Backpacking In Colorado (Beginners Guide)

  • By: Joseph Benson
  • Time to read: 9 min.

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Backpacking in Colorado, many people think backpacking is just walking through a forest and camping out for the night. They assume it’s for those who don’t have a car (which might be true in some cases).

What these individuals fail to realize is that you can do an incredible amount of things by backpacking alone. It’s a great way to see places. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular, exciting, and unique destinations you can go backpacking to in Colorado!

Colorado is an absolutely marvelous state. It’s diverse topography, vibrant cities, and abundance of outdoor activities make it a top tourist draw. If you don’t have time to do all there is to do, here are 10 hikes that you should not miss when visiting Colorado.

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Colorado is a state rich in geographic and ecological diversity. No matter which way you go, you’ll discover a vast, natural world that only the locals really see.

While it’s obviously the Rocky Mountains that lend Colorado so much of its character, there are still plenty of excellent places to hike outside of them.

The San Juan Mountains have an incredible range of mountains and lakes, while the foothills of Pikes Peak offer a pleasant introduction to wilderness hiking.

Backpacking in Colorado is a fun experience. The state has many scenic trails from which you can admire views of mountains, plains, streams and forests.

Since the state has such a variety of terrains, there are trails for everyone’s capabilities. This article tells you more about hiking in Colorado.

Backpacking In Colorado

Backpacking in Colorado

Colorado is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the world. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s the perfect place to get out and enjoy nature.

Here are some tips for backpacking in Colorado:

Planning your trip

Colorado is a huge state with many different landscapes, so it’s important to choose your location carefully when planning your trip. Some areas are better suited for families.

While others are more appropriate for experienced hikers with previous experience in the great outdoors. You can find information about each area on our website.

The best time to go is during the summer months (June through September) unless you’re going above treeline where snow can still be present at this time of year (and even into early October).

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Why we need to travel
Why we need to travel

Warm temperatures mean there’s less chance of hypothermia or frostbite if you get caught in bad weather while hiking at higher elevations.

If you’re planning a multi-day hike with camping gear such as tents or stoves, make sure you bring plenty of water with you especially if it’s hot outside!

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and know what type of trail conditions you’ll encounter before heading out on your adventure so that nothing goes wrong during your trip!

If you’re looking for a place to start when planning your Colorado backpacking trip, here are our top five recommendations:

1. The Mesa Verde National Park Loop

2. The Lost Creek Wilderness Area

3. Ridgway State Park

4. Haviland Lake State Park

5. Ute Mountain Tribal Park

Map of Colorado

Points to keep in mind

  • Beginner backpacking trips colorado
  • Weekend backpacking trips colorado
  • 1 night backpacking trips colorado
  • Best 3 day backpacking trips in colorado
Backpacking In Colorado

Beginner backpacking trips colorado

A beginner backpacking trip is a great way to learn how to backpack. In this article I describe some of the best beginner backpacking trips in Colorado.

The best beginner backpacking trips are not necessarily easy, but they’re short and have plenty of good campsites and water sources along the way.

This makes them ideal for novices who aren’t yet comfortable with their gear or don’t have much experience hiking for several days on end. If you’re new to backpacking, consider these three trips:

1) The Rio Grande Trail in Southwestern Colorado

The Rio Grande Trail (RGT) is a nice introductory hike that follows the Rio Grande River through some beautiful canyon country near the town of Silverton, CO.

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The trail is only about 50 miles long and it has plenty of good campsites and water along the way so you don’t need to carry much water with you.

This trail is also relatively easy because it’s mostly flat, but there are still some long uphill sections which will challenge beginners who haven’t done much hiking before.

2) The Poudre River Loop near Fort Collins, CO

The Poudre River Loop (PRL) is another great trip for beginners because there’s little elevation gain and plenty of opportunities for river crossings (which makes for excellent swimming).

To take advantage of this loop, start at Horsetooth Reservoir and head north along the Poudre River until you reach the confluence with the Cache la Poudre River at South Bay Campground.

From here, head east towards the town of Laporte before turning south towards Fort Collins and finishing at Poudre Lake Dam.

3) The Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is a 500-mile backpacking route that crosses the state from Denver to Durango. While it’s a long trek, you can hike portions of it on your own or join an organized trip with friends.

The CT has plenty of campgrounds and other services along the way, but if you want more of a challenge, you can always do a self-supported section (no support).

Just be sure to check with local land managers before heading out so you know where to go and how to get there.

Backpacking In Colorado

Weekend backpacking trips colorado

Colorado is a great place to backpack. With so many beautiful places to visit, you’ll never get bored backpacking in Colorado! The scenery is amazing and the trails are easy to access. Here are some of our favorite weekend backpacking trips:

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5-day Backpacking Trip: Lost Park & Sawtooth Wilderness

This 5-day trip starts in the town of Bailey and ends in Walden. You’ll pass through the Lost Park area on the way, which is a beautiful alpine valley with abundant wildflowers and lakes.

On day 3, you’ll hike through the Sawtooth Wilderness Area and enjoy views of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker. Day 4 will take you through more high country and up to Lake Maroon before ending at Walden Pond.

4-day Backpacking Trip: Mount Evans Wilderness

This 4-day trip starts near Echo Lake and takes you up to Mount Evans Summit via an old roadbed that’s now maintained as a trail. After reaching the top (14,264 ft).

