Pfiffner Traverse

A 78-mile high route through Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks & James Peak Wilderness Areas, with a mix of high ridgelines, airy peaks, deep canyons, and colorful meadows.

From Paiute Pass, looking north down Thunderbolt Creek. The tip of Longs Peak can be seen on the skyline, far right.
From Paiute Pass, looking north down Thunderbolt Creek. The tip of Longs Peak can be seen on the skyline, far right.

The Pfiffner Traverse is a 77-mile backpacking high route that follows the Continental Divide and the crest of Colorado’s Front Range between Berthoud Pass and Trail Ridge Road, passing through the James Peak and Indian Peaks Wilderness Areas, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

It can be attempted as a thru-hike (in 6 to 10 days, on average), or completed in sections with overnight trips, long day-hikes, and adventurous trail runs. Continental Divide Trail thru-hikers can easily link up with it, as can be done further north with the Wind River High Route and the Glacier Divide Route. Bypasses and “extra credit” routes can be used to alter its difficulty and risk, and to reduce exposure to inclement weather.

As an end-to-end effort, the Pfiffner Traverse is an expert-level project, requiring excellent physical fitness and backcountry skills, plus a favorable weather window. Forty percent of its length is off-trail, up to Class 3 in difficulty. Oxygen is always in short supply: the route drops below 10,000 feet only twice, and it climbs five 13,000-foot peaks. Vertical change is never-ending, with 760 feet of climbing or descending per mile. And there are no convenient resupply opportunities.

Sunset and the St. Vrain Glaciers, as seen from the Continental Divide near the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness
Sunset and the St. Vrain Glaciers, as seen from the Continental Divide near the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness

Of course, the effort is entirely worthwhile: the Pfiffner Traverse spans a gem of the Colorado Rockies. It ascends airy peaks and passes, remains atop vista-filled ridgelines (and a few knife-edges), follows elk trails through deep canyons, passes by numerous alpine lakes and wildflower-covered meadows, and avoids but a few short bushwhacks. It remains continuously immersed in wilderness, intersected just once at a high-clearance trailhead atop the Continental Divide.

The route is named after the late Karl Pfiffner, who inspired his climbing friend Gerry Roach to undertake a version of the route in 1987. Roach included his itinerary in his definitive guidebook, Colorado’s Indian Peaks: Classic Hikes and Climbs.

For aspiring thru- and section-hikers, the Pfiffner Traverse Guide is a must-have resource. It includes route descriptions, topographic maps, and datasheets for the 78-mile primary route and for eight best-of loop trips that are 17 to 42 miles long.


  1. elmateo1047 on September 13, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Ahoy: Downloaded and studied the P T download last night. Going to hit a section next weekend. No mention of water sources by design such as the SHR where sources abound? Lots of blue on the maps so I surmise that’s the case.

    • Andrew Skurka on September 13, 2017 at 7:21 am

      Correct, lots of water, except along the Divide, especially later in the season. You’ll need to drop off the Divide to mapped creeks or tarns, e.g. Lost Lake. After a wet winter, you might still find some snowfields (and associated melt) lingering on the north slope of James Peak, on the flat between the summit and the gap with Bancroft.

  2. Alex Nosse on December 20, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Exciting! I know this is probably a question you hate to even hear, but how would you compare the level of difficulty of Pfiffner with the WRHR? Last year I completed a week-long section of the WRHR (Green River Lakes–Knapsack–Bonney Pass–Iceberg Lake–Downs Mt–and out by way of bushwack through Faler Lake) and it was an inspiring experience! It was difficult for me and my partner, but we completed the trip safely and learned a lot. If you had to say, would a section hike of the Pfiffner Traverse tend to be even more difficult than a WRHR section? I’m planning my 2018 vacations now and need to decide if Pfiffner might be for me, or if I should look elsewhere.

    If you prefer not to answer, I’d understand.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 21, 2017 at 9:44 am

      “Hate to hear,” why? I’m happy to answer it.

