Colorado Trail

If any long trail is likely to induce a headache, it's the Colorado Trail.
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If any long trail is likely to induce a headache, it's the Colorado Trail.

If any long trail is likely to induce a headache, it's the Colorado Trail. Most of its 465 miles lie above 10,000 feet, many are higher than 12,000 feet, and a few exceed 13,000 feet. Because of the high mean elevation and altitude accrued while crossing eight subranges of the Rockies, seven national forests, six wilderness areas, and five river systems, this trail tied as the long route toughest to complete.

And the elevation is mean in other ways, too. Expect while in these high mountains to be cold and wet in foul weather, dehydrated in hot weather, traipsing through snowfields in early summer, and attacked by lightning storms in late summer. But if you're prepared, extremes are a good thing: They etch an impression that stays with you.

Because so much of this trail wanders near or above timberline, you also rated the Colorado Trail one of the Top Five for scenery, with layered peaks capped with snow, emerald tarns rippled by breezes, meadows punctuated with flowers. Bring the camera only if you're willing to hand over a month's paycheck for developing film when you get home.

For best information:

Colorado Trail Foundation, (303) 384-3729, ext. 113; www.coloradotrail.org.

The Colorado Trail: The Official Guidebook, by Randy Jacobs (Westcliffe Publishers, 800-523-3692; www.westcliffepublishers.com; $22.50).