Don't Put the Hiking Boots Away Just Yet
HIking in Colorado can change whether or not you believe in a higher power – it's that pretty – and no, it's not the endorphins or your oxygen-deprived brain deceiving you. It really is the type of place that makes you stand there, crack an IPA, pet your dog, and think "does life really get better than this?"
Well, just barely, and all you have to do is wait until fall. That's because the Rockies are littered with deciduous plant life that explodes with color about this time every year. Droves of people flock to the mountains to witness the display, but to truly appreciate it, you've got to get off the road and get to the backcountry.
Here's where to go:
Lizard Head Trail, near Telluride
Photo: Lizard Head Trail from visittelluride.com
Already one of the best places to hike during the summer, the Lizard Head Trail is 15.8 miles of difficult, heart-pumping hiking, but it's well worth it. As always, hike within your limits and if you decide to bring your four-legged friend, keep them on a leash. This trail is moderately trafficked.
Buffalo Pass, near Steamboat Springs
Photo: Buffalo Pass Trail from steamboatchamber.com
Buffalo Pass is an easy trail that offers 2.8 miles of hiking bliss. With an elevation gain of 459 feet, this trail is great for all levels and all ages, and the views will stop you dead in your tracks. Check it out!
Maroon Bells, near Aspen
Photo: Maroon Bells on Wikimedia Commons
We know it's heavily trafficked, and we know it's the most photographed spot in Colorado, but there's a reason for that. If you've never been to Maroon Belles, it's worth making the trip at least once. Plan to go on a weekday, it'll still be crowded, just less so.
Horse Ranch Park Loop, near Crested Butte
Photo: Horse Ranch Loop Park by travelcrestedbutte.com
Want to see one of the largest Aspen groves in the world? Then explore the Horse Ranch Loop. This trail is regarded as moderate and totals six miles, but it's well worth the sweat. Don't forget to stop in the town of Crested Butte after to quench your thirst with a cold one.
Mt. Bierstadt, near Georgetown
Photo: Guanella Pass Ridges on Wikimedia
Mt Bierstadt is often considered 'a first 14er' for most, but it's actually a great fall hike. It's also not too far from Denver, meaning it's heavily trafficked, but don't let that discourage you. Like hiking any 14er, make sure you get an early start, keep an eye on the weather, and bring plenty of water.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any places you'd like to add? If so, let us know in the comments below!