Planning a Colorado Trail Section Hike: Silverton to Durango


A Backpacking Vacation on Colorado's Signature Long-Distance Trail

It had been too long since my husband and I had done a multi-day backpacking trip together, and we were really looking forward to our first section-hike on the Colorado Trail.

As I planned the trip, I decided I would share the information here in case it might be helpful to others who want to do this hike or maybe even assist them in planning a trek on another trail. I also updated the information after the trip.

The Colorado Trail
The Colorado Trail

About The Colorado Trail

CT Facts & Figures

Open to hikers, bikers and horseback riders, the Colorado Trail is 482 miles long, extending from Denver to Durango.

Some officially designated wilderness sections are closed to mountain bikes, but there are detours for bikers around those areas.

For 200 miles (or 320 km), the "C.T." is one and the same with the Continental Divide Trail.

The elevation of the Colorado Trail ranges from 5,280 feet at the eastern end near Denver to 13,000 feet at Silver Mesa near Durango to the west, passing through three "life zones" along the way.

This elevation range has a major effect on climate. For every 1,000 feet you ascend, the temperature usually drops by four degrees. And a sunny day in the valleys can be cold and wintry on the peaks.

The majority of "thru-hikers," who complete the Colorado Trail in one continuous journey, travel from east to west. This direction is often preferred because the snow melts earlier in the year on the eastern portion of the trail than it does on the higher, western portion. Also, hiking east to west--from Denver to Durango--allows a thru-hiker to begin with smaller elevation gains and build up to the more rugged terrain of the San Juan Mountains.

The time needed to thru-hike can range from less than 10 days for supported trail runners to about 40 days, the latter being much more the norm. Steve and I would love to do a (somewhat leisurely) thru-hike, but we just don't have that kind of time these days, at least not all at once, so we'll do contiguous section-hikes instead.

The Colorado Trail Data Book

Trail information at a glance

FYI: The GPS waypoints listed in the Databook are in Lat/Long decimal degrees, NAD27 Conus datum.

Also, there are camping options not listed in the book; you just have to keep your eyes out.

Another thing to be aware of is that, while locations of trail intersections are noted, the mileages of those spur trails to roads and "ways out" from the Colorado Trail are not. So I'd recommend familiarizing yourself and making note of alternate routes before the hike, just in case you might need to leave the trail sooner than later.

The Colorado Trail Databook (Colorado Mountain Club Pack Guide)
The Colorado Trail Databook (Colorado Mountain Club Pack Guide)

I used a Data Book on the Appalachian Trail and referred to it numerous times throughout the day. At a glance, I could find out the locations of trail junctions, water sources, campsites, road crossings, and other notable points of interest, along with spot elevations. The Data Book is pocket-sized and, in my opinion, extremely valuable.


The Colorado Trail Guidebook

This is a very useful and what I consider indispensable book for hiking the CT, and I'd highly recommend photocopying pages for the section you'll be hiking and taking them with you. The segment pages in the guidebook contain lots of detailed information the Databook does not.

Colorado Trail: Official Guidebook
Colorado Trail: Official Guidebook

This guidebook has 90 color pictures, 28 segment maps, elevation profiles, integrated GPS waypoints, town maps, and mountain bike detours of Wilderness Areas. Each segment section gives the distance, elevation gain, and an overview of the segment; a list of trailheads and access points; the maps that are needed for the segment; a list of supply points; services and accommodations; a detailed trail description; a map, and an elevation gain and loss chart.

The extensive introduction includes information on planning, supplying, safety, cycling, regulations, and backcountry ethics, along with chapters on Colorado Trail heritage, natural history and geology. At the back of the book is a graphic summary of the trail, an equipment list, ranger districts with contact information, a bibliography, and an index.


The Map Book

The Colorado Trail Map Book, with shaded relief, full-color topo maps showing the entire trail, is available only from the Colorado Trail Store (unless you can find someone with a used copy to sell).

This is a spiral-bound, soft cover book, 8.5" x 11", and weighs just 14.5 ounces. The book can be disassembled, so you can carry just what you need. It includes magnetic declinations for compass users and maps showing each bicycle detour around the Wilderness areas. You'll also find a complete list of nearly 1200 GPS waypoints in UTM & Lat Long formats.

The book is 103 pages with 73 maps and costs $49 plus shipping.

