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Steamboat Springs to Encampment – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Steamboat Springs to Encampment Hike Overview

grand lake to steamboat springs hike on the continental divide trail 2018

Besides a walk through the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, gone are the days of high mountains. This section sees a transition from from the Colorado landscape to a drier and lower elevation mountain environment in Wyoming as the trail passes through the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness is definitely the highlight of this section, which resembled the high Sierras at times. 

Monday July 16th – CDT Day 87

Got a solid 10hrs of sleep last night, that felt great. Good breakfast at the hotel too, including sausage and bacon. I saw Asha and Justin at breakfast, whom I’d met last night in the hot tub. They joined me and ultimately offered to give me a ride into the downtown area later so I could run some errands.

I got dropped off at BAP, the outdoor gear store that John runs. John is the guy who picked me up from Rabbit Ears pass yesterday. We talked about ways to make my backpack hip belt cinch tighter, and he sent me over to the Big Agnes repair facility down the road. One of his workers gave me a ride on his way there.

At the Big Agnes shop, they ultimately talked me out of chopping off the old hip belt strap and buckle to replace with a slimmer, less bulky buckle. There could be rubbing on my hips from the new stitching, could compromise the hip belt webbing, Etc. Instead we chopped the extra length of the strap and removed a small fabric loop for the strap, folded over the ends and sewed that up. This is what I did at home to my last osprey pack, the large one I sent home in exchange for this medium a few weeks ago. A small but somewhat helpful improvement.

One of the guys at Big Agnes have me a ride up to backdoor burger, a place that had been recommended to me by multiple people. After eating lunch, which was pretty good, I picked up an Uber to get back to rabbit ears pass.


It was around 3:15pm when I started hiking today. The terrain is forest and low rolling hills now. Everything is pretty green and there’s lots of wild flowers in bloom. Not the huge mountains the rest of Colorado had to offer.

The trail was seldom steep this evening and made for an easy walk. I saw a Porcupine bumbling down the trail, oblivious to my presence. It sprinkled briefly, typical of late.

Found camp at grizzly lake just after 8pm. There used to be grizzlies in Colorado, but the last one was killed in the San Juans in the 1970s. This lake’s name bears that legacy. Early camp it seemed, but it all seemed early in comparison to the late hiking I’d done recently. If The terrain continues to be this easy, I should make good time to Encampment.

Miles – 14
Total Miles – 1383
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Tuesday July 17 – CDT Day 88

This morning was nice by the lake. Haven’t slept next to many lakes on the CDT so far.

50 miles to the Wyoming border now. I’m hoping for 30 today and tomorrow. That’d put me at the border late afternoonish tomorrow and 10 miles into Wyoming, leaving only 10 miles to battle pass on Thursday. Battle pass is where I hitch into Encampment. That’s the plan anyways.

Not much to see this morning. A few small lakes, forest.

I stopped to filter water at a trailhead with a steam. This is where the Mt. Zerkel wilderness begins.

The views improve with the increase in elevation.

Stopped for lunch as it started sprinkling. It passed quickly.

Still several more miles of up hill hiking. Fortunately it isn’t too steep. In spots it reminded me of the high Sierras, even if only for brief moments. 

Nice hiking above tree line here. Snow patches to cross and imposing peaks in the background. Not what I was expecting this close to Wyoming, but beautiful.

After cresting the high point just below lost ranger peak the trail drops down for a long time.

The trail dips below treeline and goes through an old burn area.

Found camp around 9pm, having done 29 miles. It’s along a dirt road in a field. Good enough.

Miles – 29
Total Miles – 1412
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Wednesday July 18th – CDT Day 89

Lots of deer running around camp last night and this morning. Lots of condensation on my tent too.

You can really feel the change in landscape today, transitioning from one state to another. Less mountains and peaks, more fields and forest. Still pretty hilly though, many ups and downs.

Only saw a guy and his horses and two dirt bikers today. No CDT hikers this whole stretch. However, I did see a fresh pile of bear crap. When I got into town, I talked to a CDT hiker who was apparently ahead of me on trail by less than an hour. He saw a bear here when he walked through earlier in the morning. 

It was a hot day, and I should have filled up after at the last source. It was dry all the way up to a half mile before the border of Wyoming. There was a spring about a quarter mile down hill, but it was a bushwhack. I was in pretty pretty desperate need of water, so I didn’t mind. Man that water was good, and I filled up 3L to go.

It was a great feeling to reach Wyoming this evening. However, I feel like I’ve been walking forever and I’m ONLY halfway! Still, I’m looking forward to Wyoming and something different.

I hiked 3 miles into Wyoming tonight, Mostly through hilly forest. Saw a couple of Porcupines along the way. The last field I walked through before finding camp was a wet and muddy one. No avoiding it, my feet got completely soaked as they were fully submerged in mud and water. Right before sundown getting wet feet, ugh that’s the worst. They’ll never dry over night.

As I’m writing this in the dark, in my tent, there was a loud explosion pretty nearby. Followed by… Nothing, just silence. I know there’s a few roads nearby, so people isn’t a surprise. Just not sure what it was. Weird.

18 miles to battle pass tomorrow. I was hoping to cover a few more miles between yesterday and today to cut this down, it just didn’t work out. So it’ll be a mid to late afternoon arrival at the pass.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 1440
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer, Porcupine

Thursday July 19th – CDT Day 90

Dried my shoes out in the Sun as I packed up camp this morning. Smeagol passed by as well. I later caught up to her but we hiked our own pace throughout the day.

Today was a push to make miles and hitch into town before the post office closes at 4pm. Still a few climbs left, ensuring I don’t go too fast.

This morning I entered the Huston parks wilderness. This area did offer a few big views but they weren’t as impressive as what I’d seen throughout Colorado. 

I stopped to filter water from a stream around noon. Also, to eat. I can push quite a while with little or no water, but my pace really slows when I get hungry.

The last 9 miles or so went pretty easy. Forest, large open meadows with abundant green grass. 

After leaving the wilderness area, I followed a dirt road a short ways to battle pass at wy-70. This is the paved Road leading into Encampment. I made it to the pass around 3pm and got lucky, the second car picked me up in about 5 minutes.

My hitch dropped me off at the post office with plenty of time to spare before they closed. While I was picking up my package, a woman in line behind me noticed I was a CDT hiker and offered a ride wherever I needed to go. Perfect, saves me a 1 mile road walk to lazy acres campground in Riverside.

There were several other CDT hikers at the campground… Knots, badmash, topo, minutes, bartender and Jesus. A different group of hikers I mostly hadn’t met yet.

After a shower and staring laundry, five of us headed up to the bear trap restaurant across the street. Good food and big portions.

I was talking to an older couple at the campground earlier in the afternoon and they were drinking wine. They left the rest of the bottle with a plastic cup next to my tent, so I had a little wine before bed as well. Bonus!

Miles – 17
Total Miles – 1457
Rain – no
Sleep – rv park, tent
Animals – deer

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