Pfiffner Traverse Guide


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


The most recent edition (v4) of the Pfiffner Traverse Guide was released in early-June 2018. For updates and corrections to this version, refer to this page.

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 as a base map the FSTopo 2016 tiles, which is an updated iteration of the gold standard USGS 7.5-minute topographic series.

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.

Download a sample map

Printing tips for topographic maps

Sample map, not to scale


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 Alternates, Bypasses, and Extra Credits are described in Part 2. The Section Hikes 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.

Download pages 1 & 2 from Part 2 — “As You Go”

Sample from Part 2 of the Guidebook, “As You Go.”


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. Datasheets for the Primary Route and Section Hikes are included.

Download page 1 of the Datasheet for the Primary Route

Screenshot of page 1 of the Datasheet for the Primary Route

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.

Rocky Mountain Campsite Planner

The first 30 miles of the Pfiffner Traverse are in Rocky Mountain National Park, which requires the use of designated backcountry campsites in the interest of resource protection. I have created a “cheat sheet” to help you plan your itinerary through the park. It lists all campsites on or near the route, with mileages between them.

Screenshot of the RMNP Campsite Planner

Early-season hazards

If thru- or section-hiking the Pfiffner Traverse in June or July after a normal or wet winter, snow hazards will be encountered. An overview list is included with the Guide; it is also embedded in a discussion about crampons and ice axes. Part 2 of the Guidebook (“As you go”) contains a few additional details.

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 about 250 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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