I love the Rocky Mountains in the summer! Over the last several years, I have developed a serious need to go hiking whenever the opportunity presents itself. Last summer, I managed to get in 36 hikes between mid-March and the beginning of November. With my busy schedule, that means I was usually either at work or hiking! I suppose there are far worse things to be obsessed with, right?
The ultimate purpose of this blog is to share all of the great hiking experiences I've had with other hikers. I've found that there is an unfortunate lack of good hiking websites, so I hope to contribute in some small way to people looking for a good day hike in the Colorado Rockies (and in the surrounding states).
My hikes tend to fall into two categories: destination hikes or exploration hikes. Obviously, destination hikes have a specific location or turn-around point. Exploration hikes on the other hand, don't necessarily have any pre-planned destination. The latter typically involves me setting out for a specific amount of time and seeing how far I can go. My trips along the Colorado Trail and several of the state and county parks are exploration hikes where I decide on my route while I'm on the trail. Because these hikes have no specific destination, there's no reason to stick to the route that I describe. When looking at my blog entries, you'll notice that some of the hikes are named for the destination (e.g. Hanging Lake or Carpenter Peak), while others are named for the area that I was exploring (e.g. Reynolds Park or Colorado Trail Segment 3).
My 2007 hikes now have distance and difficulty ratings at the start of the descriptions. The distances are all aproximate and difficulty ratings are subjective. I do not hike with a GPS unit, so I don't have precise mileage or elevation gain/loss details. My difficulty rating works like this:
Easy - flat routes with little or no elevation change
Moderate - varried terrain with more flat than steep sections, or a constant climb that is neither too steep nor too flat
Difficult - varried terrain with more steep than flat sections
Strenuous - a constant steep climb, substantial elevation gain, few or no flat sections
In case you're interested, I have found many of my hikes from the following sources:
1) Protrails.com - Run by two avid hikers out of Boulder, this site's Colorado section focuses primarily on hiking in and around the Boulder area, including Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness. They just recently added a section on the Colorado National Monument south of Grand Junction and they have extensive sections on parks in California, Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Florida. These guys are great at reporting detailed trailhead information, hike details, and nice pictures.
2) National Forest websites - Although not necessarily the easiest sites to navigate, the National Forest Service has pretty extensive websites for hiking trails. I have made extensive use of the Pike National Forest site, including this list of non-motorized trails: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/psicc/recreation/trails/trail_guide.shtml. Unfortunately, this site leaves a little too much to the imagination as there are few pictures, which I find a bit frustrating.
3) Colorado State Parks website - This is a very well-maintained site providing extensive information and a fair number of pictures for each of Colorado's many state parks. Many of these parks are not necessarily good for hiking, so spend some time researching each park before you set out. My personal favorites are Roxborough and Golden Gate Canyon. http://www.parks.state.co.us/
4) Jefferson and Boulder County Open Space parks - These two counties are probably the best in terms of open space parks along the front range. Both sites offer maps and good driving directions to their county's many parks.
Jefferson County: http://jeffco.us/openspace/index.htm
Boulder County: http://www.co.boulder.co.us/openspace/
5) My favorite hiking books:
- The Complete Guide to Colorado's Wilderness Areas - John Fielder and Mark Pearson
- The Colorado Mountain Club Guidebook - The Colorado Trail (Seventh Edition)
- 100 Classic Hikes In Colorado (Second Edition) - Scott S. Warren
May 7th 2008
Distance: 2 miles Difficulty: easy-moderate Our third and final full day in the Moab area saw us splitting our time between Arches and Canyonlands. After reading about the Fiery Furnace tour on Protrails.com, I knew we needed to include it as one of our activities on this trip. The opportunity to get a glimpse into the most rugged and unexplored area of Arches National Park was something I did not want to pass up. Rising above the northern side of the Salt Valley, the Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of tightly packed fins, spires, and arches. The Furnace gets its name from the burning color that the rocks take on when the setting sun hits them at certain times of the year. Within this rock maze exists an ecosystem that has rarely been touched by humans. ... read more
May 6th 2008
Distance: 8.5 miles Difficulty: moderate-difficult For our second day in the Moab area, my dad and I headed down to the more remote Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This area had been recommended to me by a co-worker, and after seeing pictures from his trip, I was sold on visiting. The weather was warmer than the previous day, but we expected that and planned accordingly. We got an early start and made the roughly 75-mile drive from town to the entrance of this part of the park. As far as I’m concerned, this was the most memorable hike of the trip, and I look forward to going back in the near future. Canyonlands National Park is split into three main sections or “districts” by the Colorado and Green Rivers. To the north is the Island ... read more
May 5th 2008
