The Colorado Trail is one of the great walks of the American West. Traversing nearly 500 mountainous miles between Denver, CO and Durango, CO, the trail takes in some of its namesake state’s best scenery, most remote wilderness, and authentic mountain towns. The route is open to hikers, horseback riding, and mountain biking and offers a multitude of options for multi-day treks, day-hikes, and of course thru hiking its entire length.
This Colorado Trail map guide has been designed to provide you with an introduction to the Colorado Trail by providing in-depth maps, navigational resources, and more!
Let’s get started.
In This Guide
- Colorado Trail Overview
- Colorado Trail Map
- Colorado Trail Segments
- Interactive Colorado Trail Map
- Colorado Trail Elevation Profile
- Which maps should I carry on the Colorado Trail?
- Colorado Trail GPS/GPX
Colorado Trail Overview
The Colorado Trail was officially established in 1984 after countless hours of volunteer trail building, advocacy, and determination from a dedicated group of volunteers working with the US Forest Service. Today, the trail is maintained by the non-profit Colorado Trail Foundation, and remains the classic thru hike in the Centennial State.
The trail starts south of Denver at Waterton Canyon and winds its way to the Junction Creek Trailhead just north of Durango. Along the way the route crosses through several National Forests while also visiting (or coming close to) several small mountain towns. As such, the Colorado Trail is popular with both thru-hikers completing its entire length as well as day hikers or those out for a shorter backpacking trip.
In recent years it has also become popular to bikepack the Colorado Trail, although there are a handful of wilderness detours to be aware of for the intrepid cyclists out there.
How long is the Colorado Trail?
Officially, the Colorado Trail is 486 miles between Denver and Durango. If your biking the trail you’ll cover some additional distance given the wilderness detours.
When we mapped the route to create the resources in this post we measured it as 474 miles from the Waterton Canyon Trailhead to the Junction Creek Trailhead, so you can assume that somewhere in the range of 474 – 486 miles is the true length of the route.
Of course, the exact distance of the trek offers little value to hikers, as you’re certain to hike far further on any thru-hike adventure. Detours to town, get water, and find campsites mean that most thru-hikers will end up walking over 500 miles!
How long does it take to hike the Colorado Trail?
Generally speaking, it takes 4 – 6 weeks for most thru-hikers to complete the Colorado Trail. Of course, this is highly dependent on a number of factors, such as:
- Fitness level
- Gear weight
- Weather and trail conditions
- Desired pace
Fit hikers with a light pack and the ability to hike for 10+ hours per day will complete the trail on the faster end, while those wanting to take their time and hike with a few more luxuries will be on the longer end of the spectrum.
Colorado Trail Map
Ok, now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s take a look at the Colorado Trail map below.
The route is split into 28 individual segments, which we discuss in more detail in the next section. The map below shows the entire length of the trail as well as the individual segments, including the alternate Collegiate West Loop (more on that below).
As you can see, the Colorado Trail covers a wide variety of terrain as it makes its way southwest through the Rocky Mountains. The Colorado Trail travels through seven different National Forests:
- Pike National Forest
- White River National Forest
- San Isabel National Forest
- Gunnison National Forest
- Rio Grande National Forest
- San Juan National Forest
In addition, the trail crosses through six Wilderness Areas:
- Lost Creek Wilderness
- Holy Cross Wilderness
- Mount Massive Wilderness
- Collegiate Peaks Wilderness
- Weminuche Wilderness
- La Garita Wilderness
An important note for would-be mountain bikers on the Colorado trail is that no mechanized vehicles (ie bikes) are permitted in federally designated Wilderness Areas. As a result, there are detours required for anyone cycling the entire route.
Collegiate West Route – Colorado Trail Alternate
In addition to the standard Colorado Trail there is one alternative route, known as the Collegiate West Route, that hikers can opt to take. Established as part of the Colorado Trail in 2012, the Collegiate West loop splits off from the main Colorado Trail on the south shores of Twin Lakes and rejoins the main trail prior to Marshall Pass.
