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There are about 9 million backpackers in the United States. That’s a lot of people who know what it means to sleep under a star-shot sky, far from street lights and car noise; to wake up beside an alpine lake; to sweat up a peak and cool off in a snowmelt creek. We’re a community of kindred spirits, but except for chance encounters in the backcountry, we rarely see each other. It’s like a secret club—that’s a little too secret.
We’re changing that this year, with an unprecedented backpacking celebration. We’re partnering with the state of Colorado and Mountain Hardwear to throw a party like none other—the Colorado Trail Fest. In September, we’re spending four days on the Colorado Trail’s finest miles, then hosting a post-hike festival to match the scenery.
The Colorado Trail traces the spine of the Rockies from Durango to Denver, 486 miles of mountains, meadows, lakes, and rivers. We’ll be hiking about 30 miles of it in the San Juans of southern Colorado, where the trail remains largely above treeline, with constant views. And we’ll do it at the best time of year, in early fall, when the aspens turn gold and the mosquitoes have faded along with the summer thunderstorms.
Here’s how it works: We’ll rendezvous in Durango and convene over a prehike dinner. The next morning, we’ll hit the trail in groups of a dozen led by Outward Bound guides. (It’s still backpacking—no crowds.) Over the next four days, we’ll hike and camp along the Continental Divide. On the final day, all groups will meet at a backcountry train stop, where we’ll finish in grand style: aboard the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train, riding along the Animas River to Durango.
Back in town, we’ll celebrate a hike well done with a festival created by and for backpackers, with music, food and drinks, gear prizes, and more. Consider it the party you’ve always wanted after a perfect backpacking trip.
Is it right for you? If you’re a backpacker—or want to be one—yes. Beginners and experts alike are welcome (though you’ll want to be in good shape, regardless of experience level).
The only downside? We can’t actually have everybody come. This is a wilderness event, and space is limited, so register soon (go to our Colorado Trail Fest info page for cost and logistics).
Dates are September 20 to 23. I’ll be there, and hope you will be, too.