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By Matt Payne, Examiner.com 

This is the third and final installment of my tips to hiking in Colorado series. You can go back and see my beginner tips and my intermediate tips for a refresher course. These tips are for the advanced hiker, someone that is experienced with hiking and backpacking, and clearly understands the basics outlined in the other two articles.

1. Blister avoidance

If you’ve ever been on a long hike, you have probably had a few blisters in your day. Avoiding blisters is not as hard as it may seem. A lot of hikers swear by putting duct tape over their heels before putting on their boots. Some claim this will prevent blistering. Try it out  – you might be surprised. Secondly, wear liner socks. These help wick moisture away from your feet, making it harder for blisters to form. Lastly, wear good boots and make sure to break them in before you go hiking. This may seem like a beginner lesson but I’m always surprised to see people wearing flip-flops or tennis shoes on long and arduous hikes. Good boots provide ankle support and keep your feet dry. Additionally, Moleskin is a great product to use in the field if a blister should begin.

2. Research your hike before you go. Again, this may seem elementary, but you would be surprised at how many people just go hiking up into the mountains before actually familiarizing themselves with a map of the area. If you’re planning a long hike, take the time to look at the routes and trails and any escape routes you may need to use if the weather gets bad.

3. Avoid hiking in the afternoon above treeline. Lightning does not kill a lot of people in Colorado, but it does have the potential to. Lightning safety is very important and its also really simple. If you can, start your hikes as early as possible, even before sunrise. This will ensure that you are down from treeline before the afternoon thunderstorms. Granted, there is always the possibility for morning storms, so be sure to research the weather report before you begin hiking.

4. Pace yourself. The key to a long and steep hike is to keep an even and slow pace. A lot of difficult hikes are accomplished simply through mental endurance. A slow pace will ensure that your mental attitude is positive.

5. Learn wilderness first aid and bring a first aid kit with you. Wilderness first aid is a different type of first aid class that teaches you first aid techniques for wilderness situations. For example, you might learn how to create a sling out of materials found in the woods. You will also learn about how to recognize the signs of altitude sickness and how to treat and prevent it.

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com 

There are lots of historic trails in the Breckenridge area and the trek to the Sallie Barber Mine may be one of the easiest. The hike is 1.4 miles each way with just 400 feet of elevation gain. While it’s not “easy” for some people, it is easy compared to most trails in the Colorado high country.

The trek starts on French Gulch Road, just 3.8 miles from Highway 9 (see directions below). The trailhead has a sign with a map and space for about 15 vehicles.

Walk up French Gulch Road about 0.1 miles to a trailsplit. Turn right onto another wide road, #2651. There’s a slight drop down, then the trail begins climbing up. As you’re hiking here, enjoy the mountain vistas and the sunlight, because after 0.25 miles, the road travels into the forest and the shade.

The next 1.15 miles or so are a peaceful trek in the morning before the crowds arrive. The road/trail is wide enough for 2 to 3 people to walk side-by-side and talk. Just step out of the way of any cross-county skiers coming downhill. The elevation gain is slight, but it can take your breath away because the trail starts at 10,335 feet.

After 1.4 miles, the trail comes to the top of small hill and you see it — the ore bin, loading shaft and headframe of the Sallie Barber Mine. Signs at the site explain that the mine opened in 1880. Miners found lead carbonate and sulfide ore with zinc. The zinc sulfide was too expensive to mine so the mine was abandoned. Two years later, another group of miners stuck galena and carbonates that had lead and silver. By 1899, the mine had made $1,000 and was getting larger. The mine was abandoned in 1911, but restarted for a short time during World War I to mine zinc.

While the mining structure is impressive, imagine what’s underground. Miners worked on four levels — the lowest is 365 feet below the surface. Even in the snow, you should be able to spot the machinery from the steam plant, including the boiler and the hoist. There are three informational signs around the mine. From the sign on the backside of the mining building, you may spot Keystone Ski Resort in the distance. Look below the sign, and you may see an old abandoned car.

After you explore, it’s time to decide if you want to turn around or go further. There’s a 7.5 mile loop in the area called the Nightmare on Baldy Mine tour. If that’s too much, how about the extra mile (each way) to the True Romance Mine?

As you came up the trail to the Sallie Barber, there was another trail to the left behind the informational sign. You may spot an old cabin here under the snow.

A very small sign on this trail says, “Nightmare on Baldy.” This is the trail to the True Romance Mine.

