Mar 22, 2012 at 5:59 am #1287642
I was planning a trip to Colorado and the CO plateau this summer and I'm just now finding out about monsoon season. I'd love for someone to shed some light on the reality of this for me. Things I'm reading say it thunderstorms everyday mid July-mid August. Do people not hike during that time?
I spent 2 weeks last (mid) June hiking/backpacking in CO, UT, and AZ and saw about 4 hours of rain in 2 weeks. However, the snow up high kept me from getting to the trailhead for a lot of 14ers that I wanted to try. I was planning on spending July/August there this summer to avoid that problem. Should I let the monsoon season scare me from that? When's the best time of year to be in Colorado? September?Mar 22, 2012 at 6:26 am #1857584
@lotuseaterLocale: Colorado Foothills
Last year the incredible snowpack was bolstered by a series of late season snow storms, which meant that many trails were impassable until July. That's not normal, and this year is shaping up to be very different. In a normal year January and February are dry, and we get most snowfall in March and April. This year virtually all the snow fell in January and February, with next to none so far in March. That bodes well for spring hiking, but means that by September water sources may be difficult to come by.
Back to your question about monsoon season. By no means does it stop us from enjoying the outdoors. Plan an early start each day, so that you can be off the peaks and below treeline by noon. Most storms will blow in after that.Mar 22, 2012 at 7:13 am #1857604
Great, thanks. I've heard this has been a very mild winter.
When the storms do roll in around noon, how long do they last? If I wanted to backpack, will I be sitting in a tent from noon through the night? I'm thinking about doing the CT and wondering when the best time to do it would be. I'd like to do it fast though and if I have to be done hiking by noon that would not be great.Mar 22, 2012 at 7:14 am #1857605
Agree with everything Stuart said. Depending on your objectives, I personally find September is the best month of the year for peak bagging. By then the Tstorms have slowed or stopped and we typically have cloudless skies. I typically save the most difficult peaks for September since I can be reasonably assured of good weather windows on peaks from which there is no quick retreat.Mar 22, 2012 at 7:16 am #1857610
The storms often are very short lived (an hour or so). However, you just need to carefully plan your route so that you can reliably be below treeline in the afternoon.
I think the only part of the CT that may be difficult to plan this way is the sections through the northern San Juans. I believe there is a large stretch before you reach Silverton that is completely above treeline.Mar 22, 2012 at 7:33 am #1857616
Ah, gotcha! Hour-long storms I can deal with! Stuff I was reading sounded like it rained all afternoon everyday for 6 weeks, and I didn't think that was the case. Thanks for the responses!Mar 22, 2012 at 7:47 am #1857624
Monsoon season in Colorado is probably like a super dry year in the Pacific NW. You'll get rained on for an hour or two in the afternoon. Take a jacket.Mar 22, 2012 at 7:54 am #1857629
@lotuseaterLocale: Colorado Foothills
It's not the rain that is the primary concern in these brief but sometimes torrential storms, it's the probability of lightning during monsoon season. We'll often get lightning strikes without any precipitation reaching the ground. That's why hikers are advised to be below treeline by noon. So plan accordingly, keep your wits about you, and you should spend very little time stuck in a shelter on the CT.Mar 24, 2012 at 10:28 am #1858651
One more Q:
If these storms are usually in the afternoon, does it rarely rain overnight in summer in Colorado? Trying to dial in my shelter/sleeping system. Wondering if I can use just tarp or need tarp/bivy.Mar 24, 2012 at 10:55 am #1858661
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
I've had rain go from the mid-late afternoon through dinner, going to sleep with a deluge outside my old tent at the Maroon Bells in July. Thankfully I was on higher ground.Mar 24, 2012 at 11:44 am #1858686
@jbmcsr1Locale: Rocky Mountains
Although, you know that as soon as you say the word "usually" or "typically" about the weather– you are doomed! The Weather Gods are a fickle bunch and they like to prove you wrong.Mar 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm #1859215
"If these storms are usually in the afternoon, does it rarely rain overnight in summer in Colorado? Trying to dial in my shelter/sleeping system. Wondering if I can use just tarp or need tarp/bivy."
Probably the same as everywhere, depends on the size of your tarp. An 8×10 would be fine on it's own. You definitely want to be prepared for overnight rain even though it isn't that common.
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