards are common problems, and snowfields may be encountered well into mid-summer. Assistance can take hours to arrive and cell phones should not be relied on as service is spotty all along the Trail. Emergency calls to 911 can generally be completed, however.
There are a number of publications available at the CT online store and outdoor retail outlets that can aid backpackers in their preparations. See the Traveling the CT section of this website for more complete information.
Each summer, The Colorado Trail Foundation offers several weeklong professionally guided and fully supported treks. Meals are provided and gear shuttles enables trekkers to travel with just a day pack. The treks are still rigorous with hiking days averaging around 15 miles. See the Trekking section on this website for more information.
- The Colorado Mountain Club: CMC.org; 303-279-3080; 710 10th St., Suite 200; Golden, CO 80401
- American Hiking Society: AmericanHiking.org