Hiking in lightning is unlike anything we have ever done before. The trail is nearly 500 miles long and goes from the outskirts of Denver to Durango. We’ve spent a lot of time in Colorado, but spending 40 days out in the backcountry and hitchhiking into the small Colorado mountain towns along the way is, in our opinion, the best way to experience the state.
The trail is split into 28 segments, each of which are completely different. Just like any other long distance hike, the beauty is that it brings all kinds of people, of all different backgrounds, for all kinds of reasons.
We started the Colorado Trail on June 26th, 2022 going south and finished on August 4th. It was an experience we will never forget and one we want to share with you.
These were our experiences of segments four through seven of the Colorado Trail.
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We continued hearing rumors about how steep Segment 4 was going to be. We packed up our stuff and caught a ride back to the trailhead (Thank you Two Bridges Hostel). The goal was to cover as much ground as possible before a possible afternoon thunderstorm was supposed to roll in.
Up until this point we hadn’t gotten ourselves into any lightning or rain. Hiking in lightning didn’t sound very fun. With the start of segment 4 taking us up above 10,000 feet elevation for the first time, that was about to change.
The Lost Creek Wilderness sign is the beginning of segment 4 and it was the only area on the whole trail where we saw horses. We thought that we would see way more horses on the trail. Maybe because it is so populated with hikers etc it’s not quite as popular? Or perhaps a different time of year is better.
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The crew (Hugs, Fecteau, Grace, Nemo & me) plus one more, Sarah, began to make our ascent up. At first we joked about how mellow the incline was going up the mountain but after just a few miles we really got a little taste of what was to come! I drew a line at the 10,000 feet mark to cheer everyone on as they passed a new milestone on the Colorado Trail. I’m not sure if it was appreciated or not.
After making it up our climb we were pleasantly surprised with a nice big open pasture. We had just a little bit of rain on our way up and now all we had between us and the next segment was approximately 6 miles of flat meadow hiking.
Comes to find out we highly underestimated the thunderstorms and rain in the afternoon. This would be our first real hiking in lightning experience.
We had made it to a group of trees where we found a guy named Andrew hiding out. As a fellow Frogg Togg member (We got excited every time we saw someone else wearing Frogg Togg rain gear) he had been waiting out the incoming storm and holding up until it passed.
We all sat there chatting for a while and after about 20 minutes of waiting Hugs, Grace and I felt the bulk of the storm was gone and we wanted to make another push for the other side of the meadow. We said goodbye to Andrew and Sarah and started walking. Remember when I said the meadow was about 6 miles to get to the other side? Yeah, well we thought it was just a couple hundred yards across an open meadow and then went back into the trees. Next thing we knew it took a sharp right and we found ourselves hiking back directly into the storm…
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We made the smart decision to get back into the trees and then waited for our next move. Most of the thunder was gone but there was still a lot of rain coming down and the thought of walking 5 miles in the rain was not a pleasant one.
Andrew ended up passing us again and we chose to try making it the next 5 miles to get to a good stopping point for the day. We ended up catching up to Andrew who seemed to be just as defeated by the rain as us and we all decided to put our heads down and trek on together.
This would be the day we remember learning to take afternoon mountain rain and thunder seriously. I also look back and think of how cool of an experience it was to hike in the pouring down rain with strangers. It was an awful time getting drenched for hours but an experience that we always remember.
We also saw several moose near our camping area which made us even more cautious with the dogs running off leash. If you didn’t know, moose don’t like dogs!
The beginning of segment 5 was only two miles away (Mile 57.1) from where we camped. Overall it was a pretty mellow section with beautiful views and a never ending supply of fresh mountain stream water.
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After waking up in the morning we decided that our only plan was to get into segment 5. All of our gear was still soaked and with more afternoon storms coming we wanted to get at least 10 miles in before drying out all of our gear. Our Keen boots were completely water logged so Grace and I decided to test out hiking in our Teva Sandals. Overall the Tevas weren’t too bad but my feet were hurting after 5 miles or so of hiking in them (great light weight camp shoe though!).
The team decided that we didn’t want to risk getting caught in the rain again. Using our FarOut App we found that there was plenty of camping by Rock Creek and with it being early in the afternoon we were sure to have our pick of the litter.
We found a nice spot right above the stream with a great view of the mountain side where all the hikers were coming down. Looking back, we may have looked a bit goofy all standing there as we watched everyone come down the hill. We were a bit curious why no one asked to camp near us.
It never ended up raining that much but we were thankful that we stopped early and had camp setup just in case. Hiking in lightning and cold rain can really take it out of you mentally!
The following day we woke up early and got cracking before sunrise. The benefits to starting early is that you’ll never miss a sunrise and you won’t run into too many people!
