Sharing the Trail – A Mix of Users

The Colorado Trail is open to a variety of travelers. Past CT travelers have reported they appreciated knowing in advance the different types of users they’ll encounter.

The entire CT is open to both hikers and horse riders. Bicyclists are allowed on roughly 75% of the Trail. The roughly 25% that is closed to bicycling is, for the most part, designated Wilderness. On more limited sections, totaling almost 100 miles of the 567 miles in all, motorized users are allowed. (The motorized uses allowed vary along different stretches but include motorcycles and ATVs.) Dogs are allowed on almost 99% of The Colorado Trail.

Courtesy is key when encountering others. Avoid startling others by approaching too fast or too silently. At a distance as you’re approaching, begin talking with folks. Speak to horse riders as you approach in part because, to the horses, your voice will prove you’re a person and diminish any sense of threat. If you need to get by them, ask the equestrian about the best way to pass.

When users meet on the trail, who is supposed to yield? In general, bicyclists yield to both hikers and equestrians. Hikers yield to equestrians, too, because horses can spook and the consequences of a frightened horse can be dire. When passing horses, step off the trail downhill so that you’ll appear less threatening to the horse and lessen the chance it will get spooked and “bolt.”

Yielding generally means that one party steps off the trail to let the other person pass. But with cyclists meeting hikers, the hiker will usually step aside because it’s relatively easy. The key is that the cyclist should slow down (a lot!) and give ample warning (from a distance) with a pleasant greeting, or a bell.

One place on the CT where travelers will meet a broad mix of users, and sometimes a lot of them, is on what enthusiasts call the “Monarch Crest,” a world-renowned, predominantly downhill mountain bike ride. Popular among mountain bicyclists (and motorcyclists too) the route is busiest on weekends primarily in July and August. (See photos above.) Cyclists riding the Monarch Crest follow the CT, co-located here with the CDT, for 13.7 miles starting at Monarch Pass and traveling south on the Collegiate West, then continuing into Segments 15 and 16, diverging onto the Silver Creek Trail. Similar to encounters all along The Colorado Trail, most of the trail encounters here are friendly and courteous. The CTF invites everyone to expect these encounters and to be courteous.