To order, call the CT Store at 1-866-279-6962 (toll free). They're available to take orders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, holidays included. The CT Store accepts Visa and Master Card.

Section-Hiking the Colorado Trail
Section-Hiking the Colorado Trail

Some Section-Hiking Pros & Cons

Not that hiking isn't always great, but.....

Having thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, I do love an extra long long-distance hike from a trail's end to end. But that's not always feasible, often due to time constraints and other obligations. Not to mention the fact that spending six months on a trail, or even a month or so on the CT, isn't for everyone. So section-hiking is another option.

What I see as some of the up-sides to section-hiking are:

  • You can vary the length of sections, from days to weeks or more, or even as short as day-hikes, to accommodate the time off you have.
  • You can choose the optimal time of year to hike a section. That way, for instance, you can avoid heavy snow pack, summer monsoon season, certain pesky insects (black fly season, mosquito season), and so forth. You might choose to hike during peak wildflower season or when you know there will be fewer hikers if solitude is your preference.
  • Section-hiking can allow you to do fewer miles per day, because you aren't necessarily trying to fit your trip into a seasonal window as you might have to if thru-hiking. This can mean more time to enjoy scenic views, the "small things," and nice campsites.

And there are a few things that might be considered drawbacks of section-hiking:

  • Section-hiking usually requires shuttling. You'll need some form of transport back to your start point to pick up a vehicle, or vice versa; you'd have to ride back to the start to begin your hike after leaving a vehicle at the end. Or you'd need to arrange to be both dropped off and picked up at either end of the section, which means enlisting the help of friends, family, public or private transportation ... or one's thumb perhaps.
  • Section-hiking requires travel to and from the trail multiple times if you do multiple sections. This costs money, of course.
  • Depending on how active you are between hikes, you may not be as trail hardy and fit when you begin each section-hike as you would if you were thru-hiking, so difficult sections -- including those at altitude -- may be even tougher. On a thru-hike, you get into "trail shape" and can get acclimated to altitude as well.

Hiking the Colorado Trail
Hiking the Colorado Trail

Planning Our Colorado Trail Section Hike

When? How? And Which Way?

As I write this article, we're currently in the process of gathering information and making our plans, so there will be some things I'll have to add. And some things may change. Once we do the hike, I'll come back and add information (in bold), including anything that maybe didn't go as planned.

When should we go?

Well, we want to avoid the monsoon season and its frequent thunderstorms, which means the majority of July and August are out. We also want to avoid most of the snow, which narrows it down to either June or September. But we don't want to wait till September ... when we might end up doing another CT section anyway ... so we've chosen to go in June. I have another trip planned with some friends in late June, so Steve and I have decided to do this hike mid-month. As we get closer to the time of our hike, we'll check on snow conditions at the higher elevations. We'd probably be better off waiting a week or two, but my other plans prevent us from doing that.

6/3 Update: The Forest Service says the section we'll be doing is now pretty much snow-free above treeline. We should expect some snow to remain in the trees, but they say it'll be more "messy" than a hindrance and we won't need snowshoes. (Apparently, the next section to the east, from Silverton towards Denver, still has a significant amount of snow, being even higher elevation. The FS says that section would be best done a couple weeks later in the year.)

After the fact: Well, you can't count on the weather. Turned out, this has been an unusually cold and wet spring in Colorado. We were rained on, snowed on, sleeted on, and were downright wet and cold much of the time. We also had a number of thunderstorms. So definitely go prepared for anything, no matter what the time of year, especially given the high elevations along the trail, often over 11,000 feet for long stretches with no easy "out."

Cold and wet, Steve still has to stop to check out a giant puffball on the CT near Molas Pass.
Cold and wet, Steve still has to stop to check out a giant puffball on the CT near Molas Pass.

What are the typical weather conditions for that time of year?

Being at the higher elevations at the eastern end of the trail, and hiking in mid-June, we know we may encounter snow, on the ground at least. And I know any kind of weather can happen at any time of year up there, so we'll go prepared for a range from warm and sunny to rain to below freezing and snow.

Check this out: Today, May 20, 2009, at 10:30am, I looked at the weather for both Silverton and Durango. At the time, it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit in Durango, while it was 36 degrees in Silverton! I read that the year-round average temperature in Silverton is just 35.6 degrees, and the frost-free growing season can be as short as twelve days! You can find out the current temperature and weather for each location on

Of course, those are just the conditions in town. On the trail, things can be quite a bit different (and colder).

