Some trail safety tips and general guidelines when traveling the backcountry are listed below. For emergency information, including sheriff offices for each CT segment, satellite transmitter details and CORSAR info, scroll down the page.
Portions of the CT can be remote and cell service minimal, find resources to help ensure your safety.
Trail Safety Tips
- It is always safer to travel with a companion or group.
- Get in shape before setting out. Good physical conditioning is essential to traveling the rigorous Colorado Trail. Even those in top condition can be adversely affected by the high altitude, however, and should acclimatize, especially when coming from much lower elevations. (See the Altitude and Acclimatizing page on this site.)
- File a hiking plan with friends or loved ones, and check in often with revisions, so that unnecessary searching can be avoided if something should go awry.
- If you are solo, and are injured along the Trail, remain on the Trail and wait for help to arrive. If you are with someone who is injured along the Trail, apply first aid and make the person as comfortable as possible before leaving to seek help. Leave extra clothing, shelter, water, food, etc., with the injured party in case it takes a long time for assistance to arrive. If you have GPS, make note of a waypoint to aid rescuers. Cell phone service is spotty all along the Trail, but you can sometimes access the 911 system even if you do not have cell service.
- Learn basic first aid for your own safety and that of others.
- Guard against fatigue. Pushing yourself in rugged terrain invites disaster.
- Long-distance hikers of all ages swear by trekking poles, which can aid in maintaining balance and in negotiating steep slopes and tricky terrain.
- Store your food out of reach of wild animals or in bear-proof containers outside your tent or tarp. (See the Food Storage page on this site.)
- When selecting a campsite evaluate visible risks that, for example, involve possible flooding and hazard trees, etc. Here’s an Outside Magazine article about hazard trees.
- Frequently assess your well being as you travel the CT and, if warranted, attend to your needs. Even an untreated, bad blister can severely impact your health and trip.
- Mountain Safety is No Accident (good tips from Search & Rescue)
Click the title of any office below to go to their website. Click here to open the list below, with addresses, as a pdf for printing, etc.
Jefferson County Sheriff, Mountain Precinct (Segments 1, 2, 3, 4)
Park County Sheriff (Segments 4, 5, 6)
Summit County Sheriff (Segments 7, 8)
Eagle County Sheriff (Segment 8)
Lake County Sheriff (Segments 9, 10, 11, CW01)
Chaffee County Sheriff (Segments 11-15, CW01-CW05 east of Divide)
Gunnison County Sheriff (CW01-CW05 west of Divide)
Saguache County Sheriff (Segments 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
Mineral County Sheriff (Segment 21)
Hinsdale County Sheriff (Segments 22, 23)
Lake City, CO
San Juan County Sheriff (Segments 23, 24, 25, 26)
Dolores County Sheriff (Segment 26)
Dove Creek, CO
Montezuma County Sheriff (Segment 27)
La Plata County Sheriff (Segment 28)
Phone connectivity along the Colorado Trail is spotty at best, particularly in the remote sections between Salida and Durango. For that reason, we suggest considering the use of a satellite transmitter such as the Garmin inReach or Spot. These devices are light weight and provide two-way texting with any text-enabled phone. They can be paired via Bluetooth with a phone for an easier messaging interface. And most importantly, they provide GPS location information to first responders should an emergency occur.
Colorado Search and Rescue Card
No matter how well-prepared or experienced a Trail user might be, venturing into Colorado’s backcountry carries risks. Search-and-rescue teams, made up mostly of volunteers, are kept busy year round assisting injured and lost hikers, bikers and riders. The Colorado Trail Foundation encourages Trail users to purchase a 1-year or 5-year Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) Card before heading out. The card is not insurance. It does not pay for medical transport such as helicopter flights or ground ambulance if needed. But proceeds from sales of the CORSAR Card help ensure that trained and well-equipped search-and-rescue teams are available when needed and help reimburse county sheriffs for costs incurred on rescue missions.
To purchase a CORSAR Card via the Colorado State Department of Local Affairs, click here.
More on Weather & Safety
IN THE HIGHCOUNTRY
When venturing into the mountains, even for a day hike or bike, the rule is simple: Be prepared for anything and pack accordingly. Find links to weather stations for CT segments.
Fully acclimatizing to the trail’s average elevation of 10,300 ft can take days or even weeks. Find tips that users, especially those planning multi-day excursions, can take to ease their transition to the elevation change.
When Does it Melt?
One of the most frequent questions each spring is “When is The Colorado Trail likely to be snow free?” The general rule is that most of the CT is snow free by early July. Find resources and links to tell you more about the snowpack.