Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Favorite Colorado Hiking Spots

The summer season is almost upon us which means it is time to dust off the old hiking boots! Here are some personal faves:

1) Rocky Mountain National Park

Is there a National Park that isn't beautiful year round? Well, summertime highlights Rocky's abundance of hiking trails and iconic views! Pick any trail in this park and I doubt you'll be disappointed. One of the most hiked areas is Bear Lake. There are multiple pristine lakes in this area to hike near, as well as, ascending mountain views. On the way up to Bear Lake is another favorite area with several waterfalls; called Glacier Gorge. For a less populated experience head over to the west side area of the park (either driving the picturesque Trail Ridge Road or entering through Grand Lake). Another beautiful but less traveled area is the Wild Basin area--check it out! One note of caution: check the website for weather or road conditions due to past flooding and weather updates.

2) Hanging Lake

Definitely one of the most famous and dreamy mountain lakes in Colorado. I've posted on this hike before but it is worth mentioning again. Imagine a clear, emerald blue-green tiny lake with a few fallen trees....fashioned like an Ansel Adams photograph....and that is what Hanging Lake means to me. Also, it is a very popular hike in the summer so go early to beat the crowds! Tip: it is indeed a hike, bring water.

3) The Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is a 500 mile stretch encompassing the essence of Colorado's Rocky Mountains! It is divided into 28 segments and varies in elevation and level of difficulty. Some folks take 4 to 6 weeks to hike all the way through while some do a little bit at a time over their lifespan. You can catch part of the trail (segments 5/6) at Kenosha Pass (about 40 min outside Denver...and this section is highly popular in the fall as there are several aspen groves in this section). Also, another segment that is pretty cool is segment 13 (North Cottonwood Creek Road to Chalk Creek Trailhead). Nearby are two popular hot springs to soak in. Also, leashed dogs ARE allowed on the trail except for segment 1 (Waterton Canyon) so as to protect the bighorn sheep habitat in that region.

4) Great Sand Dunes National Park

Amazing hikes, views, and photo opportunities abound at this park! Hike in the dunes, on the dunes, around the dunes....just seriously go see the tallest dunes in North America--in Colorado! However, in the summer the sand is very hot so definitely forget your flip flops and grab your boots instead! Seriously, they are like no sand dunes I have ever seen! Nestled beside the Sangre de Cristo mountains many trails abound! And many views to explore! For more trip planning ideas see my blog posted here.

5) Collegiate Peaks Region

This area was mentioned in number 3 as part of segment 13 of the Colorado Trail....and this region is actually my favorite area in the summer. Have you always wished to have Ivy League blood in you? Well, now you can! Mt. Princeton, Mt. Harvard, or Mt. Yale; take your pick! Hot springs, rivers, recreational fun galore in this part of Colorado! Also, gem mining is popular in the region as agates and rubies have been found here.

Honorable mentions closer to Denver:

Staunton State Park--Say hello to Colorado's newest addition to the State Park system! About 45 minutes west of Denver, near Conifer, is a tree hugger's paradise! Hike in solitude beneath conifer trees and mountain blue birds.

Pike National Forest--Hike and camp surrounded by rock outcrops and mountain pine trees in this calming nature escape.

Mt. Falcon Open Space--Scenic views, historic sites, and open space characterize this park. Just 35 minutes west of Denver.