By Phoebe Hodina.
Options of getting there:
By air and/or car.
Best time(s) to visit:
July has the best wildflowers, and summer months are usually the best times to visit if you’re going to camp. The fall can be lovely, but may be a bit chillier.
Climate/weather/temperature & appropriate dress:
In the mountains, be aware that temperatures can vary quite a bit from night to day. Dress in comfortable, moisture-wicking layers and prepare for rain and shine.
Main attractions/Must dos:
The Colorado Trail runs almost 500 miles from Denver to Durango and is divided in 28 segments. From the trails, there are multiple points to do additional trails, visit different areas along the way, and even climb some 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation).
Key Highlights of the Colorado Trail for me:
I loved the changes in scenery along the trail… I passed through dense forests, patches of aspens and fields covered in wildflowers. There were so many moments that took my breath away. Sometimes from exhaustion, but mostly from the scenery.
Things that make this experience different or unique:
I loved the diversity in scenery, and the outstanding mountain views. The Colorado Trail takes hikers through the spectacular Colorado Rocky Mountains, through incredible mountains with lakes, streams and diverse ecosystems. Trail goers travel through six areas of wilderness and eight mountain ranges at a peak of 13,271 feet. Throughout the trail, the average elevation is over 10,000 feet, although it varies quite a bit throughout.
A unique aspect of the Colorado Trail is that it is one of the select long-distance trails that allows mountain biking throughout most of the trail (with the exception of six areas). Top mountain bikers consider the CT to be a world-class long distance trail for the sport.
Things visitors should be aware of:
As with any kind of outdoor excursion, follow your intuition and remember to make good decisions. Come prepared for the wilderness. If you are a beginner, try to avoid traveling alone, and bring along an experienced companion. To travel the entire trail (486 miles), you will need about 4-6 weeks.
Transportation to and from the trail head, and resupply of food and fuel is overall the biggest challenge. Keep in mind that there are some long stretches where resupplying is difficult. Wear your sunscreen, and plan your route carefully.
Also, keep in mind to start hiking early in the day. Thunderstorms can begin as early as 1pm in most afternoons. Mid-July to mid-late August carries a higher risk of torrential downpours in the afternoons, with lightning as a possibility.
While here you should:
Colorado is a wonderful place to experience American culture and outdoor recreation. Denver is a major city with its own unique culture and attractions, and Durango has a historic downtown area. Frequent visitors in Colorado will take various outdoor tours that include white water rafting, climbing, fishing, hunting, and more.
Make sure to budget for transit, hotel accommodations, gear, supplies and for any recreational tours that you plan to take. Overall, the trip can be as affordable or as luxurious as you make it. There are no permits required for the Colorado Trail. Short of burning your dollar bills, you won’t be spending money while you are on the actual trail.
The Colorado Trail Foundation does an excellent job of maintaining the trail. There is also the benefit of dispersed camping, with little regulation around where to camp, and open fires are sometimes allowed depending on the area.
The Colorado Trail intersects with a number of 14ers whose trails are right off the path. If you are interested in summiting a few peaks—this is a great place to do it. I took an excursion from the trail to climb Mt Elbert, a 14er.
If coming here, don’t forget to bring:
Your map or guidebook, as well as supplies for backpacking.
Reviewer’s rating out of 10:
10 – The trail is well maintained and easy to navigate. Some areas are less well marked than others, but overall it’s a great time.
The Colorado Trail Foundation – maps, guides, resources