After the fact: On that last point ... uh-huh! As in, at least 30 degrees colder and a lot wetter.

Which direction should we hike? Durango to Silverton or vice versa?

Originally, I thought it would be nice to hike west to east, from Durango to Silverton, for a couple of reasons, one being that we could do future contiguous sections, all heading to the east, so we'd always begin where we last ended. Unlike most thru-hikers, we had already decided to start at the western end of the trail, beginning with the terminus closest to home.

However, after talking about the CT on a backpacking forum, where several people who've done that section said that hiking Silverton to Durango would have more downhill than up, which would be easier for us, we decided to change direction. I confirmed that information on and learned that we'd have a total elevation gain of 8,629 feet in that section if we started in Durango. Not that there won't be ascents going the other way, of course; just not as many long ones.

How will we travel to Colorado?

This is an easy answer, since we're just one state over in Arizona: We'll drive. Durango is about six-hours from here, but we're starting our hike in Silverton, so that's about another hour and a half through the mountains on US 550, also called "The Million-Dollar Highway." Kinda neat--we'll drive in ninety minutes what we'll take the better part of a week to hike (although the route is different, of course).

Where do we access the trail at the beginning of our hike?

I found out that the trail does not go right into Silverton, and the nearest CT trailhead is about 7 miles away on the Million Dollar Highway, which is narrow and not safe for walking along the side of the road. I don't know, though; I have this ... thing about trying to get a ride from Silverton to that trailhead. I've got it in my head that we're going to park our car in town and walk all the way to Durango.

There is also the option of taking the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway train from Silverton to Elk Park, where we could access the Colorado Trail (there's a "short stop" there), but I'm not sure I'd want to do that either, for the same reason I gave above.

So as of right now, we're planning to hike the railroad right-of-way from Silverton along the Animas River to rendezvous with the CT.

5/28/09 Update: Well, I didn't realize it's illegal to hike a railroad right-of-way (people apparently just do it, but I don't like to break rules), so we're coming up with plan B. Since it's the same price to take the Durango-Silverton train one way as it is round-trip, and since we've reserved $79 seats for the ride from Durango back to Silverton at the end of the hike on June 20th, I'm going to inquire whether we could take the train from Silverton to Elk Park as part of a round trip at the start on June 13th. For our next CT section-hike, from our starting point this time, we'd just take the train back to Elk Park and head the other way--eastward.

5/29/09 Update: Okay, we're all set. We're going to take the train from Silverton to the Elk Park "short stop" on 6/13. They didn't charge us anything extra for the reservation change. When we get off the train, we'll have an elevation gain of more than 1,800 feet, right off the bat. We'll be in Segment 24 at that point and have 5.8 miles of hiking to Molas Pass, the beginning of segment #25. On June 20th, we'll then have the train ride back to Silverton, where our car will be.

People wave goodbye as the train leaves us off at Elk Park to begin our hike, just as the rain and thunder begins.

Train stops along the Colorado Trail
Train stops along the Colorado Trail

How many miles is this section-hike?

We will be hiking segments 25 through 28, which total 73.9 miles. We'll also have those extra 5.8 miles in segment 24, from Elk Park to Molas Pass. So that will make our trip 79.7 miles.

Where is the trailhead at the end of our hike? Is it anywhere near downtown Durango?

The Junction Creek Trailhead is about three miles from downtown Durango. To get to the trailhead from downtown, you go north on Main Avenue, then turn left onto 25th Street, also called Junction Creek Road. Then take Junction Creek Road to where it enters the San Juan National Forest. There's a parking area on the left, near the trailhead.

5/29 Update: I spoke to the Forest Service today. They said that the road from the Junction Creek Trailhead to downtown Durango is narrow and not great for walking. It's not even good for cyclists. The helpful man I spoke to--Mark--said that if we stop in either their Durango or Silverton office before the hike, they can show us on the map how we can walk "city trails" from the CT right into town, as long we'll have our own good map ... which we will. We'll have time to stop in at the Silverton FS office on 6/13 before our train leaves.

After the fact: We did stop in at the Silverton Forest Service Office, but the man there didn't know anything about hiking from the CT into downtown Durango. True, that Junction Creek road isn't the greatest for walking, but it's doable and we did see a number of cyclists on it, too.

