DENVER - Editor's Note: This is a blog about segment hiking the Colorado Trail. I am planning to hike the 485.8-mile trail over the next 10 years (that's 50 miles a year!) Because I prefer not to backpack, I am attempting to split the longer segments into shorter segments.
Segment one of the Colorado Trail is a 16.8-mile trek from Waterton Canyon to the South Platte Canyon. I decided to split it into two treks. I did part one as a bike and hike. You can read about that here. Then it was time to finish segment one -- by hiking the back half.
I started at the end of segment one in Platte Canyon (directions below). Looking at the map, I saw a LOT of switchbacks, but I thought it wouldn't be too bad since the Colorado Trail book said this side of the trail had about 1,400 feet of elevation gain in 4 miles.
The trailhead here has a nice fancy sign and an impressive bridge over the South Platte River. However, the bridge is for segment two.
For segment one, you have to back track -- cross the road and hike up a a single-track trail. There is a sign at the trail that says, "Colorado Trail Trailhead," so you know you're in the right spot.
Pass that sign is a second sign that says, "Closed to motor vehicles." That's your trail.
The trail winds back and forth in the forest as it climbs the canyon wall. When you need a break, there places to stop and enjoy the view on this trek.
The trail never gets really steep, but it does have some steady elevation gain. How steep is it? We gained 450 feet in the first mile. Then another 450 feet or so in the second mile.
While the Colorado Trail's official book for this segment only has a one sentence description, the people in my hiking group enjoyed this hike in the forest with views of the South Platte Canyon.
That burn area in the distance? That's the remnants of the Buffalo Creek Fire from 1996. The fire burned 12,000 acres. You'll hike through that burn area on segment 2 of the Colorado Trail.
About 2.5 miles in, we hit the top of a ridge with a great view point.
For now, take a few pictures and head up the ridge.
You may even spot the parking lot where you parked nearly 1,000 feet below.
As you hike the ridge, look through your trees on the left and you may get a glimpse of Strontia Springs Reservoir and dam.
We continued hiking up, and back and forth, on some more switchbacks to the top of the next ridge and two rocky outcroppings about 3.7 miles from the trailhead at 7.525 feet in elevation.
After two right turns on the ridge, we started heading down into the next valley.
Yep, we had made it to the top.
Now, it's decision time. If you've hiked the first half of this trail, you'll need to hike to the spot where you turned around to "complete" this segment. If you're doing this first, you'll have to decide how much you want to hike when you trek the other side. I did this part first, so from the top, I decided to hike on.
I found a rocky outcropping at 0.75 miles down the trail creating a nine-mile roundtrip hike for this part. I took a photo of the rocks and a put a mark on my GPS so I would know where to hike when I did the "other side."
When you're ready, turn around and return the way you came.
Details: The hike to the top of the ridge is 7.4 miles roundtrip with about 1350 feet of elevation gain. I hiked 9 miles roundtrip with 1,550 of elevation gain for this "side."
Directions: From C-470, take Highway 285 south to Conifer. Just past Conifer, use the right hand exit for Foxton Road. Turn left, go under the highway and turn left again at the stop sign. Drive about 8 miles to South Platte River Road and turn left. Follow the South Platte River about 6.2 miles to the Colorado Trail Trailhead and a long pedestrian bridge on your right. The trailhead for segment one is on the left side of the road.