Bikepacking The Colorado Trail
Death By Singlespeed
The Colorado Trail is one of the (if not, the) premier, long distance bikepacking trails in the US. It travels through the incredible Colorado Rocky Mountains amongst peaks, glacial lakes, creeks, and a spectacular array of ecosystems. The trail dramatically rises and falls with an average elevation of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and tops out above 13,000 feet (3,962 meters), just below Coney Summit. It is a through route, or point-to-point, stretching almost 500 miles from the dusty southern Colorado town of Durango, to Denver (Littleton to be exact). It is commonly ridden in the opposite direction, however the 2015 Colorado Trail Race used the south to north course.
The Colorado Trail flows through eight mountain ranges, six wilderness areas, five major river systems, and six National Forests. Bicycles are prohibited in each of the six Wilderness Areas; it is against federal regulations. Thru-cyclists are required to detour around each of the Wilderness areas.
It is possible to do the Trail and detours via bicycle without any vehicular support by re-supplying in Frisco, Leadville, Buena Vista, and Silverton. Allow between 7-18 days for the trip, depending on your pace and skill level.
UPDATE: New record holder Jesse Jakomait finished the 2015 Colorado Trail Race in 03:20:47 (3 days 20 hours 47 minutes).
539 Mi.(867 KM)
% Rideable (time)
- Must Know
- Trail Notes
- Unmatched, pristine, high-altitude singletrack.
- Dazzling displays of wildflowers in the spring and early summer. Insane fall colors in late Sept.
- Traversing a rich diversity of alpine scenery, high desert, grasslands, and interesting mountain towns.
- Night stay in Hindale yurt right on route .
- Snow is the biggest factor on deciding when to attempt the CT. Most years the snow has melted by early July making it possible to pass in its entirety from July-September. However, it is not uncommon to experience a stray snow early or late in the season.
- Weather is another major consideration. During the prime riding season, it is also monsoon season and it’s fairly common to experience rain, hail, and severe lightening. Prepare accordingly. Plan to be off high passes in mid afternoon.
- Temperatures can take a dramatic swing at higher elevations. Prepare for chilly temps at night, especially in late September. A 24 degree bag is not a bad idea. The less your body works to stay warm at night the better rest you will get.
- The Colorado Trail has an average elevation of over 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Plan ahead and if you are traveling from a location at a lower altitude, take a few day rides from Durango to acclimatize.
- It’s a good idea to wear bright colors if traveled later in the season as hunting season begins.
- There is both wild camping and designated campsites available. The Trailside Databook has each campground noted, and most are maintained by the Colorado Trail Foundation.
- There is also lodging available in most of the towns passed along the way.
- Hindale Yurt on segment 22, also segment of route highpoint of 13,271.
- The main resupply points on route are Breckenridge, Leadville, Buena Vista, and Silverton.
- Additional resupply towns are Teryall, Breckenridge, Copper, and Princeton Hot Springs. Do proper research as to what is available and when.
- The longest stretch without resupply is between Silverton and Buena Vista. Ball buster section!!! pack smart!
- Water is available for most of the route, but there are some legs where this may be challenging. Bring a filtration system.
Princeton Hot Springs has a very well stocked market. Perfect when traveling Durango to Denver. First resupply since Silverton.
- Bicycle detour la grarita wilderness doesn’t have as much water as one might hope. Long open roads, exposed, hot.
Littleton to Breck
- Georgia Pass has some of the best views. Great riding in both directions. Avoid highway 285 at all costs if traveling east to west. Heavy vehicular traffic; no shoulder.
Breck to Leadville
- Wheeler Pass…. amazing! Searle Pass ridden west to east is an amazing downhill. Easy to get lost/mixed up near Tennassee Pass.
Leadville to Buena Vista
- Easy, mostly dirt road with a section of pavement. Singletrack sections are a blast!
BV to Silverton
- Hardest section by far! Long bike detour around 50 miles of paved and dirt road. Mt. Prinston Hotsprings is a saving grace traveling west to east.
Silverton to Durango
- Best views of the route. Amazing descent into Durango or hell climb out. Indian Ridge is the highlight of the segment.
- For the most part, the Colorado Trail is very well marked. However, The Trailside Databook is a must-have for a breakdown of each segment with mileages and elevations. This is all we had for directions. we had a gps, but only used as reference. Note- data book gives directions for Denver to Durango, requiring extra brain power going opposite direction.
- You can get away without using a GPS, but it is still recommended.
- The Colorado Trail Foundation
- The Colorado Trail Race
- Updated GPX files by Toby Gadd
- The official CT Guidebook
- The Colorado Trail Databook
- Colorado Trail Race Training Plan by LW Training
- 2015 CTR Trackleaders page