Over the years of hiking, we have come to realize that there is a treasure trove of information which is possessed by the folks who are out on the trails each year hiking. Sometimes it feels like there is a wall between the folks with the information and the folks looking for information on hiking a particular trail. While some hikers have created pretty detailed wrap-up posts on particular trails (and we have tried to be better about this more recently), we figured that we would make a more concerted effort to help bring the knowledge of experienced hikers to those who were considering hiking a new trail.
To that end, we have put together surveys for several trails which we have hiked. We have asked for input from folks who have already hiked these trails…recommendations and words of wisdom. We hope that this information will be helpful for those planning to hike in the coming years. If there is additional information which you would like to know from experienced hikers, please let us know and we can update our survey to include your suggestions.
We hiked the Colorado Trail in 2017 and quickly realized that it is a popular trail to hike…for good reason! We also noticed that for many hikers we had met on the trail, this was their first long-distance backpacking trip. We figured that there would be people looking for guidance and recommendations when planning their trip.
So, here is what we learned from the folks who took our survey. We hope this information is helpful to the future CT hikers. Keep in mind that this data is based on the hikers who voluntarily completed our survey. We had 25 Colorado Trail hikers complete the survey (many thanks to those of you who took the time to share your knowledge!).
- 40% started in June
- 28% started in July
- 32% started in August
84% of hikers were happy with their Start Date
- 4% finished in June
- 28% finished in July
- 36% finished in August
- 28% finished in September
- 4% finished in October
96% of folks who completed the survey thru-hiked the trail (as opposed to section hiking)
52% of hikers started the Colorado Trail by themselves
For 68% of the hikers, the CT was their first long-distance hike
All of the folks who completed the survey hiked the trail Southbound (from Denver to Durango)
Experience Level of Hikers (on a scale of 1 to 5):
- 44% of hikers rated themselves as 5
- 20% of hikers rated themselves as 4
- 12% of hikers rated themselves as 3
- 12% of hikers rated themselves as 2
- 12% of hikers rated themselves as 1
96% of Colorado Trail hikers rated their Colorado Trail experience as either a 4 or 5 out of 5.
32% of hikers purchased the paper maps for the trail, but 69% of those hikers NEVER used them.
72% of hikers purchased the Guthook App for the CT, and of those 60% used it a lot.
100% of hikers purchased the CT Databook, and of those 80% used it a lot.
58% of hikers purchased the CT Guidebook.
Online resources which hikers found helpful:
- 28% of hikers sent all their resupply boxes
- 28% of hikers only bought their food in trail towns along the way
- 44% of hikers did a combination of the two
Favorite parts of the trail: San Juan Mountains and the Collegiate West Alternate.
Hardest parts of the trail: Collegiate East, Lake Ann Pass (with snow), First climb over 12,000 feet.
Solo Hiker Experience:
- 25% were hiking/camping with others EVERYDAY
- 6% were hiking/camping with others REGULARLY
- 38% were hiking/camping with others SOMETIMES
- 31% were hiking/camping with others RARELY
Favorite trail town:
- 36% Salida
- 24% Lake City
- 12% Twin Lakes
- 8% Breckenridge
Best trail town for a Zero Day:
- 59% Salida
- 41% Lake City
- 32% Breckenridge
- 18% Silverton
- 36% of hikers RARELY had their hiking schedule affected by weather
- 24% of hikers NEVER had their hiking schedule affected by weather
- 20% of hikers OFTEN had their hiking schedule affected by weather
96% of the hikers felt that the trail was well-signed.
92% of hikers found themselves unintentionally off the trail 0-2 times.
72% of hikers experienced no injuries on the trail. For the 28% of hikers who did experience an injury, 86% of them needed only 1-2 days of rest before resuming their hike.
96% of hikers hitchhiked while hiking the CT.
96% of hikers rated the condition of the trail as 4 or 5 out of 5.
57% of hikers found the trail harder than they had expected and 43% found it easier than they had expected.
54% of hikers took the Collegiate East route, while 50% of hikers took the Collegiate West route. *One hiker did both the Collegiate East and West Route on their thru hike.
WHAT’S IN YOUR PACK?
16% of hikers carried bear spray
4% of hikers carried a gun
8% of hikers carried crampons/Yaktrax, MICROspikes. Of those, 80% never used them.
Most base weights for hikers were between 10 and 20 pounds.
Sleeping Bag/Quilt Temperature Rating:
- 56% 20 Degree Sleeping Bag
- 16% 30 Degree Sleeping Bag
- 12% 15 Degree Sleeping Bag
- 8% 0 Degree Sleeping Bag
88% of hikers found they temperature rating of their sleeping bag sufficient for their hike.
- 46% 2-3 Liters
- 33% 3-4 Liters
- 17% more than 4 Liters
WORDS OF WISDOM
80% of hikers would like the Colorado Trail again and 20% said maybe.
Recommendations for future CT hikers from survey participants:
“Hike the Collegiate West rather than the Collegiate East. Start late enough in the season so that most of the passes do not have snow. Take a poncho. Factor in time to wait out rain.”
“Get out of your head and just go do it. There is a time and place for proper planning, but don’t spend too much time on the small details.”
“This might be obvious to most…but use trekking poles! I nearly ended my hike due to knee pain and that piece of gear saved my butt! Or, knees, rather :)”
“Take time to plan out your CT hike with a CT thru hiker who can make sure you’re squared away before departing. Your experience will be more pleasurable if you plan it right”
“Its cliche, but HYOH [Hike Your Own Hike]. Its fun to stop and take picture and smell the roses, and also to push yourself to your limits. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Also, pick a date if your serious about wanting to do this. Thats when my real planning happened. It stopped being an abstract idea once I picked a date.”
“Do it! And take your time, enjoy, it’s not a race.”
“Adequate rain gear makes for a much more pleasant hike. First time I’d used a hiking umbrella and it was an oft used piece of gear, easy to pull off my pack & attach for sudden showers/hail or even sun, without having to take pack off, etc.”
“Make sure your gear is sufficient for heavy rain. Take your time to enjoy towns and hangout with other hikers, don’t hike with a deadline, lose as much weight as possible”
“For a fun hike try for a base weight below 15 lbs., keep miles low (under 20 miles per day) to start, do a shakedown and eliminate gear at Frisco/Breck sobo, or Silverton nobo. Then start picking up the pace if you feel good and get into a routine. To save money and spending too much time in towns try to hit them early so you can get town chores done, relax a few hours, then hitch out with enough time to get some miles in still.”
“Stop at least once a day a remind yourself how damn lucky you are to be out there.”
“Acclimate to altitude. Let your body dictate your hiking speed.”
“It’s just walking. Don’t worry about things. Keep a relaxed attitude.”
“Foot problems are the most common “trip ender.” Start carrying your full weight pack for fitness training for at least a hundred miles before you start the CT, go to a good outdoor store and talk to the ‘boot guru’ about the best boots, add high quality sole inserts in your boots.”
“Get in great shape before hike, really know your gear and how to use it. Hike early, breakfast at mid day, dinner late afternoon on the trail, hike till dusk to see wildlife, wash body and clothes then walk till dry, ditch extra clothes, don’t send packages of food/ buy in trail towns, taste and quantities change.”
As we continue to survey Colorado Trail hikers each year, we hope to gain a more robust and comprehensive set of data. We hope that we will be able to provide the knowledge of experienced hikers to those who are looking to experience the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Trail.