As you hike up the hill, you may come across several trails, don’t turn off. You need to climb pretty much straight up the hillside about a third of a mile and 300 feet in elevation. There, the uphill trail stops at a trail that goes right and left. Go left.

It’s about two-thirds of a mile on this old road to an open area with a single pole that says “True Romance.” This is the site of the old mine. On the right side of the trail, you may spot the opening of an old mine shaft — it just depends on how much snow has fallen.

When you’re done enjoying the views, return the way you came.

Details: The hike to the Sallie Barber Mine is 2.8 miles with 400 feet of elevation gain. The hike to the Sallie Barber and True Romance mines is 4.8 miles with about 800 feet of elevation gain.

Directions: From Interstate 70, take Highway 9 toward Breckenridge. Near town, turn left on Huron Road/CR 450. (There was a popular 7-Eleven there in 2013.) Take Huron Road about 0.4 miles to Reiling Road and turn right. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left on Franch Gulch Road. Take French Gulch Road 2.7 miles to the trailhead.

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com 

Winter hiking is not for everyone, but Mayflower Gulch is a great place to start. It has old cabins, mines and amazing views. The trail is fairly short and can hiked or visited on snowshoes.

Mayflower Gulch is just six miles from I-70 and the Copper Mountain exit. (Directions below) The trail starts on a tree lined Jeep road. There are some short climbs, but there are also lots of fairly level spots. That’s important when you’re hiking at 11,000 feet.

Each time there is a break in the trees, hikers get a glimpse of the beautiful mountain scenery to come. Along the trail, look for a collapsed cabin on the left and an old mining operation on the right. When you come to a fork in the road, stay left.

The trail climbs to above tree line. As the trees thin out, more of the amazing scenery of Mayflower Gulch comes into view. Turn left at the gate and follow the road to several old cabins. In 2010, we found one cabin still standing and three others collapsed here.

One of my favorite things to do at an old cabin is take a picture of the view through the window. Use the window frame, to frame the nearby peaks. Mayflower Gulch may be one of the best places to do this.

Hikers can turn around at the cabins for a three mile hike or continue on. The road heads for a ridge on the northeast side of the valley. You may even spot yet another cabin in the distance. As you hike, look closely just off the road for remnants of past residents. I found bed springs, an old stove and a barrel. In the winter, these remnants may be covered in the deep snow.

The road ends at a gate with a view of the old Boston Mine (now called the Gold Crest Mine) and an amazing 360 degree view of the area. In the surrounding mountain ranges there are two almost 14ers: Pacific Peak at 13,950 feet and Fletcher Mountain at 13,951 feet. While the road to the mine is closed, the views here are stunning. Enjoy the scenery and return the way you came.

Details: To the cabins and back is about 3 miles roundtrip with 500 feet of elevation, to the gate at the mine and back is about 4.5 miles roundtrip with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. You are hiking at 11,000 feet so the hiking is more difficult here than in the metro area.

Directions: From Interstate 70, exit at Copper Mountain and drive Colorado Highway 91 south about 6 miles. Look for the large parking lot on the east side of the road. There is no sign here. Once you’re in the lot, hopefully my pictures will show you what you the trail looks like. The parking lot is not a pull-out, it is large enough for dozens of vehicles.

By Matt Payne, Examiner.com 

One of my favorite parts of living in Colorado is the fall colors that come each September and October. Over the years, I’ve come to note in my mind the best areas to view fall colors around the state, and I thought I’d share my top five areas with you!

1. Dallas Divide

Not only is the Dallas Divide home to some of my favorite mountains to climb, it is also home to some of the most breathtaking areas for fall foliage. Start in the town of Ridgway, which is located south of Montrose. You will see the mighty 14er, Mount Sneffels as you enter Ridgway. Mount Sneffels is one of my favorite mountains to climb. From there, head west on Colorado Highway 62 over the Dallas Divide. You will be afforded incredible, classic views of the Sneffels Wilderness Area and a bounty of color will explode before your eyes from the aspen trees. At Placerville, drive southeast toward Telluride on Colorado Highway 145. From here, you will head towards Lizard Head Pass and see incredible views of Wilson Peak, which I climbed back in July. Did you also know that Wilson Peak is featured on the Coors Beer can?

2. West Elks and Kebler Pass

I’ve not had the chance to visit this area yet, but through my admiration of one of Colorado’s best photographers, Kane Engelbert, I feel like this is one of the best areas for viewing fall colors in the country. To get there, head west out of Crested Butte on Gunnison County Road 12. You will be immediately pleased by the fall colors in this area. The aptly named Ruby Range add contrast and more color as you continue. This would be a great area to stop and hike in. At Colorado Highway 133, you should drive north toward McClure Pass for more incredible colors and opportunities for incredible fall hiking.

3. Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness Area

The Maroon Bells are quite possibly the most photographed mountains in the world, and it is really no wonder as to why. The fall colors, as seen in this area, are quite splendid indeed. I feel that this area needs no further introduction, and examples can be found in the slideshow. According to the Colorado Tourism website, on weekends in September, access to the Maroon Bells is limited to shuttle buses that leave Aspen on a regular basis. But if you reserve a campsite along Maroon Creek Road, you can drive your vehicle all the way to the scenic Maroon Lake. This whole area is incredible – I visited it twice this year, once to backpack to Snowmass Lake, and another time to climb Snowmass Mountain and Hagerman Peak.

4. Cottonwood Pass

The mighty Sawatch Mountain Range is home to several 14ers and 13ers, including some of the best fall colors around. When driving in from the east on Highway 285, the majestic Mount Princeton greets you with huge groves of aspen at its base. Driving up to Cottonwood Pass places you between both Princeton and Mount Yale, another huge 14er. As you pass beneath the 14ers, you’ll find yourself in a valley full of aspen trees ranging from green to gold. Last year, I was able to view all of this from the summit of six 13ers, all in one day!

5. Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway

To reach this superb area, drive south out of the historic town of Georgetown to the summit of 11,699 ft. Guanella Pass. The changing aspen are pretty amazing, especially on the south side of the pass. Turn right on US Highway 285 and take the highway for 15 minutes to the top of Kenosha Pass, where you will be afforded more incredible views of aspen trees near South Park.

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com 

Breckenridge has so many beautiful places to hike – Mohawk Lakes/Continental Falls, McCullough Gulch, Quandary Peak, etc… When you’re ready for something new, consider Crystal Lakes.

Crystal Lakes share the same trailhead with Mohawk Lakes (directions below). Instead of hiking into the forest on the Spruce Creek Trail, hike up Spruce Creek Road about 0.2 miles to where the road splits. Take the right fork, go around the gate and you’ll be on Crystal Creek Road #803. Yes, this is a road. While the gate was locked when we hiked here, it is possible you may be sharing the road/trail with vehicles. Because the trail is a road, it is wide enough to hike side-by-side with your friends.

Just a short distance past the gate, you’ll cross the marked Burro Trail. This trail goes north to the Peak 9 area in Breckenridge. After a quick stop to look at the trail and catch our breath, it was time to keep climbing. The road/trail here is very rocky and steep. Watch your footing and enjoy the peace and quiet. While the trail to Mohawk Lakes is often very busy, we saw only a couple other people on the trail to Crystal Lakes in the middle of the day on a weekend.

About 1.25 miles from the trail head, we came to a road split with a sign warning drivers to stay on roads with an arrow. While the main trail continues straight ahead, we took a short side trip on the road to the left. It goes to a small cascade and a diversion dam. After a quick picture stop, we were back on the main road and hiking up hill again. A short distance away is the turnoff for Francie’s Cabin. The 10th Mountain Division Cabin is a 6-bedroom cabin built in 1994. The cabin is close by, but signs ask visitors to stay away unless they are a paying guest.

Continue up the road to another trail split — this time for the Wheeler Trail. The Wheeler National Recreation Trail runs from Copper to McCullough Gulch. But again, we continued straight ahead, where finally the trail began to flatten out a bit with amazing views of the peaks up ahead.

Enjoy the scenery as your cross the valley to Crystal Lake at the foot of Crystal Peak – a mountain that’s just 148 feet short of being a 14er. Just before you arrive at the lake, there’s an old broken down cabin to explore. Go inside and use the empty window frame to frame a nice shot of the lake and the nearby peak. Then it’s time to visit the lake. Crystal Lake is nice, but it’s the cirque around the lake that make this a beautiful destination. There are three 13,000-foot tall peaks in this cirque.

After a photo stop, it’s time to decide if you want to continue on. The trail goes around the north side of the lake and climbs the side of Peak 10 another 1.9 miles and 900 feet in elevation gain to Upper Crystal Lake. Or return the way you came.

Details for Crystal Lake: The hike to Lower Crystal Lake and back is about 5 miles RT with 1,600 feet of elevation gain. Hikers going to Upper Crystal Lake should expect about 8.8 miles with 2,500 feet of elevation gain.

