Pfiffner Traverse Guide — Download


The Pfiffner Traverse is a 78-mile 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. Learn more.

The Pfiffner Traverse Guide is a must-have resource for aspiring thru- and section-hikers. It includes planning information, route descriptions, data sheets, and an extensively annotated topographic map set for the Primary Route, eight Section Hikes, and Alternates.

I plan to release a complete First Edition in or before May 2017. Until then, I have made “pre-edition” materials available. Customers will receive updated information (including an eventual Second Edition) when it becomes available.


The “Pre-Edition” versus the eventual First Edition

I plan to release a First Edition of the Pfiffner Traverse Guide in or before May 2017, just before the high country season begins. In the meantime, I have made available a “Pre-Edition” that contains useful but incomplete information, so that you can begin to plan.

If you purchase the Pre-Edition, I will contact you when the First Edition (and perhaps substantial additions to the Pre-Edition) becomes available, and you will be upgraded for free. Ditto for a Second Edition, if one is warranted after this first season.

In its current state (as of January 13), the Pre-Edition includes:

  • Topographic maps for the Primary Route, eight Section Hikes, and Alternate Routes
  • Datasheets for the Primary Route, eight Section Hikes, and all Alternate Routes

The text below describes the expected contents of the First Edition. The details may change some, but probably not much — this is my third high route guide, and by this point I have it mostly figured out.

In the Pfiffner Traverse section of this website, I have posted extensive information to help you decide if this route is right for you. If you’re on this page, I assume you wish to proceed. Your next step is to download the Pfiffner Traverse Guide, which includes must-have resources for thru- and section-hiking it.


The Guide includes a complete and excellent Mapset, with separate print-ready PDF’s for the Primary Route and its Alternates, and each of the Section Hikes. The maps were developed using CalTopo, using the gold standard USGS 7.5-minute topographic series as the base map.

The maps are so extensively annotated that you will probably refer to the Guidebook text only for the most complex sections. Intentionally, I did not draw a specific line of travel on the map — I didn’t want to steal your fun by telling you exactly where to go.

When printed on 11 x 17 paper, the map scale will be its native 1:24,000. Printing on smaller paper will compress the topographic detail, perhaps to the point of being illegible. Contour intervals are 40 feet.

Sample map from the Wind River High Route Guide, which is the closest model for the Pfiffner Traverse Guide

Printing tips for topographic maps


The Guidebook has three parts:

Part 1 (“Before you go”) has information to help you plan your trip, e.g. transportation, permitting, direction of travel, resupply, recommended equipment. This information is in addition to the preparatory materials at the mini-site.

Part 2 and Part 3 (“As you go”) are complementary to the Mapset. They offer general information and context, and in-depth route information for sections that really need. The Primary Route (thru-hike) and its Alternate Routes are described in Part 2, and the Section Hikes and their Alternate Routes are described in Part 3.

Part 1, 2, and 3 are provided as a separate PDF file, designed for printing on Letter 8.5 x 11 inch paper. Part 1 need not be printed since it has minimal or no relevance in the field, but you may prefer a physical copy to read and annotate before your trip. Thru-hikers should print Part 2. Section-hikers should print from Part 2 and Part 3 the pages that are relevant to their itinerary.

Sample from the Wind River High Route Guide

Data Sheets

These quick-reference spreadsheets list the incremental and cumulative distances and vertical change between key landmarks. They are extremely useful in planning your trip, scheduling your day, and gauging your pace. Databooks for the Primary Route, eight Section Hikes, and Alternates are included, as well as for a dozen other possible Section Hikes that I did not consider as “classic.”

Sample: Datasheet for the Primary Route, page 1

GPX file

I have included a GPX file with very limited information. You’ll find waypoints for trailheads and for select high points, and a track that will help you identify the topographic map tiles you need to download onto your handheld GPS or smartphone. It does not include a track for the recommended route — that’s for you to figure out.

Download details

With a decent internet connection, the entire Guide can be easily downloaded. The files have been compressed into a single zipped file and must be extracted using standard Windows or Apple software before accessing. It’s XYZ MB in size.

If you need a copy on DVD, please contact me with your mailing address, and attach a receipt of purchase.

If your access expires before you have had a chance to download the files, of if you lose the files at some point, contact me so that I can renew your access.

Resources not included

In addition to the detailed set of topographic maps included with the Guide, I would also recommend obtaining NG Trails Illustrated maps #200, #102, and #103, as well as digital maps of the area stored on a GPS or smartphone. Read more.


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