While the main trail stays east of the Collegiate Peaks, the West Route ventures west of this range and attains a much higher average elevation. The standard route offers easier access to towns/resupply points in Buena Vista and Salida, while the west route takes you into much more remote backcountry settings.
Take a look at the map of the Collegiate West Route on the Colorado Trail below for additional detail:
Colorado Trail Segments
As we mentioned above, the Colorado Trail is divided into 28 individual segments. These segments aren’t intended to be used as an exact itinerary, you’d struggle to hike many of them in a single day, but rather as a general guide for different sections of the trail. They typically start and finish at trailheads, mountain passes, roads, and other prominent features along the trail.
Check out each of the 28 segments on the Colorado Trail along with the distance of each in the table below:
|Segment 1||Waterton Canyon TH||South Platte River TH||15.6|
|Segment 2||South Platte River TH||Little Scraggy TH||11|
|Segment 3||Little Scraggy TH||Rolling Creek TH||12.2|
|Segment 4||Rolling Creek TH||Long Gulch||15.7|
|Segment 5||Long Gulch||Kenosha Pass||14.9|
|Segment 6||Kenosha Pass||Gold Hill TH||31.4|
|Segment 7||Gold Hill TH||Copper Mountain||13.5|
|Segment 8||Copper Mountain||Tennessee Pass||24.7|
|Segment 9||Tennessee Pass||Timberline Lake TH||12.9|
|Segment 10||Timberline Lake TH||Mount Massive TH||12.6|
|Segment 11||Mount Massive TH||Clear Creek Road||21|
|Segment 12||Clear Creek Road||Silver Creek TH||17.7|
|Segment 13||Silver Creek TH||Chalk Creek TH||21.7|
|Segment 14||Chalk Creek TH||US Hwy 50||20.2|
|Segment 15||US Hwy 50||Marshall Pass TH||14.3|
|Segment 16||Marshall Pass TH||Sargents Mesa||14.7|
|Segment 17||Sargents Mesa||CO Hwy 14||20.5|
|Segment 18||CO Hwy 14||Saguache Park Rd||13.7|
|Segment 19||Saguache Park Rd||Eddiesville TH||13.6|
|Segment 20||Eddiesville TH||San Luis Pass||12.2|
|Segment 21||San Luis Pass||Spring Creek Pass TH||14.4|
|Segment 22||Spring Creek Pass TH||Carson Saddle||17|
|Segment 23||Carson Saddle||Stony Pass TH||15.8|
|Segment 24||Stony Pass TH||Molas Pass||19.7|
|Segment 25||Molas Pass||Bolam Pass Rd||20.3|
|Segment 26||Bolam Pass Rd||Hotel Draw Rd||10.9|
|Segment 27||Hotel Draw Rd||Kennebec TH||20.5|
|Segment 28||Kennebec TH||Junction Creek TH||21.2|
Colorado Trail Segments Maps
In addition to the table above, we find it helpful to visualize each of these segments with a bit more detail than what is possible in a map that covers the entire trail. That is part of the difficulty of viewing a 486 mile trail!
Check out the sections below for detailed maps of the segments of the Colorado Trail, split into five segments per map:
Segments 1 -5 Map | Waterton Canyon Trailhead to Kenosha Pass
Segments 6 – 10 | Kenosha Pass to Mount Massive Trailhead
Segments 11 – 15 | Mount Massive Trailhead to Marshall Pass Trailhead
Segments 16 – 20 | Marshall Pass Trailhead to San Luis Pass
Segments 21 – 25 | San Luis Pass to Bolam Pass Road
Segments 26 – 28 | Bolam Pass road to Junction Creek Trailhead
Interactive Colorado Trail Map
Ok, now that you have a good overview of the entire route of the Colorado Trail along with the 28 individual segments that make up the trail, you might be looking for additional detail on a given segment. Enter the interactive Colorado Trail map below.
