The Colorado Trail offers an outdoor experience ranging from breathtaking to “life-changing,” according to people who have hiked all or even just a portion of its 500 miles (805 kilometers). Ideal for hikers, runners, and bikers alike, it runs from outside Denver to Durango, carving through eight mountain ranges and seven national forests.
Colorado Trail through-hikers typically start on the eastern end of the trail, in Waterton Canyon, and take an average of 40 days to complete the journey. If you prefer to navigate the terrain on two wheels instead, book a half-day mountain biking tour with an experienced guide who can help you traverse a portion of this legendary trail. You can customize the tour to your level of experience and desired fitness challenge.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Colorado Trail is a must for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.
- There are very few hut accommodations along the trail, but you may camp along most of it.
- Cell phone service can be spotty along the trail and is best near towns.
- Through-hikes require a significant level of preparation and planning.
- Bring clothing for a range of temperatures.
How to Get There
The trail’s starting point, in Waterton Canyon, is approximately one hour southwest of Denver. Most mountain biking tours depart from Conifer, which is located off US 285. Some hikers take the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train to Elk Park, one point along the trail. For day exploring, there is paid parking at various points along the trail.
When to Get There
Though severe weather and snow are possible any time of year, the Colorado Trail Foundation advises that the ideal time for hiking and biking the trail is from June to September. Thunderstorms happen frequently in July and August, and lightning can pose a threat to visitors.
Communing with Colorado Critters
According to the Colorado Trail Foundation, visitors to the Colorado Trail are most likely to see marmots, deer, bighorn sheep, elk, and squirrels. Bears and mountain lions also make their home in the Colorado backcountry. Hikers and bikers are encouraged to keep food stashed away carefully, so as not to tempt these creatures.