Friendliest Town Leadville
Stay at the Leadville Hostel (leadvillehostel.com, 719-486-9334). Replace gear at Sawatch Backcountry (sawatchbackcountry.com). Then grab a shredded beef taco at the cart across from Safeway—it’s the hiker’s choice for cheap filling, eats.
Toughest Miles Twin Lakes to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs
Rolling south across the Collegiate Peak foothills, this 40-mile stretch (see inset map) serves up the route’s loftiest mountain views. The price: 28,800 feet of knee-buckling elevation gain and loss. Trail vets say to shoot for an eight- to 12-mile-per-day average and consider adding another 11 miles (and 1,300 feet) for a detour to Missouri Basin—a perfect basecamp for bagging Mt. Belford (14,191 feet) and Mt. Oxford (14,153 feet). Spend your last night next to Cottonwood Creek near Rainbow Lake before cruising 10.5 miles south to finish with a soak in the springs.
Most Relaxing Hot Springs Chalk Creek
The 90° to 120°F natural pools in Chalk Creek at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs ($10/person, mtprinceton.com)
Halfway Point Mile 243, just south of Fourmile Creek on Tabeguache Peak’s eastern flank