The Colorado Trail Guide: Resupply and Towns on the Colorado Trail
So much of the planning for a thru-hike revolves around resupply and towns. Town is where everything gets complicated. How will you get there? Where will you resupply? Should you send yourself a package? Will you be able to get a room for the night? Is there pizza there? So many important questions.
Fortunately, resupply on the Colorado Trail is relatively straightforward. There are a number of towns near the trail, and you’ll never go more than about 50 miles without an opportunity to resupply. On my Colorado Trail thru-hikes, I stopped in Frisco/Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Leadville, Twin Lakes, Salida, Creede, and Silverton. Other popular stops include Fairplay/Jefferson, Buena Vista, Gunnison, and Lake City. Here’s the skinny on each town so you can decide for yourself which ones you want to stop in.
Good to Know
But first, a few pro tips:
- Food and lodging will be expensive, and you may struggle to get a table or a reservation on summer weekends and holidays due to tourist crowds. I tried to book rooms one or two resupplies in advance of my planned zero—any further out and I couldn’t be confident of my schedule. This system worked for me, but your mileage may vary.
- Tuesday – Thursday are the best days to stay in town. Friday through Sunday are obviously more crowded, and room rates may be more expensive on those days. Meanwhile, many restaurants and stores are closed on Mondays.
- Don’t put too much faith in the outfitters along the trail. Most of them are very small and are heavily skewed toward apparel, climbing gear, bike stuff, and/or ski stuff, with only a small amount of hiking gear on offer. The Frisco area has an REI, and the outfitters in Leadville, Salida, and Creede stood out to me for having at least a few useful options for hikers, but in general, don’t count on the outfitters if you need to make major gear adjustments.
All mileage is from FarOut’s Colorado Trail SOBO guide.
The Best Resupply Towns on the Colorado Trail
Denver (Mile 0)
- Easy to get to? From the outside world? Yes. From the CT trailhead? Meh. Plenty of Ubers and trail angels to fall back on, just be aware that the trailhead is near Littleton, not Denver proper, and is over an hour’s drive from the airport.
Denver is where it all begins for most hikers (or ends if you’re hiking NOBO). If you need to make any last-minute gear changes, you can visit the REI flagship store. Otherwise, there are plenty of grocery stores and hotels around, obviously, because it’s freaking Denver. You may want to talk to a trail angel about getting a ride to the trailhead since it’s not easily accessible via mass transit and it’s pretty far from Denver proper.
Conifer (Mile 16.5), Buffalo Creek (26.6), Bailey (40.7), Fairplay/Jefferson (71.7)
Many people hike straight through the first 100 miles and pick up their first resupply in the relative metropolis of Frisco and Breckenridge, bypassing these smaller towns. However, they all have their merits:
Conifer is close to the beginning of the trail, so it’s perfect if you need to bail and make adjustments after your first day or two.
Buffalo Creek is right after the end of Segment 2, which is very hot and dry, so it can be nice to dash into town to enjoy air conditioning and a cold drink if you overheat.
Bailey, at mile 41, has a full grocery store. For hikers starting with shorter miles, going all the way to Frisco, or even Fairplay, on a single resupply might be unrealistic. Bailey will be a better option for 10-milers or anyone looking to reduce the weight of their food bag.
Fairplay and Jefferson are both accessible via an easy hitch from Kenosha Pass. Fairplay is further away but offers more amenities—this is the better option if you want a full resupply and a night in a hotel. If you just want a bite to eat and a few sundries from the general store, Jefferson is the way to go (I haven’t been there personally, but I’ve heard the Jefferson Store serves great sandwiches).
Frisco and Breckenridge (Mile 103)
- Easy to get to? Very. Bus stop right at the trail crossing with frequent, free service.
- Walkable? Not as much as you would think. You’ll probably need the bus or a ride to get between most amenities.