      Overall, the Wind River High Route is more difficult than the Pfiffner Traverse. The Pfiffner Traverse has easier and more frequent bailout points, drops below treeline more regularly, has less talus-hopping, and follows trails more often as a percentage of its overall length (41 percent vs 65 percent on my WRHR, 45 percent for Dixon/Wilson). The Pfiffner is more difficult in just one respect: more vertical per mile, 760 ft of change per mile, which is 20 percent more change than my WRHR and 42 percent more change versus Dixon/Wilson).

      No one will ever say that the Pfiffner is “too easy.” It’s an ass-kicker, and offers plenty of opportunities to get into trouble.

      Difficulty varies among the recommended Pfiffner hikes, as it does on the WRHR.

      The most technical feature on the Pfiffner Traverse is the Northeast Gully, It’s as technically difficult as Bonney Pass, which is purposely not on my recommended route. When snow-free, the NE Gully may be more difficult than Bonney, because it’s a thin layer of loose dirt (with some embedded rocks) atop a hard layer of dirt, as opposed to Bonney’s talus.

      Re your WRHR section-hike:

      * The long hike up the Green River Lakes valley (at 8k feet, and eventually up to 10k) has no comparison on the Pfiffner. While the Pfiffner has some easy stretches of trail hiking below treeline, they’re all shorter and higher — the Pfiffner drops below 10k only twice, and never lower than 9600 feet. Some of the Pfiffner section hikes will have longer stretches of easy tree hiking, in order to gain the route.

      * Knapsack is run of the mill on the Pfiffner.

      * Bonney is equivalent to NE Gully, and more difficult than the second most technical feature on the Pfiffner, Paiute Pass,

      * The entire landscape from Bonney to Downs is more primal and alpine than anything on the Pfiffner, with glaciers, lingering snowfields, and extensive rock. The only section on the Pfiffner that compares is the southern few miles, when the Pfiffner links five 13’ers between Flora and James. But 13k in Colorado is probably more like 12k in the Winds, so the section melts out completely and hosts some delicate life forms.

      Hope this helps. If you have more questions please ask.

      • Skyler W on January 4, 2018 at 7:35 pm

        How does the macro/micro route-finding difficulty between the two routes compare?

        • Andrew Skurka on January 4, 2018 at 7:43 pm

          They’re comparable. In both cases, you have big terrain with really obvious topography, i.e. there’s no doubt that the low spot on the ridge is the pass, because it’s 1,000 vertical feet lower than the peaks on either side of it.

          The Pfiffner has a few spots that are trickier because they’re forested and visibility is limited. I’m specifically thinking of the “bushwhacks” (if you’ve really ever bushwhacked, you’d simply call them cross-country sections) into East Inlet and Wheeler Basin. In the Winds, you always can see, assuming you’re not in a whiteout or smoke. But these two sections are short-lived and I don’t think they change the overall nature of the route. Plus, the Pfiffner has more on-trail miles, so that ratio offsets any increased difficulty of off-trail travel.

      • Alex Nosse on February 9, 2018 at 8:30 am

        I somehow hadn’t noticed your reply until just now. Thank you for answering so thoroughly!

        I am now committed to attempting the PT this summer. Hearing that there is less talus on the PT than on the WRHR made my heart flutter! Ultimately, whether or not I end up making out to Colorado this year depends on my ability to convince my hiking partner to take the time off 🙂

        … and just to clarify — I thought you might dislike the “how hard is it?” line of questioning since ultimately it’s up to each of us to know our own abilities and take full responsibility for our own safety when venturing into the backcountry.

        • Rhett Travis on April 8, 2019 at 8:55 am

          Did you do the traverse last year?
          I am planning on doing a modified traverse this year and would love to disucss.

      • Dawes Caldwell on May 26, 2019 at 7:28 pm

        Hey Andrew,

        I see you that you describe Pfiffner as comparable or even less difficult than the WRHR in many ways. I completed the WRHR all the way through with a partner successfully but am untrained and inexperienced in snowy, exposed conditions. I understand the Northeast Gully could present problems without these skills.

        Obviously I don’t want to put you in a position where you feeling like you’re signing onto to me potentially injuring myself but is pushing myself to attempt this in the realm of challenging or irresponsible? (Planning on attempting in late July)


        • Andrew Skurka on May 26, 2019 at 8:59 pm

          The Northeast Gully (and other early-season hazard locations) will hold snow long into summer 2019. In late-July I would still expect snow in the NE Gully and some on Paiute Pass (but not necessarily covered like NE Gully).

