Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) Tourism Toolkit

The Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) Tourism Toolkit helps marketers promote recreational tourism and trails in your community through Colorado’s official trails app, Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX).

COTREX is a free website and mobile app for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and motorized recreation. It includes urban roads with connectivity to larger routes and dedicated bikeways. Users can submit map feedback when trails or note trail obstacles such as downed trees.

You can share content about the COTREX app, email the COTREX team to suggest new app features, and submit an online form to suggest a new featured route.

Get the App from Google Play 

Get the App in the Apple App Store 


Type: Toolkit

For: Tourism partners

OEDIT division: Colorado Tourism Office

Colorado is the first state in the United States to publish a free trails app for all trail users by creating a statewide database across all land managers. The COTREX project began in 2016 as part of then-Governor Hickenlooper’s Colorado the Beautiful initiative.

The goal of COTREX is to support sustainable growth. Colorado’s population and tourism are growing. With more pressure for recreational opportunities, we need informed trail users now, more than ever, to mitigate impacts of a growing recreation industry.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spent years seeking out and refining trails data and debuted the web version of COTREX in the summer of 2017. The State contracted Natural Atlas in May of 2018 to further develop the state’s trails data and to build Android, iOS, and web versions for the interactive planning and navigation application. In October 2018, the apps were released to the public.

The following features help differentiate COTREX from other websites and apps.

Promotes featured routes
Featured routes contain text descriptions, photos, points of interests, suggested direction of travel, and difficulty ratings. Routes are manually curated to attract visitors to a particular trail route or to disperse people to lesser used areas

Encourages responsible behavior
The app includes the latest information and education about wildlife closures, trail etiquette, and use restrictions.

Users can plan and share journeys
Users can create and share routes that show distance, elevation, and trail grade. They can also explore in the app and save routes for later.

Downloadable offline maps
Users can easily download maps before they go for a continuous experience that doesn’t depend on their cell network.

Has advanced search and filters
Color codes show allowed use:

  • green = allowed

  • grey = not allowed

  • orange = requires verification about seasonal restriction or unknown attributes

Users will be able to find wheelchair-friendly routes, filter trails that allow dogs, view tags such as “wildflowers” or “history”, and select vehicle type for interactive motor vehicle trails maps.

Record trips and field notes
Users can record trips and capture the details of their outdoor experiences. Choose from 50,000+ pre-populated classifications including trail conditions, species, rocks and minerals, historic places, and points of interest.

Users can also take and classify field notes along the way and tag them to a GPS point. This data will automatically sync to their profile when they return to cell service.

Complete challenges to earn badges
Users can complete challenges and earn badges for their profiles. For example, users can record one Colorado Blue Columbine to earn a badge saying they completed the Colorado State Wildflower Challenge.

Submit feedback
Users can submit feedback directly in the app to correct inaccurate information.

Features in development
Pending funding and other resources, the state is considering adding in stewardship projects and other local alert functionality, developing winter trail data, and supporting additional vector layers. Email the COTREX team to suggest a new app feature.

Featured routes are itineraries to inspire users to discover and explore Colorado’s public lands. Featured routes can promote an off-season route and disperse people to lesser used areas and away from overcrowded trails.

A trail might not be on COTREX for a two reasons:

  1. The trail is a social trail and isn’t officially recognized by the land manager as a legal route.
  2. The trail manager hasn’t participated in COTREX because of capacity issues or lack of GIS access.

Ask the land manager if the trail is a legal route. If the trail is not a legal route, it is up to the land manager to decide whether to inventory it. Inventorying a social trail generally involves environmental and planning reviews. Your land manager may decide that it’s in the best interest of the property, environment, the community, or the agency not to incorporate the trail into the system. If the land manager has capacity issues or lack of GIS access, the COTREX team may be able to help.

How to suggest a new featured route

You will need to submit the following information through an online form.

1. Path
Description or means to visualize the path. Text descriptions are fine. A good example is: “Start at X Trailhead, travel on Trail Y, then west on Trail Z, until ending back at X Trailhead.” The COTREX team will build the actual routes in the app. Include start point, trail(s) taken, and end point. Routes can be out and back, loop, one way, or whatever makes sense for that route. Files such as .gpx, hand drawings, screenshots, etc. are welcome but not necessary. 

2. Description of the experience
Describe what makes this route special and why it should be featured. There’s no need to include turn-by-turn instructions, or every fact (length or elevation). Instead, include the highlights of what a user will experience. Three to four sentences or bullets are usually enough, and more are always welcome.

3. Photo (at least one)
The photo(s) should represent the route. It will always be attributed, licensed as requested, and linked to if it is already published online. The photo doesn’t have to be tied to a specific geographic coordinate or feature, although more detail is welcome. Photos are often the hardest component of a featured route to obtain for remote/underused areas, so photos can be the most valuable pieces, even if you don't feel confident writing descriptions or other content.

4. Features and highlights along the way (optional)
Are there specific things you want to highlight along the route as markers on the map? If so, list these features with basic details about them. The COTREX team can work with you to include these on the elevation profile.

The vision of the Colorado the Beautiful initiative is that every Coloradan lives within 10 minutes of a park, trail, or open space.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife built a comprehensive online map of Colorado’s trail network. 

The Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) connects Colorado residents and visitors to rewarding trail experiences. Anyone with a mobile phone or computer can explore more than 39,000 miles of recreational trails in the state.

The COTREX application is free in the Apple and Google Play Stores and online at

COTREX provides access to enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to be active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.

COTREX puts in the palm of your hand data for over 40,000 miles of trail and over 3,600 trailheads spread across local, state, and federal government agencies. 

While there are other user-specific apps available (like MTB Project for mountain bikers), COTREX provides a base level of information for all recreational uses that encourages people to get outside and try something new: a new part of Colorado, a new trail, or a new experience. 

This app encourages more people to discover and explore their public lands while building more data about available recreational opportunities in Colorado. 

More than 92% of Coloradans recreate outdoors at least once every few weeks, according to the 2019 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

This checklist can help you reach your target audience with COTREX.

1. Review local trails
Work with your local land managers to make sure as many local trails as possible are in COTREX. Ask land managers to email with updates or additions. Some trails are not included at land managers' request, such as when travel use plans are being developed.

2. Review local featured routes
Does COTREX currently have featured routes in your area? Do you see any missed opportunities?

3. Update your visitor centers
Download COTREX on tablets/interactive monitors for visitors to discover trails in your area. Print flyers or a poster from the COTREX Media Toolkit.

4. Host a webinar training for staff
Email to request a webinar training to help your staff better explain app features to visitors.

5. Connect to your websites
Link directly to trailheads and featured routes on your website so visitors can easily discover and explore your public lands. Reference specific trails and points of interest in your social media posts.

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