Hiking Tips



Sample Questions & Answers from Colorado Trail Journal:

Q17: Did you take a cell phone?
A: Yes, I did. It took me a while to decide to take my cell phone. By the way, I am not a huge cell phone user. I enjoy peace and quiet on the trail. I took my cell phone primarily so I could call home at resupply points and to let me wife know I was alive and well. It was handy to use the phone to communicate with her about our meeting at Copper Mountain and to arrange getting home at the end of the trail.

Q34: Did you try fishing along the trail?
A: No. I wanted to keep my pack weight as light as possible, plus I did not think that there would be many opportunities for fishing which turned out to be correct. The best place for fishing along the trail is probably Cochetopa Creek in the La Garita Wilderness in segment 19.

Q58: How many miles per day did you hike?
A: I generally hiked about 20 miles per day. This may sound like a lot to traditional backpackers, but once you greatly reduce your pack weight, it is not that difficult. Also,bear in mind that this was trail hiking. Cross-country hiking would have been another matter. By way of comparison, I hiked about 12 miles per day when I hiked the John Muir Trail in California in 2008 using conventional, much heavier backpacking gear.

Q63: What kinds of permits are required for the hike?
A: I filled out permits at check-in boxes at the boundaries of the Holy Cross and Mount Massive Wilderness and maybe the Lost Creek Wilderness, but I can’t recall with certainly. It took about a minute to fill out each permit. There are no quotas on wilderness visitor numbers. This is nice feature of the Colorado Trail.

Q81: What kinds of socks did you wear?
A: I took three pairs of socks. At the start of the hike, I wore a pair of Wright Sock Coolmesh, double-layer socks. I bought a pair of black thin polyester socks in Buena Vista because my feet had swelled a lot and my feet (especially my left foot) were cramped in my shoes. I don’t recall the brand of thin socks. They worked well. I washed my socks with soap and water each evening and dried them overnight outside my tent.

Q102: Did you see lots of wildflowers during you trip?
A: It depended on where I was. The wildflowers were spectacular in the Buffalo Fire area, along the North Fork of Lost Creek, in Cochetopa Park, and in the open areas above tree line between Molas Pass and Durango due to the abundant spring moisture. I saw more Lambert’s locoweed (purple) than I had seen in the rest of my life put together. Penstemons (blue, purple) were also abundant. Wildflowers were generally sparse in conifer forests, although Colorado columbines were plentiful in some aspen forests.


Food Suggestions:

General Advice

  • Try foods at home to make sure you like them and know how to cook them
  • Avoid things that require a lot of cooking time unless you like to spend time cooking
  • Experiment at home with portion size, remembering that you will be hungrier on the trail
  • Serving sizes printed on food containers are too small for hikers; generally plan on eating at least two servings per meal per person
  • Repackage foods at home in plastic bags to eliminate as much packaging as possible, but cut out the directions from packaged dinners and include in the plastic bag
  • Long-distance hikers need to consume a lot of calories each day; foods with a lot of calories per unit weight are very appealing for that reason; thus, low-calorie foods such as dried veggies and fruit need to be supplemented with high-calorie foods with lots of fat in order to provide enough food energy every day
  • Below is a small sampling of possibilities based on personal experience; peruse the offerings at the grocery store for more ideas; specialty grocery stores often have items that the big chain grocery store don’t carry


Below is a small sampling of possibilities based on personal experience. Peruse the offerings at the grocery store for more ideas; specialty grocery stores often have items that the big chain grocery stores don’t carry:


  • Cream of wheat (cooks quickly, but can stick to the bottom of the pan is cooked too hot; add powdered milk and dried fruit for protein and flavor)
  • Granola (commercial granola has a lot of sugar; of the commercial brands, I prefer Udi’s or Back to Nature brands because they are not so sweet; however, I really like the recipe I modified from the Candle Café Cookbook; add powdered milk for protein and flavor)
  • Instant oatmeal (various flavors, 2 - 3 three packages may be needed to fill you up; add powdered milk for protein and taste)
  • Muesli (commercial product is pretty sweet for my taste or make your own; add powdered milk for protein and flavor)
  • Old-fashioned rolled oats (they don’t take that long to cook and taste better (I think) than instant oatmeal; old-fashioned rolled oats can be soaked overnight with powdered milk, raisins, and cinnamon in a screw-can plastic jar (e.g., an old peanut butter jar) and eaten cold in the morning without cooking to conserve fuel, try it at home!