          What Wind River High Route did you complete? If you did the West Gully off Wind River Peak, New York Pass, Douglas Peak Pass, etc., I think you probably have the athletic prowess and situational awareness to undertake the Pfiffner. The challenges will be different but no more difficult. If you did the Dixon/Wilson route through the Winds, the Pfiffner will be a step up for you.

          • Dawes Caldwell on May 27, 2019 at 12:13 pm

            Perfect, thanks for your quick response.

  3. John Bell on February 24, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    What would an average and/or good base weight be for a 5 day loop of the pfiffner traverse in summertime?

    Thank you,


  4. Bill Welch on March 16, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Andrew. Hate to be a pain in the ass, but wondering if you have any anticipated timeline for completing the annotations and “as you go” sections for the southern part of the Pfiffner. My friend and I are trying to decide whether to do the Pfiffner or the Kings Canyon High Basin this summer. Already have the Kings info and purchased the Pfiffner to help decide. I think we’re capable of figuring the south section out ourselves, but your guides are a huge help when it comes to deciding which gully is better ahead of time or which route is more direct. We’ve hiked the SHR and the WRHR, so looking forward to another.


    • Andrew Skurka on March 16, 2018 at 9:04 pm

      Not a pain in the ass at all, no sweat.

      I have the “As you go” chapter completed, except for a few alternates. I’ll send it to you as a PDF. I was waiting to finish it before going public with it.

  5. Bill Welch on March 17, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Super. Thanks Andrew. We usually do some of our own annotations on the maps based on the details in the “as you go”, so that’s really helpful.

  6. kate udall on June 17, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Adrew,

    i just bought this guide from you. Looking forward to studying it. Would you be able to send me the As You Go chapter as well? I’m assuming it is not yet included in what I just purchased?


    • Andrew Skurka on June 19, 2018 at 7:57 am

      The download did not include Part 2? If not, that’s definitely an oversight on my part, and I’ll get it over to you (give me until tomorrow — I’m traveling right now) and to everyone else who has purchased the guide. But I’m surprised that no one has noticed this and said something yet. Can you double-check?

      • Skyler W on June 19, 2018 at 9:45 am

        Just checked and Part 2 “As You Go” was indeed included in the download I received last week, if it was missing from your download looks like it might be a one-off issue.

      • Andrew Skurka on June 19, 2018 at 4:07 pm

        Just returned home, and relieved to see all the parts are in the .zip file that you downloaded. Here’s a screenshot:

        So please check again. It’s possible that your download didn’t include it, but I don’t know how that would be.

  7. Kate Udall on June 19, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Great! Thanks. I haven’t taken a closer look yet.

  8. Lucas Trilling on July 24, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Is planning on an early september hike rolling the dice or is the weather fairly reliable that time of year? I’m from the mid west so not super familiar with the seasons in your neck of the woods.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 27, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Early-September is a normally great time of year. No bugs, comfortable daytime highs, and the elk are going berserk. You could get whacked with cold precip, but that happens June through August, too. It can snow in September, but it will not stick until October, starting at the highest elevations and shadiest north-facing aspects. I do not plan high-priority trips in October (it’s best to work with the weather, picking favorable windows when they come up), but September is fair game.

  9. Debbie Sanders on July 30, 2018 at 10:55 am

    We are back for the US, and also did the Pfiffner Traverse from 11th till 12th of July 2018. Pictures can be found at Great route, technically feasible but physically pretty intense. We live at sea level so the altitude makes us breath more than normally (and more than what we are used to in the European mountain ranges). 😉 Little snow this year, so we did not need crampons or ice axe, however we did use sturdy hiking boots (and no trailrunners). They suffered a lot from the rocky terrain in Colorado. No remarks on the trajectory, it is pretty logical from a backpackers’ point of view. As you can camp below the timberline, and temperatures are rather high, we could have brought less clothing and a lighter sleeping bag. Because we lost a bag on the plane, we had to buy – pretty heavy – new gear in Estes Park (i.e. a polyester tent instead of our Trailstar that was an the missing bag). We paid Estes Park Shuttle to get to the trailhead at Milner Pass, and hitchhiked (very easily) from Berthoud Pass to Idaho Springs. Enjoy everyone!

