|Length||486 mi (782 km)|
|Location||Colorado, United States|
|Use||Hiking, biking and horseback riding|
|Highest point||13,271 ft (4,045 m)|
|Lowest point||Mouth of Waterton Canyon (Denver terminus), 5,500 ft (1,700 m)|
|Trail difficulty||Moderate to strenuous|
The Colorado Trail is a long-distance trail running for 486 miles (782 km) from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango in Colorado, United States. Its highest point is 13,271 feet (4,045 m) above sea level, and most of the trail is above 10,000 feet (3,000 m). Despite its high elevation, the trail often dips below the alpine timberline to provide refuge from the exposed, storm-prone regions above.
The Colorado Trail was built and is currently maintained by the non-profit Colorado Trail Foundation and the United States Forest Service, and was connected in 1987.
The Colorado Trail is an established, marked, and mostly non-motorized trail open to hikers, horse riders, and bicyclists. From the eastern terminus at Waterton Canyon, southwest of Denver, the trail winds its way for 486 miles (782 km) through the state's most mountainous regions, to its final conclusion, about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) north of Durango. Along the way, it passes through eight mountain ranges, six National Forests, and six wilderness areas.
Trail elevations range from a low of about 5,500 feet (1,700 m) at the Denver end of the trail to a high of 13,271 feet (4,045 m) on the slopes of Coney in the San Juan Mountains. The trail rises and falls dramatically. A hiker traversing the entire length of the trail will gain (and lose) about 89,000 vertical feet. The trail passes through what is considered to be some of the state's most beautiful country. Wildlife abounds and wildflowers, in season, are abundant. While much of the trail passes through forests, a good portion of it reaches above timberline, where trees are unable to grow and views are breathtaking.
The trail passes through historic mining towns, along ancient Native American trails, and through a modern, world-class ski resort. Other sections appear much as they would have 500 years ago. The western half of The Colorado Trail, between Monarch Pass and Durango, has less human influence, greater vistas and a display of spectacular wildflowers.
For 235 miles (378 km), The Colorado Trail runs concurrent with the Continental Divide Trail along the Collegiate East route. On the Collegiate West route, the Colorado Trail follows the Continental Divide Trail for 80 miles (130 km) more.
Summer days are warm with cool nights, but unpredictable mountain weather can threaten snow any month of the year. Violent thunder and lightning storms may ravage the afternoon sky, then quickly give way to warm sunshine and cloudless skies.
The practical season for the entire Colorado Trail is roughly July, August and September, though low elevation portions near Denver are often accessible April through June. In the winter, large parts of it are prohibitively difficult because of deep snow.
The majority of thru-hikers (those who hike the entire trail in one trip) hike from east to west. This choice of direction is preferred partly because snow typically melts earlier in the year on the eastern portion of the trail than on the higher western portion. In addition, the east-to-west hike allows a thru-hiker to start with more gradual elevation gains and build up to the more rugged terrain of the western portion of the trail in the San Juan Mountains.
The time required for a thru-hiker to complete the Colorado Trail varies greatly. While some supported trail runners can finish it in less than 10 days (the unsupported fastest-known time is 9 days, 12 hours and 32 minutes by John Zahorian), most thru-hikers spend about 4 to 6 weeks (28 to 42 days) on the trail.
The Colorado Trail is one of the few major long trails that allow mountain biking.Mountain bikes are permitted along most of the trail, but there are six wilderness areas where it is against federal regulations even to possess a bicycle. As a whole, the trail is of interest to bicyclists from beginners on up. Top cyclists consider it to be a world-class long-distance trail.
The Colorado Trail Foundation, based in Golden, Colorado, is a nonprofit organization that operates and maintains the Colorado Trail. Assisted by 600 volunteers and 3,000 donors each year, the CTF maintains over 500 miles of trail. Each summer, its trail crews work for about 12 weeks and six weekends clearing trees, working on erosion controls, and maintaining signage along the trail. The trail crews work on major projects that are beyond the scope of its sister "Adopt-A-Trail" program. That program lets interested volunteers "adopt" one of 78 maintenance sections along the trail, each averaging about eight miles long.
Every summer, the CTF offers week-long supported treks on the Trail, providing hikers with guides and the services of the trekking staff.
The Foundation maintains an extensive web site with information about the trail, and publishes a series of books and trail guides for hikers.
The CTF is governed by a twelve-person board. There is a full-time Executive Director and one administrative staff member. Its total revenues in 2013 were just over $400,000.
The Colorado Trail was conceived in 1973 by the Roundup Riders of the Rockies, but not connected end-to-end until 1987.The Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF) evolved out of cooperative efforts by the United States Forest Service, the Colorado Mountain Trails Foundation, and individual volunteers from the Colorado Mountain Club and the Friends of the Colorado Trail. In 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the CTF and Forest Service, detailing their respective roles in the future development of the trail.
The South Platte River is one of the two principal tributaries of the Platte River. Flowing through the U.S. states of Colorado and Nebraska, it is itself a major river of the American Midwest and the American Southwest/Mountain West. Its drainage basin includes much of the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, much of the populated region known as the Colorado Front Range and Eastern Plains, and a portion of southeastern Wyoming in the vicinity of the city of Cheyenne. It joins the North Platte River in western Nebraska to form the Platte, which then flows across Nebraska to the Missouri. The river serves as the principal source of water for eastern Colorado. In its valley along the foothills in Colorado, it has permitted agriculture in an area of the Colorado Piedmont and Great Plains that is otherwise arid.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) long, though the exact length changes over time as parts are rerouted or modified. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy describes the Appalachian Trail as the longest hiking-only trail in the world. More than 2 million people are said to take a hike on part of the trail at least once each year.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), officially designated as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, is a long-distance hiking and equestrian trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, which lie 100 to 150 miles east of the U.S. Pacific coast. The trail's southern terminus is just south of Campo, California by the U.S. border with Mexico, and its northern terminus is on the Canada–US border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia; it passes through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington.
