Colorado Trail trekking is some of the best you will find anywhere. Starting in the center of the state near Denver and ending a few miles north of the lovely southwestern town of Durango, this volunteer-built trail extends for almost 500 miles. Of all the Colorado hiking trails, none is more renowned, at least on the long distance front, and when it comes to nationwide hiking trails, it is very hard to beat. Whether you are hopping onto this trail for a short hike as one of the great Denver attractions or in it for the long haul, hiking anywhere along this route is a great thing to do and sure to please any and all hikers.
The Colorado Trail passes through eight mountain ranges and has a peak elevation of 13,334 feet above sea level. Found along the route are six wilderness areas, seven national forests, and a healthy array of picturesque lakes and creeks to admire. Most of the Colorado Trail is above 10,000 feet, and in some spots it dips below the timberline, providing hikers with spots to seek shelter from inclement weather.
The exact starting point of this awe-inspiring hiking trail is at the mouth of Waterton Canyon. This canyon can be found on the border of Jefferson and Douglas counties and is a short drive from Denver proper. The Colorado Trail from Denver to the point known as Monarch Pass is often more crowded than the stretch of trail that extends from Monarch Pass to Durango, so hikers who want to get away from other hikers might prefer the western portion. The western portion is also considered to be more beautiful on the whole, thanks in part to the more abundant wildflowers and the relative lack of human intervention on the whole. That being said, the Colorado Trail from Denver to Monarch Pass has little trouble impressing hikers with its spectacular panoramas.
The Colorado Trail is divided into 28 different segments, and there are many access points where hikers can hop on and start trekking. The trail is well established and marked in most spots, so getting lost is difficult, and in most parts, motorized vehicles are prohibited. In addition to doing some Colorado Trail hiking, those who want to spend some time on this immaculate pathway can also go horseback riding or mountain biking. Mountain bikers should take note, however, that biking through the wilderness areas is generally prohibited.
There are many fantastic Colorado hiking trails to choose from, and since most are at a high altitude, it's a good idea to get acclimated before heading out for a hike. As for the Colorado Trail, it is at its lowest near Denver, with the highest point being found in the spectacular San Juan Mountains. The lowest point is around 5,500 feet, and it's a good place to start for those who aren't yet acclimated to the altitude. Some die-hard hikers choose to take the entire trail on, and most start on the lower eastern end to allow for altitude adjustment. As for the peak season to take the Colorado Trail on, it roughly runs from June to early October.
For those who are planning on doing some Colorado Trail hiking, there are a bunch of things to consider. Deciding on an itinerary is the first task. For some, hiking the portion in and around the historic mining town of Leadville will be most attractive, while others might stick to the portion that passes through the ski resort of Copper Mountain. There are plenty of options, and hiking the entire trail is also possible for those who want to enjoy everything that it has to offer. Most hikers who trek the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango take about 40 days to complete the task.
There are no resorts, hotels, or motels along the Colorado Trail itself, though lodging establishments are close by in various spots, such as Copper Mountain. In addition to staying at a hotel found near the trail, hikers who are in it for the long haul can also get some rest at National Forest campgrounds. Some of these campgrounds boast cabins in addition to tent sites.
As for some of the other things that are worth considering when it comes to taking on any and all of the Colorado hiking trails, they include the weather and wildlife. Weather can be very unpredictable in the Colorado highlands regardless of the month. Snow can fall in the summer, though afternoon thunderstorms are much more common during the warmer months. Whereas the summer days are usually warm in Colorado, the summer nights can get cool, and due to the year threat of snow in the loftier elevations, warm clothing of some kind is recommended.
When it comes to the wildlife, the backcountry stretches of the Colorado Trail can be home to mountain lions, bears, and a variety of other animals. Avoidance of the larger creatures is encouraged should you happen upon one, and those who are nervous about animal encounters can arm themselves with bear mace and perhaps a brave dog. Thankfully, animal encounters on the trail are relatively rare, though it's always a good idea to be aware of the possibilities.