These two large, upscale ski towns are both a few miles from the trail in opposite directions on Highway 9. There is a bus stop where the trail crosses underneath the highway, making both towns incredibly accessible. SOBOs wanting to go into Frisco shouldn’t cross under the highway to catch the bus, but they’ll have to go under and wait on the other side to get the bus to Breck. The bus is free and has stops throughout both towns, as well as connections to nearby Dillon and Silverthorne. There are plenty of lodging, dining, and resupply opportunity in both towns, as well as an REI in Dillon. However, be aware that this is a major, upscale tourist metropolis, so everything will be expensive.
Favorite place to eat: Everything is pricey around here. If you don’t mind leaning into the fancy-folk vibe, 5th Avenue Grill in Frisco is very good.
Copper Mountain (Mile 119)
- Easy to get to? Very. Trail goes right by the resort.
- Walkable? Yes, definitely designed with pedestrians in mind.
About 17 miles after Frisco and Breck is Copper Mountain. It’s a ski resort, not really a proper town, but the trail goes right by it and there are (expensive) lodging and dining options, a literal alpine slide, and a very limited, expensive resupply (OK for topping up your snacks). There’s a bus between Frisco and Copper, so if you need an emergency zero you’re probably better off just commuting back to Frisco. Some hikers also use the bus to slackpack themselves through this section.
Leadville (Mile 143)
- Easy to get to? Moderately. About 10 miles off-trail, hitching isn’t too hard here.
- Walkable? More or less. It’s a short hike between the lodging/dining quarter and the grocery and laundromat, but nothing outlandish and there are sidewalks the whole way.
From the Tennessee Pass trailhead, you can hitch into the charming mountain town of Leadville, which is famous among thru-hikers for being the home of the coveted Melanzana. Plenty of lodging and dining in town, though the grocery store and laundromat are a little distant from the main drag. It’s walkable, but if you’re lazy like me you may want to call a shuttle (especially to carry your groceries back from the store). This town is gorgeous and a lot of fun to walk around. It’s really worth a visit just for sheer enjoyment if you have the time and budget to experience it.
Shout out to Mountain Peaks Motel, which I stayed at because it had some of the lowest rates in town. The room was gigantic and had a full-size fridge and a freezer stocked with free (free!) drinks and ice cream. I’m sure the numerous other motels in Leadville are also wonderful, but I had a great experience here and absolutely loved the owners.
Favorite place to eat: Tennessee Pass Cafe. The black bean burger is a travesty unfit for human consumption, but the rest of their menu is amazing. Their appetizers are my life.
Twin Lakes (Mile 177)
- Easy to get to? Very. Short side trail from the CT drops you right next to the general store.
- Walkable? The only places to go are basically all right next to each other so yes.
Not really a town, but this is your last resupply opportunity before diving headfirst into the spectacular Collegiate range. There are very limited lodging options in Twin Lakes, so you should definitely plan ahead if you want to stay here. It’s about a half-hour drive into Leadville that’s pretty much a straight shot down 24, so you could also hitchhike or shuttle into that larger town for a zero day from here instead.
The trail goes almost right by Twin Lakes, and if you take the shortcut trail at mile 176, it will save you some road walking and spit you out near the General Store. The General Store has a limited resupply, but this is probably the most popular on the trail to send a resupply box. The store is hiker-friendly, and during the summer months, you can almost always find a crowd of thru-hikers lounging in the shaded seating area in front of the store, rummaging through the hiker box and recharging their devices.
Favorite place to eat: The food truck thing outside the general store serves a mean breakfast burrito if you’re lucky enough to be there at a time when it’s open.
Buena Vista (Mile 216)
- Easy to get to? Moderately. Nine-mile hitch from the CT on Hwy 306.
- Walkable? Yes. Everything is pretty compact and most services are concentrated on the main drag.
