Are you curious about exploring the Colorado Trail by bike?
I raced it as part of my Bikepacking Triple Crown (Arizona Trail, Tour Divide, and Colorado Trail) in 2017.  Amazing doesn’t start to describe the experience.  It did take a lot of planning though.  So if you have a desire to race or tour the Colorado Trail (CT), read on to learn more with this Colorado Trail Guide.

I pull the following information together for people like us, the explores and adventurers.  After my CTR I realized there was a need for a Colorado Trail Guide for bikepackers. This page is divided up into simple sections so you can quickly get a feel for the route.  As part of a larger all inclusive guide, this page and corresponding pages will allow you to focus on riding your bike instead of searching the internet for hours on end.

Where does one start the planning process?  This page is a great starting point, but if you want more information, checkout the “Guides” button below.  Watch out though, you just might find yourself on the starting line in July!

Colorado Trail Logo guides

Stats

DISTANCE

539 Miles (867km)

DIFFICULTY (1-10)

9

Elevation Gain

70,000+ Feet (21,336m)

HIGHEST POINT

13,271 Feet (4,045m)

% SINGLETRACK

55%

TIME REQUIRED

7 – 14+ Days

% UNPAVED

80%

Time of Year

July to September

Race Date

July 29, 2018

6 am Waterton Canyon

Closest Towns to Start/Finish

Littleton & Durango

Race Records

Neil Beltchenko (2016) 6:12:28
Alice Drobna (2015) 9:13:53

Male: Neil Beltchenko (2016) 3:19:50
Female: Eszter Horanyi (2011) 5:05:27

Overview

The Colorado Trail is a monster of a trail, but this shouldn’t sway you from bikepacking it.  The Colorado Trail is a multi use trail that runs 500 miles (539 by bicycle) from Waterton Canyon in Littleton, Colorado to Durango, Colorado.  It holds immense beauty around almost every turn.  With an average elevation of over 10,000 feet your lungs and legs will be tested. Bring your rain jacket, you will get caught in afternoon thunder storms.

Your race/tour of the CT will involve you crossing six National Forests, six wilderness areas, eight mountain ranges, and five major river systems.  The Colorado Trail Race (CTR) is known as one of the hardest, if not the hardest and most scenic bikepacking routes in the entire United States.

During the 2017 CTR the average amount of H.A.B (Hike-A-Bike) was about 70 miles.  That equals 13% of the total distance.  If you were to complete the race in seven days, one day of the seven would be HAB!  With this in mind be sure you’ve dialed in your set up.  More weight on the bike means a heavier push.  Even more important, make sure your shoes are comfortable and don’t give you blisters.

Resupply on the CTR is fairly easy except for one section.  From Princeton Hot Springs to Silverton it’s 183 miles.  That’s around three days at 60 miles a day.  This is probably the hardest section of the entire race.  You’ll want to be sure you have extra food.  Princeton Hot Springs and Stagestop Store & Saloon have the smallest options for resupply, while the rest are either full service or have adequate supply options.

If singletrack is what you’re looking for, then this is the trail for you.  The riding is simply amazing, but know that at race pace you may not be able to enjoy much of it.  Touring the route might be a better option.

Colorado Trail Guide

Route

Ctr map Colorado trail Colorado Trail Transportation Guide

This map shows the hiking route, NOT the bike route. But you get the picture.

DENVER TO DURANGO

CTR MAP GPS Colorado Trail Guide

DURANGO TO DENVER

CTR DGO-DEN map Colorado Trail Guide

Elevation profiles provided by John Schilling.  Support John’s effort by purchasing prints, sticks and mugs of these profiles.

COLORADO TRAIL RACE

COLORADO TRAIL RACE 

The CTR is not organized or sanctioned in any fashion. It’s seen as big group ride that follows a predetermine route, start time, a short list of rules and that’s it.  Those who partake should understand the rules and obey the gentleman’s agreement to “race” fairly.  There are no organizers, checkpoints, and or aid of any kind.  You’re souly responsible for yourself.

The Colorado Trail Race starts in either Waterton Canyon or Durango depending on the year.  On odd numbered years the race travels South to North (or West to East) and on even numbered years it travels North to South (or East to West).

Suggested Start Date:

Saturday, July 29th, 2018

6 am – Waterton Canyon

RULES 

Bikepack racing is usually not organized, is without entry fees or prizes, but there are a set of rules all bikepacking races follow.  The rules are put into place to create a level playing field for all those who participate.

*Note these rules are the general rules for bikepack racing and each event may have their own specific rules and they also change from time to time.  With that said it’s important you read and understand the official rules which can be found at the link below.

1. One must complete the entire route under their own power.

2. Outside support is not allowed.

3. No caching of food/supplies ahead of time.

4. No use of motorized transportation or hitch-hiking, EXCEPT for travel to hospital/medical care.

The following are allowed, but not encouraged. Please use sparingly.

5. Unplanned assistance from other racers is ACCEPTABLE.

6. Trail magic OK – but please, no begging or fishing (hinting).

7. Mailing resupplies ahead to Post Offices is ACCEPTABLE (but some racers frown upon this).

Official rules found at Climbing Dreams.

No entry fee, no prizes, absolutely no support 

SPOT TRACKING 

You are encouraged to use a Spot tracker, (they are not mandatory).  Due to the nature, difficulty and lack of support, I personal believe you’d be nuts not to.  If you want to be included in the tracking of the race, you can sign up at Trackleaders.com one month before.

SPOT HIRE 

Spot Gen3 are available from Trackleaders.com around one month before the start of the race, if you’re looking to rent one.  Check Bikepacking.net forums, Facebook or  Trackleaders for more information.

SUPPORT THE COLORADO TRAIL FOUNDATION 

The Colorado Trail Foundation has no affiliation to the race but they are the acting stewards of the trail and help manage/maintain it.  Because of them and their members you have this amazing trail to ride.  Please consider donating to the Colorado Trail Foundation, so they may continue their amazing work.

MUST KNOW

  • The quality of singletrack you get to ride is by far one of the biggest highlights of the CTR.  The elevation won’t be the only thing taking your breath away.
  • The CTR offers MTBers a chance to ride above treeline at heights most of us only dream of.
  • Amazing views at every turn.
  • The Colorado Trail dishes out extremely demanding singletrack and punishing climbs, making it an amazingly difficult trail.
  • The elevation of the  CTR can be unforgiving.  Do not underestimate the harshness of the weather, as the results could be dangerous/fatal.
  • Depending on your ability there is about 70 miles of H.A.B Hike-a-Bike“.
  • The lack of services between Silverton and Princeton Hot Springs means having the ability to carry a large amount of food.
  • Elsewhere on the CT, distances between towns is quite manageable.
  • Water should not be an issue on the CTR, levels vary from year to year.
  • Finding campsites along the CT isn’t a issue.  There are many primitive and developed camping options or you can usually sleep along the trail.

DANGERS & PITFALLS 

  • Exposure
  • Lightening
  • Hypothermia
  • Snow
  • Wild animals
  • Strenuous terrain
  • Remoteness
  • If you’re using the Atlas Guides/Guthook app, their track isn’t the same as the official race track (but only at Stony Pass).

PHOTOS OF THE COLORADO TRAIL