Guidebook

The CDT: Colorado Section

A breathtaking tour of Colorado’s most renowned and coveted peaks as the CDT crosses its highest points and continues into Wyoming.

Brendon Voelker

Description

Spanning nearly 3,000 miles across the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the Continental Divide Trail is one of the most-recognized thru-hikes in America – if not the entire world. While hiking each section by state isn’t particularly common, each state offers its own nuance for thru-hikers heading north, and the trail often changes character when you arrive at a new state line.

With nearly 800 miles of singletrack, forest service roads, and long highway walks to your back, you’re in for a treat as you climb alongside some of Colorado’s revered 14ers, even crossing one along the way. Seen on this segment of the CDT, Grays Peak is the highest point on the entire Continental Divide, as well as the highest point on the trail. It’s also a popular day hike thanks to its proximity to Interstate 70, meaning you don’t have to plan a thru-hike to enjoy this stunning 14,278-foot summit.

Running just under 750 miles through the heart of the Centennial State, the CDT Coalition considers the Colorado Rockies a “quintessential CDT experience” that is “dotted with abandoned homesteads, ghost towns, and remnants of Native Americans and settlers who flocked here to mine gold and silver.” Highlights include the many trail towns and gateway communities deep in the mountains, and a selection of wilderness areas so vast you could spend an entire lifetime trying to see it all. The trail also runs through a small portion of Rocky Mountain National Park along its tour of alpine mountaintops, lush canyons, and dense forests.

Wildlife through the Rockies can vary drastically, but you can count on everything from moose, elk, and bear, to trophy trout in many of the lakes and streams you’ll encounter along the way. Overnight permits and bear canisters are also required at various points through the state, with more information on those restrictions available here.

Though long portions of the CDT in Colorado lie in the treeless alpine zone, you’ll also enjoy a stunning selection of diverse plant life, including summer wildflowers frequently found along riverbanks. Expect spruce, fir, pine, and aspen to compose most of the trail’s greenery, and try to avoid hiking above the timberline if you see storm clouds working their way in. The state’s highly-anticipated monsoon season typically lasts through July and August, and they are known for unleashing dangerous and frequent afternoon thunderstorms on the high mountain peaks. Snowpack can also be present through all of May, with some winter storms starting as early as September or October.

In contrast to the arid desert and unreliable water sources found in New Mexico, water sources are much more abundant in Colorado. While certain sub-ranges yield wetter weather than others, creeks, rivers, springs can usually be found in regular intervals, though there are still a few times where you may have to go a long way without. Whether you’re thru-hiking, day-hiking, or eying a section hike, the CDT Water Report is an invaluable tool that can help you plan your water supply accordingly.

Sources:

CDT Coalition
Wikipedia: Grays Peak

CDT: Cumbres Pass (CO-17) to Wolf Creek Pass (US-160)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Cumbres Pass (CO-17) to Wolf Creek Pass (US-160)

1 day +
110.9 km
3,407 m
3,150 m
Begin your journey through the southern San Juans, where alpine terrain and high mountain lakes abound.
Difficult
Private
CDT: Wolf Creek Pass (US-160) to Stony Pass
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Wolf Creek Pass (US-160) to Stony Pass

Colorado
1 day +
133.4 km
5,496 m
4,985 m
A remote and notable portion of the CDT that lies mostly above the treeline through a remote wilderness area.
Difficult
Private
CDT: Stony Pass to North Pass (CO-114)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Stony Pass to North Pass (CO-114)

Colorado
1 day +
140.2 km
4,055 m
4,905 m
A long alpine trek alongside peaks towering as tall as 14,000'.
Difficult
Private
CDT: North Pass (CO-114) to Monarch Pass (US-50)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: North Pass (CO-114) to Monarch Pass (US-50)

Salida
1 day +
73.2 km
2,663 m
2,185 m
A *mostly* sub-alpine traverse with epic views of Mount Ouray (13,888'), and a northern terminus at Monarch Pass.
Difficult
Private
CDT: Monarch Pass (US-50) to Twin Lakes (CO-82)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Monarch Pass (US-50) to Twin Lakes (CO-82)

Salida
1 day +
131.4 km
4,885 m
5,491 m
A stunning section of the CDT known for its views of Monumental Peak and passage through the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
Difficult
Private
CDT: Twin Lakes (CO-82) to Copper Mountain (CO-91)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Twin Lakes (CO-82) to Copper Mountain (CO-91)

Salida
1 day +
92.9 km
3,314 m
3,165 m
A narrow singletrack passage paralleling US-24 to the west as the CDT circles around Leadville.
Difficult
Private
CDT: Copper Mountain (CO-91) to Herman Gulch (I-70)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Copper Mountain (CO-91) to Herman Gulch (I-70)

Copper Mountain
1 day +
108.5 km
5,137 m
4,984 m
A 67-mile section of the CDT ideal as a section hike ending with one of Colorado's best 14ers - Grays Peak.
Severe
Private
CDT: Herman Gulch (I-70) to Grand Lake
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Herman Gulch (I-70) to Grand Lake

Colorado
1 day +
120.8 km
4,598 m
5,143 m
A diverse segment of the CDT traversing alpine and sub-alpine singletrack connecting Interstate 70 to Grand Lake, the gateway to the Rocky Mountains NP.
Difficult
Private
CDT: Grand Lake to Rabbit Ears Pass (US-40)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Grand Lake to Rabbit Ears Pass (US-40)

Colorado
1 day +
155.1 km
5,058 m
4,744 m
Enjoy both alpine and sub-alpine peaks as you make your way from Rocky Mountain National Park, to US-40 near Steamboat Spring.
Difficult
Private
CDT: Rabbit Ears Pass (US-40) to Red Mountain TH (WY-70)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

CDT: Rabbit Ears Pass (US-40) to Red Mountain TH (WY-70)

Colorado
1 day +
131.0 km
3,687 m
3,562 m
A long passageway through the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest as the CDT makes its way into Wyoming.
Severe
Private