Colorado Trail Section and Segment Information

The Colorado Trail is divided into 28 segments with an access point at the beginning and end of each. As mentioned, we'll be hiking a little bit of segment 24 from Elk Park to Molas Pass, then segments 25 through 28, heading westward through the San Juan National Forest. Our total mileage will be 79.7.

For trail conditions and other information, I've been contacting the San Juan National Forest Public Information Center at 970-247-4874

**I spoke to Mark, who's "the hiker" in the office, and he was a BIG help in planning our trip.

Ranger District/s:

Columbine Ranger District, San Juan National Forest
367 Pearl St.
P.O. Box 439
Bayfield, CO 81122

Dolores Ranger District
29211 US Hwy. 184
Dolores, CO 81323

See the Colorado Trail Segment Chart: Resources by Segment

These are my descriptions of the segments between Silverton (well, Elk Park) and Durango....

Portion of Segment 24: Elk Park to Molas Pass

Distance: 5.8 miles

There is a 1,840-foot elevation gain between Elk Park and Molas Pass. Before getting to the Million Dollar Highway at Molas Pass, there's a short side-trail that leads to Molas Lake Campground. Since our train from Silverton to Elk Park doesn't leave till 2pm on Saturday, we've decided to stay at Molas Lake Campground our first night on the trail and then continue on into Segment 25. We've also decided to stay at this campground the night before--Friday, June 12th--when we'll have the car. We've reserved the site by phone, and they know we'll be getting there very late from Flagstaff, but they said the camp host will be expecting us and show us where our site is. (How nice!) In the morning, we'll drive to Silverton, where we'll leave the car at the Visitor Center as planned, take the 2pm train to Elk Park and hike BACK to the campground. This will allow us to "slack-pack" those first steep miles of the trip. We'll leave our tent, sleeping pads and bags and some of our food and cooking equipment at the tent site. We'll still carry what we need and then some back-up gear "just in case."

Molas Lake Campground (pictured below):
Highway 550 (aka Million Dollar Highway)
Silverton, Colorado 81433

Molas Lake Campground on the Colorado Trail
Molas Lake Campground on the Colorado Trail

Segment 25: Molas Pass to Bolam Pass Road

Distance: 20.9 miles

The trail stays fairly level here but does remain above treeline for a long stretch--over 10,000 feet for most of the next 50 miles.

Segment 26: Bolam Pass Road to Hotel Draw Road

Distance: 10.9 miles

The trail remains well above 11,000 feet until after Blackhawk Pass.

Segment 27: Hotel Draw Road to Cumberland Basin

Distance: 20.6 miles

There is a stretch of 24.2 miles in this section with no reliable source of water.

Segment 28: Kennebec Trailhead to Junction Creek Trailhead

Distance: 21.5 miles

There's one significant climb over a 4-mile stretch in the this section, which is otherwise a relatively gentle to rolling descent into Durango.

Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado | Source

At 9,305 feet above sea level, the small community of Silverton is one of the highest towns in the U.S. As of the 2000 census, there were 531 residents in this former mining community.

Steve and I have driven through historic Silverton a few times, but we've never actually stopped. This time, though, we'll pay two visits, once just before we begin our hike and then a longer stay after we're done, when we ride back on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway.

Durango, Colorado

Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado | Source

The western terminus of the Colorado Trail

We've visited this small city of about 16,000 residents several times. At 6,523 feet above sea level, it's just a few hundred feet lower than our home town of Flagstaff, and the downtown area is just about as nice as we think ours is.

One thing Durango has that Flagstaff doesn't, though, is a beautiful river running right through it. In this case, it's the Animas River, which is very popular for whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing and fishing.

Our Section-Hike Logistics

Parking, Lodging, Camping, Shuttling

Where will we leave our car while we're hiking?

I emailed the Town of Silverton at with this question and got a same-day response. We can park at the Visitor Center. They just ask that we go inside and let them know our plans. That was easy enough!

After the fact: The folks at the Visitor Center were very nice. They took down our names and a contact phone number and the date we expected to return. The center closes at 4pm, so if you're going to park there, either get there before then or call to let them know.

Downtown Silverton, Colorado
Downtown Silverton, Colorado

What will we do about a shuttle?

