In 2014 I decided to attempt a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. My backpacking trips up to that point had been relatively short, and the Colorado Trail was a big leap into the great unknown of long-distance hiking. As a Colorado native, I have strong feelings about Colorado, and was looking forward to the opportunity to experience the state in a way I hadn’t before.
How Long Does it Take to thru-hike?
I set out July 12, 2014 and finished about a month later. A thru-hike of the Colorado Trail was a very worthwhile experience. I started hiking the trail with Map Girl, who journeyed with me for the first 100 miles to Breckenridge. At Breckenridge I met up with another friend and hiked with him until the Angel of Shavano trailhead. The pace of my hike was pretty reasonable for my first thru-hike. I learned that planning out resupplies in advance is largely a fool’s errand, and that sometimes you end up spending a lot of time waiting around for your schedule to catch up. Despite putting in a few higher-mile days, I suffered no injuries (not even a single blister). Given the lack of injuries and the quality of the experience, I think I may have been doing something right. In addition to the normal 486 miles of trail, I bagged four fourteeners (Massive, Shavano, Tabeguache, and St. Louis Peak), and spent a couple zeroes at Mt. Princeton resort in the hot spring tubs so I could meet my brother for a resupply. I even managed to meet Map Girl’s parents for the first time! My final travel itinerary can be found here. It was a very do-able and fun trip!
Is a Thru-Hike Life Changing?
Hiking the Colorado Trail was a strictly sublime and humbling experience. I have not found another backpacking experience similar to what I experienced in the Colorado Trail. I learned new things about my capabilities as a hiker, experienced some of the most difficult moments in the outdoors in my life, and overall had a strictly fantastic time. Unlike the JMT or the TRT, which are amazing hikes to experience, the CT is truly exceptional as a start-to-finish thru-hike. It’s full of trail magic, companionship, and a terrain that can push the most experienced hikers. The weather should scare you at times.
People often discuss how thru-hiking can be a life changing experience. The Colorado Trail exceeds expectations.
What was I packing?
At the time I started the Colorado Trail, I was not an ultralight jerk. I am not sure if I had even heard of ultralight backpacking at that point, but knew from experience that heavy gear just makes for less-fun backpacking trips.
Even before starting the Colorado Trail, I had settled on a variety of specific gear items from the thousands of miles of day hikes I had done. These items (like my outdoor research helium II rain jacket and pants) have remained surprisingly consistent over hundreds of days and thousands of miles of backpacking, and many more thousands of miles of day hikes.