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Colorado Trail Backpacking

A Guided Trip on the Classic CT

Completed in 1987, the Colorado Trail spans the state from Denver to Durango over almost 500 miles. The Colorado Trail is widely considered one of the finest long-distance trails in the United States and even the world.  San Juan Mountain Guides is very fortunate to guide the final 94 miles of the trail – Segments 24-28.

These final 5 Segments are a highlight reel of some of the most beautiful terrain in all of Southwest Colorado: the Weminuche Wilderness, dense wildflower displays contouring around Lime Creek between Molas and Rolling Passes, the lush, remote Cascade Creek drainage, the jaw-dropping amphitheatre below Blackhawk Pass, the gentle traverse of the West Hermosa Creek drainage, the rugged La Plata Mountains and the final, long descent to Durango along rushing Junction Creek. This is some of the most premier backcountry you will ever find.

Itinerary Note

We have scheduled our 2013 Colorado Trail Backpacking dates so that you have multiple options with regard to what sections you would like to combine.  For example, if you would like to do each section we offer (CT Sections 24 – 28), then our dates run consecutively so that you can plan your trip to Colorado’s San Juan Mountains accordingly.

  • As always, we are able to schedule Private Guided Backpacking trips and itineraries throughout the summer if you would like to coordinate your own dates on Colorado’s classic trail!

Just a quick word to say thanks for all you did to make my past several days truly rewarding. - D. Mrozek

Colorado Trail Sections

2-Day, Sections 24

These 2 days are spent in the glorious Weminuche Wilderness. Segment 24 begins from Stony Pass and quickly descends off the Continental Divide on near vertical terrain into the Elk Creek drainage with hanging waterfalls and rugged mountain peaks all around us. Later, views of Vestal and Arrow Peaks in the Grenadier sub-range open up before our final push to Molas Pass from the Animas River.

3-Day, Sections 25 & 26

Molas Pass to Hotel Draw. Our total mileage over 3 days is a bit under 32 miles including two wonderful, high-mountain campsites along the way. Despite the higher altitude, these trail segments do not require an abundance of uphill hiking and subsequently can be tackled by a relatively fit individual or even family.

4-Day, Sections 27 & 28

Hotel Draw to Durango. We’ll begin a rolling, gentle traverse above the West Hermosa Creek drainage. Views of the La Plata Mountains open up as we make our way to Indian Trail Ridge. From Kennebec Pass we begin our long descent to Durango through the Junction Creek drainage. This final Segment is a study in ecological zones as we start near treeline and finish in high desert scrub oak.

7-Day, Sections 25-28

Molas Pass to Durango. This trip combines the 3-day and 4-day options into one 7-day trip on Segments 25-28.

9-Day, Sections 24-28

Stony Pass to Durango. This trip combines all of the sections from the Weminuche Wilderness to Durango in one amazing trip!

Backpacking Equipment List

  • Backpack: Internal frame, 50-80 liters. Guides’ pick: Osprey Aether 60
  • Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic bag rated between 15-30 degrees with compression stuff sack. Guides’ pick: Neutrino Endurance 400
  • Sleeping pad: Guides’ pick: Thermarest NeoAir
  • Bowl, spoon, cup: Plastic/lexan
  • Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
  • Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
  • Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Osprey
  • Water purification system: We recommend simple iodine tablets, but pumps are acceptable. Guides’ pick: Potable Aqua

Clothing and Personal Equipment

  • Hiking boots: Sturdy, waterproof, comfortable boots. Please contact us with questions or further recommendations.
  • Socks: 2-3 pair of medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
  • Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
  • Soft shell pants: warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
  • Soft shell jacket: light weight. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
  • Insulated vest: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
  • Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Helium
  • Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
  • Headlamp: with extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
  • Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
  • Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
  • Camera
  • Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…

Training & Follow Up Programs

As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great trip.

1 Before Your Trip

In order to successfully carry a 35 lb. pack up to 7 miles a day, endurance is key. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.

2 Follow Up Programs

If and when I decide to tackle the big mountains I will call you guys for sure. I was very impressed with the guides and the service on my last class. Thanks again! - Chris N.

Durango, Colorado: Getting Here

Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip.

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rexerFlights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.

rexerDriving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Durango. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.

  • Denver, CO: 6 hours
  • Albuquerque, NM: 3 hours

rexerHotels: Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.

Additional Information

There are several options for guided/supported backpacking on the Colorado Trail. Here’s what makes San Juan Mountain Guides’ experience different:

· Local Knowledge – we specialize in these final Segments and know them like the back of our hand.

· Pack Weights Kept to a Minimum – We utilize the most advanced lightweight backpacking gear possible on this program, and combined with our stout guides and re-supplies throughout the trip the packs remain light (around 30 lbs.) throughout!

· Reasonable Days – Unlike other options out there, we don’t have any 20+mile days to reach camp. These areas should be savored and enjoyed, not rushed past – our days max out at 11 miles.

· Resupply – Our longest stretch without resupply is 2 days, which enables us to carry excellent camp meals and for you to carry minimal (but fresh!!) personal day snacks.

· Wide Array of Options – From 3 days to 9 days we probably have the right trip for you. We can even customize for your group if you have a particular goal!

· Easy Logistics – All of our trips begin and end in Durango, CO!

  • Cost Includes:

  • Guides/trip leaders
  • All dinner and breakfast meals
  • Group camping and cooking equipment
  • Incredible mountain scenery.

  • Not Included:

  • Hotel costs before, during, or after the trips
  • 5% land use surcharge, trip cancellation insurance
  • Personal camping equipment
  • Trail lunches
  • Guide gratuity

  • Registration and Cancellation:

  • Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.