The Colorado Trail stretches through numerous mountain ranges and wilderness areas of eastern Colorado. Much of trail passes through historic areas, untouched in hundreds of years. The trail has very challenging elevation, and reaches its highest point in the San Juan Mountains. The overall difficulty of the Colorado Trail is considered to be moderate to strenuous. The elevation and ease of logistical arrangements will vary significantly per segment, providing a wide range of difficulties available for section-hikers. Thru-hikers will need to deal with some sporadic issues in attaining water and food, but should otherwise enjoy the challenging mountainous climbs.
Adventurous hikers will enjoy the varied terrain that the Colorado Trail explores over its length. It reaches extremely high elevations in the mountains, with breathtaking ridgelines and landscapes. The average elevation on the trail reaches over 10,000 feet. Many hikers prefer to start in Denver and hike southbound in order to begin with the easier segments and slowly acclimate to the more strenuous mountain sections later on.
For the most part, there are plenty of water sources along the trail -- though the water should always be filtered or treated before use. Unfortunately, there are a few longer sections lasting 1 to 2 days without any access to water. Additionally, many of the smaller streams will dry up in drier years, so there is some dependence on the weather. It is important to obtain up-to-date information from local sources in order to plan water resupply effectively on a thru-hike.
There are several towns along the route, though many of them will require a hitch to get to. Many hikers will also opt to use mail drops to send packages to themselves on the trail. In some cases, these will be easier to access. There are published lists online that contain the latest mail drop locations. Guidebooks and databooks will also contain useful information for planning resupply points.
The weather in the Rocky Mountains can be unpredictable, and sometimes dangerous. Lightning storms are very common during the summer months, so it is important to avoid higher elevations during those times. Temperatures can also swing wildly, so hikers will need to be prepared for both very hot and very cold (below freezing) weather, even during the summer. Snow can linger on the trail into July, and it advised to avoid higher elevations to allow for snow to fully melt.
The CT is well marked with posted signage for a significant majority of the route. However, the signs are less frequent than some of the more popular trails in the US. Additionally, there is always some risk of navigational difficulty due to severe weather, downed trees, vandalism, etc. and so it is important for hikers to have additional aids in the form of a gps, guidebook, and/or maps of the route.
Like many trails, the primary risk on the CT lies in severe weather. Colorado in particular seems many lightning storms which tend to start in the afternoon, so it is important to plan ahead and stay off of exposed ridges in accordance with local weather forecasts. Black bears live in the areas around the Colorado Trail, but there are very few incidents involving bears. It is not necessary to use a bear canister, but regular precautions still apply.
Thru-hiking the Colorado Trail is relatively uncommon as hikers will often overlook it in favor of more well-known long distance trails. That said, the season for starting a thru-hike is very narrow -- so all of those hikers will typically be bunched together around those start dates. Additionally, like most trails, certain sections closer to populated areas will be more popular among day hikers and section hikers.
Most thru-hikers start at the northern terminus at Waterton Canyon near Denver, and hike southbound towards Durango. After arriving at the Denver airport, take the train to Union Station and then the lightrail to Mineral Littleton Station. From there, it is a short taxi ride to the trail. Durango has a small airport, but most hikers prefer to connect to larger nearby airports via bus instead. For those hikers looking to access intermediate points along the trail for section hiking, there are many viable options. Uber can access many points along the trail, while local shuttle services are a great alternative in several areas.
For developed accommodation along the trail, there are several towns that have local hostels and B&Bs. However, in most cases hikers will have to hitch a ride to access the towns. In some cases, the owners may pick up hikers from the trail -- consult the guidebooks for more information. While on the trail, there are very few hiker shelters. Instead, hikers will need to rely on camping for most nights. There are some campsites available, but most hikers will simply camp in flat areas along the trail (provided it is not on private land).