I originally had planned on doing this trip with a friend of mine, but I found it was much harder to convince people to take a month off of their lives than I thought. My name is Allen Butts and this is my Colorado Trail Story.
I started out by leaving a summer camp I work at in Estes Park, CO and went to Fort Collins to pack my stuff and get some food for the first stretch. I stayed at a friends house for 3 days while I did my best to organize everything as best I could. The girl I was staying with invited me to go camping with her family for the weekend so I decided to postpone my trip a couple of days and enjoy the luxuries of car camping one last time. Turns out I contracted food poisoning from a bad burger that weekend and was throwing up for over a day. But, as fate would have it, I woke up the morning I had planned to leave and everything felt great. I was ready to go.
My friend dropped me off at the Trailhead and we said our goodbyes and off I went, really not quite sure what exactly I had signed up for.
The first night on the trail I was initiated with a nice thunderstorm leaving most of my clothes either damp of wet. I wasn't to happy about this seeing as it was only my second day on the trail. I ventured into Segment two the next day also known as the "burn area". This segment is hot and dry, and there is no available water for the next 15 miles once you enter it.
After feeling somewhat dehydrated, I made it through the burn area and into Segment 3 that day. At the end of my second day I met a pastor from Boulder named Peter who I would be hiking with for the next 3-4 days. The next day was somewhat uneventful as we gained elevation in Segment 3 and trailed Buffalo Creek for about 10 miles. Finally we entered into Segment 4 that night and camped 4 miles before the "Long Gulch". This gulch was a grassy meadow that stretched the rest of the segment and was filled with grazing cows, who might I add enjoyed walking the trail with me.
At the top of the gulch before entering the next segment you finally are rewarded with a beautiful view of the divide.
From here you descend into Segment 5 and begin hiking towards Georgia Pass, the first mountain pass you go over. When we arrived at Kenosha Pass Peter's friend Paul was there to great us and put us up in a cabin in Bailey for the night. It was a much needed rest and it was great to have some real food!
From Kenosha Pass I left Peter due to his foot problems and hiked on. That day was a beautiful day to hike over Georgia Pass, and it would be my longest day yet on the trail. The climb up Georgia Pass was not too bad. It provided excellent views from the top as well.
Down from Georgia Pass I hiked into Breckenridge the next day, the first real trail town you reach on the CT. I spent a great day and night there with a friend Andrew I had met the day before. We enjoyed burgers and beer and pizza all day long.
The next morning I woke up with a typical soaking wet tent due to the record rain storm that came through Breckenridge the previous night. I left Andrew that morning and hiked on towards the Ten-Mile Range. This climb was the first really steep climb of the trip and it was no easy task. Although with every hard climb you are rewarded a spectacular view on this trail.
From the top of the range you descend steeply into Copper Mountain Resort. From here you hike through the resort and up the range that it sits on. This pic from the beautiful morning when I camped right outside Copper mountain.
This day was one of my hardest days on the trail due to some arch problems I was having the entire day. I hiked from my camp up a gulch and to Searle Pass. This rewarded me with some amazing views of the journey to come.
I hiked down into Vail from here and took a much needed day off. It was great to see some friends from the winter and to not hike for a day. When I left Vail I began hiking at Tennessee Pass and experienced my first trail magic. A cooler filled with coke and chips. I found out later that this cooler is maintained by a lady named Kathy who helps run the hostel in Leadville. I packed some up for lunch that day a pressed on. From Tennessee Pass I hiked up to into the Holy Cross Wilderness area and had some great views of the Leadville area.
From here you begin to hike directly south all the way down to the Collegiate Peaks. Over the next 3 days I hiked down past Mount Massive (14,428') and Mount Elbert (14,433'). After I crossed across the eastern slopes of these mountains I hiked down to Twin Lakes and received my first view of the Collegiate Peaks.
From here it takes about 20 miles until you are really in the Collegiate Peaks. This pic is from a pass right under Mount Yale with an amazing view of Mount Princeton in the background.
