Colorado Mountain Man

The Colorado Trail

Jul 28,2016
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The Colorado Trail (CT) is 480 miles long. It is divided into 28 segments. The trail travels southwest from Denver to Durango, or vice-versa. Most thru-hikers start at the eastern trailhead because it is the lowest altitude on the trail. It gradually increases in altitude and becomes more difficult and rugged towards the end of the trail leading into the San Juan Mountains. The snow melts earlier in the east, which is a plus for those hikers who want to get on the trail early. If you are not quite in shape, then it would be wise to start at the trail by Denver.

The CT has some of the best scenery in the Rocky Mountains. The majority of the trail is above 10,000 feet in elevation. It crosses 8 Mountain Ranges, 7 National Forests, 6 Wilderness Areas and 5 River Systems. The CT also runs concurrent with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) for 200 miles. The trail travels through the states most mountainous regions. The average hiker will take 4 to 6 weeks to complete the trail on a thru-hike. The trail is well marked and easy to follow. The lowest elevation is 5,500 feet and the highest is at 13,240 feet.

In the summer, the days are warm and chilly at night. Keep in mind that it can snow at any time in the Rocky Mountains. Lightning storms are frequent and dangerous. When you are above tree line, just remember that you are now the highest point and need to take immediate precautions. Almost 100 people die every year from lightning in the U.S. Make sure you know what to do in a storm. Don't be a statistic. The best time to hike is late June to late September. Winter hiking is dangerous and not recommended.

Hiking the CT is not for a person who is out-of-shape. You must train and be ready to hike this trail. You need good equipment and clothing that is durable to last 480 miles. Make sure your gear works properly before you leave. I see too many hikers in the mountains who are not prepared and will be in trouble if something happens. You must be mentally prepared for your visit, because Mother Nature can be ruthless sometimes. I'm certified by the Red Cross in First Aid which cost me $12.00. I highly recommend it. I go to the mountains to enjoy them. I don't want to be a stat in someone's book, because I lacked the knowledge to survive if something happens to me.

If you are like me and work, then section hiking is for you. All of the experts say, hike with a partner and not alone. It is difficult sometimes when you are hiking a long trail and your friends don't have the same interest as you. Join a club and meet some new friends. There are several clubs out there and they schedule hikes all the time. If not, have a friend drop you off at the TH and pick you up at the other end. Always let someone know where you are and when you should return. A great book to read about not letting someone know where you are is Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. A great book that I recommend for all hikers!

Hiking by yourself means you need to carry more gear. After you get some short hikes under your belt, you will learn what you need to take and what you don't. Make sure you include a Survival Kit and a First Aid Kit. And, know how to use them! A friend of mine hiked the Appalachian Trail. He told me a thru-hiker's backpack, tent and sleeping bag should be 10 pounds or less when weighed together. Your gear should not weigh more than 30 or 35 pounds in total. There are a lot of different lists out there recommending what you should take. Just remember, that you have to carry it, so choose your gear wisely.

I get asked all the time, What kind of firearm do I carry when I hike in the mountains to protect myself with? I don't. First of all, in the hiker's world, we frown on people carrying a firearm. Second, there has not been an attack on a hiker for over a decade in Colorado from a Bear or Mountain Lion. They are just as scared of you, as you are of them. You must take precautions when you cross paths. Read and learn about them before you head to the trail.

If you are thru-hiking, keep all food out of your tent. That will encourage a hungry mammal to give you a visit in the middle of the night looking for the goodies you want to share. Keep your food, cooking gear and hygiene gear 75 to 100 feet away from your tent. You might not see any wildlife, but they are there. Trust me.

Colorado Mountain Man