In Colorado, we are fortunate to have many opportunities for outdoor recreation. Riding along a twisty singletrack trail, hiking to a ridgeline stretching for miles or camping near an alpine lake nestled high in the mountains — these are all options for the Colorado outdoor enthusiast.
In our outdoor backyard, there is a trail that connects many of these outdoor options together in one long, meandering path: the Colorado Trail.
The Colorado Trail is a nearly 500-mile long trail that stretches from the foothills of Denver to high peaks surrounding Durango. A gem of the Colorado backcountry, the Colorado Trail beckons to those who wish to immerse themselves in the Rockies for a few hours, a few days or even a few weeks, walking the length of the trail in one long stretch.
The Colorado Trail is administered by the nonprofit Colorado Trail Foundation with the assistance of various government agencies and maintained by volunteers. The Colorado Trail is an example of how public and private partnership can be effective in preserving a resource enjoyed by many.
Unlike trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail, the Colorado Trail is a multi-use trail open to mountain bikers (in non-wilderness areas), foot travel and equestrians. The Colorado Trail is a way to enjoy the Colorado mountains in multiple ways.
The trail is conveniently divided into 28 different segments ranging in length from 11 to 30 miles. This division of the trail allows many people to complete the trail over the course of several seasons, in addition to making planning a journey on the trail a little more logistically manageable.
Not many people will have the opportunity to hike, bike or ride the trail in one four- to six-week stretch. Luckily, there are some ways to experience what The Colorado Trail has to offer without this time commitment.
Day trip: An excellent (if somewhat long) day trip can be had on Segment 7 between Copper Mountain and Gold Hill. This 13-mile-long segment takes in above-tree-line views on a wide-open plateau in the Ten Mile Range. Start at Copper Mountain, and follow the Colorado Trail to the Gold Hill trailhead on Highway 9 between Breckenridge and Frisco. Use the free Summit County transit system to return to the vehicle parked at Copper. Make sure to bring your camera.
A popular variation of this excursion includes veering off the Colorado Trail just before Gold Hill and then following the Peaks Trail directly into Frisco. The trail conveniently ends near the Frisco Backcountry Brewery for some post-trail noshing.
Weekend trip: The nearby Lost Creek Wilderness is a way to experience the Colorado Trail without traveling far. Use the Colorado Trail as part of a loop to explore this gem not far from Denver. In the fall, the aspens at Kenosha Pass are memorable.
Multi-week trip: If a person has four to six weeks to hike the trail (or less if mountain biking it), a “thruhike” on the Colorado Trail is a fantastic way to explore the state we are fortunate to call home. What better way to see a place we love than one step at a time?
For any journey on the Colorado Trail, the first place to start is the Colorado Trail Foundation’s website: www.coloradotrail.org. On the CTF site, you’ll find detailed information about the trail, resources available for planning and ways to give back with volunteer opportunities. The newly released Colorado Trail Guidebook: Eighth Edition put out by the CTF is an invaluable resource for anyone planning any length of trip on the Colorado Trail.