Zoom in on specific segments, see what is near the trail, and explore the terrain below:
Colorado Trail Elevation Profile
As you make your way along the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango, you’re in for a staggering 82,000 feet of elevation gain! That is a exceptional amount of climbing and averages nearly 200 feet of elevation gain for every mile of trail.
Of course, all of that elevation isn’t perfectly spaced out across the trek, although you will find that every segment of the Colorado Trail has what we would consider some serious elevation gain.
The high point of the Colorado Trail sits at 13,271′ above sea-level along the ridge below Coney Point, just before the end of Segment 22. For those looking to venture a bit higher, there are several 14ers you can climb just off the trail, especially in the Collegiate Peaks sections.
The elevation profile below gives a sense of what each of the segments along the Colorado Trail are like in terms of elevation gain and loss.
Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents one of the 28 segments.
The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the segment.
Which maps should I carry on the Colorado Trail?
The Colorado Trail is exceptionally well-marked along its entire route. This deserves a major kudos to the Colorado Trail Foundation, which has done an amazing job at making it as easy as possible to navigate on the hike. However, you will of course want to have some sort of navigational tool and maps if you’re undertaking a trek along the Colorado Trail.
For this, we recommend a couple of resources, outlined below:
Colorado Trail Guidebook, Map Book, and Databook
There are three essential books you’ll want to pick up prior to hiking the Colorado Trail, all outlined below:
- Colorado Trail Guidebook: This is the official guidebook for the trail and an essential resource. It is heavy, so think twice about bringing it with you on your hike, but you should absolutely use it to plan your trek.
- Colorado Trail Map Book: The associated map book is a companion to the official guidebook. It includes full topographic maps for every section of the Colorado Trail, including bicycle detours. We recommend bringing this with you on the trail.
- Colorado Trail Databook: The final book you’ll want to consider bringing along with you in the official databook. This is basically a shortened version of the guidebook and contains essential info on water sources, resupply points, and more. Essential for any hiker.
National Geographic Trail Illustrated Colorado Trail Maps
If you’re like us and enjoy having a physical map to bring along, National Geographic has a handy 2 map pack for the entire trail. Split into north and south sections, these maps give a good overview of the hike at a decent scale.
Offline Navigation Tool (GPS)
Finally, we always recommend utilizing some type of GPS navigation along the Colorado Trail. Most of the route is without cell phone service, so a GPS receiver or GPS app on your smartphone is a good idea. These allow you to preload the Colorado Trail onto either your phone or GPS device, and then track your exact location on the trail while you’re hiking.
We’ve found GPS navigation to be absolutely essential on the long distance hikes we’ve completed, and highly recommend you use this on the Colorado Trail. The next section has more information on GPX files that you can use with your GPS device for the Colorado Trail.
Want to learn how to create your own route and itinerary?
Our GPS Route Making & Navigation Course will teach you everything you need to know to build your own custom itinerary. We’ll show you how to map your route, create custom GPS files, sync routes to your phone, and even print your own maps. Learn more below:
Ready to take control of your trip planning? We’re here to help you create your own custom itinerary and navigate like a pro!
Colorado Trail GPX
If you’d like access to the GPX files we used to create all of the maps in this guide and to navigate on the trail, we’re happy to offer them for free below. We’ve done our best to ensure the files are accurate and up-to-date, but of course you’ll want to do your own due diligence.
The GPX files include:
- All data for each of the 28 segments
- Waypoints for all of the segment starting/ending points
- The complete Collegiate West Route
You can download the files below, and we always appreciate a small contribution as recognition for the work we put in to create this resource!
Have a great adventure!
We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Colorado Trail. It’s an amazing hike and one we’re thrilled that you interested in exploring. Be sure to check out our other Colorado Trail resources below: