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Colorado Trail or Similar Possibly Unsupported
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Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Colorado Trail or Similar Possibly Unsupported on 05/26/2011 22:51:22 MDT Print View

So I might have some time off between jobs in mid August to September. I'm wanting to do a longer trail about 300-500 miles. Right now I'm looking pretty seriously at the Colorado Trai because I want to do something in the western mountains. I thought I'd throw out a few questions.

1. Anyone have a better idea? I know the CT ain't perfect. It sounds like maybe the JMT might be more scenic and cross fewer roads but it would have more people, more rules and bear canister are an issue (more on that later).
2. Anyone have any suggestions on the best ways to get from the end point back to my car since I don't have any friends in either Denver or Durango. Maybe a car rental?
3. Just to be crazy I was thinking I might try it unsupported because I hate leaving the woods to go into town. I'd rather just do it in one push, plus it would be good practice if I ever try something really serious in say Alaska. This is one reason the JMT is less attractive because packing that much in bear cansiters sounds hard.
4. If I could swing a permit one idea was to go one way on the JMT than go back on the Sierra High Route so I'd get a longer trip and end up back at my vehicle. Has that ever been done?

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Colorado Trail on 05/27/2011 00:26:48 MDT Print View

Maybe this doc I wrote will help with CT questions?
Colorado Trail End to End Guide

Has info on where to park and transit between the two termini.


I am biased, but I think it is a great little trail. :)

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Great on 05/27/2011 07:43:27 MDT Print View

Thanks Paul, thats a great resource.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Colorado Trail on 05/27/2011 10:01:20 MDT Print View

What is your definition of "Unsupported"?

The CT is 486 miles and packs a lot of elevation change. The JMT is a good warm-up for the CT. The average pace is 5 weeks at 16 miles per day. The only one I'm aware of who ever did the CT straight through without resupplying was Coup, the owner of Golite.

Do you really think you can carry that much food? Remember, it's not just the weight but also the bulk which must be overcome. If you have a car, you could cache supplies along the trail at convenient road crossings (and hope nothing happens to any of them). However, the only truly inconvenient off-trail town stop is the Creede/LakeCity area. Definitely read PMag's guide; he's the "go-to" expert on the CT. Also read the current and past years' threads on the CT Forum at trailforums.com so you know what you're getting into.

If you want to do a truly unsupported long hike, and since you've not hiked out here in the west before, let me suggest that you start with the JMT. If you can do those 212 miles, 8 of the 9 PCT high Sierra passes, and Mt Whitney continously without resupply or town stops, and without altitude problems, then try it on the CT next year.

Re: bear canisters - yes, you'll carry one the entire way on the JMT, but you only MUST use them in certain defined areas, and even in most of those areas, you have the option to use the bear boxes provided at specific campsites (this restricts your mileage and camping locations, and they're not all are within a day's walking distance of each other). Besides, you walk right THROUGH Red's Meadow with it's store and PO; ditto Tuolumne Meadows, and going SB,Muir Trail Ranch is an easy 3/4 mile off-trail and 1.5 mile back.

Another shorter western option would be the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), which is a perfect loop, so there are no concerns with how to return to your car.

Edited by wandering_bob on 05/27/2011 10:14:28 MDT.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
CT versus JMT on 06/04/2011 05:48:27 MDT Print View

Bob,

Other than the length, what makes the CT more difficult than the JMT? I ask because I had planned on doing part of the PCT/JMT through the Sierras this summer, but given the snow conditions, that may not be possible sicne I would need to be done by about 17 August at the latest. So I've been looking for alternatives and the CT caught my eye.

Although they have a lot of snow as well, the CT doesn't seem to have the same weather and other constraints as the Sierras, ie late snow melt, high volume melt and stream crossing, bear cannisters, permits etc. It seems like CT is also an easier trial in that it's graded and the requirements allow more flexibility, but i may be wrong. I've spoken to the PCTA and CTA and it seems that the snow will be gone earlier on the CT, but of course that's a best guess.

So I'd appreciate any thoughts you'd have.

Mahalo!

susan

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Colorado Trail or Similar Possibly Unsupported" on 06/04/2011 09:36:56 MDT Print View

Compare the elevation plots for each trail. The JMT is a series of 9 long climbs and descents. The CT is like walking the cutting edge of a saw.

Both trails are graded for horses. The CT also allows mountain bikes, except in designated wilderness areas, so you’ll share the trail with a LOT of them. There are organized MB races on the trail several times during the summer so stay aware. Those bikes cut a "V" in the trail tread that can make walking difficult. In their defense, the many area MB Clubs put in lots of trail maintenance hours every year as they have a vested interest in having a good trail; sort of like the Backcountry Horsemen have with the PCT/JMT.

I don’t know what you mean by “the requirements allow more flexibility”. It’s really only important that you know.

