Tips for Hiking in the Colorado Mountains

IMGP2570
Hiking in Autumn

One of the things that we enjoy about living in Colorado is our access to a wide variety of trails to go hiking. Especially during the summer when the wildflowers are blooming and getting into the mountains can be a great escape from the heat of the Front Range. We will often see tourist from out of the state on the trails and often they are not prepared for hiking in the altitude on what can be sometimes some rough terrain. People in Colorado will often refer to those people who come from states that don’t have mountains and are closer to sea level as “flatlanders”. Here are some tips for anyone who plans to go hiking in the Rocky Mountains.

    • Stay hydrated – Colorado actually has a very dry climate and when you combine that with the altitude, it is very easy to get dehydrated. We normally recommend to people visiting the state that they do a combination of water and sports drinks so that they can stay hydrated and replace electrolytes. At a minimum, you should have a water bottle with you when you are hiking, but if you are going to hike for more than an hour, you should probably consider investing in a CamelBak that has a large water pouch so that you know you’ll have enough water.
IMGP4212
Wearing Our CamelBak
    • Know your limitations – Get information on the trail that you are going to hike before you go. You can get information from local stores that sell hiking equipment or use an app like All Trails to get information. Trail ratings are usually Easy, Moderate, or Hard, but be aware that if you are doing a trail with any kind of elevation gain, even a moderate trail can be quite difficult. There are some trails where you have scramble over boulders or walk next to steep cliffs, so inexperienced hikers can get injured or worse if they push themselves beyond their limits. And it is important to understand that sometimes going down is more difficult that going up, so keep that in mind while you are hiking.
IMGP3431
Scrambling Over Rocks
    • Wear and carry sunscreen as well as bug spray – Even at the base of the mountains, you are usually at 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) and then the elevation increases as you hike. That means that you are closer to the sun, which means that even on an overcast day, there is the risk of getting sunburn. Also, there are ticks in the forests and a lot of trails go near streams, waterfalls, or end at lakes and reservoirs, which means that there can be mosquitos. Colorado doesn’t have a lot of bugs, but you should be prepared.
IMGP3555
Tranquil Pond at the Top of the Mountain
    • Carry a first-aid kit, compass, and small flashlight – Mishaps can happen and you want to have at least some wipes and Band-Aids in case someone gets some scrapes and bruises. There have been plenty of times where the trails are not as well marked as one might expect and it is possible to lose your way off of the trail if you are not careful. Many people rely on their smart phones for a flashlight and compass, but if something happens to your phone it is better to have the real thing. Also, you are likely not to have cell service in the mountains, so a compass app won’t be able to find your location. If you are going on a shorter hike, the flashlight and compass are not necessarily needed, but you should always have the first-aid kit.
DSC01152
An Easy to Follow Trail
    • Wear appropriate footwear – You don’t have to buy hiking boots or shoes, but you need to at least wear shoes with soles that grip. Almost any trail is going to have loose stones and gravel that can be slippery to walk on and you will likely be walking on larger rocks and tree stumps. Nothing will ruin your hike quicker than slipping and falling on the trail. It is also important to wear shoes that are comfortable and have been broken in so that you don’t end up with blisters. We don’t recommend open toed shoes of any kind for hiking, even if they have good gripping soles. Snakes, prickly bushes, and other obstacles could easily get to your feet.
DSC01121
Hiking Up Pikes Peak
    • Pay attention to the weather – Storms can come quickly in the mountains and often you won’t see the clouds building due to the peaks that are surrounding you. Colorado gets more lightening strikes than most other states and your proximity to the clouds that produce them makes them even more dangerous. It doesn’t have to be raining for lightening to occur, so always be alert to any changing weather conditions. Even when the forecast doesn’t indicate storms, the weather in Colorado can be unpredictable and forecasts are often wrong.
DSC_0753
Clouds Building on Previously Sunny Day
    • Be alert for wildlife – Seeing animals when you are hiking can be a wonderful experience, but only if you see them before they see you. There are bears, elk, moose, deer, wild turkeys, and many other animals in the mountains of Colorado. When you are in bear country, it is wise to make noise while you are hiking or hike on trails that are hiked by a greater number of hikers. However, just because other people are on the trail ahead of you, don’t assume that means that you won’t see wildlife, their routes often take them across the trails and it could just be that they get there between groups of hikers.
DSC01203
Mule Deer next to Trail
  • Take breaks and look around – First of all, you are likely to get winded easily, so it is important not to over exert yourself. Secondly, the views from most trails are wonderful, whether seeing valleys, other mountain peaks, or just the beauty of an Aspen grove, there is much to see. You can often find yourself staring down at your feet, trying not to trip on the rocks that are on the trail, and missing the wonderful sights that are all around you. You went on a hike to get into nature, be sure not to miss seeing it.

