Water sources are abundant along most of The Colorado Trail, but given the importance of hydration to those traveling in Colorado’s high country, users should not be complacent about carrying adequate supplies with them at all times. A usually reliable water source may, for instance, dry up earlier than expected, so we recommend “topping off” your supply whenever possible.
There are some lengthy dry stretches, particularly in Segment 2-3 (14 miles), Segments 18-19 (11 miles) and Segments 26-27 (22 miles), which require planning to pass through safely. (See more information on these sections below.)
The latest editions of The Official Guidebook to The Colorado Trail and The Colorado Trail Databook are excellent sources of information on where water can be found along the Trail. The Databook is particularly helpful, showing a symbol for each water source (full cup, half cup or empty cup) indicating its reliability. Both books are available at our online store at ColoradoTrail.org. We also offer a two-page, printable PDF list of additional water sources that have been added since the latest guidebooks were published. (Click here to access the list.)
The Colorado Trail Hikers smartphone app is another great resource, providing the most up-to-date information on water sources along the CT, including access to Trail user reports that may be only hours or days old. The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices via atlasguides.com/colorado-trail.
The Colorado Trail Map Book and The Colorado Trail Collegiate Loop Map Book, with their detailed topo maps and precise Colorado Trail line, can be helpful as well. Both are available at the CTF’s online store. Map Book waypoints in electronic format are available to download for free. (Click here for those.)
Here is some additional information on the CT’s three driest stretches:
- Segments 2-3: There is usually no creek water available between the beginning of Segment 2 (South Platte River Trailhead) and mile 2.8 of Segment 3, a distance of 14.3 miles. There is, however, an outdoor spigot at the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department building about 200 yards northwest of the CT at mile 10.1 of Segment 2. The building, which is not always manned, is visible from the trail. The spigot is on the northeast corner of the main building.
- Segments 18-19: In the relatively dry Cochetopa Hills, there are a number of unreliable water sources. Most typically dry up as early as July. The longest dry stretch is usually from Lost Creek at mile 9.7 of Segment 18 to Cochetopa Creek at mile 7.0 of Segment 19, a distance of 11.1 miles.
- Segment 26-27: Potentially the longest dry stretch on the Trail is, at its worst, from Straight Creek at mile 8.4 of Segment 26 to Taylor Lake at mile 19.4 of Segment 27, a distance of about 22 miles. Between these two reliable sources, however, are two possible water sources at the headwaters of Big Bend Creek and Deer Creek that are short distances from the Trail, and maybe a little hard to find, where a traveler might top up. (There’s more information in the current edition of the CT Databook.) We recommend carrying additional water through this stretch of trail.
All natural water sources should be treated before drinking. See below for information on water treatment.
Treat or Filter? Relative to treating water, we offer this one tip from a most experienced CT user: “I prefer using a filter because you can stop at a water source and camel up on water without waiting the 20-30 minutes for chemicals to work. The CT has some of the best tasting, clear, and cold water you will find. I used a Sawyer Squeeze for a couple of years and liked it, but after awhile found it hard to use. I now use a Platypus Gravity filter, which weighs only slightly more, and can be set up to work exactly like a Sawyer. It has worked flawlessly, and I highly recommend it.”