The south San Juans got a whole lot less snow than did the Sierra and the rest of the CT, so yes, the CT should be easier than the JMT in that respect this year. By the time you’re getting on the trail, snow shouldn’t be a major issue on either trail.

At Durango, hop on a plane and fly back to Denver. Greyhound can also get you there, but their schedule is inconvenient and the trip takes more than 24 hours, including a long lay-over while changing buses.

Edited by wandering_bob on 06/04/2011 09:37:57 MDT.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
CT on 06/04/2011 13:56:01 MDT Print View

Just my opinion, but I was pretty let down by the portion of the CT I hiked. Lots of road walking, lots of needless ups and downs, etc. It is, and feels like, a cobbled together trail, rather than purpose-built. Did the first 350 miles or so (didn't do the best part in the San Juans though).

I'd think about making my own route in the High Sierra if I were you. Link up a bunch of off trail passes, using the JMT as necessary. Can even start by Mineral King and head north. No bear canister needed down there.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Weather? Bugs? on 06/04/2011 18:04:48 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info guys. I'd be coming from Texas so the CT is looking better just factoring in travel costs and other logistics no arguing that theres plenty of good stuff in the Sierras.
Would thunderstorms and bugs still be an issue after late August?

I'm still looking into it pretty seriously but it may or may not happen. My job prospects suddenly improved so it might be I wouldn't be able to do the trail in the fall unless I'm willing to turn down a well paying job. In that case I might wait till next summer but be a position finacially to do more so flying to the JMT or maybe back to Alaska would be a possiblity.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Colorado Trail or Similar Possibly Unsupported" on 06/05/2011 04:31:43 MDT Print View

Bob, Dave

Thank you!

I guess what i meant by flexible requirements is that teh CT diesn't require permits, at least according to teh CTA, I can pretty much come and go on and off the trail as I lease. Conversely, getting the right permits fro PCT sections in teh Sierras or the JMT requires getting (and paying ) for permits in advance. which would ordinairly not be a problem, but again predicitng the snow melt this year makes it a crap-shoot as to dates to get permits for.

Thanks for the rest of you comments. Yeah, i agreee teh Ct doesn't look at awe-inspiring as teh Sierras, but I'm not sure I can continue waiitng on the snow to clear to go there although i had my heart set on it.

Again, thanks for you input. also, if there is another trail you can suggest that i could get a nice 4-6 week trip on wihtout waiitng on weather to clear, I would appreciate it.

mahalo,

susan

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
late August on 06/05/2011 18:37:46 MDT Print View

Late August is the start of Fall in the Colorado high coutnry.

Bugs will be diminished, nights will be cool and t-storms waning (if at all).

FWIW, it is the start of my favorite time to backpack in Colorado.

As for awe inspiring, I would say the last 200 miles or so of the CT (San Juans and more) are pretty cool. Considering the JMT is 200 miles..... ;-)

Edited by PaulMags on 06/05/2011 18:38:57 MDT.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Colorado Trail Thru-Hike Advice on 06/29/2011 03:06:23 MDT Print View

Yeah!!! It looks like I will be doing the CT. I arrive in Denver early on Wed, 7 July 2011 and my return flight departs Denver on 17 August 2011. So I have exactly 6 weeks, which I hope is enough for a leiasurely, enjoyable hike. I'm coming from sea-level, so I need to take it easy the first week or so to make sure i acclimate to the altitude and lower temps, etc.

I am reviewing the different trail guide resources, but i have a few questions, I hope some folks can help me with....(thanks!)

Unfortunately the weather forecasts calls for "showers" next week, but I hope it won't be so bad. Where I'm from, that could mean a drizzle, quick, short cloud burst, or pouring all day long. So if anybody local can give me a heads up on what exactly "showers" means, I'd appreciate it.

I'm not sure if it's best to stay a day in Denver and start the trail early on July 8th or just start on the 7th. I at least need to pick up fuel. So one question is whether to bring my alcohol or my canister stove. I'm basing my decision on which fuel type is more readily available at the re-supply places along the trail. Any thoughts?

Also, givven the alternate routes to the TH, I need a better idea of how far until some good camping spots occur that would necessitate a moring verus afternoon start. So if I need to RON in Denver, can anybody suggest a convenient, nice hostel?

Finally, if anyone can help me out with some advice on getting from the airport to the TH and best alternate route given the closure areas for segment 1, I'd appreciate it.


I plan on posting my gear list in the next few days.

Mahalo!