  10. Aditya on August 3, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    This is probably a difficult question to answer, but I’d appreciate any insight you have.
    I attempted the SHR with a friend last August, and we had to turn back because we made too many mistakes navigating and ended up having to make very risky choices to get back on track. The altitude was a challenge, but after 2 days, we weren’t feeling it as badly.

    How would you compare the PT with the SHR in terms of navigation skill vs elevation challenge?

    I did a little more prep this time around, especially in terms of navigation, but due to the fires in California right now, I’m planning to make a last-minute switch. My only concern is the relative unfamiliarity of this place, but I can do a little more research before setting out. If you have any insights in that regard, I’d appreciate them.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 3, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      In terms of gear and climate, the Front Range is very similar to the High Sierra. It gets more regular summertime precip (usually an afternoon event), but overall it’s sunny and semi-arid.

      Elevations are also similar, with the PT probably being higher overall. As you experienced with the SHR, it’ll take a few days to adjust. You’ll never perform at altitude the way you can at sea level, but after a few days you won’t have headaches and won’t throw up your dinner.

      Sounds like you may be well served by doing a section-hike instead of an end-to-end itinerary. The section-hike would be a loop, and you could extend or shorten as your nav competence allows. At this point, you’d really struggle to get the necessary permits for Rocky Mountain, so I’d look at the section-hikes in the Indian Peaks and James Peak. If you’re a strong hiker, you could dive into Rocky Mountain for a day, doing a loop in upper Paradise Creek (“Hell & Paradise” loop).

      If you’re really settled on an end-to-end trip, well, let me think…

      The southernmost miles of the Pfiffner are really straightforward. You have about 30 miles of trail or very obvious off-trail (i.e. stay on the highest ridge there is, and don’t descend) before it gets more complicated. Beyond that, I think the nav challenges will be similar. The topography is really distinct, and a skilled navigator can easily nav with just the topo maps, no compass, altimeter, GPS, etc.

      I might also humbly suggest that you consider taking a guided trip with me sometime. In June and July I ran six 5-day trips on the Pfiffner Traverse, and in September I’m running four 5-day trips on the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, which is similar to the SHR. Our goal in these trips is to give you the know-how to do these routes on your own. I know it’s an investment, but you’ll be more quickly buying your freedom from the trail system.

  11. Aditya on August 3, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Thank you for the quick response and the suggestions. While I’d have loved the opportunity to take a guided trip, that is well out of my budget right now. I’m in grad school, so I only get a small travel window because of schedules. I will take the guided trips into consideration and apply for one when my circumstances allow.
    I did look into the RMNP permits and they’re all almost full as you said. I will look into the alternate wilderness areas you suggested.

  12. Eric B. on May 4, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    This Traverse is interesting since I’ve backpacked in the Indian Peaks range before and loved its beauty.
    The high winds in early October were, however, another story. Thankfully the windiest night I was able to hide my tent in some scrub trees just at the tree line and guy it directly to the trees. It worked very well.

    What also worked well when temps dropped to 5 F. at night was having my synthetic puffy jacket and pants to wear inside my overstuffed 20 F. Western Mountaineering Megalite. That bag has a wider than normal chest area so I had no problems wearing the puffy clothing inside my bag.

  13. Reto on November 11, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Andrew… any recommendations on software to plan a multi-day trip? I am experimenting with Gaia GPS but was wondering if there are better solutions out there. I came across a number of good “products” for single day trips, but once you have to plan for multiple days and would like to get summaries per day there are limitations.

    Looking forward to your insights

    • Andrew Skurka on November 11, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      The combination of a mapping platform like Gaia or CalTopo combined with a spreadsheet should get the job done, although it’s a big manual.

  14. Karen Pfiffner on December 11, 2019 at 10:07 am

    I married a Pfiffner and we live in Lakewood, Colorado. Never expected a Swiss name on a Colorado trail. I have a question/request – at 65 we sadly are not in the condition necessary to walk this trail but wonder if you have a book of photographs for sale, or if I may have your permission to create a slide show for my husband from your images found online? It would make a great Christmas surprise!