This town is much easier to access from Collegiate East. However, westies can still get to Buena Vista from Cottonwood Pass at CW mile 35 where the trail crosses Highway 306, though the road is fairly quiet so it may take some time to get a ride. You’ll find pretty much everything a hiker needs in this town (except for an outfitter), including a full resupply from either LaGree’s or City Market.
Favorite place to eat: I have to admit I don’t have one. I spent very limited time in Buena Vista and the place I ate at was forgettable, as in I literally forgot where I ate. Looks like there are a number of great eateries in town, though, as well as Eddyline Brewery, which we picked as one of the Best Breweries on the Colorado Trail.
Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort (Mile 230)
- Easy to get to? Very. Trail joins the road and goes right past it.
- Walkable? Yes.
Not a town, but the resort accepts packages on a case-by-case basis and has a restaurant and general store. If you plan ahead and have money, you can book a room and have a luxurious zero day. People have told me that the restaurant serves an incredible breakfast. Is this true? I have no idea*, but the idea has captured my imagination and I mean to go there and find out next time I’m in Colorado.
*Important note: The resort is only accessible from Collegiate East. If you choose the CW alternate, you’re out of luck on this one, which is why I still have yet to experience the supposedly amazing breakfast here.
Salida / Poncha Springs (Mile 253)
- Easy to get to? A bit hard to catch a ride in my experience. Plenty of traffic but everyone’s moving fast.
- Walkable? Fairly. It’s a larger town than some on this list and some of the more affordable lodging is a bit out of town, so you may need a ride to downtown depending on where you’re staying. Once you’re there you’ll be able to walk easily though. If staying in Poncha Springs, it’s walkable but there aren’t really sidewalks most of the time so not as pleasant to get around.
After hiking through the rugged, glorious Collegiates, you’ll pop out at Highway 50. Traffic moves fast on this road, and in my experience, it’s a somewhat difficult hitch, but all things are achievable with time and patience. The Butterfly House, Monarch Mountain Lodge, and Monarch Spur RV Park offer lodging, food, and limited resupply near the trail crossing if you don’t want to go all the way into town.
Salida is about 15 miles from the road crossing, and you’ll pass Poncha Springs on the way into town. Poncha Springs has cheaper lodging, as well as a full grocery and hardware store, but there’s not much to it other than that (though it was formerly home to Grimo’s, the best Italian restaurant in the galaxy).
Salida is more expensive but has amazing restaurants, gorgeous art and architecture, an inexplicable number of deer, and river access for swimming and paddling. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get a bunk at one of the two hostels in town for a decent rate. There is a small outfitter in town with limited options for thru-hikers, as well as a full grocery store. This is a bigger town than some, but still walkable if you get lodging that’s actually in town.
Collegiate West hikers: you can shortcut to Monarch Pass/Highway 50 from CW mile 67.5.
Favorite place to eat: The Patio Pancake Place has an amazing menu, especially for a green chili lover like me.
Saguache / Gunnison (Mile 303)
- Easy to get to? Not really. The hitching shouldn’t be too hard, but both towns are 40-50 miles from the trail.
- Walkable? Pretty much. Gunnison is a bit spread out but has decent sidewalks. Saguache doesn’t have sidewalks but is tiny.
I didn’t go to either town (though I’ve been through Gunnison on other trips), but this would be a good way to break up the otherwise long-ish stretch between Salida and Creede. Gunnison is a real-ass town with hotels, restaurants, laundry, etc. It has a Safeway AND a City Market! Saguache is pretty tiny but does have some groceries and lodging. The only disadvantage to resupplying at mile 303 is that both towns are far (40-50 miles) from the trail.
FYI: it’s pronounced Suh-WATCH.
Creede (Mile 343)
- Easy to get to? No. Getting here is terrible and involves at least a mile of road walking, up to 11 if you can’t catch a ride.
- Walkable? Very. Everything is compact and easy to get to.
After Salida, the resupply options get a bit more scarce. Excluding Gunnison, your next opportunity to get into town will be from San Luis Pass, where, with extensive road walking and/or a lucky hitch, you can get to the town of Creede.
