Six ways I’m preparing for my Colorado Trail thru-hike

I ditched Washington, DC, for the Appalachian Trail (AT) and then Colorado over four years ago, but the Type A habits I picked up there live on. While I certainly can fly by the seat of pants, I typically don’t. The truth is, I am a planner. As such, I’ve been preparing for my Colorado Trail (CT) thru-hike, which starts in less than two weeks, for the past several months. Today, I’d like to share a few of the things I’ve been doing to prepare.


  1. I planned ahead to get the time off. The Colorado Trail is almost 500 miles long. Unless you’re an ultra-runner, fastest known time contender, or some other version of a super athlete (of which I am none), hiking 500 miles takes some time. And when you have a full-time job, getting that kind of time off can be tough. Therefore, I approached my supervisor way back in February to ask if taking a month off this summer to hike the trail would be feasible. I thought the more lead time I could give, the more likely I would be to get what I want. Luckily, he agreed (thank you, Seamus!!), and here I am, bursting at the seams with excitement as I’m about to take off on my adventure. Bonus of planning ahead? I’ve had plenty of time to account for the time I’ll be out of the office and to make the workload as light as possible for my coworkers while I’m away.


  1. I trained. One huge regret I had about my Appalachian Trail thru-hike was that I didn’t physically train ahead of time. There were a few reasons for that, including an illness that wiped me out for several weeks ahead of my hike, and the fact that I started the trail in mid-March, at the tail end of winter. Regardless, I suffered for it once I got on trail and had to hike up and over mountains all day every day with a heavy pack and sore legs (let’s be real, sore everything!). This time, because I have to average about 16 miles per day right out the gate, I figure that I don’t have the luxury of starting the trail in less-than-peak physical condition. Since April, I’ve been hiking multiple times per week and regularly completing high intensity interval training workouts, and since mid-May, I’ve been backpacking most weekends. I know it’s still going to be tough hiking 16+ miles every single day at high elevation, but I feel like I’ve done myself a great service by taking my training seriously this time around.


  1. I’ve dialed in my gear. Truly, this has been a work in progress since I got off the AT. I didn’t do much gear research ahead of the AT, mostly because I didn’t have much money to replace the things I already owned, but I learned a whole lot about gear while out there, and I watched my friends with lighter kits struggle far less than me. So, over the past few years, I’ve been slowly overhauling my gear, obtaining a much lighter, much more comfortable set up. I still had a few remaining pieces of gear to replace at the beginning of this year, so I’ve done that ahead of the CT, and I’m thrilled with the set up I have now. If you’re interested in what I’m carrying, I’ll have a video up on my YouTube channel about this within the next couple of weeks.


  1. I’ve planned out my town stops. Because I have a limited amount of time to hike the CT, I felt like I had to do a bit more planning than I normally would in terms of where I’m going to stop for food, showers, laundry, and the like. So I researched all the possible town stops, chose the ones that were easiest to get to and made the most sense distance-wise, and mapped out where I’ll be stopping. This was also an important task because I’m choosing to send myself a few resupply boxes this time around. These towns include: Jefferson, Breckenridge, Leadville, Twin Lakes, Salida, Lake City, and Silverton.


  1. I’ve made up resupply boxes. On the AT, I didn’t bother to send myself any resupply boxes because it was so easy to get to towns, and most of the towns I went to were so well-stocked that it seemed like a waste of energy. Instead, I simply stopped at grocery stores along the way. But my friend Pika hiked the CT in 2019 and recommended I send boxes of food and supplies to a few town stops that don’t have the best options, including Twin Lakes, Lake City, and Silverton. I’ve taken her advice, stocked up on delicious hiker foods, and have these three boxes ready to mail out, which I’ll do within the next few days ahead of my start date. If you’re curious what I’m including in these boxes, I’ll have a YouTube video up soon on this topic as well.


  1. I downloaded the FarOut CT guide. Formerly known as GutHook, the interactive FarOut guides just make navigation while on trail easy. They tell you where the water is, where the campsites are, what the elevation profile of the trail looks like, where the jump-offs for town are, and more. And, the hikers that come before you often leave helpful comments, such as about the state of a campsite and how many tents can fit there. So, I paid the $20 and downloaded their CT guide.


So that’s it, folks, that’s how I’ve been preparing for my CT thru-hike! Do you do a lot of preparations ahead of big trips like this, or do you like to figure everything out as you go? Let me know down in the comments!

If you’d like to follow along on my Colorado Trail thru-hike, you can find me on InstagramTikTok, and YouTube, and I will of course post updates here on The Trek as well. The countdown is on!


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Comments 4

  • Brian Crabtree : Jul 28th

    Audrey, I enjoy your posts and videos. I’m about to turn 66 and sort of have my eye on the Colorado Trail in retirement. I’m a slackpacker, not so much a backpacker who camps. I’m hearing the CT can be slackpacked and it’s possible to get from one trailhead to another in a day. I know that’s not what you’re doing, but do you have any advice about the possibility? For sure, I would have to train to hike at altitude. I live in Atlanta and hike frequently on the Georgia and North Carolina sections of the AT.

    • Audrey Payne : Jul 28th

      Hi, Brian. That’s so awesome you’re considering the CT in retirement! What is the reason for wanting to slackpack the entire thing – not wanting to carry the heavy load? I don’t have any insight to share right now, but I will try to pay attention while I’m out there, so ask me again once I’ve completed the trail and I’ll try to share my thoughts on it! Would you potentially have a friend/ relative meet you each day in a vehicle at the end of your hiking? And oh gosh, I love the southern portion of the AT so much! It’s hard though, so definitely good training grounds for hiking in Colorado!

      • Dave : Aug 2nd

        Hey Audrey good luck to you and be safe. I am a backpacker/ bowhunter in the Eagles nest wilderness! While planning is not necessarily my strong suit I think going in prepared and in good physical shape will dramatically enhance your experience. Good for you for training hard….that will pay dividends. I’m retiring this year and the CT is on my list. Dave in Elizabeth CO

        • Audrey Payne : Aug 2nd

          Thank you so much, Dave! Oh very nice – might you head out to the CT next year? Yeah I probably wouldn’t have worried much about training except I’m on a timeline and I really wanna both finish and have fun!


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