Looking to hike in Colorado, but don’t have a car? These transit options will get you to (or near) a trailhead
If you’re sick of traffic and crowded trailhead parking lots or just don’t have a car, there are still plenty of ways to get to hiking spots in Colorado via buses, shuttles and trains.
Here are some relatively affordable, car-free ways for Front Rangers to get to — or at least near — mountain trailheads. This guide is intended to give you some basics on how to get there, but make sure you do your homework on the trail itself before setting out.
The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang coach bus service along Interstate 70 can get you from Denver to hiking-rich communities like Frisco, Vail and Glenwood Springs. Buses on that line, as of this summer, will make six round trips a day. Local transit agencies in many of those areas open up even more possibilities once you arrive. (The I-70 Coalition has a list of all the local transit agencies and some private providers here.)
CDOT’s new Pegasus shuttle service on weekends and holidays also operates roughly hourly between Avon and Denver starting Memorial Day weekend.
And new this year, Bustang’s weekend Denver to Estes Park service is operating all summer (rather than just during the fall elk rutting season) and will take you straight to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Bustang’s cousin Outrider service, which connects smaller communities, also has a lot of outdoorsy potential. The line down U.S. 285 and U.S. 50 includes stops in Buena Vista, Salida, Gunnison and Crested Butte. The U.S. 40 route can drop you in Winter Park and Steamboat Springs. Other lines include Durango to Grand Junction and Grand Junction to Telluride. But beware — these lines only operate once per day.
RTD/Boulder County shuttles
There are plenty of foothills hikes near RTD bus lines in places like the downtowns of Golden and Boulder. RTD also operates a commuter bus that can get you near trails in Evergreen, but it doesn’t run very often.
But the real star in the RTD system is the NB bus between Boulder and Nederland, which operates every two hours. Hiking options from Nederland itself are limited. But on Fridays and weekends, ride the NB all the way to Nederland High School, then jump on Boulder County’s Hessie Trailhead Shuttle for easy access to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
Local governments also operate free summer weekend shuttles to nearby Eldorado Canyon State Park and the ever-popular Chautauqua Trailhead. Shuttles run approximately every 15-20 minutes.
Hikers can use Mountain Metro buses to reach Manitou Springs, and then a free shuttle to get to the Barr Trailhead, the Manitou Incline and perhaps the coolest rail line in the state: The Cog Railway, which carries passengers to the summit of Pikes Peak. Private shuttles also carry hikers from the bottom to the top of Pikes Peak, or vice versa.
My favorite: The California Zephyr
Last summer, I hopped on Amtrak’s California Zephyr at Denver Union Station early on a Sunday morning. (The Zephyr can run late; check its status here.) After a stunning trip of about two hours that wound through the Indian Peaks and the Moffat Tunnel, I stepped off the train in Fraser.
A ton of beautiful trails are nearby. I took a local bus a few miles south to Winter Park, then started hiking east into the Indian Peaks. After camping near the top of Rollins Pass, I finished my hike near Nederland — where I took RTD’s NB bus back into the city.
Another, more remote train option
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad drops backpackers and day hikers in the rugged San Juan National Forest. One stop drops you near the Chicago Basin, which is close to three 14ers.
What other outdoorsy transit lines did I miss?
Tweet me @nbminor and I’ll see about adding ‘em here!
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