Trekking across Colorado’s fragmented wildernesses

The Colorado Trail Foundation boasts that it’s the state’s “premier long-distance trail. Stretching from Denver to Durango … it travels through the spectacular Colorado Rocky Mountains among peaks with lakes, creeks and diverse ecosystems. Trail users experience six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges topping out at 13,271 feet, just below Coney Summit at 13,334 feet. The average elevation is over 10,000 feet and it rises and falls dramatically. Hikers traveling from Denver to Durango will climb 89,354 feet.”

Typical backpacking adventures take place in wilderness — either official wilderness areas or at least lands that have a wilderness quality. These trips often involve loops, which allow you to stay within the wilderness even if it’s not a huge area, geographically speaking. In contrast, the Colorado Trail, like all thru-hikes, is about getting from one place to the next. That means it often leaves the wilderness.

The Colorado Trail is broken up into 28 segments and almost every segment ends at a road of some kind. The longest segments are about 30 miles long, though most are closer to 15 miles. That means a typical thru-hiker crosses a road at least once per day.

But that isn’t all the non-wilderness: you will backpack on, beside, under, or near: dams, power lines, houses, roads, ATVs, motorcycles, highways, ski lifts, bus stops, fire stations, parking lots, gondolas or golf courses. Still…

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