For many in Colorado, the bulk of the hiking and backpacking season is in the warm summer months when temperatures are much more reasonable and extra gear isn't required to, well, stay alive! But, there are people who, in the long cold winter months, when the daylight is in short supply and Old Man Winter is constantly knocking on the door, are in the planning stages for epic summer adventures. You might be surprised to know how much the 285 corridor plays a huge part in their planning.
One of Colorado's claims to fame, rightfully so, is the Colorado Trail. An amazing 486 mile (569 including the Collegiate West section) trek from Denver to Durango with additional opportunities to summit several fourteeners, circumnavigate the Collegiate Peaks and even shares 235 miles (80 more Collegiate West) of the trail with the Continental Divide Trail as it winds its way through our Colorado Rocky Mountains.
With an average altitude of just over 10,000' and reaching as high as 13,271' much of the Colorado Trail is high above it all, where the air is thin and trees are scarce. The descents being as challenging as the ascents, as the occasional downhill stretch will lead into the valleys below to resupply in a historic mining town or one of the modern ski towns, the trek down can be quite tough on weary hiker legs.
But not all of the trail spends its time along the high tundra, there is one long stretch in particular that meanders its way through and along the rolling landscape of the 285 corridor. This well forested section plays a vital role, perhaps unknowingly, to the many people who reside and work here. With the Colorado Trail in close proximity there is plenty of opportunities for those who take on the month long backpacking journey to come off the trail for various needs.
While many go about their daily lives tucked away in the communities along the 285 corridor, CT hikers are quietly making their way higher and higher. The early part of the CT follows alongside the highway as it, too, travels south and west from Denver. Many hikers spend their first week along this corridor, getting their trail legs underneath them in preparation for higher terrain to come. The many services available are a welcome sight to those who are somewhat new to this type of hiking and altitude.
In many cases, before getting to Georgia Pass, if not Kenosha Pass, many green hikers and those not yet acclimated to the ever increasing altitude will learn quickly what gear they need, what gear they don't need, and make changes accordingly before more remote parts of the trail are encountered. For the through hiker of the Colorado Trail the 285 corridor and its many wonderful towns are an oasis to the traveler in search of lodging, gear, food and many other services.
Trail angels, those who volunteer of their own time, shuttle hikers to and from trailheads to town where supplies can be attained and overnight logging can be found. At other times, some trail angels will set up on trail to supply water and food as hikers travel through. Others volunteer alongside the Colorado Trail Foundation to upkeep long stretches of the CT to keep it open and free of obstructions caused by winter storms. To all these volunteers we salute you, your service is greatly appreciated.
The next time you see someone toting a backpack and looking like they've been on trail for a week, consider they could be on the adventure of a lifetime and have come into town to re-energize, clean up and take a well deserved break. If you have time, ask of their adventure, see if they are hiking the CT, you never know what grand stories they have already encountered or what visions they might have of what lies ahead. While most hikers are Durango bound, some are hiking from Durango to Denver. These hikers have indeed already embraced over 400 miles of what the CT has to offer along with Colorado's predictable and yet, unpredictable weather. They will indeed have stories to share.
After leaving Waterton Canyon on Denver's southwest side, the first five segments of the CT begin with a slow and steady climb towards Buffalo Creek and the Lost Creek Wilderness. Segment 5 ends and Segment 6 begins at Kenosha Pass where the CT bends north and west heading its way down to Guernsey Creek before the slow steady climb to Georgia Pass and breaking treeline for the first time rewarding backpackers with their first mountainous views of things to come. It is here where the 285 corridor hands off CT hikers to points beyond. Bid farewell to those Durango bound as they journey on, or welcome those coming from Durango who have already trekked many enduring miles to reach the warmth and resupply of all 285 has to offer.
If you would like to keep up with us this summer, we are hiking the Colorado Trail northbound from Durango back to Denver. Follow along on our journey, stay up to date on our location, or come out and hike with us for the day. We will be posting updates along the way, when able, or in town resupplying. After we are done with the hike we will begin posting videos of each of the 28 segments. We are so excited to get on trail and share the adventure with everyone. Feel free to follow along!
"Each day is a unique opportunity to make memories and embrace life. Live your passion!"