Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,830.00 ft (862.58 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
16.80 mi (27.04 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Completed in 1987, the Colorado Trail stretches 485 magnificent miles from Denver to Durango. Along the way it meanders through high alpine mountains and valleys, offering a glimpse at some of the finest terrain Colorado has to offer. It traverses eight mountain ranges, six wilderness areas and stays above 10,000 feet for the majority of the trail. Highlights include the Collegiate Range, where multiple 14ers are just off trail and can easily be climbed, and the San Juans, where the trail remains above tree line for days at a time and climbs to elevations of over 13,000 feet. There is also abundant wildlife along the Colorado Trail, ranging in size from small pika and marmot, to bear and moose.

The trail is divided into 28 different segments, each beginning at a trailhead accessible by vehicle. This accessibility is what makes the Colorado Trail special. Day hikers and section hikers can easily find their way to new segments of trail, while thru hikers can still enjoy a wild and rugged four to six week journey. Below is a description for Colorado Trail Segment 1.

 

Colorado Trail Segment 1 -Waterton Canyon Trailhead to South Platte River Trailhead

Segment 1 of the Colorado Trail is easily accessible, located only 30 minutes from downtown Denver. The trail begins at Waterton Canyon and follows a gravel road for the first seven miles. The road parallels the South Platte River as it works its way gently up the canyon. Along the way you’ll run into lots of bikers and the occasional vehicle (only authorized vehicles are permitted on this road). There are several rest areas along this stretch of trail, each having a picnic table that is sheltered from the rain. Bighorn sheep are commonly seen in Waterton Canyon, in fact, dogs are prohibited as an effort to not disturb the sheep.

Around mile 6.5 you’ll get a glimpse of the Strontia Springs Reservoir Dam. Shortly thereafter the trail transitions to singletrack as you begin to climb into the hills. Bear Creek at mile 9.1 is likely the last water (and is sometimes dry) until the South Platte River at the end of this segment. The trail continues to wind its way through the forest until at last you come to a sweeping viewpoint. The views from here down to the South Platte River Valley are incredible. 

Soon you’ll begin the long, but well graded descent down to the river. Smooth switchbacks make it easy, and riding this stretch of trail on a mountain bike would be a blast! Before long you’ll reach the South Platte River Trailhead and the end of this segment. If counting onward to segment 2, know that the next 10 miles are waterless with a steep and exposed climb.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Close to Denver. Bighorn Sheep. Scenic Views.

Cons

First seven miles are a road walk.

Trailhead Elevation

5,490.00 ft (1,673.35 m)

Highest point

7,495.00 ft (2,284.48 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Fishing
Family friendly
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Comments

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