The Colorado Trail…Woah

I finished riding The Colorado Trail a few days ago.

It took me 19 days to complete–I was hoping for 15. I got sick, things broke, I took some days off, I met some awesome people, I pushed/carried my bike quite a bit, I ate an absurd amount of food but still lost about 10 pounds, and I soaked in the endlessly changing stunning views. It was pretty great.

The Colorado Trail connects Denver to Durango, weaving its way through The Rocky Mountains and seeming to climb every pass in the state. Well, that’s not true but some days it sure feels like it. The trail was put together with hikers in mind but with the advances in bike technology and gear specification, it has become a destination for bikepackers.

  • 540 miles

  • 72,500′ of elevation gain

  • Peaks at 13,270′

The appeal of the trail for bikes is pretty clear…you can go further in one day, you don’t have worry too much about water or food since resupply points are usually within a few days of each other (4/5 at most), and you have the privilege of riding some of the most scenic and flowy single track trails around.

However, there are some downsides to riding versus hiking the trail. The route passes through five wilderness areas, in which bikes are not allowed. To preserve the wilderness designated areas, nothing mechanized can be motorized vehicles, no bikes, no chainsaws or power tools (so trail work has to be done by hand tools…imagine that!). That being said, free-range cow grazing is still allowed…figure that one out for me.  While riding around the wilderness areas was a bummer since they are such pockets of beauty, the terrain looked pretty rugged, steep, and generally, bike unfriendly. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t have to ride those sections but I look forward to one day seeing them while on foot.

Feet, while slower, can usually travel over rather rugged and steep terrain better than a loaded bicycle. I pushed my bike A LOT. However, the bike makes up for the slow uphill pushes when the trail pitches downward.  All this put together, I think bikers work harder (in smaller stints), but have more fun on the flip side.

Don’t get me wrong, I think hikers have a much more taxing task completing a trail like the CT.  They are physically bearing weight leading to more wear and tear on the back, feet, and joints in general. They have longer to go between water and food resupply options so their planning has to be a bit more on point. In general, thru-hiking something like The Colorado Trail seems more like a slow, steady grind.

Bikepacking the CT is more a suffer/reward type of trip.

The suffering is real. But the rewards are out of this world.

Resupplies in the woods
Some mornings are warmer than others
Trail angels are real…and they supply Annie’s Mac & Cheese
The worst view all day…but the highest
Almost an hour struggle to breach the last 300′ of this pass…switchbacks please?
Late September is pushing it weather wise at 12,000′
Town veggies
Riding with people is a treat
Sometimes the arms work harder than the legs
Yurts supply good shelter from hellish wind storms
Bittersweet end in Durango

Now it’s time to swap some clothing for water carrying capacity…onto the (hopefully dry) dessert landscapes of Utah.

Fair Winds!


2 thoughts on “The Colorado Trail…Woah

  1. Well done Graham! You know how I passed the time while on extended solo backpack trips? I memorized Robert Service poetry. It’s a great opportunity to do something that will stick with you for life. (I know Robert Service is not very hi-brow but it fits the setting)
    “There are strange things done under the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold.
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold….

  2. 72,000 feet of climbing! That’s an average of 3,800 feet per day. Very impressive. Cool to interact with you in preparing for this goal, then be able to share in your adventure through this site. To harken back to another Robert Service stanza:

    Have you suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
    Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
    “Done things” just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
    Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
    Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders?
    (You’ll never hear it in the family pew.)
    The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things —
    Then listen to the Wild — it’s calling you.

    It pushes and inspires me to be in the presence of “the silent men who do things” Thanks for being one of those people. Best wishes on your next segment

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