FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE ALPINE: THE COLORADO TRAIL (SEGMENTS 16 – 20)

As we get deeper into the Colorado Trail, many of these trailheads become more remote and require a bit more traveling to get to. We will do our best to find the best routes possible. In some cases this may require more walking, starting at trailheads that are accessible when the CT is not or hiring an outfitter to take you on more difficult 4×4 roads.

MAD

The title says it all, “From the Airport to the Alpine”, this series is all about getting to and from Colorado trailheads and towns via Denver International Airport (or perhaps smaller regional mountain airports) without the need of renting a vehicle by using public transportation and other creative methods. With gas prices going up and trailheads overcrowded, these transportation choices look to ease your wallet and lesson your frustration of traveling to new areas. In the first few installments, we will focus on the infamous, 500 mile, Denver to Durango, Colorado Trail. This post will focus on segments 16 through 20. Always check with these services before heading out, schedules and prices can fluctuate and services may not always be available.

Take note, at Twin Lakes in Seg 11, one must decide to go either Collegiate East or Collegiate West. Though it is also possible to use the East and West segments to take on the 160 mile Collegiate Loop, using any TH to begin and end. In this installment of From the Airport to the Alpine, we will focus on the traditional East route. Stay tuned for future posts, after the Colorado Trail we will begin covering other great trails, trailheads, towns and amazing alpine experiences. Don’t forget to view the previous posts for the Colorado Trail, Segments 1 – 5Segments 6 – 11 and Segments 12 – 15

Also noteworthy are the apps used by the transportation companies listed below, they can be very useful in planning, finding the times for the next ride and any updates about routes. We highly recommend downloading the apps before heading out on the trail and becoming familiar with them.

Segment 16: Traveling to/from DIA and the Marshall Pass TH

As we get deeper into the Colorado Trail, many of these trailheads become more remote and require a bit more traveling to get to. We will do our best to find the best routes possible. In some cases this may require more walking, starting at trailheads that are accessible when the CT is not or hiring an outfitter to take you on more difficult 4×4 roads.

After your arrival at Denver International Airport find your way to the Main Terminal and Baggage Claim. To get to Segment 16 of the CT, head to the train platform outside of the south end of the main terminal, look for the large hanging American flag above the doors. Once outside, go down the escalators and the train platform will be right in front of you.

Take the Regional Transportation District (public transportation) A-Line Train to downtown Denver at Union Station ($10.50). Once at Union Station head downstairs to the Bustang bus, use the Outrider Crested Butte Bus to Salida ($29.00). You can connect to the Bustang bus to Poncha Springs from Salida ($1.00) to shave off 5 more miles if needed. From here you will need a ride to the trailhead (18 miles from Poncha Springs, 23 miles from Salida). A hitch is doable, Uber less likely while the CT Shuttler is probably your best bet. It would be a good idea to call a CT Shuttler beforehand and secure a ride to decide which stop would work best. The RTD and Bustang services accept bikes and gear, but no pets.

The Marshall Pass TH is quite active with hikers. County Rd / FS Rd 200 is also active with people heading to Marshall Pass as well as dispersed camping. This is a long drive out on a rocky dirt road, doable in most vehicles, but slow due to the nature of the road being rough in nature.

Segment 17: Traveling to/from DIA and Sargents Mesa

The next few segments will require out of the box thinking. Traveling here is quite remote as far as road access is concerned but can be done with a little extra effort. From DIA to Seg 17 you will want to decide on using either Gunnison or Salida for the first big leg, from there it gets challenging, but doable.

Taking a good look at the Trails Illustrated map #39 for the La Garita Cochetopa Hills area, one can see plainly that there are hiking trails and trailheads not far from Hwy 50 that can easily get you to the CT. Apart from finding an outfitter that could drive you out to the CT and Sargents Mesa, these trails are probably your best bet. Keep in mind, you came to Colorado for adventure, this is sure to give that experience!

By now, you know the drill, DIA to Denver Union Station on the A-Line Train ($10.50). From Denver Union Station to Salida use the Bustang Outrider Bus Crested Butte ($29.00) or continue on to Gunnison ($40.00). The easy part is over. From either city you’ll need to find a ride to the Long Branch TH via Hwy 50 and FS Rd 780 (4 miles). Use either the Long Branch Tr #489 to CT Seg 17 at mile 2.4 (5.7 miles) or the Big Bend Creek Tr #488 to CT Seg 16 mile 14.7 (6.3 miles).

Alternatively, you can also fly into the Gunnison Regional Airport from Denver International Airport (United Airlines) and then find a ride to the Long Branch TH.

Segment 18: Traveling to/from DIA and CO Hwy 114

Getting to Segment 18, while not as remote a trailhead, does require a nearly 40 mile drive on highways 50 and 114 (Paved). During our thru hike of the CT we opted to resupply in Gunnison and found a ride to and from the trailhead. There are CT shuttlers who service this area. As in Segment 17, there are two options to get to Gunnison. Option 1: A-Line Train from DIA to Denver Union Station, Bustang from DEN Union Station to Gunnison ($40) then CT Shuttler, Uber or hitch to the TH (39 miles). Option 2: Fly into DIA and make a connection on United Airlines to Gunnison Regional Airport and then look for a ride to the TH (39 miles).

Segment 19: Traveling to/from DIA and the Saguache Park Rd

Gunnison is the best option. There are two options to get to Gunnison. Option 1: A-Line Train from DIA to Denver Union Station, Bustang from DEN Union Station to Gunnison ($40) then CT Shuttler to trailhead. Option 2: Fly into DIA and make a connection on United Airlines to Gunnison Regional Airport and then look for a ride to the trailhead.

Remote TH, some 45 miles from Gunnison. Heading east take Hwy 50 to Hwy 114 for 34 miles and look for CR 17GG then south for 5.25 miles, east on CR NN14 for 1.10 miles and then south on 17FF for 3.8 miles to intersection of FR787 and 17FF and the beginning of Segment 19. A Ct Shuttler is your best bet here.

Segment 20: Traveling to/from DIA and the Eddiesville TH

Gunnison is the best option. There are two options to get to Gunnison. Option 1: A-Line Train from DIA to Denver Union Station, Bustang from DEN Union Station to Gunnison ($40) then CT Shuttler to trailhead. Option 2: Fly into DIA and make a connection on United Airlines to Gunnison Regional Airport and then look for a ride to the trailhead.

Remote TH, some 56.4 miles from Gunnison. Heading east take Hwy 50 to Hwy 114 for 28.4 miles and look for CR 14NN then south for 7 miles to CR 15GG then south for 4 miles and then continue straight on CR 14DD for 17 miles to trailhead. A CT Shuttler would be best.

Peace,

MAD

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