Hiking the Colorado Trail is unlike anything we have ever done before. Let the climb begin! 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.
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.
The trail is split into 28 segments, each of which are completely different. These were our experiences from segments seven through eleven of the Colorado Trail.
If you missed segments 1-7 of the Colorado Trail make sure to checkout our blogs below before continuing on!
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Steep Climb: Segment 7
Let the climbing begin! Say goodbye to the slow gradual climbs from the first six segments and get ready to put your head in the clouds!
Segment seven takes you up above 12,000 feet elevation for the very first time and then almost immediately drops you back down below 10,000 feet. This may be one of the first spots hiking the Colorado Trail (heading SOBO) where people who aren’t acclimated begin to get out of breathe. It was also challenging given we were packing up five days worth of food.
As with any pass, make sure to start your day early and get up and over before the afternoon storms roll in. If we could do segment seven again we would have definitely taken it easy on the adult beverages the day prior! 😉
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Before leaving Breckenridge we made sure to stop by the USPS to pick up our resupply boxes and shopped around at the grocery store next door for a few extra goodies. We needed enough food to get us 75 miles to Twin Lakes.
The following day we caught the first bus from the station in the morning and got a ride to the trailhead to start our climb out of Breckenridge. We heard that it was steep (steeper than anything else we had seen) and with a high chance of an afternoon storm we needed to get up and over the pass as quick as we could. The last thing we wanted to do was get caught in the hail and lightning up above 12,000 feet.
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At the time, this was by far the most incline we had dealt with. It didn’t make things any easier given we had stuffed our mouths with food and adult beverages the two days prior. The first several miles were pretty gradual with some awesome overview spots of Breckenridge and Frisco. The dogs loved all of the water on the way up and they FREAKED out when we got back into some snow again!
As we continued to climb higher and higher the air felt fresher and fresher. There’s nothing quite like pushing your body up a mountain! You can’t get the view without the climb!
I remember feeling particularly good on this day as Grace and Hugs started calling me mountain goat. For the most part we tried sticking together as we hiked but every once in awhile something would catch wind and I would find my flow up the mountain.
As we made our way to the high point (12,489 feet) the switch backs just seemed to keep on coming! At one point Hugs said he was about to turn around. I made it up first and then one by one the team began to funnel to our break point.
We met several new friends up on Stone Mountain, some who we would leap frog on the trail in the weeks to come. The storm never did come and after taking our snack break we said our goodbyes and began making our way back down the mountain. That’s the fun part about mountains right? What goes up must come down!
The downhill was the part I had dreaded most. My knee was feeling great after taking a few off days in Breckenridge but the the next few miles were about to be pretty much straight downhill.
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Fortunately my knee was gaining strength and there was very little pain. We continued downhill towards Copper Mountain and made it to yet another segment of the Colorado Trail.
Here’s what we’ve learned. Checkout this blog for our top seven tips for hiking with your furry friend!
7 Tips For Easy Hiking With Dogs
Hiking with dogs doesn’t have to be difficult. There’s a lot of different worries for your furry friend and as a pet owner you want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for anything that might happen. Through an accumulation of…
Running From Hail: Segment 8
Heading SOBO segment eight will begin right before you reach Copper Mountain. Make sure to grab a quick bite to eat or a Starbucks coffee. It will be your last spot to grub for a while. How many trails do you know that have a Starbucks right off the path?!
From here to segment nine (Tennessee Pass- Mile 142.8) you’ll get to some more incredible views as you hike through Searle Pass (12,046 feet) and Kokoma Pass (12,024 feet). Continue to stay ahead of the storms as you make your way through the passes. Hail Storms are exciting but not the most fun!
As we made our way into Copper Mountain we were looking for a place to put up our tents. It was going to rain later that night and we didn’t want to continue up towards our next pass (Searle Pass). We were struggling to find a place to camp and decided we better get some food and an adult beverage to come up with a game plan. After talking over options we ultimately decided to get an AirBnB for the night. Hugs said it was an early wedding gift for us and we did not question him!
