Hiking the Colorado Trail
I completed most of section one of the Colorado Trail this summer. Due to some wilderness regulations and gnarly blisters, I’ll need to go back and tackle part of segment 4, but that’s already in the works. I highly recommend the Colorado Trail for you long-distance hikers out there. It’s absolutely gorgeous and provides an astonishing variety of scenery. For those of you who think it’s all alpine forests for over 450 miles, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. Keep in mind that the entire trail is open to hiking and most of it is also available for mountain biking. But be prepared for difficult biking and detours around wilderness areas. Whether you’re hiking or biking, do your homework. The Colorado Trail Foundation publishes a series of books and maps that are invaluable for day-hikers and through-hikers alike. Another option is to join Colorado Mountain Expeditions for a guided tour on the trail. They run tours throughout the summer and provide a great alternative for those who are not up for backpacking the entire trail.
Segment 1 of the Colorado Trail
The first segment of the Colorado Trail begins near Denver in Waterton Canyon. It starts out as an easy hike for the first seven miles, then graduates to slopes that require a bit more energy. This segment is the longest one in section #1, but not very difficult to hike. Segment one is 16.8 miles long and is probably the most popular segment of the entire 485 mile Colorado Trail due to its proximity to Denver and the Front Range of Colorado. It gets a lot of use by hikers, trail-runners and mountain bikers.
Segment 2 of the Colorado Trail
Most of Colorado Trail segment #2 is characterized by the remnants of a large forest fire that blew through the area in 1996. For years, Colorado Trail travelers complained that this was the least attractive segment on the trail. Now, because of wide-open vistas and lots of wildflowers, segment two isn’t so bad any more. I’ve even heard some people call it their favorite segment of the entire Colorado Trail. It is approximately 11.5 miles long and does not have any reliable sources of water for thru-hikers, so make sure you fill up your water reservoirs before starting this segment of the trail.
Segment 3 of the Colorado Trail
Colorado Trail segment 3 is 12.7 miles long and is located in the Pike National Forest at the Scraggy Creek Trailhead. This is one of the more popular trail segments for mountain bikers and is still close enough to the Colorado Front Range to allow for fairly easy access.
Segment 4 of the Colorado Trail
This 16.6 mile trail segment has two claims to fame. First, it is the first Colorado Trail segment that entails wilderness hiking. So those of you who are big wilderness fans will love hiking through the Lost Creek Wilderness Area. Secondly, bicycles are not allowed on a large chunk of this trail segment because of the wilderness area. The Colorado Trail Foundation maps and guide books show an alternative route for mountain bikes for this and other wilderness trail segments. BTW, for those of you joining Colorado Mountain Expeditions tours, segment 4 & 5 are combined into one day, but they are unable to guide the Lost Creek Wilderness sections at this point in time.
Segment 5 of the Colorado Trail
This is one of my favorite Colorado Trail segments because of the beautiful aspen groves. They are a gorgeous sight in both the summer and the fall. After 14.4 miles, this segment of trail ends at beautiful Kenosha Pass. Many hikers and bike riders choose to start this segment from Kenosha Pass and ride or walk it from west to east.