From the pass I hiked down to the Avalanche Trailhead and decided to go into Buena Vista for some more food. I decided not to ship myself food on the trip so I would have the ability to so the trip as fast/slow as I wanted. I met a great guy named David that night and we went into town and hung out with his raft guiding boss for most the night. From here I hiked across the eastern slopes of Princeton and made my way into Raspberry Gulch. I got pounded by rain no more than an hour after entering into Segment 14. Luckily I stumbled upon a great trail crew who kept me dry and fed me dinner that night and breakfast the next morning. The CTF crews are really the reason this trail even exists.
From here I hiked on the eastern slopes of Mt. Shavano for about 15 miles before I made it to US-50. From here I hitched a ride into Salida where I picked up about 6 days of food that had to last me to Lake City, a daunting 110 miles away. The next section of the trail has no convenient re-supply point until lake city and is really just kind of a drag across the middle of Colorado. The first good view from Segment 15 is right above Fooses creek on the divide.
Even thought you stay on the divide for the next 60-70 miles the divide does dip below tree line a bunch so the views are not always that spectacular. I did have some great views from Sargent's Mesa back towards Marshall Pass from the end of Segment 16.
The next two segments after this are somewhat boring but you can nock out some great mileage. The profiles for segments 18,19, and parts of 20 are pretty much just flat. This is the fastest way the trail can get you to the San Juans where the trial really gets good.
I finally reached Cochetopa Creek about halfway through Segment 20 and have never been so happy to see water. After all I had gone the last 20 miles without any water sources. I made a beautiful camp next to the creek and hung out there for half a day after hiking 36 miles, my longest day of the trip the day before.
From here I hiked up the long valley and into the long awaited San Juans. I hiked first up to San Luis Pass and grabbed some awesome views of the Northern San Juans.
I was so happy to be up in the mountains again after being down so low for 5 days. The next day in the beginning of Segment 21 I met Bama, Bumkin and Twofer. I would end up hiking almost the rest of the trail with these three. This pic is of all of us hiking up to Snow Mesa, a 12,000 foot plateau across the San Juans, in the early morning.
Aftern this day the arch in my foot began to give me more problems. I decided to take a day off and stay in Lake City and try to heal it up. I was just going to have to catch up with Bama, Bumkin and Twofer near Silverton. After Leaving Lake City I hiked up on top of a breathtaking 13,000 foot plateau to the Coney Summit, the highest point on the entire CT (13,270'). This is me reaching the highest point.
After coming down off the summit the wildflowers of the the San Juans really started to flourish. Hiking down from a pass right after Carson saddle I snapped a pic that really shows how beautiful the flowers were out there.
From here I hiked above tree-line for quite a long time and stayed right next to the continental divide for quite some time. This area may have been my favorite part of the entire trail, mostly because you have constant views all day while you hike. Once in Segment 24 I stayed in the divide for only the first 6 miles before I dropped down into the Elk Creek drainage which would eventually take me down to Molas Pass and into Silverton. This is a pic right before I dropped down into the drainage.
While hiking down the drainage I caught some awesome views of Arrow and Vestal Peaks, part of the Weminuche Wilderness.
That night I stayed at a Hostel in Silverton, which would be my last stop until the end of the trail. The next day before we hiked out of Molas Pass I got one last picture of the crew I had been hiking with the last 4 days. Fromt left to right: Bama, me, Bumkin, and Twofer.
From Molas Pass I made my way up into the southern San Juans and up to a gorgeous unnamed pass and took a little nap. This was my view right before I fell asleep.
Hiking down from the pass I got a great pic of Engineer Mountain off in the distance with the moon rising in the evening.
My camp that night was next to the beautiful Celebration Lake, located at Bolam Pass.
After Bolam Pass I kind of hugged the ridge for the next 40 miles passing through segments 26 and 27. In Segment 28, the last segment, I was blown away by the beauty atop Indian Trail Ridge. The wildflowers up on the ridge were glowing that morning like I have never seen before.
From the ridge it is downhill almost all the way to Durango. You do however pass by some beautiful scenery on the way down including the scenic Taylor Lake west of Kenebec Pass.
After Kenebec pass it is 20 miles all the way down to Durango. This trip was a spectacular trip with some of the best views of the rocky mountains I had ever seen. The hospitality shown to me on the trail really had a lot to do with why I enjoyed it so much. This was me at the southern terminus at Junction Creek Trailhead.
Total days: 27 days of hiking, 2 zero days
Total Mileage: 484.9 miles
Average Mileage: 18 mpd