You can download the final CDT Yo-Yo schedule in an Excel spreadsheet format if you'd like. Perhaps future thru-hikers (or yo-yoers) may find some use in it.

Post-trip reportLooking back, this schedule wasn't that far off. What's most surprising is that I arrived at the Canadian border exactly when I said I would: July 25. However, because I arrived on that date, I knew I would return to Mexico way before Nov 11, because in my spreadsheet I simply reversed the schedule for my return journey, without taking into account the fact that I would take a shorter route on the way back and not have to deal with any snow. Therefore, I knew that I could shave off 2 weeks on the return. That's exactly what I did: I finished Oct 25.

First draft of CDT Itinerary

I wrote the stuff below about 6 months before the CDT Yo-Yo, just to get some rough ideas. It evolved into the final schedule (see above for link). I'm leaving the stuff below for the curious.

Trying to pick a smart start date for a CDT yo-yo isn't easy. You have a two-month departure window: April 1 to May 30. Leaving in March would put me into Colorado in April, which is so early that I'd be running into more snowboarders than backpackers. Leaving in June has two problems: start with an inferno in New Mexico and end with snow blizzards in Colorado on the return (in November or December).

Leaving in May doesn't give me much room for error or to have fun. Therefore, leaving in April is better because the CDT isn't immune to Murphy's Law.

Instead of posting a firm schedule, these are the rough estimates:

Start State Time on CDT
April 7 Mexico 0 months
May 7 CO 1 month
June 7 WY 2 months
July 1 MT 2.75 months
July 21 Canada 3.5 months
Aug 7 WY 4 months
Aug 21 CO 4.5 months
Sept 21 NM 5.5 months
Oct 21 Mexico 6.5 months

The only date that matters is my goal to get out of Colorado and into New Mexico by Oct 1. With this schedule I'm shooting for exiting Colorado Sept 21. Although I could let that date slide a month, the more I delay, the more challenges I will encounter. I would face snowshoeing through many parts of Colorado. Temps in October are quite cold and the wind bites. The weather can get so bad that hikers have to take a lower route (I don't want to do that) or skip a section (no thanks) or put their lives at risk (now that sounds awesome!).

Those who overanalyze the times will notice some strange things, prompting these Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Why are you planning to take 3.5 months to go up and only 3 months to return? First, heavy snow in CO will slow me down in May/June. Second, on the way up I will always take the longer or tougher routes. On the return, I will take alternative ways, which should be slightly easier than the way up. Lastly, haven't you ever noticed that going back home always takes less time than going away?
  • Isn't entering CO on May 7 way too early? Absolutely. However, I prefer going through snow as it's melting vs. when it's falling. In May there is plenty of light, relatively warm temps, and low avalanche danger. Route finding and swollen rivers will be challenging, but I'd rather deal with that than freezing temps, short days, and fresh snow late in the season.
  • Why does it take 3 weeks to go through WY on the way up, but only 2 weeks on the way down? I plan to take the long way around Great Basin and Yellowstone on the way up. On my return, I'll take a more efficient way.
  • Why does it take 3 weeks to go through MT on the way up, but only 2 weeks on the way down? I plan to take the long way around Butte and to take the Highline Trail in Glacier. I'll take a more efficient way back, perhaps going near Chief Mountain.
  • Why do you budget the same amount of time for CO regardless of the time of year? Although I expect to save a week on the return through CO, the state is full of surprises. I respect its mountains and I don't want to underestimate them. Even budgeting a month to go through the state is pushing it.
  • You think you make it to Canada in just 3.5 months even with all that snow in Colorado in May? It's a long shot, but I did the PCT in under 4 months, including taking 10 zero days. So that's nearly 3.5 months. Although the CDT is longer, I hope to do an extra 5 miles a day and take no zero days to make up for it.
  • Aren't you an idiot who will die? Yeah, so what?

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