As I've already mentioned, we'll be using the Durango-Silverton train as our means of shuttling. We're now planning to do this hike with a third person, so we could use two cars and leave one in Durango at the trailhead. That would seem to be the simplest solution, although it would also mean taking two cars to Colorado, which equals more gas of course. Instead, we've decided to carpool and spend the extra money on the scenic train ride. (See more details below.) Mostly, I just thought it would be fun that way. I've always wanted to take that train.

How many miles per day will we need to average to finish within our timeframe?

We have one week for this trip, with a weekend at either end.

We want to end our hike in Durango on Friday, June 19th, so we can take the train back to Silverton on Saturday morning, the 20th. So, if we take the 2pm train from Silverton to Elk Park (wilderness access) on Saturday, June 13th, and hike to Molas Lake Campground that afternoon, we'd have six full days remaining to hike the remaining miles to Junction Creek trailhead in Durango. That comes to 12.32 miles per day from Sunday through Friday.

After the fact: I think this average mileage might feel rushed to some folks, especially if weather becomes a factor and you want the option to wait it out for a while. If you can plan more time for this hike and give yourself a buffer, I'd highly recommend doing so, so you don't have to hike more miles to "make up time." Altitude, some hefty climbs and pack weight can definitely combine to slow you down, too, if you're not used to it.

Where will we stay at either end of the hike?


We're planning to leave our house on Friday, June 12th after Steve gets off work and drive all the way to Molas Lake Campground, which is just off Highway 550 about seven miles before the town of Silverton. On Saturday, our train doesn't leave till 2pm, so we'll have a leisurely morning and time in Silverton for lunch before we hit the trail.


We do plan to spend the night in Durango before taking the train back to Silverton, but we don't want to spend big bucks on a hotel, so we're looking at some inexpensive options.

One of those possibilities is the Durango Hometown Hostel, which is 1.2 miles from downtown, accessible by a pedestrian path. The hostel is also serviced by the Durango "T" public transportation. At the time of year we'll be hiking, the hostel runs $22 to $28 per person per night, including tax. They have both unisex and co-ed bunk rooms.

736 Goeglein Gulch Road
Durango, CO 81301

Update of 5/23/09: Well, there's no room at the hostel for that night. All booked up. So we'll keep looking. There are plenty of places to stay in Durango, so no worries.

Update of 5/2709: Okay, I found a hotel for us, and it's a 1/2-mile from the train station, which will make getting there in the morning very easy. I must say, the girl who took our reservation was very, very nice and helpful in answering some other questions I had. We'll be staying at the:

Dollar Inn
2391 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301

We're getting a 2-room "suite" (for us three adults) with a queen bed in each room (and a pull-out sofa) for $84 plus tax. Their website states they have 25 rooms and offer pet-friendly and non-smoking rooms. They also have rooms with full kitchens. From online reviews I've read, I expect the rooms will be basic but clean. For this trip, our #1 criteria will be: hot shower!

After the fact: Well, we ended up staying at the Spanish Trails Inn on Main Street instead, because it was just $39 plus tax, and also because the Dollar Inn was undergoing renovations and didn't look so hot at the time. The Spanish Trails Inn was ... well, it was a room. It was clean enough for us dirty hikers, and the shower (eventually) was hot. The problem was the people in the room next to us. I had to call the after-hours front desk number, and the lady who answered did take care of the noise, so that was good. But, really, if you'd prefer to pamper yourself a bit after your backpacking trip and not be quite so close to the busy road, I definitely don't recommend this place.

Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango - Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad | Source

A Scenic Train Ride Back To Silverton

on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Rather than arrange for a shuttle from Durango back to our vehicle in Silverton, we decided to treat ourselves to a scenic train ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which has been in continuous operation for 127 years.

Daily runs between Durango and Silverton operate May 2nd through October 31st, 2009, with prices ranging from $79 to $179 for adults for the 3.5-hour trip. There is reserved seating on the train.

For more information and reservations, visit or call:

Reservations: (970) 247-2733

General Information: (970) 247-2733

Toll Free: (877) 872-4607

Administration: (970) 259-0274

After the fact: This was fun! If you've never done it, I highly recommend a ride on the DSNGR train. I'll be putting together a lens about it shortly, but if you're planning to ride in a gondola (open air) car, be sure to bring layers and maybe a blanket too. What started out as a fairly warm day in Durango turned rainy and very cold by the time we got halfway to Silverton. Lucky for us, though, there was room on the train, so we were able to move to an inside car.

