Backpacking Colorado

Making plans for backpacking Colorado? You’re in for a treat.  Colorado is ideal backpacking country, with spectacular mountains, pristine forests, and more trails than you could go through in a lifetime.  More than a third of the state is public land; set apart  in national and state parks. At the same time, there’s nothing really remote or dangerously untamed, and even the most backwater portions are easily accessible with good roads. 

How to Prepare for a Colorado Backpacking Adventure

Colorado has both easy trails and breathtakingly difficult ascents for hiking, so what preparation you need will depend on what you hope your backpacking trip will look like. That said, the best way to prepare is always by getting in shape: the high altitude will make it difficult to exert yourself when you’re there, so do your shaping up now. Pack your backpack with both light clothing and something warm as well; the weather is wildly changeable.  And make sure your batteries are charged—you’ll want lots of pictures!


Where to Go When Backpacking Colorado

What are the best places to go backpacking Colorado? If you’re new to the region, consider visiting one of the four national parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, with 265,761 acres of Rocky Mountain splendor and 349 miles of trail to explore; Mesa Verde National Park, where you can see the United State’s best preserved Puebloan archeological sites; Great Sand Dunes National Park, a majestic desert wasteland that contains the tallest sand dunes in North America;  or Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a dramatically steep river canyon that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

On to the Backwater

Once you’re ready to delve deeper into what Colorado has to offer, explore her state parks. Backpacking Colorado is not just about the Rockies, Sand Dunes, the Black Canyon or Mesa Verde.  The state boasts  44 beautiful state parks as well, and each of them carry their own surprises for the backpacker.  They include:

• Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, 6193 acres

• Barr Lake State Park, 2715 acres

• Bonny Lake State Park 4,793 acres

• Boyd Lake State Park, 334 acres

• Castlewood Canyon State Park, 2,621 acres

• Chatfield State Park 3,895 acres

• Cherry Creek State Park, 3,346 acres

• Cheyenne Mountain State Park, 1, 680 acres

• Crawford State Park, 734 acres

• Eldorado Canyon State Park, 885 acres

• Eleven Mile State Park, 7,662 acres

• Elkhead State Park, 2200 acres

• Golden Gate Canyon State Park, 11,998 acres

• Harvey Gap State Park, 320 acres

• Highline Lake State Park, 563 acres

• Jackson Lake State Park, 3,305 acres

• James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, 890 acres

• John Martin Reservoir State Park, 13,176 acres

• Lake Pueblo State Park, 10,279 acres

• Lathrop State Park, 1,596 acres

• Lone Mesa State Park, 11,702 acres

• Lory State Park, 2,492 acres

• Mancos State Park, 553 acres

• Mueller State Park, 5,112 acres

• Navajo State Park, 5,087 acres

• North Sterling State Park, 5,700 acres

• Paonia State Park, 1,857 acres

• Pearl Lake State Park, 300 acres

• Ridgway State Park, 3,201 acres

• Rifle Falls State Park, 48 acres

• Rifle Gap State Park, 1,341 acres

• Roxborough State Park, 3,317 acres

• San Luis State Park, 586 acres

• Spinney Mountain State Park, 6,080 acres

• St. Vrain State Park, 688 acres

• Stagecoach State Park, 1,641 acres

• State Forest State Park, 70,838 acres

• Staunton State Park, 3,522 acres

• Steamboat Lake State Prk, 2,820 acres

• Sweitzer Lake State Park, 210 acres

• Sylvan Lake State Park, 1,548

• Trinidad Lake State Park, 2,860 acres

• Vega State Park, 1,823 acres

• Yampa River State Park 3,112 acres

Plan your backpacking Colorado time so that you can thoroughly explore each area you visit, or you’ll be shortchanging yourself. Backpacking Colorado is not something you’ll finish in one month or even an entire summer, so take it slow. A lifetime of exploration awaits you.  

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