The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a United States National Scenic Trail running 3,100 miles (5,000 km) between Chihuahua and Alberta. It follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Montana it crosses Triple Divide Pass The trail is a combination of dedicated trails and small roads and considered 70% complete. Portions designated as uncompleted must be traveled by roadwalking on dirt or paved roads. This trail can be continued north into Alberta and B.C., to Kakwa Lake in Kakwa Provincial Park and Protected Area, B.C., north of Jasper National Park by the Great Divide Trail.
The John Muir Trail (JMT) is a long-distance trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, passing through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. From the northern terminus at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley and the southern terminus located on the summit of Mount Whitney, the Trail's length is 213.7 miles (343.9 km), with an elevation change of approximately 47,000 feet (14,000 m). For almost all of its length, the trail is in the High Sierra backcountry and wilderness areas. For about 160 miles (260 km), the trail follows the same footpath as the longer Pacific Crest Trail. It is named after John Muir, a naturalist.
Rocky Mountain National Park is an American national park located approximately 76 mi (122 km) northwest of Denver International Airport in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park's northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.
The Wasatch Range is a mountain range in the western United States that runs about 160 miles (260 km) from the Utah-Idaho border south to central Utah. It is the western edge of the greater Rocky Mountains, and the eastern edge of the Great Basin region. The northern extension of the Wasatch Range, the Bear River Mountains, extends just into Idaho, constituting all of the Wasatch Range in that state.
Mount Bierstadt is a high mountain summit of the Colorado Peaks in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 14,065-foot (4,287 m) fourteener is located in the Mount Evans Wilderness of Pike National Forest, 9.4 miles (15.1 km) south by east of the Town of Georgetown in Clear Creek County, Colorado, United States. It was named in honor of Albert Bierstadt, the American landscape painter who made the first recorded summit of the mountain in 1863.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is a rail trail system in Maryland and Pennsylvania—the central trail of a network of long-distance hiker-biker trails throughout the Allegheny region of the Appalachian Mountains, connecting Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It consists of several smaller trails including the Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland, the Allegheny Highlands Trail of Pennsylvania and the Youghiogheny River Trail.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 170-mile (274 km) long-distance hiking trail that forms a loop around the Lake Tahoe Basin in the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges of California and Nevada in the United States. The trail ranges in elevation from 6,240 feet at the outlet of Lake Tahoe to 10,338 feet at Relay Peak in Nevada. About 50 miles (80 km) of trail above the lake's west shore are also part of the much longer Pacific Crest Trail. Additionally, 96 Miles of the trail along the east and south sides of the Lake Tahoe basin are designated as a National Recreation Trail.
Mount Sopris is a twin-summit mountain in the northwestern Elk Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 12,965-foot (3,952 m) mountain is located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest, 6.6 miles (10.7 km) north by northeast of the community of Redstone in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States.
Boreas Pass is a high mountain pass in central Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains of the western United States. The pass is located on the continental divide, at the crest of the Front Range along the border between Park (south) and Summit counties.
The Finger Lakes Trail consists of a network of trails in New York. The trail system is administered by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC), a non-profit organization, composed primarily of volunteers.
The Salmon River is a 33.5-mile (53.9 km) river in the Cascade Range in the U.S. state of Oregon that drains part of southwestern Mount Hood. The entire length of the river is a protected National Wild and Scenic River. Several portions are in protected wilderness. It is affluent to the Sandy River, a tributary of the Columbia River.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail spans fourteen U.S. states during its roughly 2,200 miles (3,500 km)-long journey: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The southern end is at Springer Mountain, Georgia, and it follows the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains, crossing many of its highest peaks and running almost continuously through wilderness before reaching the northern end at Mount Katahdin, Maine.
The Indian Peaks Wilderness is a wilderness area in north central Colorado managed jointly by the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and small parts of the southern section of Rocky Mountain National Park. It borders the James Peak Wilderness to the south, and straddles the Continental Divide. The area receives high visitation due to its proximity to the Denver metropolitan area.
Barr Trail is a 13-mile (21 km) trail in the Pike National Forest that begins in Manitou Springs, Colorado and ends at the Pikes Peak summit. The high elevation trail with a long sustained grade is rated more difficult by the U.S. Forest Service. With a 7,800 feet (2,400 m) elevation gain to reach the summit, the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau states that it is an advanced trail and is the most difficult trail in the Pikes Peak region.
Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot (4,302.31 m) fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles (19 km) west of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike. The summit is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude.
Dog Mountain rises above the north side of the Columbia River Gorge in the U.S. state of Washington. The base of the mountain is in Skamania County along Washington State Route 14, about 9 miles (14 km) east of Stevenson and 53 miles (85 km) east of Vancouver. From its base at 150 feet (46 m), it climbs steeply to an elevation of 2,948 feet (899 m).
Gudrun "Gudy" Gaskill was an American mountaineer who is regarded as the driving force behind the creation of the Colorado Trail, a 567-mile (912 km) hiking, biking, and horseback riding path between Denver and Durango, Colorado. Beginning in the 1970s, she helped plan out the route, solicited donations, and recruited teams of volunteers to work in one-week shifts developing the Trail each summer. She was named executive director of the newly formed Colorado Trail Foundation in 1987. She was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2002.