  15. RyanP on January 11, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Andrew, I just bought the guide—looks nice! One question: Do you know if there is decent/adequate campsite availability around Lake Catherine? In your guide, you say, “But with a zone permit for Upper North Inlet 3M, it [camping] would be allowed at Lake Solitude and Catherine Lake”. But I haven’t been able to find any info about the terrain around Lake Catherine (Foster’s book doesn’t speak to it, and there seems to be very little online!). I really want to do a 4-day section hike from Milner Pass to Roaring Fork TH (late summer), and am thinking day 1 from Milner Pass to Renegade Campsite, day 2 to Lake Catherine, day 3 to Upper Lake, and day 4 to Roaring Fork TH (with a couple of easy peaks on the way out). Hiking from the designated campsites in North Inlet (Pine Marten, etc) all the way to Upper Lake (mostly off-trail) seems like too much in a day for me, so I was wondering if you have any recommendations to get a little further than those designated campsites?

    • Andrew Skurka on January 12, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      I’ve only seen the lake from above, where the route bottoms out between Beak Pass and the unnamed grassy saddle above Lake Nanita. So I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s likely that you could find a reasonable campsite near the lake. The spot might be a little tight and rocky, but I’d be shocked if it’s worse than the established camps in the park.

      Based on topo maps and Landsat imagery, I’d look first on the east side of lake, nearby or just below the outlet.

      • RyanP on January 13, 2020 at 10:29 pm

        Thanks! If there’s one area I’d like to get better at, it’s figuring out how to tell where good campsite areas might be during my pre-trip planning/research. I have a few more questions, if you don’t mind:

        1. I’m assuming that during late summer/early fall, the above-treeline sections on those first two days (from Milner Pass to Haynach Lakes on Day 1, and and from Tonahutu Creek to Hallett Creek on Day 2) don’t have reliable water sources? I don’t see any springs marked on the map for those stretches.

        2. I’m also considering reversing the route (so I start at Roaring Fork TH); this way I could do the alternate high route over Ogalalla, Ouzel, etc. rather than go through Paradise Park. Would you list Paradise Park as more of a must-see location? Is that why you have it as the primary route? One of the main downsides to that direction is I would have to do the nasty climb out of East Inlet going uphill instead of down!

        3. You say, “It is useful to know the types of vegetation that grow in relatively dry and relatively wet areas”. Do you happen to have any instructional references/links/tips in this regard? I’d love to not have to learn it the hard way! (I’ve done some off-trail travel before, but not a ton, and my micro-navigation technique is a work in progress)

        Thanks again!

        • Andrew Skurka on January 14, 2020 at 9:18 am

          1. At that time of year:
          * There will not be any water between Milner and Haynach Lakes.
          * There will be some water at 11,200 where the trail crosses that upper fork of Tonahutu (but treat it, lots of elk in this area), maybe a light seep from the snowfield at 12k indicated on the map, and finally a small flow at 11,680 to the west-southwest of Andrews Pass.

          2. As the guide says, there’s a reason the Primary Route doesn’t go up to the Divide, but instead goes into Paradise Valley. If you want to get high, go for it. If you want the best route, follow the Primary Route.

          3. It’s not hard, you’ll figure it out.

          • RyanP on January 14, 2020 at 12:38 pm

            Awesome, thanks so much! I’ll plan on sticking to the primary route through Paradise Park then.

  16. Kent Gruetzmacher on September 23, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Hey Andrew, I was on the Piffner Traverse from Sept 12, 2020 – Sept 16, 2020. The early season snowstorm that hit the front range brought intense winds and microbursts to the mountains. This “wind event” led to almost immeasurable tree blow downs across James Peak Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Some areas on the PT primary route are impassible (or nearly so) due to the blow downs, as are many of the alternatives. Due to the conditions, my travel was significantly slowed down on the hike and I was forced to drop out before finishing. Just wanted to give you a heads up about the state-of-affairs in the area, i’d be happy to provide more details if you are interested.

    • Andrew Skurka on September 26, 2020 at 9:39 am

      Not surprising with all the beetle kill out there. I’ve noticed it getting worse each year.

