Segment 1-5

Waterton Canyon to Kenosaha Pass

For anyone planning a thru-ride on the Colorado Trail, we would highly recommend a Southbound ride – starting in Denver and heading to Durango.

The first few sections (closer to Denver) have better trailer access and start at a lower elevation where you can gradually start climbing over the first few days. As you get closer to Durango, you ride across higher elevation, tougher trail conditions, and experience limited trailer access. Starting with Segment 1 at Waterton Canyon, you can work out any little issues you may run into at the beginning of your ride with the comfort of knowing you have trailer access at the trailheads, if needed. 

Also, do not forget to check snow conditions! We started our ride on July 1st and came across a lot of snow throughout the whole month.

segment 1

Segment 1

Waterton Canyon Trailhead to South Platte River Trailhead

  • 16.8 Miles
  • Water Availability: Great
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Camping: No good spots for horses
  • Trailer Access: Yes

Trail Overview: This trail is a nice ride horseback if looking for a slight challenge, but not an over strenuous climb. Definitely consider the alternate route starting from Indian Creek Trailhead and Campground. The trail has a nice climb up to the high point of 7,517 ft then descends down to the South Platte River.

Concerns: There are no good camping spots for horses, if you plan on taking a multi-day trip. No camping is allowed along the South Platte River, and Segment 2 is completely dry. 

Trail Description: Segment 1 starts at the Waterton Canyon Trailhead with a hike or ride along a 6.7 mile dirt road. When we rode the trail in 2017, we started on the alternative route at Indian Creek Trailhead. The campground at Indian Creek has equestrian pens where we could allow our horses to rest up from the trailer ride before starting the trail. The alternate route travels 4.1 miles until you meet up at Lenny's Rest at mile 7.9 of the Colorado Trail. 

The trail gradually climbs up to a little over 7,000 feet before dropping back down to the South Platte River.

From our experience, there is not a good place to camp with a horse on Segment 1. No camping is allowed along the river due to private property, and the South Platte River is the last water source until the fire station at the end of Segment 2.

segment 2

Segment 2

South Platte River Trailhead to Little Scraggy Trailhead

  • 11.5 Miles
  • Water Availability: Dry!
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Camping: No good spots for horses
  • Trailer Access: Yes

Trail Overview: This trail is one of the shorter segments of the Colorado Trail. Overall, this segment is not a difficult ride horseback, other than the lack of water and shade.

Concerns: This segment is dry, dry, dry! You will find water at the South Platte River at the start of the segment, but there is absolutely no water to be found in the middle of this segment. The next available water source is from a faucet at the fire station located around mile 10 of the trail. Then, water can be found a couple miles into Segment 3. It can get hot, so riders stay hydrated too!

Trail Description: Segment 2 starts at the South Platte River. This is the last water source until Mile 10. Keep that in mind when planning a multi-day ride as you consider the mileage of your first days. You cannot camp along the South Platte River due to it being on private property.

We do not recommend dry camping. Your horses need water overnight.

At the start of this segment, you will have to cross the Gudy Gaskill Bridge. None of our horses had trouble going across, but keep in mind you do have to weave them through the bike rails.

The trail you will be riding across was greatly effected by the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire. There is very little shade, which can make this segment very hot. And as mentioned before, there is no water until mile 10!

Stay hydrated - both rider and horse!

segment 3

Segment 3

Little Scraggy River Trailhead to Rolling Creek Trailhead

  • 12.2 Miles
  • Water Availability: Great
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Camping: Good places to camp
  • Trailer Access: Yes

Trail Overview: We highly recommend riding this segment! This segment is beautiful, shady and has water - which is a relief from the previous segment. The terrain is great, and there are nice places to camp.

Concerns: This is a very popular mountain biking trail. Most bikers that we met on trail were very courteous, but always be aware of your horse and the trail ahead of you. 

Trail Description: Segment 3 starts at Little Scraggy Trailhead. This trail is heaven sent after the dry and hot Segment 2. We found this trail to be very popular for mountain bikers. Most of the bikers we came across on trail were very courteous! Just be aware of your horses and your surroundings.

There is not much climbing in this segment, which ends at the Rolling Creek Trailhead. But don't worry! If you are looking for climbs, here comes Segment 4!

segment 4

Segment 4

Rolling Creek Trailhead to Long Gulch

  • 16.6 Miles
  • Water Availability: Great
  • Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult
  • Camping: Good camping spots for horses
  • Trailer Access: Yes

Trail Overview: If you are riding the whole trail southbound, get ready for your first real day of climbing! This segment has quite the climb as you finally get above 10,000 ft. The climb is quite strenuous, but the 6 mile valley that follows is absolutely beautiful!

Concerns: Seriously, just that climb! It was our first real taste of the mountain trails on the Colorado Trail. 

Trail Description: Segment 4 starts at the Rolling Creek Trailhead. You are entering the Lost Creek Wildnerness, which means the mountain bikers on the Colorado Trail will be detouring around this segment as bikes are not allowed.

If you started a multi-day trek from Segment 1, get ready for your first "real" climb on the Colorado Trail. 2,204 miles up 7.4 miles of trail until you reach the top of the saddle.  The old logging road was a continuous incline up, but the trail definitely got steeper and rockier once you turned onto the single-track trail.

The valley that you enter at around mile 8.2 is beautiful! It is such a large, grassy area (aka an endless buffet that awaits the horses once you find the perfect camping spot). 

You ride in this wide-open valley for about 6 miles. There are plenty of great places to camp. We set up camp toward the end of the valley.

This segment ends at the intersection with Long Gulch  Trail. Though, to get to the parking area of the trailhead, you would have to turn and ride another .2 miles down the Long Gulch Trail.

segment 5

Segment 5

Long Gulch to Kenosha Pass

  • 14.6 Miles
  • Water Availability: Okay
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Camping: There may be some possible spots to camp
  • Trailer Access: Yes

Trail Overview: This trail is one that we rode through without stopping to camp. Bikers are still detouring around this Segment, so no worries about coming across any other users but hikers.

Concerns: Rock Creek at mile 7.3 is one of the last reliable sources of water until you get into Segment 6. There is a seasonal stream around mile 8.4.

Trail Description: Segment 5 starts at Long Gulch trail .2 miles away from the actual Long Gulch Trailhead. This segment is not too difficult of a ride horseback. The first half of the trail descends a few hundred feet, then you start a gradual climb back up.

There is water on this trail in the first half, but don't expect to come across after mile 7.3 at Rock Creek. (There is seasonal stream at mile 8.4)