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railways
Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railways

Location of the Durango Train Station - The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Click on the "+" to zoom in.

A markerAll Aboard! -
479 Main Ave, Durango, Colorado
[get directions]

Packing For Backpacking
Packing For Backpacking

Packing For Backpacking

Our Colorado Trail Gear List

Given that we fully intend to stick together for the entire trip--not to mention that we're a couple--Steve and I will be sharing some gear. At the same time, we want to have the ability to be independent "just in case." For that reason, we'll have some additional emergency gear in the event we'd get separated. That way, for example, the one without the tent would still have shelter.

I should mention also that we're not "ultralight" backpackers. While pack weight is definitely a consideration, and a lighter pack makes for easier and, one might say, more enjoyable hiking, we also believe in being prepared. I'm sharing our gear list here just for the sake of sharing, not because I think our choices will suit all other hikers. And, to some extent, we're using old gear, because it ain't broke, basically. For sure, there are lighter-weight, new and improved models on the market, but for some items, we're just gonna go with what we have.

So this is our 2-person gear-list:


  • For Steve, an Osprey Helix that he's had since he was a teenager
  • For me, a Kelty Tornado, about 8 years old

Sleeping bags:

  • For Steve, a synthetic Kelty 0-degree bag (about 12 yrs. old)
  • For me, a synthetic Kelty minus-15-degree bag (same age)

Sleeping pads:

  • For Steve, a Thermarest inflatable pad he's had for more than 10 years
  • For me, a 3/4-length foam Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Mattress (because I'm tougher than Steve)


  • Sierra Designs Sirius III: We're two people but prefer the extra space in a 3-man tent. This tent and rain fly weighs 5lbs, 4oz and has a zippered door on either side, so we don't have to crawl over each other's head to get out. Steve will carry the tent, while I'll carry a lightweight "all weather" space blanket, which has grommets so I can rig it as a tarp using my nylon cord and hiking poles.

Clothing: (each person, some of it on the person)

  • (2) Pair of convertible pants/shorts
  • Synthetic t-shirt
  • Synethic long-sleeved shirt
  • Synthetic tights or long-underwear
  • (2) pr. synthetic or wool socks
  • Underwear (I don't know about Steve, but I take 3 pr.)
  • Gortex jacket
  • Rain/wind pants
  • Fleece pullover
  • Fleece or wool hat
  • Sun/rain hat
  • Gloves
  • Hiking boots


  • MSR Whisperlight stove
  • Stove fuel
  • Wind screen
  • Esbit fuel tablets (so the other of us can cook a second item or heat water for drinks while the Whisperlight is in use)
  • Pots (2) and gripper
  • Utensils--2 Lexan sporks
  • Scrubbie
  • (2) Travel mugs

Food: (per person)

  • 6 breakfasts
  • 7 lunches
  • 6 dinners
  • Daily snacks, such as trail mix, pretzels, dried fruit, jerky, candy bars (bite-sized), peanut butter crackers and trail bars.
  • Drink mix (ie. Gatorade powdered mix)

Fire starters:

  • Waterproof matches
  • (2) Lighters
  • (2) Small candles


  • (2) Headlamps (1 each)
  • (2) Flashlights (1 each)


  • Topo map/s, copied pages from the CT Databook and guidebook
  • Map case (a big Zip-loc baggie would do)
  • Compass w/ sighting mirror that can double as signal mirror
  • Garmin Legend GPS

First aid kit

  • We'll bring an Atwater Carey Personal First Aid Kit. Contents include splinter grabber forceps, iodine ointment, antibiotic ointment, 2 sterile butterfly wound closures, sting relief pad, tincture of benzoin, adhesive tape, conforming gauze, 5 adhesive strips, 4 sterile gauze pads, 2 telfa non-adherent pads, Acetaminophen tablets, Antihistamine tablets, Ibuprofen tablets. We'll also add moleskin, safety pins and 2pr of nitrite gloves.