    IMGP5089
    Incredible Views

Hiking is one of the most pleasurable experiences where you truly get to enjoy nature at its finest. With a little precaution, you can ensure that your hiking experience will be one that you will treasure forever. With so many trails in Colorado to choose from, pick the one that is right for you and take advantage of seeing some of the beauty that this wonderful state has to offer.

Catamount Trail in Green Mountain Falls

DSC_3043
View of the Falls

The weather was beautiful this weekend, so we decided to get up into the mountains and go for a hike. We drove to the quaint town of Green Mountain Falls to hike the Catamount Trail, which is a trail that we haven’t done before. You aren’t able to park on the road where the trail starts, so you have walk about a mile on a very steep road to reach the trailhead. Walking up the road was almost as hard as hiking on the trail itself.

DSC_3044
Trailhead
DSC_3091
Gorgeous Views along the Trail
DSC_3049
One of the Waterfalls
DSC_3070
Wildflowers are Starting to Bloom

The trail is considered to be moderate, but anytime you go hiking in the mountains, it is likely to be fairly difficult and this trail is no different. The entire trail is about three miles one way and the first two miles are steep switchbacks with a lot of rocky steps. At the start of the trail, there are a couple of wonderful waterfalls where you can stop and enjoy the beauty of nature. There is a reservoir at the end of the trail, but we didn’t make it all of the way to the end on this hike, but we will definitely return another time and complete the hike.

DSC_3075
Looking Up Through the Branches
DSC_3079
Tree Stump
DSC_3076
Amazing Views
DSC_3054
Hiking the Trail

The scenery was absolutely stunning, especially as you near the summit where you are rewarded with incredible views of the valley below. There isn’t much to the town of Green Mountain Falls, it is really just a community of homes for people who want to live in the mountains and don’t mind having to drive a ways to do their shopping. It must be a relaxing way to live, but we’re not sure that we would want to be that isolated.

DSC_3057
More Wildflowers
DSC_3093
Another Waterfall
DSC_3053
Rocky Terrain
DSC_3041
Perfect Weather

This was our first real hike of the season, so climbing the steep switchbacks took its toll on our legs and we decided to keep it to a two-hour hike and turned around after making it a little over the halfway point. For us, hiking is all about getting out into nature and getting some exercise, which made this a wonderful hike. Although it was our first time doing the Catamount Trail, it most certainly won’t be the last time we hike there.

DSC_3090
Boulders along the Trail
DSC_3081
Moss Covered Rocks
DSC_3077
Rocks on the Trail
DSC_3072
Getting into Nature
DSC_3061
Steep Trail
DSC_3066
Butterfly

The Wildflowers of Colorado

Yellow Wildflowers
Yellow Wildflowers

One of our favorite things about hiking during the summer in Colorado are all of the beautiful wildflowers. It doesn’t matter if we’re hiking in the mountains or just taking one of the various trails that run through the neighborhoods, there are wildflowers everywhere. There are so many different varieties and each are beautiful in their own ways. We especially like seeing them in the ruggedness of the mountains as it brings a splash of color to contrast all of the deep greens and browns.

Flowers on Boulders
Flowers on Boulders
Flowers by the Lake
Flowers by the Lake
Purple Flower
Purple Flower
Red Bell Flower
Red Bell Flower

Unfortunately, the growing season here is very short, so you can only find the wildflowers blooming from June through August. When they are blooming, though, they can be quite spectacular. They also bring with them some beautiful butterflies as well as bees. It is that time of year now when the nights start to get a little colder and there is a hint of autumn in the air already. Soon the wildflowers in the mountains will be covered with snow and go dormant until they return next summer.

Tiny Red Flowers
Tiny Red Flowers
More Yellow Wildflowers
More Yellow Wildflowers
Pretty Blue Wildflower
Pretty Blue Wildflower
By the Trail
By the Trail

We are hoping to get in a few more hikes before the wildflowers are gone and the scenery is replaced with changing of the leaves, which is also truly spectacular.

Rugged Beauty
Rugged Beauty
Simply Wild
Simply Wild
Purple Flowers
Purple Flowers