Colorado is the mountain man’s paradise. It is the adventurers delight. It is the thrill seeker’s destination. With the highest average elevation of any state in the union, Colorado boasts a vast number of outdoor recreation opportunities in its mountains, valleys, rivers, and plains. So get outside and breath in the fresh mountain air. Whether you are on vacation or just need a mountain getaway, there is something for everyone in Colorado.
With over one third of the state covered in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado offers seemingly endless hiking opportunities. Opportunities abound for the young and old, the novice and the expert. Trails will bring hikers to lakes, waterfalls, and to the foot of jagged peaks, but the most popular hiking destinations in Colorado are to the tops of mountains.
For the novice peak bagger, small mountains dot the entire Front Range between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Try climbing up Horsetooth Peak outside of Fort Collins, Green Mountain in Lakewood, or Carpenter Peak located in Roxborough State Park. The trail to the tops of these peaks is short and sweet at no more than a few miles each way, and the views from the pinnacle are breathtaking.
Experts, or at least the more adventurous can give one of Colorado’s 55 peaks above 14,000 feet above sea level a try. These peaks are extremely popular during the summer months and oftentimes see hundreds of people on their summit during the weekends. Some easier 14ers include Mount Sherman and Handies Peak. The more experienced can try their luck on Longs Peak or Snowmass Peak. All hikers must remember start their trip early in the morning and keeping well hydrated is a must.
No one has truly experienced the trails of Colorado unless they have set foot in one of Colorado’s national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park has by far the best trail system that leads to some of the most majestic scenery in the entire state. There is a hike for everyone in Rocky Mountain—everything from a short hike to a waterfall or to a long trek to a far off peak. Of course, many trails exist throughout the state that lead to beautiful alpine lakes and waterfalls, but Rocky Mountain has the highest density of these trails in the state.
Camping In Colorado's Mountains
Some love roughing it in the wilderness, while others just cannot wait to get back to the comforts of the real world. But, for any visitor or resident of Colorado, camping is almost a prerequisite activity. Camping provides a respite from the fast-paced world below. It gives people the opportunity to breath in some clean mountain air, sit in a lounge chair, and enjoy good conversation around the fire. Lucky for Colorado, opportunities abound to get away from the daily grind and go camping.
Many established campgrounds exist throughout the entire state. The National Forest Service runs most campgrounds, but many are also privately owned and operated. During weekends in peak summer months, reservations are a must for many of the most popular campgrounds. Many of these campgrounds provide campers a number of amenities like flushable toilets, showers, electricity, and running water for RV and trailer hook-ups.
The option also exists for people to camp anywhere in the many National Forests of Colorado. There are many roads that lead through these forests that provide access to established campsites all of which do not have all the amenities of established campgrounds.
For even more “adventurous” camping, take a backpacking trip up to the mountains. You must take all of your essentials on your back for your entire stay, but it is well worth the hassle to get away from civilization. As mentioned above, backpackers can technically camp anywhere in a National Forest, and much of the Colorado mountains are open to backpacking. Just be sure to follow all rules and regulations in the area, and be sure to follow all leave no trace wilderness principles.
Fishing Colorado's Rivers and Lakes
Colorado is truly an angler's paradise. What could be better than hooking a large catch in an expansive mountain valley?
With over 2,000 lakes and 6,000 miles of rivers and streams to choose from, fishermen have a wide array of options. Colorado even contains 168 miles of "Gold Medal" streams, which provide opportunities to catch large trout. Many, but not all, of these streams are stocked with 35 different types of cold and warm water fish.
Fishing licenses are available at most outdoor stores in Colorado and can be purchased for the entire year or just for a day at a time. A search and rescue fee is included with the purchase of each fishing license, which will pay for search and rescue costs should you become stranded in the mountains. For this reason, it makes sense for even non-anglers to purchase a fishing license in Colorado. Children under 16 years of age do not need a license to fish.
Some of the best fly-fishing can be found on the Roaring Fork River near Glenwood Springs and even on the South Platte River nearer to Denver. Colorado also has a number of great reservoirs for to go shore fishing. Great finish opportunities abound up and down the mountains and plains of Colorado, so be sure to do some research before you begin you next fishing adventure.Credit: Garrett Adrian Photo
Hunting In The Centennial State
Colorado offers hunters many opportunities to bag their next animal. With Colorado’s varied terrain between the mountains and plains, hunters can find everything from elk to pheasants, and doves to turkeys. Hunting season for most game occurs later in the year. Be sure to visit the Colorado Division of Wildlife website for complete details on the hunting season and how to apply for and purchase a hunting license.
The Colorado mountains provide the most opportunities for big game hunting, while a lot of small game hunting can be found on the plains. The National Forests of Colorado are open to hunting when in season, but there are also many private game preserves open to hunters. These places will charge fees to hunt on their land.