The Colorado Trail (CT)
Looking for the ultimate backcountry tour of Colorado? This is it. The Colorado Trail (CT) traverses fields of wildflowers, misty valleys, and craggy mountain passes, while meandering through historic mining towns and following ancient Indian trails. You’ll be in the presence of elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats in a world that still resembles the wild wild west. Yee-haw.
- 483 miles (782 km)
- Denver to Durango
- Average elevation: 10,000 feet
- 8 mountain ranges
- 7 national forests
- 6 wilderness areas
- 5 river basins
- Thru-hikers experience about 89,000 feet of elevation change
- High point: 13,271 feet
- Low Point: 5,500 feet
- Permitted to equestrians and mountain bikers outside of wilderness areas
- Coincides with the Continental Divide Trail for 235-ish miles
- Established in 1987
- The Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF) is responsible for organizing the small army of volunteers that maintain and protect the CT.
- Blackwoods Press has created a four-ounce pocket atlas that includes detailed maps of the entire trail, water source information, and a town guide.
- Guthook’s GPS app can be downloaded for both iPhone and Android mobile devices.
- The CTF revises their guidebook annually. This is a great aid for trip planning.
- You may consider taking the Collegiate West alternate, between Twin Lakes and Monarch pass. This reroute is higher in elevation, closer to the Continental Divide, and far more scenic than it’s eastern counterpart. It’s also much more exposed, so use good judgement when deciding whether to go east or west through the Collegiate Mountains. Latitude 40’s Salida – Buena Vista Topographical Map depicts the reroute with great accuracy.
Getting from Denver International Airport to Waterton Canyon Trailhead/Northern Terminus:
If you’re arriving by plane, the most economical way to get to Waterton Canyon is to take the RTD Lite Rail (A Line) from the Denver National Airport to Union Station ($9). From here, transfer to the C Line and get off at the Littleton/Mineral Station ($4.50). Now you’re about 10 miles north of Waterton Canyon. Hire a cab, summon an Uber, call a friend, or wave your thumb in the air!
Waterton Canyon Trailhead physical address:
11300 Waterton Road
Littleton, CO 80125
|CT Town Guide (Southbound)|
|Town||Miles from last resupply||Total trail miles||Getting There||Resupply and Services|
|Jefferson||71||71||4.5 mile hitch south on US Hwy 285 at Kenosha Pass.||Marginal to moderate resupply at General Store. Hungry Moose Cafe has burgers, fries, etc. Post office M-F 8am-4:30pm.|
|Fairplay||71||71||Continue another 16 miles south past Jefferson on Hwy 285.||Full resupply at grocery store. This small, full service town includes, lodging, restaurants, gear store, and post office.|
|Breckenridge||33.4||104.4||Walk .2 miles south on Hwy 9 to the Tiger Run Bus Stop and catch a free county bus (Summit Stage)||Full resupply. Full service town. Many lodging options, including Fireside Inn & Hostel. Lost of restaurants, gear stores, and Post office.|
|Twin Lakes||70.6||175||Accessible by side trail (1 mile) or Hwy 82 Underpass (1.3 miles).||Marginal to moderate resupply at Twin Lakes General Store. Mail drops accepted. Store has Heet, fuel canisters, hiker box. Very small town, but there is lodging nearby. Ask for details at general store.|
|Monarch Pass||77.5||252.5||Monarch Crest Store at road crossing of US Hwy 50.||Weak resupply, more or a touristy gift shop, but they do have a basic cafeteria and maildrops are accepted. This is not a town.
|Salida||77.5||252.5||Hitch 13 miles east on Hwy 50.||Full resupply. Full service town with many lodging options, including Simple Lodge & Hostel. Restaurants, gear store, and post office.|
|Lake City||104.9||357.4||From Spring Creek Pass, hitch 17 miles north on HWY 149.||Full resupply. Raven's Rest Hostel does daily shuttles to/from trailhead. Full service town with restaurants, gear store, and post office.|
|Silverton||53.3||410.7||From Molas Pass, hitch 6 miles north on Hwy 550.||Full resupply. Full service town, including Silverton Inn & Hostel, restaurants, gear store, and post office.|
|Durango||73.9||484.6||Hitch five miles to downtown from Junction Creek T.H./Southern Terminus.||Full service town. Lot's of lodging (no hostel), restaurants, shopping, post office, etc. Carver Brewing Company will give you a complimentary beer for finishing the Colorado Trail.|