Close this search box.

Top 10 Tools for Planning Spectacular Colorado Hiking Trips

Embarking on a hike through Colorado’s stunning landscapes is an adventure that calls for more than just passion and sturdy boots. It demands meticulous preparation to ensure a safe and fulfilling journey. Luckily, we’re living in a time where a wealth of tools are at our disposal, designed to guide us through trails, weather conditions, and preparation essentials.

Here are eleven of the most important tools every Colorado hiker needs to navigate their next adventure with confidence.

Table of Contents

1. Navigate with Ease: COTREX (Colorado Trail Explorer)

Imagine having a personal guide to Colorado’s trails right in your pocket. That’s COTREX for you. It’s a treasure trove of information on thousands of trails, offering filters by activity, difficulty, and access. Its state-managed, making its trail insights supremely reliable. Say hello to discovering new paths or revisiting familiar routes with unprecedented ease.

Discover trails with COTREX, a state-managed treasure trove of trail information. Explore COTREX

2. Community at Your Fingertips: Hiking Project

Enter REI’s Hiking Project, a platform where community and up-to-the-minute trail data meet. This tool thrives on user contributions, offering rich descriptions, vibrant photos, and detailed maps. Its community-driven approach makes it a go-to for discovering trails and downloading maps for offline use, setting a new benchmark for accuracy and detail.

Join a community of hikers and access up-to-date trail data on the Hiking Project. Visit Hiking Project

3. For the Trailblazer: Gaia GPS

If your heart beats for the untamed backcountry, Gaia GPS is your steadfast companion. It delivers precise topographic maps, satellite views, and live weather updates. Its prowess in offline navigation and route tracking ensures you’re well-guided, even in the remotest corners of Colorado’s wilderness.

Navigate the backcountry confidently with Gaia GPS’s detailed maps and live weather updates. Download Gaia GPS

4. Weather Wisdom: National Weather Service

Colorado’s weather can be as unpredictable as it is beautiful. The National Weather Service offers the latest forecasts to help you skirt sudden storms or hazardous conditions. Its MapClick feature provides precise forecasts for your specific hike location and elevation, making it indispensable for your safety.

Stay ahead of Colorado’s unpredictable weather with forecasts from the National Weather Service. Check the Weather

Avalanche Nearly Kills Snowmobiler

5. Avalanche Awareness: Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Trekking in winter or spring? The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is your guardian angel, offering vital avalanche forecasts and safety tips. Understanding the avalanche risks for your destination could be the difference between a memorable hike and a perilous situation.

Get critical avalanche forecasts and safety tips from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Learn about Avalanche Safety

6. Eco-Conscious Exploring: Leave No Trace Online Course

The Leave No Trace Center’s online course is a modern twist on eco-friendly hiking education. It’s an essential toolkit for anyone venturing into Colorado’s fragile ecosystems, teaching the seven principles of Leave No Trace with engaging lessons and practical tips you can learn in the comfort of your own home.

Educate yourself on minimizing environmental impact with the Leave No Trace online course. Take the Course

7. Mapping Mastery: CalTopo

For those who love to chart their course, CalTopo is a revelation. This free mapping tool is perfect for planning trips, designing routes, and assessing terrain. The free version caters to casual explorers, while the premium offering is a boon for route creation enthusiasts who want to dig deeper into the backcountry. It’s also a fantastic planning tool for backpacking and backcountry skiing.

Plan your hikes with CalTopo’s comprehensive online mapping tool. Start Mapping

8. Terrain Explorer: Google Earth

Get a bird’s-eye view of your hike with Google Earth. This tool allows you to explore terrains in 3D, spot landmarks, and plot routes, giving you a comprehensive understanding of what to expect on your hike, including elevation challenges, tree cover, terrain traps and avalanche paths, and much more.

Get a 3D view of your planned hike and explore the terrain with Google Earth. Explore Google Earth

9. Peak Identification: PeakFinder

For the mountain aficionado, PeakFinder is a must-have. It turns your phone into a peak-identifying powerhouse, covering over 350,000 peaks globally. It’s particularly enchanting for those traversing the Rocky Mountains, offering a fun way to get acquainted with the peaks that frame your journey.

Identify over 350,000 peaks worldwide with PeakFinder. Discover Peaks

Bison Funding Great Sand Dunes National Park

10. Wildlife Wisdom: Colorado Parks & Wildlife Website

Whether you’re hiking through state parks or the vast wilderness, the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website is an invaluable resource. It’s packed with information on trail conditions, wildlife encounters, and conservation tips, ensuring you’re well-informed and respectful of Colorado’s natural heritage.

Access vital information on trail conditions and wildlife encounters on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website. Visit CP&W

11. Road Readiness: CDOT COtrip App

Don’t let road conditions surprise you. The COtrip App by CDOT is your go-to for real-time updates on highways, mountain passes, and more. Essential for navigating Colorado’s unpredictable weather, it helps you plan your journey to the trailhead and back with confidence.

Start planning your Colorado road trip or the drive to the trailhead for your next hiking trip. Download the COtrip App

Tools for Planning Your Colorado Hiking Trips: Now You Know!

These 11 top tools, ranging from digital apps to informative online courses, are essential for any hiker looking to explore Colorado’s diverse landscapes. Whether you’re planning a leisurely day hike or a challenging trek in the backcountry, being prepared will enhance your experience and ensure you return home safely.

Happy hiking, Next Summit members; Thank you again for your continued support! Safe travels on the trails.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

Leave a Reply


You must be a Next Summit Member to read this article. Join now to get access.

Already a member? Log in to read this article now.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Subscribe and get my free planner with all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a subscriber to download my free 14er planner. It lists all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order. Get it now & start planning!