Colorado is one of the most scenic states in the United States. Practically anywhere you go within Colorado, you will find hiking trails. Thousands of people use the hiking trials around the state on a daily basis. There are several hiking trails in my backyard, and I only live on the outskirts of Denver!
Best Hiking Trails
My favorite hiking trails are located in the southwest part of the state, near Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride. The mountains in that area are much more rugged than the rest of the state, and appear to be more scenic as well. I highly recommend everyone to visit the mountains in southwest Colorado.
Trails.com is an excellent resource for trail ratings and information. Check out their user reviewed list of the best hiking trails in Colorado. I had a membership to that site for a couple of years and I learned a lot about hiking in Colorado. You are able to download anything you are looking for in related to hiking trails, such as trail descriptions, reviews, and topographical maps.
There are 53 14ers in Colorado. A 14er is a mountain whose peak elevation is at or above 14,000 ft. Many people have taken on the challenge to hike to the top of each of these mountains. While that is a great accomplishment, it can be dangerous, as some mountain trails are much more difficult and less well-defined than others. For more information about these mountains, check out 14ers.com.
Hiking is a fun and rewording experience for many people and their families, however, you should be aware there are some considerations your should know about.
Best Time of Day To Go Hiking
I once learned the hard way that hiking in the afternoon in the Colorado mountains is not always a good idea. I was hiking with my family near Ouray one afternoon and we were nearing the top elevation of the trail. While the trail was still below tree line, a thunderstorm quickly approached from the west. We took shelter in an old mining cabin nearby.
The weather is Colorado, and especially in the mountains, can be very unpredictable and can change at a moment's notice. The weather for hiking is best in the morning and early afternoon. When planning your hike, it is a good idea to be aware of weather forecasts for the area and to leave early in the morning. If you are ever hiking above tree line, be especially cautious and look out for incoming thunderstorms. Lightning in Colorado is very dangerous!
The equipment required for hiking depends on the difficulty of the trail, the time of the year, and the length of the trail. The basic needs for a short hike are comfortable walking shoes or boots, extra water, and a map. I highly recommend extra water on any hiking trip. You will thank me for that later.
Longer hiking trips require more equipment, and depending on the duration, you might need a good-sized backpack with you. For a day hike, which is a hike that can be completed within the confines of a single day, you will need the same things as a short hike, plus extra food, clothes, a first aid kit, and sunscreen. Sunscreen is essential because the sun can cause burns faster at higher altitude, due to the thinner air and higher elevation.
A good list of items for hiking can be found at the Ten Essentials for Hiking on Wikipedia.
Many hiking environments are fragile, especially the ones at higher altitude. It is always a good idea to practice Leave No Trace when hiking in the Colorado mountains. The important message behind the concept of Leave No Trace is to leave the scene as if you were never there. Whenever I am hiking in the mountains, I am there to enjoy myself and the scenery. I am bothered when someone leaves behind a piece of trash. If enough people do this, it will destroy the fragile alpine environment and the forest service will end up closing the trail. If you see any trash left behind on the trail, pick it up, even if it was left by someone else.
Have a great time hiking and remember some of the considerations I have mentioned above when you are out there. Enjoy Colorado!