We saw our first cows of the trail and we leashed the dogs up just to make sure they didn’t try any funny business. As we made our way up another climb we soaked in the rays and the beautiful meadow views from above. In just a few more days we would be enjoying a nice warm meal and some cold adult beverages down in Breckenridge.
Kenosha Pass is the start of segment 6. If you’re running low on supplies or want a home cooked meal this will be your last chance for another 32ish miles. We didn’t personally get a ride into town but this is where you would hitchhike into Jefferson if you need to. We heard the hitch into town is pretty easy.
From Kenosha Pass to the beginning of segment 7 (Breckenridge) you have 32.3 miles of some of the most beautiful Colorado mountains you will ever see. There is a lot of climbing and you nearly reach 12,000 feet elevation for the first time as you climb to summit the ridge near Georgia Pass.
Start watching for moose! We heard about a lot of moose sightings as you start head towards Breckenridge! We unfortunately heard there was even a dog that was trampled that was off leash and spooked a moose. Again, moose do not like dogs no matter what kind of recall your dog has!
We climbed down the hill to Kenosha Pass where we were met by a trail angel named Caveman. He had a couple coolers full of sodas for hikers but we decided to pass. Those tend to slow us down more than they fuel us up. We talked for a bit and after he lit up a cigarette we decided it was time to go.
There is a campground right before you start to make you climb towards Georgia Pass. If you’re low on water go around the campsite clockwise and you’ll find a fresh water spigot!
It was pretty busy on the trail because it was a weekend and we saw a lot of day use hiker and bikers on the trail. We prefer no people out on the trail but sometimes seeing other people outside enjoying it is nice too.
We made it to Jefferson Creek (Mile 77.9) and ate lunch while we waited for another storm to roll through. The storm came and this time instead of walking through it we innovated our tent rain cover with whatever rope we had and a dog leash into a place to keep everyone dry.
The storm passed and we decided to keep making our way up the hill. In order to get to the top of the ridge we had 2,000 feet of elevation gain over the next 6 miles. This wasn’t terrible but we were still trying to ease the dogs into it and we didn’t want to risk my ongoing knee issue. We climbed another three miles up hill and decided to setup shop so we could make it over the pass in the morning.
We learned to avoid mountain passes at all costs in the afternoons. There’s a good chance there will be an afternoon thunder storm and with the passes usually being exposed it’s the last place you want to be.
The next morning we got going early again and were the first ones up to the saddle. The air was fresh and Nemo and Fecteau found some snow piles to play around in. This might have been one of their favorite sections.
We ran into a small group of hikers who we had seen the day before and we swapped turns taking pictures of each other before they took off downhill.
The next few miles were downhill and that took my knee just about to it’s limit. Like I said before, downhill was the biggest obstacle. Even with dual action advil, kt tape, a knee brace and some adult gummys, it was hurting me pretty badly.
We made it down and found a nice spot by a stream to watch mountain bikers ride by as we swapped stories and ate some lunch. There was a point where we almost decided just to stay put here because of possible afternoon storms, but if we could get even closer to Breckenridge we might be able to have Nearo day. (Nearo means almost zero, just some fun hiking terminology we never knew before!)
There was a chance of a storm coming in but from what we gathered from other hikers it wouldn’t be until later in the afternoon. We had one final climb and then a few more miles to put us just 6 miles from Breckenridge.
Once we made it to the top of the climb we began to notice the clouds coming closer and closer to us. We somehow ended up on the outer limits of two storms and walked just about as quick as we could to get to lower elevations. Thankfully we weren’t directly in either of the storms!
After a nice 23 mile day we found an epic camp spot overlooking the canyon. There was one other person who was set up next to us and we had a good time getting to know her. We can’t remember her trail name but she has a great story about breaking her femur on the PCT and getting life flighted out! Tragic story but also a great one!
We woke up to this beautiful scenery and I even saw a red fox outside! Must have been a good omen!
After packing up we cheerfully continued hiking towards Breckenridge. We were so excited to be getting into town early. It was 4th of July weekend and we all got a hotel for the next couple of days! Luxury living baby!
The hiking was pretty easy coming down into town and we found the bus stop for a free ride, dogs welcome! The bus system is incredible here and will take you all over the area including towns like Frisco. If you plan on taking the bus into Breckenridge it comes every hour (refer to the picture below).
Even if it’s just to a quick stop in town to see it, it’s well worth it. We spent a couple of days here and really enjoyed it. It’s a bit more on the expensive side but we definitely recommend seeing it! Bus ride into town is free!
If you want to see all of our favorite spots in Breckenridge make sure to checkout the blog below! Breckenridge is right up there with the best of them! Especially for some great vegan & gluten free food!
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