Length: ~502 miles
Elevation Gain: 89,354 feet
Highest Elevation: 13,271 feet; Jarosa Mesa just below Coney Summit
Lowest Elevation: 5,520 feet; Waterton Canyon terminus in Denver
Segements: 28 segements average 15 miles per segment
Start and End Point: Northeastern terminus is Waterton Canyon State Park outside of Denver and the southwestern terminus is Durango, CO just past Indian Trail Ridge.
The trail winds through almost 500 miles of the jaw dropping Rocky Mountains. It draws hikers and backpackers from around the world and most segments are open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. It traverses six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges with an average elevation of 10,347 feet.
For anyone wanting to dive in more detail, I've created an interactive map providing more information on each segment like elevation gain, mileage, minimum & maximum elevation, etc.
Unfortunately you can't just get out of your car in Denver and start hiking. In particular, planning camping and water refills is extremely important so I devised a spreadsheet that allowed us to calculate several things:
- How many days the entire hike would take
- When/where we would get resupplied to help organize what to pack and when to pick it up (food, items we wouldn't need for a while, etc.)
- Cumulative Miles Hiked
- When we would finish/end each segment
- Miles hiked within each segment on each day.
The last bullet was key. Although we aimed to hike on average of 12 miles per day we knew that some days would be more and some days would be less based on energy levels and more/less difficult terrain. In addition, other days we had to stop sooner or hike longer because of camping availability. This allowed us to determine where we would likely be camping each night and where/when we would need to resupply water for the last time each day. There are plenty of areas where camping and/or water is limited and you don't want to end your day in one of those areas. What you don't want to do is either have to stop at 3 PM knowing you cannot reach a camp by dark, therefore wasting precious time, or keep hiking and hiking and hiking through steep trail sections hoping you find a flat spot soon by dark.
The spreadsheet allowed us to plan how many days of hiking we would need to realistically reach camping and water later in the day.
The spreadsheet can be downloaded here.
I won't be exhaustive with detail as there are many great sources for ultralight backpacking gear, but here is the basic list of gear that I brought with, including a bit more detail on photography. My pack weight ended up being divided roughly in thirds with 1/3 consumables like food and water (10 pounds), 1/3 camera equipment (10 pounds), and 1/3 everything else (10 pounds).
Food was one of the more intensive aspects of this trip. We have done extensive climbing, camping, and hiking in the backcountry so we had most of the gear and knew what we needed and how to use it. But food planning was a task upon itself determining weight, calories, and meals ahead of time to ship out before we left. You can learn more on this blog post which focuses specifically on food.
- Technical baseball hat
- Neck Gaitor/Neck Buff
- Synthetic T-Shirt
- Puffy Jacket
- Waterproof Jacket
- Waterproof Pants
- Climbing Shorts
- Hiking/Trail Running Shoes
- Socks (2 pairs)
- Ankle gaitors (to keep rocks out)
- Nalgene bottle for drinking and purifying water
- Water bladder
- Breakfast, Dinner, and Trail Snacks
- UV Purifier
- JetBoil cooking stove system including fuel
- Food storage bag
- Food storage bag rope to hang bang in tree
- Matches (1 package as backup)
- Bic lighter (2)
- Water purification tablets (for extra sketchy water sources)
- Hyperlite Windrider 3400 bag
- Waterproof Pack Cover
- Climbing Knife
- Sunglasses and case
- Trekking poles
- Duct tape (wrapped around poles)
- Tent (3 person ultralight tent for two occupants for extra space)
- Sleeping Bag (30 degree)
- Sleeping Pad (Z-Lite)
- Stuff Sacks
- Travel-size toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
- Soap (all-purpose)
- Ear Plugs
- Toilet Paper
- Quick-dry towel
- Eye shade
- Shovel for cat holes
- Cell phone and USB Cord
- Solar Charger
- GPS and USB Cord
- AAA Batteries
- Charging Bank, 20,000 mAh
- Emergency Kit
- Bug Spray
- Canon 5D SR
- Batteries (2)
- Canon EF 24-70 f/4 lens
- Primary Memory Cards
- Backup Memory Cards
- (Charging Bank above)