Hitching/walking to Creede: You have to veer off the trail at the junction at mile 343, following the sign for the West Willow Creek parking area. You’ll hit the Willow Creek trailhead parking area after just over a mile. This parking is only accessible to 4-wheel drive vehicles, but on summer weekends there are often at least a few peak baggers parked here. If you’re lucky (and patient) you might be able to bum a ride from one of them when they get back to their car. Otherwise, keep heading down the dirt road for another two-ish miles to the Equity Mine Trailhead, where most people park to access San Luis. Again, no guarantees anyone will be at the trailhead, but there are often day hikers in the parking lot during summer. Hitchhiking will be difficult and require some patience, but it can be done. Otherwise, you can road walk another eight miles into town for a total of 11 off-trail miles one way. There are a few local shuttles that might be available to pick you up if you make arrangements ahead of time. Consult the CT shuttle list for more info.
You can stay the night at the Snowshoe Lodge or the private cabins across the street, and there are several great restaurants and a really nice grocery store (the Kentucky Belle Market) in town. The town is very small and compact, so everything is within walking distance. Creede is known for its vibrant theater scene, so you might be able to get tickets to a play and feel fancy for a change.
Favorite place to eat: So many options! Kips is great if you love giant burritos. My personal favorite is Arp’s: pricy, but it’s where I first discovered my undying love for ratatouille. The tiny Bristol Head Bakery is the best place in town to satisfy your sweet tooth/bread craving.
Lake City (Mile 358)
- Easy to get to? Not the best, not the worst. Hitching can take a while, but you can usually count on the daily shuttle coming around noon if nothing else.
- Walkable? Yes. No sidewalks really, but wide shoulders give plenty of room to get away from the road itself.
Another day or so of rugged hiking past San Luis Pass will bring you to Spring Creek Pass. You can access both Creede and Lake City from this pass, though the road isn’t heavily trafficked and it sometimes takes hours to catch a ride. It’s a long way to either town from here (17 miles to Lake City, 33 miles to Creede) so walking isn’t realistic. Again, consider pre-booking a local shuttle to get to town from here. The Sportsman in Lake City runs a daily shuttle to the pass around noon during the summer months.
Lake City is tiny—it might more accurately be named Lake Small Village—but everyone who goes there seems to love it. There is a motel, a small outfitter, and many great places to eat. You might want to send yourself a mail drop here as resupply options are limited.
Silverton (Mile 412)
- Easy to get to? Fairly. Most cars are slowing down or stopping at the scenic overlook where the trail crosses 550, so it’s easy to draw someone’s attention. Easy seven-mile hitch into town.
- Walkable? Yes. Everything is very compact and easy to get to, and most of the tourists come via train so it’s really designed with pedestrians in mind.
Ah, Silverton. Outside of hiking the CT, I’ve spent a significant chunk of time the last two summers camped outside of Silverton and have come to love it. It’s tiny and dramatically ringed by soaring peaks on all sides. Once a thriving mining community, the town is now mostly sustained by the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail (a tourist train that serves the town, disgorging hundreds of sightseers with each trip).
The CT actually crosses the railroad tracks just a few trail miles outside of Silverton, and there’s a backcountry railroad stop off a short side trail at mile 406 where you can even flag down passing trains and ride into Silverton in style. Not only is this super fun and interesting sounding (I haven’t been able to do it yet myself, sadly), but it will save you a big climb up from the Animas River to get into Silverton.
Molas Lake Campground: If you don’t take the train, you’ll hike right by Molas Lake Campground on your way to the Million Dollar Highway—scenic Highway 550—from which you can pretty easily hitch into Silverton. Judging by the immense number of hiker resupply boxes I saw stacked in the supply room and behind the cash register in the camp store, this seems to be a popular spot to mail yourself a box. There’s a full grocery store in Silverton, but if you want to skip the trip to town, the campground makes that possible. You can send yourself a box, stock up on frozen burritos, ice cream, and snacks at the camp store, and pay to use their coin-operated showers before pressing on to Durango.