  • A Leatherman Blast for Steve
  • A Leatherman Squirt for me


  • (2) 48-oz. Water bottles apiece
  • 3-liter water bladder for extra capacity for the long, dry stretch
  • (1) PUR Hiker water filter
  • (1) 12-pack of Aquamira purification tablets (carried by the one who isn't carrying the filter)
  • Nylon water tote (for carrying extra water from the source back to camp)

Toiletry Items:

  • Cat hole trowel (shared)
  • Biodegradable TP (each person)
  • Toothbrush (each person ... duh!)
  • Toothpaste (shared)
  • Wet wipes (shared pkg.)
  • Dental floss (long section, each person; has other uses besides teeth cleaning)
  • Comb (share, because Steve doesn't have cooties)

Miscellaneous & Emergency Gear:

  • Trekking poles
  • Sunblock towelettes
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra batteries (6 each person)
  • Windstorm whistles (1 each)
  • All Weather space blanket with grommets (just me)
  • Nylon cord, 50 ft., carried by me for use with the emergency blanket (as a tarp) if necessary ... or to bear bag food or whatever else
  • Stuff sacks (for clothing, food, etc.)
  • Bandannas
  • (2) small carabiners
  • Hothands (2 each)
  • Pen, pencil
  • Notepaper
  • (2) Heavy-duty trash bags
  • Duct tape (wrapped around a trekking pole)
  • Cell phone (1 each, turned off! and fully charged before the trip)

2 People, 7 Days, A Lotta Food!

2 People, 7 Days, A Lotta Food!
2 People, 7 Days, A Lotta Food!

Colorado Trail Trip Expenses

Updated after the trip:

  • Train from Durango to Silverton: $79 each

  • Motel in Durango: $42 including tax (Spanish Trails Inn)

  • Molas Lake Campground (2 nights, hiker site): $28.31 incl. tax

  • Colorado Trail Guidebook: $16.47 (free shipping)

  • Colorado Trail Data Book:$9.95 (free shipping)

  • Colorado Trail Map Book: $58.55 with shipping (the book is $49)

  • Gasoline: $80

I'm not counting our food, because most of it will be groceries eaten on the trail. And we'd have to eat whether at home or on a hike, and we eat out sometimes anyway, so this isn't extra to me.

We already have our backpacking gear, so I'm not including that either.

Overall, this is a pretty inexpensive way to spend a vacation.

From the trail....

We stopped for a break and the view at Gudy's Rest four miles before Durango.

Gudy's Rest is named after Gudy Gaskill, an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club since 1952 and eventually the club's first female president. Gudy attended the first focus meeting about a trail from Denver to Durango in 1974 and never missed a meeting in those early days of the CT.

In 1986, Gudy began the Colorado Trail Foundation, whose mission was to complete and maintain the trail, and educate the public about the project. It was her vision that with volunteer help, the CT could be constructed for approximately $500 per mile. Compare that with the estimated Forest Service cost of $25,000 per mile!

Gudy Gaskill is known as the "Mother of the Colorado Trail."

Steve was glad he brought his travel watercolor set. He spent many happy hours painting next to the campfire or in the tent as it rained and snowed.

Camping along the Colorado Trail
Camping along the Colorado Trail
Hiking the Colorado Trail
Hiking the Colorado Trail

Colorado Trail Online Reading & Resources

Rain, snow and more rain. And thunder and lightning and hail. It was an unusually wet and cold June on the Colorado Trail in 2009.

The CT often takes its hikers well above treeline and far from roads, so go prepared for any kind of weather at any time of year. What may be t-shirt temps in the valleys can turn into numbing wind and a whiteout at the passes.

Here are some additional sources of information on planning and packing for a Colorado Trail hike:

The Colorado Trail Foundation
The official website for the Colorado Trail with information on trip planning, volunteer trips, trail news, maps and guides and more.

The Colorado Trail on
Click on the map for information by section.

© 2009 Deb Kingsbury

More by this Author

Comments, Advice Or Questions About The CT? Have you hiked any or all of it? 49 comments

anonymous 7 years ago

Thanks for doing all this planning for us. It's going to be an awesome trip!

ctavias0ffering1 profile image

ctavias0ffering1 7 years ago

Excellent checklist and advice 5* and a sprinkling of Angel Dust for a most useful lens

Laniann profile image

Laniann 7 years ago

Very well done and lots of detail. Perfect for the first time hiker or anyone - they can take your information and not have to do much planning of their own. The Colorado Trail looks beautiful. 5*s

ayngel boshemia profile image

ayngel boshemia 7 years ago from Crestone, Co

That is so cool, I lived in Durango just after High School and have always wanted to move back to that area. It is so beautiful. I'm a few hours away from Durango these days, but still hoping. Hope you enjoy your visit to my neck of the woods and if you happen through Naturita stop in and say hi!!!

paperfacets profile image

paperfacets 7 years ago from La Verne, CA

This area is spectacular. I have done the train. Hiking is not for me. No stamina. But I used to do day hikes. Enjoy your hike. That sounds like so much fun.

evelynsaenz1 profile image

evelynsaenz1 7 years ago from Royalton

Thank you for joining us on A Walk in the Woods and don't forget to add your lens to the appropriate plexo.