      What sections seemed particularly bad?

  17. Kent Gruetzmacher on October 1, 2020 at 9:49 am

    I hiked northbound and took a few alternatives due to the snow. Heading northbound, the CDT / High Lonesome alternative after Devil’s Thumb Pass was impassable. In fact, I spoke with some CDT thru-hikers who had to hitchhike 100 miles around Grand Lake because the blowdown was so bad (they also reported it taking another CDT thru-hiker 2 days to make 7 miles through the blowdown). Beyond that, Coyote Park in the Indian Peaks Wilderness was hit really hard – the Arapahoe Pass trail bypass is also in really rough shape. Further north (again heading northbound) the hike out of Paradise Park in RMNP had some heavy blowdown, which further complicated route finding. Finally, the unmaintained trail that passes Fifth Lake, Fourth Lake, and Spirit Lake was also hit extremely hard. I hiked out at the East Inlet due to conditions, so can’t really speak to the blowdown on the northernmost 25 miles of the traverse.

    • Andrew Skurka on October 1, 2020 at 10:35 am

      Yowzers. Blowdowns were already an increasing problem due to the bark beetle, and it sounds like this storm accelerated that trend.

      Thankfully the route is generally above treeline, so these sections will be fine. And where the Primary Route or section-hikes are on-trail below treeline, the route will be cleared eventually, though probably not in 2020. I’m mostly worried about the forested off-trail sections, like between Coyote Park and Wheeler Basin, Thunderbolt Creek, north out out of Paradise Park, and north out of East Inlet. Expect slow-going.

      • Matt on July 3, 2021 at 1:37 am

        We learned that the backcountry zones west of the divide in RMNP are not available due to East Troublesome Fire and put in at Columbine Creek – we encountered intense blowdown and bushwhacking that make for exhausting routefinding. Not recommended for what it is worth. We also encountered massive blowdown on the ascent toward Arapahoe Pass. Like god stomped the Earth. We made it through but it was very dangerous and demoralizing (we bailed). Some areas were like 1,000 feet per hour.

        We saw amazing places and the trip was a success for that reason. It seems though that it may not be possible this year to achieve the entire route with RMNP closures (am I right?). Also factor in that really any forest if not closed for burn will be at least moderately affected by blowdown that will slow progress.

        • Andrew Skurka on July 6, 2021 at 5:39 pm

          Current RMNP closures,
          Will likely change throughout the season.
          Right now, the route would be officially blocked in the Tonahutu drainage, including the “Sprague Pass alternate” even though that area is probably fine.
          The northernmost spot you can currently join the route is North Inlet, which has been reopened.

          I’ve not done any of the off-trail forested sections after the fall storm, but it sounds very bad. So the drop from Beak Pass into East Inlet, from Isolation Peak Pass into Paradise Park, and from Wheeler Basin to Coyote Park. It sounds like some of the trails could be wrecked, too, and I imagine that USFS trails will be slower to open up than NPS trails.

  18. Sloan on March 26, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Hello Andrew, I plan to do the Pfiffner Traverse this year however I have no prior experience backpacking in the west. My intention is to get the most out of my train ticket by first thru hiking the Colorado Trail, hopefully getting a feel for the weather, altitude and terrain on the logistically easier CT before doing the Pfiffner Traverse.

    Are there any particular sections of the CT you know of that could be used as a gauge for mileage and seasonal condiditons that I would then see on the PT?
    Any advice for a flatlander from Ohio backpacking in the west for the first time?
    Also I could not access the link for the actual guide to be purchased here on your website. I tried on my phone and desktop and it keeps saying the page isnt working, I have no other problems with the other links on your website though.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 26, 2021 at 4:36 pm

      Progress on the Pfiffner is entirely dictated by your sustainable vertical gain per day,

      There are a few sections of the CT that might give you an idea of this. Breckenridge to Copper over the Ten Mile Range, the west option for the Sawatch Range, and some sections of the San Juan’s.

      What the CT won’t give you much of is navigational practice, esp in reading a map. The CT is such an obvious trail. I suspect you’ll have to learn to swim when you get the Pfiffner.

