The Colorado Trail: Hiking Review

The Colorado Trail 1

By Phoebe Hodina

Options of getting there:

By air and/or car.

The Colorado Trail 2Best 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 maybe 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 into 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).

 Image result for colorado trail map

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 travelling 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 trailhead 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 1 pm 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.

Budget considerations

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.

Facilities/nearby activities:

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.

Relevant website:

The Colorado Trail Foundation – maps, guides, resources

Multiple Contributor

Phoebe Hodina is a marketing consultant from Evansville, Indiana, USA and is an avid hiker, biker, swimmer, runner, yogi and snowshoe aficionado, you could say that she has a passion for outdoor activities.

In her words: “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world, and have biked major parts of North America. I will never say no to new adventures, and I’m happy to encourage other women to get out and try new things in the outdoors”.

12 thoughts on “The Colorado Trail: Hiking Review

  • April 6, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Love this post. The Colorado Trail just looks like somewhere I would enjoy so much. 500 miles of great scenery and solitude! Can’t wait to get to do this someday for sure.

  • June 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I cant hike due to mobility issues so I love hearing about other people adventures and I can live it through that. It looks as thought it was a pretty long hike though I bet your legs were a little achy after this.

  • June 11, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Oh looks like an epic trail to hike along. I love how in the states there are bodies to help maintain trails like this. One day I’m hoping to get over this way and do some serious hiking. One day soon!

  • June 10, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Looks like one gorgeous trail to camp overnight!
    Yes, trails that have varying topography is so fascinating isn’t it!
    4-6 week long trail!!! Whoa! I’d actually love to do that!

  • June 10, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Such a beautiful hiking trail! Colarado is so distant I wish I could visit.
    The tips and words of caution are really helpful.

  • June 10, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Trekking amongst diverse landscapes and with wildflowers blooming would be absolutely my kind of thing. Even though I love fall colours, I’d prefer spring any day for a trek 🙂 Such amazing tips on Colorado. It is always preferred to have a well defined trail. Makes it helpful for beginners like me.
    Your closing pic is fabulous! 🙂 (something I would do amidst the flowers!)

  • June 9, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Colorado looks really beautiful, hiking the trails must give it a different dimension. It must be so nice to camp there and lit a fire at night. Nice that you can climb some summits as well.

  • June 9, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    I like the fact that the trail is well-maintained. Less time getting lost and more time enjoying nature!

  • June 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    This looks like a great hike. The views are really spectacular. I have never been here before but when I go I will be sure to check out this trail

  • December 25, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    I’ve done over 100 miles on this trail and it’s amazing! I highly recommend Segment 6, the San Juans, and the Collegiate Range if you are looking to do a smaller chunk of the trail. The website you mentioned also sells a pocket guide, trail guide, and topo maps. All of which are HIGHLY recommended. I have all three. The pocket guide is like a trail bible. I’d also recommend having topos for any extended travel in Colorado. The weather can turn in an instant and you’re above the trees it can be dangerous. Thanks for sharing!


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