  • Almond butter (great on crackers and tortillas, lots of calories and protein; goes down easier than peanut butter)
  • Cheese (it will keep remarkably long if you keep it out of the sun in a plastic bag)
  • Club crackers (they travel better than Ritz crackers)
    Humus (buy mix at supermarket and add water; good on crackers or tortillas)
  • Nuttella (mixture of hazelnuts, chocolate and skim milk powder, very flavorful and loaded with calories)
  • Peanut butter (great on crackers and tortillas, lots of calories and protein; may want to take a small container of jam to help the peanut butter go down easily)
  • Summer sausage (great taste and lots of calories; odor may attract animals)
  • Tortillas (good with cheese or Nuttella)


  • Butter (take a stick or two of butter in two Ziploc bags one inside the other, it will keep for days if it’s not too hot, add a tablespoon or two to every dinner for taste and calories)
  • Chicken or tuna (available in plastic pouches that can be resealed, one pouch of chicken can feed two persons for one meal, plastic pouches are more convenient and lighter but more expensive than canned chicken or tuna)
  • Cous-cous (add dried vegetables and chicken or tuna, add dried green peppers, curry powder, garlic powder, and butter)
  • Dried pasta sauce (make your favorite pasta sauce at home and dry it in your oven or food drier; cook pasta at camp and stir in the dried pasta sauce at the end of cooking, adding more water if needed)
  • Dried vegetables (you can easily dry green peppers, onions, bananas, and mushrooms at home with a food drier)
  • Freeze-dried dinners (various types, they are very convenient because all you usually need to do is add boiling water to the container holding the freeze-dried food and stir; the down side it that they tend to be bulky and expensive)
  • Instant dried beans and instant brown rice in equal volumes, dried onions, garlic powder, julienne style sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, Spike, and 1-2 tablespoons of butter; this can be soaked for several hours in a screw-cap plastic jar and eaten cold to conserve fuel
    Olive oil (store in a small gasketed, screw-top plastic container; add it to every dinner for calories and flavor in place of butter)
  • Packaged dinners (there are many, many types from which to choose including vegan, vegetarian, and organic; one package may feed one person; add chicken or tuna; Knorr packaged rice or noodle dinners are relatively inexpensive; try dinners first at home)
  • Packaged macaroni and cheese or shells and cheese dinners (add chicken or tuna, one package may feed one person; relatively inexpensive)
  • Pesto and whole-wheat angle hair pasta (make your own pesto at home from fresh basil, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil; pesto will last a long time if you keep it cool; pesto has many calories; good on tortillas for lunch; angel hair pasta cooks quickly)
  • Potato flakes (I suggest the flavored versions; add dried veggies and chicken or tuna)
  • Pudding (instant or cooked, various flavors)
  • Sauces (various flavors, most of them require butter or olive oil, cook any sort of pasta or instant rice dish and near the end of the cooking stir in a packet of sauce mix for flavor)
  • Spices (take small containers of basil, cinnamon, curry powder, garlic powder, Spike)


  • Balance bars (various varieties and flavors)
  • Candy (Snickers bars are the favorite of long-distance hikers because they pack a lot of calories for the weight and cost; many other candy choices)
  • Dried fruit (apricots, bananas, cherries, cranberries, mangos, peaches, raisins)
  • Gatorade (mix half strength for electrolytes)
  • Gorp / trail mix (mixture of various dried fruits, nuts, and M & Ms; sweet treat)
  • Jerky (you can make your own without the preservatives if you have a food drier)
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts; nuts are high in calories)
  • Power Bars (various styles and flavors)
  • Tea (many types in small bags; a cup of tea is a delightful way to relax after dinner)


  • Multi-vitamins and supplements


Recommended Reading:


Colorado Trail Journal - Black & White Paperback + Free Color eBook


Author: Alan Carpenter

No other recent journal of the Colorado Trail is available in book format

As an added bonus, the book has an appendix with 104 questions and answers that address many of the logistical details about the trail, such as, footwear, foot care, pack weight, cooking, lay over days, and resupply points.  Another bonus is a list of the gear the author took on his hike will help you decide what you need to take and what to leave at home.


Colorado Trail: The Official Guidebook - 7th Edition


Author: The Colorado Mountain Club


Purchase a Copy of this Book



Colorado Trail Databook - Fourth Edition


Author: Colorado Trail Foundation


Purchase a Copy of this Book



Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking


Author: Ray Jardine


Purchase a Copy of this Book




Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatment for Athletes - 4th Edition


Author: John Vonhof


Purchase a Copy of this Book



Along the Colorado Trail


Author: John Fayhee & John Fielder


Purchase a Copy of this Book