Distance: 5 miles (Balanced Rock: 0.25 mile, The Windows Loop: 1.25 miles, Double Arch: 0.5 mile, Delicate Arch: 3 miles) Difficulty: easy-moderate Most of the first day of our trip to Moab was spent in the car, so we were definitely ready to get out and stretch our legs upon arrival. As soon as my dad and I checked into our hotel room, we dropped our bags, changed into hiking gear rushed out to get in a few short hikes in Arches. Spring in this area is definitely a nice time to be out hiking. Despite getting into the park during the height of the afternoon, the weather stayed pleasant for our first short trip. We decided that we wanted to keep the afternoon’s activities simple to save our legs for a longer hike the next ... read more
May 5th 2008
For our second annual Father-Son bonding trip, my dad and I headed out to Moab, Utah for some hiking in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. We got in a ton of great hiking over the four days we were out there and rewarded ourselves with some great Italian food in the evenings! After setting out early on the morning of May 5, we arrived in the early afternoon in Moab and headed straight into Arches for a little bit of easy hiking and site-seeing. We got to do a little climbing around Double Arch and the Windows before ending our day with a visit to the famous Delicate Arch. The next morning, we got an early start and headed down to the Needles District of Canyonlands for a longer hike through the some of the most ... read more
April 29th 2008
Distance: 9 miles Difficulty: moderate-difficult The end of April brought a continuation of the warm and windy conditions that had been in place for most of the spring. I finally found out that the weather pattern was due to the La Nina water phenomenon that had taken root in Pacific. This event was (according to one meteorologist at KUSA/9 News in Denver) the reason why we were seeing so much wind and why the mountains were still getting pummeled by blizzards. Whatever the case was, I knew I needed to get in a longer hike in preparation for my trip out to Moab that was coming in just a few days. Mt. Falcon was the toughest and longest hike that I had done up to this point in the season. Mt. Falcon Park is yet another ... read more
April 22nd 2008
Distance: 5 miles Difficulty: easy-moderate With spring weather taking hold, I was finally able to get onto more of a regular hiking schedule. While the weather was steadily warming up in the Denver area, the mountains continued to get pummeled by storms that seemed to be dumping feet of new snow on a daily basis. I generally expect the months of April and May to be occupied by lower elevation hikes that may not be as scenic as the ones I do in the middle of the summer. That said, there are certainly some interesting places to visit while waiting for the mountains to thaw out. White Ranch is one of Jefferson County’s most popular and easily accessible open space parks, thanks in no small part to its proximity to the Denver area. The park occupies ... read more
April 14th 2008
Distance: 6.5 miles Difficulty: Easy Ah, the unpredictability of the Colorado Spring! After some warm but extremely windy days at the end of March, I had to wait until the middle of April for my next hiking opportunity. Thanks to the weather pattern that sat over the entire state for most of the spring, wind was an ever-present pest on most of my hikes. With the temperatures finally starting to warm up for good, my dad and I headed to Rabbit Mountain on the border between Boulder and Larimer County. As I’ve mentioned before, Boulder County is one of the best places for open space parks within about an hour of Denver. In fact, Jefferson County is really the only other county that competes with Boulder for open space park acreage. Rabbit Mountain, which occupies the ... read more
March 24th 2008
Distance ~ 5 miles Difficulty: moderate As I’ve mentioned before, March weather in Colorado is inconsistent at best. Nice days without rain or snow tend to be few and far between. After an unusually warm first day of the month, winter took over again, and the hiking would have to wait. Warmer weather finally returned at the end of the month, so my dad and I decided to play hooky and head up to the Boulder for my second (his first) hike of the year. We were greeted by beautiful clear skies and a light wind that kept this moderate hike very comfortable. The South Mesa Trailhead is a very popular area at the southern end of the city of Boulder’s open space territory, just east of Eldorado Canyon State Park. The trailhead represents the southern ... read more
March 1st 2008
Distance: 6 miles Difficulty: easy With temperatures in the high 60’s, I couldn’t resist getting out for my first hike of the year. I generally consider myself lucky if I can get in one or two hikes in March, as the weather tends to be pretty temperamental this time of the year. This was actually the earliest hike that I’ve done in the four years since I became an avid hiker. Not surprisingly, there was still a good amount of snow on the ground in some places and the trails were quite muddy. The mountains were still getting hit with record snow fall, so I knew I’d have to stay along the foothills. The weather got ugly again the next day, so I’m glad I got to stretch my legs when I did. Deer Creek Canyon ... read more
October 28th 2007
Distance: 6.5 miles Rating: Moderate When I told a co-worker about this hike, he remarked about my unusual ability to find trails in the most unlikely places. Indeed, one probably wouldn’t expect there to be much in the way of good hiking as far east as the area encompassed by Castlewood Canyon State Park. The canyon is hidden in the heart of the forested hills east of Castle Rock and south of the small community of Franktown. Only about 35 miles south of the Denver area—and therefore experiencing nearly the same weather conditions—the park is great for a late season hike. With the Indian summer still going strong, I couldn’t resist a chance to head out for what I assumed would be my final hike of the year. As it turned out, this would prove to ... read more