Actual Silverton: Relatively easy hitch and there are several motels in town where you can stay. There’s a full grocery store and a laundromat, as well as an outfitter (but with super limited offerings for hikers). I recommend eating lunch early and dinner late to avoid the crowds that come in each day with the tourist train. Everything is within walking distance in this compact town.
Favorite place to eat: I loved the Pickle Barrel (which serves a mean veggie burger), but there are tons of amazing options. Avalanche Brewing Co. is another gem that’s well-loved by thru-hikers and is also one of the few eateries that remain open later in the evening.
Durango (Mile 486)
- Easy to get to? Not really. Not a lot of traffic on the roads into town so hitching may take some patience.
- Walkable? Not entirely, as it’s a pretty metropolitan area, but there’s a trolley to help you get around, and also there may or may not be Uber (spotty availability). You will need a ride to get to/from the airport, which is well out of town.
Congratulations, you made it! Well, kind of. The CT ends at Junction Creek Trailhead, which is still roughly five miles away from the actual town of Durango via several lightly-trafficked paved roads. Hitchhiking can be hit or miss. Both times I hiked the CT I had to road walk a good portion of the way before someone stopped to pick me up, but both times I eventually got incredibly helpful rides that went out of their way to drop me right at my destination. You may have better luck asking a returning day hiker at the Junction Creek parking area for a ride, but either way, time and patience will get you to town eventually. Worst case scenario, it’s only a five-mile walk to get into town on foot.
No shortage of lodging, dining, or other services in Durango, which is more of a small city than a mere town. Durango is just 6500 feet above sea level, so it’s likely to be much warmer than the conditions you’ve gotten used to experiencing in the San Juans.
Favorite place to eat: Last time I was there I ate at the Himalayan Kitchen because my longstanding policy is to never pass up an opportunity to eat palak paneer. However, my dad reads all my articles and will be mad at me if I don’t mention Carver’s too. It is, admittedly, a great place for a burger. I don’t really drink beer, but evidently, they’ve got the good stuff if that’s what you’re into.
The Colorado Trail Shuttle List
Some CT trail towns are easier to get to than others (we’re looking at you, Creede). For that reason, we recommend filling out this simple form from the Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF) to gain access to their trail angel shuttle list. The CTF has compiled a list of local shuttle services and trail angels who are willing to give rides to hikers. Some of the listings are volunteers, while others are paid services. The guide usually specifies when there is a fee attached, and also includes details like contact info and shuttle range for each listing. Many people participate in the shuttle list on the condition that it is not publicly circulated, which is why I’m telling you to go through CTF rather than just naming names.
The list is also incredibly useful for getting to and from town throughout your thru-hike. It is generally possible to hitch a ride on the CT, but more remote towns like Creede and Lake City are notoriously difficult hitches. And remember that a large portion of the traffic going in and out of trail towns will be out-of-state tourists who are unfamiliar with the local roads and probably have never even heard of the CT, making them much less likely to give you a ride. In any case, having the shuttle list in your back pocket is an excellent fallback option on a trail that otherwise doesn’t have much thru-hiking infrastructure. Call ahead of time as often as possible when you need a ride! Advance notice will vastly improve your odds of success.
More Resources from the Colorado Trail Guide
Everything You Need to Know to Hike the Colorado Trail
11 Highlights of the Colorado Trail You Won’t Want to Miss
Colorado Trail Packing List
Logistics for a Colorado Trail Thru-Hike
Essential Safety Tips for Thru-Hiking the Colorado Trail
Colorado Trail Section by Section
Collegiate East vs. West: 8 Key Differences for CT Hikers
How to Hike Every 14er on the Colorado Trail (with FarOut Miles)
The Beer Drinker’s Guide to the Colorado Trail
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