      If you do attempt the Pfiffner, I’d give yourself plenty of cushion. Build in the time you will lose to making mistakes and/or sitting there long enough until you absolutely know where you are and where you’re going.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 26, 2021 at 4:37 pm

      Not sure what’s up with the website. I’ve have had a few other others today and haven’t heard of others having problems.

  19. Ashton on September 26, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    Took our first crack at a section hike on the triple bypass route this weekend, and were turned away by the last bit of cliffy terrain at the waterfall on Thunderbolt Creek. The blowdowns made it difficult to move around to probe for a good way through, but every cliff system seemed to be overhanging and too dangerous to simply push through. We had the impression that the route was possibly further to the left, but revisiting the route notes, it seems like it might be better to stick closer to the creek through that section?

    • Andrew Skurka on September 27, 2021 at 8:25 am

      I’ve only found one notable waterfall in Thunderbolt Creek. It’s about 20 feet tall, right?

      In that area, a good route goes near the bottom of it, and then takes a hard left up a slope that puts you just below its top, from where you can take good photographs of it. The rest of the route to the top is easy and obvious.

      • Ashton on September 27, 2021 at 3:28 pm

        Yes, I only noticed the one waterfall, visible from a ways down the meadow. We did make it above that – I think to the very last steep section before it eases up. Based on your description, and various trip reports, we must have missed something obvious – but we were gambling our remaining daylight on the uncertain prospects of a camp at Paiute Lake. We’ll try it again at the next opportunity with less time pressure.

  20. Jake on December 30, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve been meaning to leave a comment on here, after seeing all the discussion regarding blowdowns and impassable sections, etc. I did the route in late September of 2021. A few sections had heavy blowdowns, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting, based on some comments and trip reports from the year prior.

    From my recollection:
    – All on-trail sections had been cleared. Trail crews put in a ton of work for this.
    – S of Beak Pass and Isolation Peak Pass had moderate downfall, nothing too terrible. Just had to keep my head up and try to locate game trails and the path of least resistance.
    – Along thunderbolt creek was a bit tough and probably the worst blowdown of the route. There are some use trails that appear to be slowly developing that cut through and around the downed trees. The really bad section isn’t too long though, probably like a third of a mile.
    – Wheeler Basin was a bit rough. The use trail must have been really nice a couple years ago, but is now pretty slow going due to downed trees.

    I wouldn’t let perceived blow down stop anyone from attempting the route. I will say, however, that it was a bit of a frustration / headache having to deal with blowdowns on a high route. It was probably the biggest negative (other than dealing with the park ranger at RMNP haha).

  21. Logan on April 23, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    Hey Andrew and others,
    I am looking at doing the PT July 10th to 17th (2022), already have read through your guide for it. I currently live in SoCal and was curious what the snow conditions have been like in Colorado this year. Given that timing, would you (or others), expect there to be snow in places like the Northeast Gully? Trying to gauge if I will be battling loose dirt or old snow. Following that, is it recommended that mirco spikes are carried during that time?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 25, 2022 at 11:58 pm

      We’re slightly below average along the Front Range. I think NE Gully will still have some snow in mid-July this year, Piute Pass might be mostly melted out. You’re right on the transition point. August 1 seems like a reliable date for NE Gully after a normal year.

      Microspikes would give you some confidence, but honestly I’d rather have an ice axe, because you can use it for self-belaying and for self-arresting, while the spikes are only good for preventing a fall (but do nothing if you start falling).

  22. Ryan on September 12, 2022 at 9:17 pm

    Has anyone gotten permits for this since the park switched to (which I think was just this year)? It looks to me like you can just book a permit in a single zone (e.g., North Inlet, East Inlet, etc). I don’t see how you can book a permit for consecutive nights in different zones. Does this mean you need to book a separate permit for each zone, and pay the corresponding fee for each individual night?

  23. Kent Gruetzmacher on September 12, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    Hey Ryan, you are correct in your assessment of the booking situation. I did the RMNP section of the Pfiffner Traverse in July and had to purchase separate permits. You can try calling the backcountry office and maybe you will get lucky with a helpful person.

    • Ryan on September 12, 2022 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks Kent! How annoying about the separate permits. That makes them harder to obtain, and more expensive!

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