ElizabethJeanAl profile image

ElizabethJeanAl 7 years ago

Welcome to the Nature and the Outdoors Group.


RuthCoffee profile image

RuthCoffee 7 years ago

Very nice lens. Looks like heaven on earth to me! Thanks for all of the useful info as well as the stunning photos!

Michey LM profile image

Michey LM 7 years ago

Excellent, the lens is so well done, I can walk on your steps.

Thanks a lot

A mountains lover - Michey

RinchenChodron 7 years ago

Yes, this is a beautiful part of our lovely state! You are young and healthy. I have a friend who has done some of these trails (Kathryn Greeson) every encounter her on the trail?

I have a couple of Colorado sites as well. Five Stars and a Fav. I loved the narrow gage train - what spectacular views! We have had a very wet spring you are right.

anonymous 6 years ago

I just came across this. Great info. My wife and I did nearly the same thing about 2 weeks after you were there. We were in Molas Lake Campgrounds on July 5th.

A couple of differences. We took the train from Durango to Elk Park. Left our car at the B&B we stayed out. We did opt for the B&B to pamper ourselves before and after the hike.

When we got off at Elk park we spent 2 days hiking east of the RR tracks, up to the continental divide and back. Total of 9 days on the trail. We had planned on 10.

We hiked the 3 miles from Junction Creek into town. Probably the hottest we got on the entire trip. We took the trolley/bus at the first opportunity into downtown.

9 days hiking (1 a day hike to the CD). A bit over 100 miles. Longest day was around 16. Shortest was the last at around 8.

Trail was in very good shape except for one 5 mile section that had about 50 down trees. We met one of the trail volunteers later. He said that section was targeted for work later in the summer.

We spent an extra day in Durango after. Lots of good restaurants. Rented bikes and cruised around town and did laundry. Great trip.

DeborahLynne 6 years ago

Hi, My name is Debbie. I am new to Squidoo. I love your lens. It brings back memories of our trips to Colorado. My husband has family in Black Hawk. On our last trip, we rode the cog railway to the summit of Pikes Peak and had lunch at the restaurant at the top. My husband is a train enthusiast and someday we hope to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway train.

I wish we had your stamina to be able to do all the backpacking you do. We stick mostly to day hikes, an occasional camping trip and train rides, which we thoroughly enjoy. We are looking forward to our next trip to Colorado, which is enhanced even more so by your lens.

southshoretees 6 years ago

Outstanding! I haven't been on a good hike in a long time. I'd imagine Colorado has some of the best hiking in the country. Thanks for this great information.

indigoj profile image

indigoj 6 years ago from UK

Thank you for this fantastic guide to planning a Colorado Trail. Your lenses always impress, and it is a delight to find one as informative, attractive and complete as this in the Sports category. Leaving a well-deserved *~*~ Angel Blessing ~*~*.

anonymous 6 years ago

This is amazing. I grew up in Durango, left for college and now live in Montana. I've been wanting to go back and hike the trail from the time they started talking about building it.

I think it will be my 50th b-day present to myself.

Thank you.


Obscure_Treasures 6 years ago

I found lots of useful information, great lens, Thanks!

KimGiancaterino profile image

KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

Your lenses are always so informative and inspirational. I'm impressed with the train track too! That must have taken a long time to build.

anonymous 6 years ago

This is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. There is so much valuable information on here for for a novice hiker such as myself. Thanks again!

Kiwisoutback profile image

Kiwisoutback 6 years ago from Massachusetts

I would love to hike the Colorado Trail someday. The campgrounds look incredible, as do the small towns. I visited Boulder and Mount Estes Park, which were easy to get to by car. Unfortunately we only had half a day to spend there, so it was rushed. I'd like to get back there and hike some of this trail. Outstanding work once again!

OurHomeatBreck 5 years ago

Loved your write up - as a Colorado native I was impressed of your review of one of my favorite places.

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