Conquer the Colorado Trail from Durango
Nearly 500 Miles of the Most Beautiful Trail in America
The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile long-distance trail that connects southwest Denver to Durango, Colorado. Most hikers who choose to set out on the Colorado Trail start in Denver, but there are lots of benefits to beginning in Durango. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive into some of the details you’ll need to know before you make plans to conquer the Colorado Trail.
Durango to Denver
Why should you conquer it from Durango? Not only will you encounter some of the prettiest segments of the trail, but hikers here will be easier acclimated to elevation changes they’ll encounter along the way. Additionally, those who prefer hiking in solitude will find fewer fellow hikers traveling northbound. The Durango portion of the trail also features fewer human influences, greater vistas, and more wildflowers in the spring and summer than you could ever imagine. It’s practically a hiker’s dream.
History of the Colorado Trail
The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile long-distance trail that spans the distance between Denver and Durango. The idea behind the trail was born in 1973, but the trail itself wasn’t created and connected until 1987. Since then, the trail has welcomed hikers of all skill levels and interests, from experienced thru-hikers to day hikers. Today it's is maintained by the Colorado Trail Foundation, an organization made up solely of donors and volunteers.
The Trail passes through six National Forests, six Wilderness areas, traverses five major river systems and penetrates eight of the states mountain ranges.Colorado Trail Foundation
This group has about 600 volunteers and 3,000 donors who keep the trail in good shape by clearing trees and brush, monitoring erosion, and other important services. In addition to maintaining the trail, the foundation also offers guided treks. These week-long hikes offer assistance from volunteers experienced with the trail.
How Long Does it Take?
It might take an experienced hiker 4 to 6 weeks to conquer the entire thing. However, if you’re just planning a segment or two, you might only be on the trail for a few days. It all depends on skill, terrain, and elevation. The Colorado Trail is rough and rugged. It might take you a whole month or more to hike the whole 486 miles with serious elevation gain. The lowest point of the trail, just outside Denver, sits at 5,500 feet in elevation while the highest point reaches over 13,500 feet. It’s a strenuous journey, but well worth it.
Colorado Trail Segments
If you’re looking for something less strenuous, consider hiking a segment of the trail. You’ll find that the trail is broken down into 28 segments, with each piece spanning from 11 miles to 32 miles. Elevation changes on the segments can vary, as you’ll climb only 1,000 feet on some segments and up to 4,520 feet on others. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the elevation gain, the more strenuous the segment. Here's a couple of our favorites.
Segment 28: Kennebec Trailhead to Junction Creek Trailhead
Kennebec → Junction Creek
Because most hikers start in Denver, the portion closest to Durango is considered the final segment. The Junction Creek Trailhead is within walking distance of most of Durango, located just off Main Avenue and West 25th Street. This segment of the trail spans 19.6 miles point-to-point and is rated as moderate. You’ll enjoy the shade from forests along the way and get great views of the San Juan Mountains as you trek along segment 28. Dogs and horses are welcome on this segment of the trail.
Segment 25: Molas Pass to Bolam Pass Road
Molas Pass → Bolam Pass
If you’re looking for more San Juan Mountain views, consider hiking segment 25 of the Colorado Trail. This segment starts in the mountains above Silverton and is nestled between two high-alpine passes. This segment of the trail spans 20.9 miles point-to-point and is only recommended for very experienced hikers and adventurers. It is best used from March to September. Dogs and horses are welcome on this segment of the trail.
Durango is a city of adventure and it’s easy to see why. The Colorado Trail offers hikers the perfect way to take in the San Juan Mountains. Consider making a day hike or even an overnight hike along a local segment of the trail part of your next Southwest Colorado vacation. Explore more of the Colorado outdoors and start planning your next adventure now!
*Every year the Bureau of Land Management Colorado implements seasonal closures of trail access across the state to reduce disturbance to wintering wildlife. These closures usually take place between December & April. Please see BLM Colorado's interactive map of seasonal closures before planning your outdoor activities.