The next morning we woke up early, grabbed ourselves some Starbucks coffee, and began our hike towards segment nine. The team was operating on full cylinders and we were making great time up the mountain. We saw quite a bit of other hikers out on the trail, and with the weather being good it made for a nice day of hiking.
We made it to Searle Pass a little before noon and decided to take a quick rest. The sky definitely showed signs of a storm coming but we were already in an exposed area and still had to clear Kokamo Pass. The dogs enjoyed some more snow time and then we kept on trekking.
At first it looked like the storm was going to pass and then a moment later we were throwing on our rain gear and preparing for battle. Thankfully there wasn’t any lightning but it sure does get cold up that high with hail coming down!
The storm passed and the sun began to shine just about the same time we were coming down off the pass. We hiked another few miles downhill and found a nice place to set up shop for the night.
The following day we woke up at the crack of dawn and snuck out of camp. We ended up having another three hikers camp next to us and we always do our best in the morning to pack up and leave without waking anyone.
We got in a solid six or so miles of downhill easy walking before before a bit of up and down hill action. Overall the rest of the hiking to Tennessee Pass, segment 9, was pretty easy going.
Tennessee Pass: Segment 9
We made it to Tennessee Pass (mile 142.8) and took a quick snack break. There was a family getting out of their car and we watched as one of the little kids kept trying to kick their dog. I was just about to the point of intervening but thankfully the kid’s uncle told them to stop.
Our bodies felt pretty good but we were beginning to get a bit tired and also wanted to make sure we weren’t pushing the dogs too much. We made it about another three or four miles down the trail and found a spot for the night. This is when we realized segment 9 was the land of the mosquitos
Segment nine continues to give you plenty of tree shade, water sources, and beautiful scenery along the way. You’ll begin seeing a lot of mountain lakes and will enter the Holy Cross Wilderness area.
There’s a couple good climbs in this section but overall it’s pretty gradual up and down. Once you get down to the Timberline Lake Trailhead (segment 10) you’ll probably run into quite a few day use hikers in the area.
Here’s another great resource if you’re looking for some great outdoor gear options!
We woke up with only a few mosquitos in the tent and packed up to get ready to leave. There weren’t many hikers that passed us the day earlier and it appeared that there was now a gap in the line. We were hiking a bit slower than the other hikers we had seen the first few days and the big groups of hikers that started after us hadn’t caught up to us yet (it seemed most people started on the weekend).
There were a ton of water sources coming from the mountains as we passed numerous streams and lakes through the the Holy Cross Wilderness area. The mosquitos kept swarming us and it made it difficult to stop and take breaks.
The dogs were a bit more tired than the day before, especially with little to no breaks because of the mosquitos. We made it down the mountain to the trailhead and took a nice snack break.
Keep Trekking: Segment 10
After our snack break we decided to keep on moving. It was nearing the heat of the afternoon so we didn’t want to push the dogs too much more but we still needed to make some ground.
We stopped at nice creek to fill our waters and ice our lower bodies before we continued. This was one of our first times using our water filter we had purchased at REI in Frisco and it worked great!
The heat was effecting the dogs more than we’d like so we found another creek where we hung out for a while.
The sun was beating down on us but we knew if we could make it a few more miles we would be in tree cover. We passed a group of ladies who we had seen at the beginning of segment 10 and they asked to pet Nemo and Fecteau. Dogs really do bring so much joy out on the trail!
There was a fish hatchery area we made it to just a few miles away and we set up our tents and got a fire going. This was our last spot to stop before making another uphill climb. We sat by the fire (one of the very few times we were able to have a fire) and said hello to fellow hikers as they passed by. The area ended up having a good size group of hikers by the time night came.
Banger (his trail name), who we will talk more about later, camped next to us and complimented us later on the trail about how quiet we were getting up the next morning.
A good climb up and good climb down and we were at segment 11, Mt Massive Trailhead. Fecteau was beginning to slow down a bit but in about nine miles we would be in Twin Lakes for our next checkpoint and another resupply point.
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