You can hike down on your own or take the gondola down for $30 each way (roundtrip). Afterward, head east toward Evergreen for some fantastic hiking options.

​Mt. Sanitas Loop

The Mt. Sanitas Loop is an easy 8-mile hike that offers beautiful views of Boulder and its surroundings. This route follows an old mining road that winds through pine forests, aspen groves and meadows before reaching the peak of Mt. Sanitas at 11,942 feet above sea level.

From here, hikers can see all of central Colorado with Denver to the east and Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park to the north. The trailhead is located at the top of Mapleton Avenue in Boulder at 8600 feet above sea level.

Backpacking In Colorado

1 night backpacking trips colorado

One of the best ways to experience the wilderness is through backpacking. The first step to planning a backpacking trip is deciding on the destination and time of year.

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Colorado has an abundance of amazing places to explore on foot. Here are some of our favorite one-night backpacking trips in Colorado:

1. Antero Trail: This 11-mile loop travels through aspen groves and pine forests, with views of Mount Princeton and other peaks. It’s located in Custer County near Minturn, making it a great way to get away from crowds during peak season.

2. Mt Evans Summit Trail: This trail starts at the High Plains Visitor Center at the summit of Mount Evans, where you can catch sweeping views of Denver and the Front Range.

It’s an easy hike that takes about seven hours round trip, so it’s perfect for families or anyone who wants to hike up but not all the way down again!

3. Black Bear Pass: This trail is located in Rocky Mountain National Park just west of Estes Park on CO Highway 7 westbound from Lyons Gate Ranger Station (mile marker 73).

The trailhead begins at treeline at 10,400 feet and climbs steeply to the Continental Divide at 11,500 feet. The summit is 11,923 feet above sea level.

Backpacking In Colorado

Best 3 day backpacking trips in colorado

Colorado has some of the best backpacking trails in the country. The state’s rugged mountains, high-altitude plains and desert canyons are perfect for multi-day hikes. We’ve rounded up three of our favorite backpacking trips in Colorado:

1. Maroon Bells Traverse, Aspen

On this classic 13-mile trip, you’ll cross three passes and climb to one of Colorado’s most iconic landmarks the Maroon Bells mountains. You’ll spend your first night at Crater Lake and then camp at Maroon Lake before returning to your starting point the next day.

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This hike is moderate but challenging because of its length and elevation gain; most people take four to five days to complete it. There are two variations on this route:

One follows a tundra trail that begins at Crater Lake and ends at Maroon Lake; the other crosses private property and requires a permit ($12).

2. Mount Massive Traverse, Leadville

The Mount Massive Traverse is another classic Colorado backpacking trip that starts in Leadville elevation 10,430 feet then heads north into the Sawatch Range toward Mount Massive (14,420 feet) before dropping down into the Arkansas River Valley.

The distance is about 48 miles and takes most people three or four days to complete. The trail traverses above timberline for much of the way, giving hikers a glimpse of some of Colorado’s most stunning scenery.

The first 20 miles are rated moderate, but it gets more difficult after that as you make your way up to Mount Massive’s summit. If you decide to go all the way, be prepared for snow and ice during late-summer and early fall.

3. Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead to Gregory Canyon Trailhead via West Gregory Creek Trailhead

This trip begins at the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead off Ute Highway (CO 149), just south of Buena Vista. From here you follow West Gregory Creek Trail south until it connects with East Gregory Creek Trail and eventually leads you to the West Gregory Creek Trailhead on Ute Road (US 50).

At this point, you have several options: You can take Ute Road north to get back to Buena Vista or continue east on Ute Road (US 50) for a longer trip into South Park.

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This route is best done as a three-day backpack. The first day will take you from Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead to where East Gregory Creek Trail meets West Gregory Creek Trail, about 5 miles round trip with 1,100 feet of elevation gain.

The second day will cover another 5 miles to bring you to Ute Road (US 50), which takes hikers into South Park.

You can either return to Buena Vista or continue east on Ute Road into South Park. The third day covers an additional 8 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation gain back to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead.

Backpacking In Colorado

Keep in mind

What you need to know: First and foremost, it is imperative that backpacking in Colorado be attempted only by experienced backpackers. Several items are required to complete a safe and successful trip;

if not available, or not utilized properly, injuries can occur or worse. Overall, the Backcountry 4 Pass Loop Trail and the Colorado Trail are two highly recommended trails for the novice backpacker that is seeking a challenge.

Colorado is a perfect place for camping and backpacking. Wilderness enthusiasts will enjoy the technical alpine environment and boundless opportunities for experiencing the untamed west outdoors. No matter what your outdoor experience level is you can find a trip that works for you.

Whether it be backpacking at high elevations of the San Juan Mountains or getting away from civilization on a multi-day trip through Black Canyon of the Gunnison or numerous short backpacking trips near Denver or Fort Collins.

Colorado is one of the best places to backpack around. But if you are planning a trip backpacking in Colorado here is a list of places that you can go.

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You can choose to do day hikes or take your time climbing mountains. Whatever your activity level, there is a trail that will suit your needs.

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Backpacking In Colorado (Beginners Guide)

Joseph Benson

Hi, my name is Joseph Benson, and I am a traveler who is always on the go. I love to try new things and see different places. Never miss an adventure follow me.

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