Susan

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Colorado Trail on 06/29/2011 08:24:22 MDT Print View

re: Camping

If you anticipate a later start, you are better off taking the Indian Creek trail as there is no camping in Roxoborough SP.

re: Canister vs Alcohol

Alcohol is easy enough to obtain, but there are plenty of places to pick up canisters if you prefer them


See the doc I wrote referenced earlier in the thread for a lot more detailed info about the alt routes, transportation, etc.:
http://www.pmags.com/colorado-trail-end-to-end-guide-2

Finally, this hostel is conveniently located near Lower Downtown (and two miles and 20 minute bus ride from the REI..get your pre-trail supplies there!) in Denver:
http://www.denverhostel.com/

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Colorado Trail Alternate Routes on 06/29/2011 17:38:20 MDT Print View

Well my plans keep shifting due to other factors but it looks like I can try the trail this August/September. I'm thinking I'll do about five days in the Lost Creek to aclimitize and test gear than take a night off in Denver, fix any issues that crop up with gear, food or whatever and than hit the trail.
I might do two alternate routes.
1. I don't like the way the trail dips way down around Breakenridge into what looks like a very un-wilderness area. I'm looking to see if I could do an off trail route over Hoosier Pass to skip some of that area. My brother climbs there a lot so I'm hoping he can help me work out a route that avoids private property and impossilbe areas etc. If it ends up being shorter I would make up the mileage by doing a longer route through one of the wildreness areas (maybe Lost Creek).
2. The Colorado Trail from Twin Lakes to Monarch pass looked kinda unappealing. Thats were there are some road walks and its lower. I'm thinking about jumping on the CDT instead at Hope Pass and taking it down to Monarch Pass. My understanding is that it does follow some routes open to moterized trafic but its higher and more remote.

Any thoughts from folks that have done the trail?

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Colorado Trail Alternate Routes on 06/29/2011 19:18:29 MDT Print View

You can take the Jonathen Ley Purple Route from the CT/CDT just north of Twin Lakes. Go through TL for resupply, then across the west end of the lakes to meet the CDT/old CT that heads up over Hope Pass, through Missouri Gulch, and over Elkhart Pass.

Either continue on the CDT or return to the CT at mile 6.6 in segment 12 via the Pine Creek Trail.

Twin Lakes Alternate

Edited by wandering_bob on 06/29/2011 19:23:12 MDT.

Aaron Armstrong
(traderaaron) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Colorado Trail Alternate Routes on 06/29/2011 20:26:24 MDT Print View

Definitely consider the CDT through the collegiates, it stays mostly high. CDT up to Lake Ann Pass and continue to Monarch is what I'd consider.

If you want to avoid the drop down into Breck you can ridge hike from Mt. Guyot over to Hoosier Pass where you could meet up with the Wheeler Trail, over to CDT and down to Copper Mountain to continue on. You could also cut over to French Pass, side slope over Bald Mountain, to Boreas Pass and across the ridge down to Hoosier Pass.

I really enjoy the CDT/CT over the Tenmile range and down into Copper.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Great ideas on 06/30/2011 15:42:43 MDT Print View

Sounds great thanks for the input guys. I remember there was a lot of 4X4 traffic in the Taylor Resevior area would I see much of that along the CDT? I'm liking the Brekenridge bypass option too. Hopefully it happens and I'll post the pics here.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
CT Thru-Hike Advice on 07/02/2011 02:41:24 MDT Print View

Paul,

Thanks so much! do you have any contact information for some of the trail angels in case i need a lift?

mahalos,

Susan

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Apple is on trailforums.com on 07/04/2011 22:03:01 MDT Print View

Check out the Colorado Trail room on Trailforums.com. Apple posts on there. You may be able to e-mail him there.


I updated my Colorado Trail E2E guide to show more alternates. Besides taking the Hope Pass to Monarch Pass alt route on the CDT, you can take a high alternate route in the Lost Creek Wilderness that is mainly off trail. I did it as a day hike in 2008 and did a version of it again this past weekend as a backpacking trip.

Check it out:
Colorado Trail Alt Routes

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Alternate routes on 07/04/2011 22:16:27 MDT Print View

Funny you should mention the Lost Creek route Paul, I'd been thinking about it a bit. Actually my current plan is to do a few nights in the Lost Creek area before I start the trail. That would be kind of shake down trip to make sure all my gear is working, I like the food I have etc. Afterwards I'd spend a night in a hotel, clean up, hit REI if necessary than get down to business on the CT.
I'd like to start on Goose Creek and follow it up into Refrigerator Gulch. From there I'd look for that mythical trail that supposedly goes up Lost Creek but no one can find. Than I'd head up along the crest of the Kenosha Mountains and come back along the Brookside McCurdy Trail. This would be fun and I think it would be a good way to aclimitize and do a reality check one whether or not my hiking schedule is realistic or if I need to modify plans at all.
My current headache is how to get to the trailhead which is complicated by the fact that the Waterton Canyon is closed and the alternative is a good bit farther south. I might end up leaving a car in Durango and taking a bus to Pine Junction on Hwy 285. It looks like about an 8 mile road walk to connect up with the trail. It won't be as nice but its had the no headach adventage and I could be able to knock out and 8 mile road walk pretty fast.
Thanks for the info Paul!

Edited by Cameron on 07/04/2011 22:22:25 MDT.