Kate on the Appalachian Trail near Mount Rogers

This fall, we’re holding a series of Tuesday evening Pints & Paths programs with GetGoingNC.com. We spend the the first part of the evening socializing and enjoying a pour from Big Boss Brewing Co. Then, we help you launch the epic hike of your dreams by hearing a hiker who has done one (sometimes more) of the nation’s long hikes (see below for a rundown of trails and presenters). In this space, we recap the hiker’s presentation, focusing on particularly pertinent (and entertaining) advice. Today: Kate Rice hikes the Colorado Trail on a day’s notice.

The trail Colorado Trail

The hiker Kate Rice

Her story (briefly) On a Sunday in early August, Kate Rice found herself with a week between the end of her summer job and the start of freshman year at UNC Chapel Hill. The next day, she had booked a flight to Denver and set her itinerary for hiking the first 100 miles of the 500-mile Colorado Trail in the coming week. Spontaneous though it was, it was informed by her planning a year earlier for a month on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Kate shares how she was able to put together her trip in about 24 hours.

10 things we learned from Kate about planning a quick long hike on the Colorado Trail:

  1. Simple logistics. That the trail starts in Denver, and that she could get a cheap flight there (Frontier) helped a lot. Also helpful: she was able to take Denver’s RTD Light Rail from the airport to near the trailhead (Uber got her the rest of the way).
  2. AT weight-loss plan. Her experience hiking the Appalachian Trail helped her trim, easily, 10 pounds from her pack, mostly in food and clothing. Kate says she carried about 28 pounds, including food and water, on the Colorado Trail.
  3. Water, water, not everywhere. Water can be scarce on the higher portions of the trail. “You should plan on carrying 5 or 6 liters.” (Two is the norm on the AT, where there’s almost always water near the shelters and along the way.)
  4. Can’t hang ‘em high. Some of the trail is above treeline. If you’re a hammock camper, like Kate, you need to plan your camp sites accordingly.
  5. Clothing. “On the AT, I needed two sets of clothes, so I could wear one while the other dried out,” says Kate of the muggy hiking conditions common in the Southeast. “In Colorado, with the drier air, I only needed one set of clothes.”
  6. Food. “It was generally cold in the mornings — around 40 degrees — so my goal was to get moving quickly. I usually just had granola bars for breakfast. Usually the same for lunch, then I’d cook ramen with a tuna packet for dinner.”
  7. Heed the afternoon thunderstorms. Like clockwork, the storm clouds would brew overhead around 2 p.m. every afternoon. “Usually, nothing happened,” says Kate. “But I still paid attention to them.” Generally, the lower you are the better when a mountain thunderstorm rolls through.
  8. Favorite trail bar? The Lara bar, especially the chocolate chip cookie dough and cherry pie.
  9. Permits required? No. “That helped speed up the process.”
  10. Altitude issues? “I didn’t have any trouble with the altitude,” says Kate. One advantage of the trail is that it’s northern trailhead is in Denver, at 5,280 feet, and the trail eases into the higher elevations, giving you time to acclimate. Kate topped out on 14,265-foot Quandary Peak.


  • The Colorado Trail Databook. “It had everything I needed” — campsites, water, side trails, intersecting roads, etc. — “including maps.”
  • Colorado Trail Thru-Hike 2017 Facebook page. A lot of great information from fellow hikers about planning — and an apparently good way to find out where you are if you get lost on the trail.
  • Colorado Trail Foundation. The CTF builds and maintains the trail, and has an extensive trip planning page on its website.

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Pints & Paths Schedule

September 19 Bartram Trail, Joe Miller

September 26 Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Jerry Barker

October 3 Appalachian Trail, Susan Levy

October 10 Colorado Trail, Kate Rice

October 17 John Muir Trail, Marya McNeish

November 7 Foothills Trail, Scott Hicks, Bill Downey Jr., Bonner Ballinger