Pfiffner Traverse


The Pfiffner Traverse is a 75-mile backpacking high route that follows the Continental Divide and the crest of Colorado’s Front Range through Rocky Mountain National Park and the James Peak and Indian Peaks Wilderness Areas. It can be thru-hiked end-to-end (in 6 to 10 days, on average) or undertaken in sections with multi-night trips, long day hikes, and adventurous trail runs.

More information

The Pfiffner Traverse Guide is a comprehensive resource for thru- and section-hikers. It includes preparatory information, plus topographic maps, route descriptions, and datasheets for the Primary Route, Alternates, and eight shorter loop trips.

Near & dear: The Pfiffner Traverse, high in Colorado’s Front Range

By Andrew Skurka / January 18, 2017 /

I first came to Colorado in May 2003, for an internship with GoLite. It was an eye-opening summer. Five days per week I was awed by Boulder’s scenery while bike commuting and trail running; and the other two days I weekend-warrior’d in the Front Range. First I tried Rocky Mountain National Park, but the $15…

In 12 photos || Trip Report: Pfiffner Traverse Yo-Yo

By Andrew Skurka / July 23, 2017 /

Thanks to a delayed arrival of winter, in late-October of last year I finished piecing together the Pfiffner Traverse, a 77-mile high route through Colorado’s Front Range between Milner and Berthoud Passes. But I felt it important to get on the route again this year as a thru-hiker and as soon as conditions permitted, to…

Gear List: Pfiffner Traverse || Colorado Rockies in July

By Andrew Skurka / July 25, 2017 /

It’s been years since I posted a complete backpacking gear list for a trip. Instead, I’ve been doing in-depth dives on specific categories (e.g. shelter systems, stove systems, first aid kits) that I believe are more instructive and universally relevant than lengthy gear lists that are specific to a single location, season, and group size.…

Route beta || Pfiffner Traverse: Northeast Gully, Lone Eagle Cirque & Lost Tribe Lakes

By Andrew Skurka / July 29, 2017 /

The Northeast Gully is the most difficult feature on the Pfiffner Traverse: it’s filled with snow through mid-summer, covered with talus and loose scree in late-summer, and always steep. Unfortunately, it’s also a critical connector between Lone Eagle Cirque, Lost Tribe Lakes, and upper Arapaho Creek, all in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness. An easy all-trail…

Route beta || Pfiffner Traverse: Thunderbolt Creek & Paiute Pass

By Andrew Skurka / August 1, 2017 /

To connect Buchanan Creek with Cascade Creek in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Pfiffner Traverse ascends a knife-edge pass at the head of trail-less Thunderbolt Creek that offers sweeping views of the Pawnee Lake basin and the Continental Divide. The alternative to this route is an ordinary and relatively view-less all-trail route around the west…

Reader Q: Do I need an ice axe or crampons on the Pfiffner Traverse?

By Andrew Skurka / November 27, 2017 /

A question from reader Stan P. of Alexandria, Virginia: This is a great question, because the answer is both nuanced and consequential. A multitude of factors are at play, and you want to be right — or else you’ll be carrying several pounds of unnecessary equipment, bailing off your intended route, or exposing yourself to excessive…

PSA: Secure your permit now for Pfiffner Traverse

By Andrew Skurka / March 14, 2018 /

Public Service Announcement If you have not already, you should apply for your backcountry permit for Rocky Mountain National Park if you plan to attempt the Pfiffner Traverse this summer. The permit system in Rocky Mountain is similar to Glacier and Yellowstone: camping is permitted only in specific backcountry sites and a few at-large zones.…

Done! Pfiffner Traverse Guide

By Andrew Skurka / June 12, 2018 /

This morning I put the final touches on the First Edition of the Pfiffner Traverse Guide. It was a monstrous project and I’m thrilled to finally have it out there. The Guidebook alone is 23,000 words; the package also includes Mapsets and Datasheets for the Primary Route and for seven Section-hikes. Thankfully I enjoy the…

Words of caution: FKT’ing or “running” the Pfiffner Traverse

By Andrew Skurka / October 12, 2018 /

In a recent photo essay in Trail Runner, Sunny Stroeer gave a hearty endorsement of the Pfiffner Traverse, for which she set a 55-hour fastest known time (FKT) last summer: “The Pfiffner Traverse is a mountain runner’s dream: miles of smooth, gentle singletrack that flow through high mountain meadows and across infrequently traveled passes along the…

Comparison: Nolan’s 14 vs. Pfiffner Traverse || Wilderness, difficulty, and flow

By Samuel Chaneles / November 27, 2018 /

As part of a 650-mile, 39-day self-supported hike along Colorado’s Continental Divide last summer, Sam Chaneles completed both Nolan’s 14 and the Pfiffner Traverse. Nolan’s 14 and the Pfiffner Traverse are both high routes in the Colorado Rockies, suitable for advanced backpackers and adventurous ultra runners. While they both feature lengthy off-trail sections and alpine…