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A Short Guide to Hiking the Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail (CT) stretches across the Rocky Mountain Range from Denver to Durango. It takes you through some of the country’s highest elevations, most stunning scenery, and most temperamental weather.

From the flower-filled alpine meadows of the Sawatch Mountains to the dramatic craggy peaks of the San Juans, a hike on the CT is sure to be a journey full of challenges and rewarding experiences.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 486 miles (give or take a few depending on whether you choose the Collegiate West or Collegiate East route)
  • Time Needed: 4-6 weeks
  • Highest Elevation: 13,334 ft. - Coney Summit
  • Lowest Elevation: 5,520 ft. - Waterton Canyon
  • Elevation Gain (approx.): 89,000 ft.
  • Best Time to Hike: According to the Colorado Trail Foundation, July 1 to September 30 is the ideal window for hiking. Snow is typically still present along much of the trail before July. After September you run the risk of dealing with early-season snow storms.
  • Permits: None
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Highlights

  • Nearly unending views since much of the trail is above treeline
  • Lots of great resupply towns
  • Tons of wildlife & wildflowers
  • Social & friendly trail community
  • Feeling amazingly capable & confident at the end of the journey
  • You can peak bag some awesome 14ers on short side trails
  • Well marked & maintained

Continue reading Casey Hadley's guide to the colorado trail here.

LAST UPDATED

August 31, 2022

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Clever Hiker

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CleverHiker.com is a website dedicated to providing knowledge, skills, and gear recommendations for lightweight backpacking adventures. We make tutorial videos, gear reviews, and in-depth trip guides to make backpacking easier for everyone.

We're Dave and Annie, the gear nerds behind Cleverhiker.com. Dave is a thru-hiker, Eagle Scout, and nature nut who's trekked every continent on the planet. Annie is a "retired" teacher who swapped out the classroom for wilderness adventures. We built CleverHiker.com to help share our backpacking knowledge, inspire people to get outdoors, and help conserve our wild spaces.

MEDIA MENTIONS

While DEET products may be more familiar by name and their chemical smell, sprays with 20 percent picaridin, like Sawyer Products, offer comparable protection without the harsh odor and oily feeling on your skin.

Kevin Brouillard
Travel & Leisure

MEDIA MENTIONS

The Sawyer Squeeze was (by far) the most common Pacific Crest Trail water filter this year – for the fifth year in a row. It’s a $39, 3 oz / 85 g hollow fiber filter that rids your drinking water of protozoa and bacteria (and floaties). It can be used with Sawyer bags (included with the filter) or with compatible water bottles (Smartwater is the bottle of choice for many hikers).

Halfway Anywhere
Media Mentions from Halfway Anywhere

MEDIA MENTIONS

SAWYER MINI WATER FILTER, $22 This has been my water filter of choice for years now. The bags can be iffy — I have had a few break – so carry a couple. However, the filter itself is reliable, light and inexpensive. -Logan

Bikepacking Team