Directions: Drive south out of Breckenridge on Highway 9. About 2.3 miles from the last stoplight in Breck, turn right on Spruce Creek Road. Follow the round, dirt road as it winds subdivision about 1.2 miles to the trailhead.

By Margena Holmes, Examiner.com

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you in many different ways.  It can lower your blood pressure, it can help you lose weight, it helps build stamina, and can help build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat.

Walking is an easy way to get exercise.  You don’t need any special equipment except good sturdy shoes.  Walking can be done almost anywhere-the mall, the grocery store, around your neighborhood, or around your office during your break at work.  If you need more of a challenge, or you’re stuck at a weight loss plateau, you can try hiking.

I recently went on a hike at the Ute Valley Park in Colorado Springs.  It was very easy to get to, and the park itself was beautiful.  The hike, on the other hand, was pretty hard for someone who has lived at sea level for her entire life until a year ago!  There are quite a few trails to hike on, and at first it seemed like it would be pretty easy.  The first part of the hike was fairly even and flat, but as we went on, it gradually got steeper and more rocky, but you don’t notice it too much if you’re looking at the beautiful scenery.

When you hike, the terrain plays a big part in how much you burn.  Hiking up hills, on rocky terrain will burn more calories.  Two hours, four miles, a steep uphill grade, and 8000+ steps, the parking lot was back in sight!  According to the American Council on Exercise, hiking burns between 4.5 and 6.7 calories per minute, so that adds up to approximately 1200 calories burned.

You may want to gradually work up to hiking four miles, hike at a slower pace, or hike an easier trail if you’re not accustomed to hiking.  Check with your doctor first before you tackle any trail, and remember to bring a bottle of water with you.

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

It may just be one of the best problems to have, how do I find a good hiking trail? Colorado is a beautiful state with breathtaking places, but how do you pick a hike that’s not a dud? Here are some of the best places and hikes to consider:

Rocky Mountain National Park. There aren’t many dud hikes in the park. Mills Lake, Calypso Cascades & Ouzel Falls,  Flattop Mountain, Gem Lake, Bridal Veil Falls,  Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes,  Fern Falls & Fern Lake,  Finch Lake, Mount Ida,Spectacle Lakes, Ypsilon & Chipmunk Lakes, Shelf & Solitude Lakes, Jewel Lake, Timber Lake,  Arch Rocks/The Pool,  Spruce Lake, Alberta Falls, MacGregor Falls.

There are two wilderness areas just south of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness and James Peak Wilderness. Both are filled with dozens of trails to scenic lakes and mountain peaks. Two of the easiest hikes to get you started in this area are Lost Lake and Diamond Lake. Or hike to Isabelle Lake, Mitchell/Blue Lakes, Crater Lakes, Forest Lakes,Arapahoe Lakes and Woodland Lake & Skyscraper Reservoir.

Want to try something different, how about hiking to an arch? There’s Harmonica Arch in the Pike National Forest, Royal Arch in Boulder and the Rattlesnake Arches near Grand Juction.

Interested in history? Then don’t miss the chance to see several homesteads from the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Homestead Meadows is in Larimer County, just about 10 miles south of Estes park. There’s also the Shafthouse hike (a failed reservoir project) in the Pike National Forest.

Want something even more unique? Check out the dinosaur tracks at Dakota Ridge in Golden. There’s a castle at Lair O The Bear that you can see from the trail, especially in the winter when the trees lose their leaves. And there are the castle ruins at Mount Falcon. You can even hike to an old fire lookout tower on Squaw Peak near Evergreen or at Devil’s Head in the Pike National Forest . Or try a “hike” underground by exploring Fulford Cave.

Dreaming of climbing a 14er? One of the best for first timers is actually two peaks, Grays & Torreys.

Traveling to the high country? Don’t miss South Willow Falls in Summit County. Or visit Hells Hole in the Mount Evans Wilderness. In Glenwood Springs, there’s the very popular hike to Hanging Lake or try the trial at the next exit at Grizzly Creek. You can also hike to Doc Holliday’s grave and the Storm King Memorial.

While in town hikes may not be as exciting as mountain hikes, two of the best areas to hike on the front range are the Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks and the Jefferson County Open Space parks in Golden, Morrison and Evergreen. Boulder and JeffCo have informative Web sites with good maps and easy to use information on their trails. Hikers often choose Jefferson County hiking trails because they are so well marked, with easy to find and read signs.

Like waterfalls? Here are my favorite waterfall hikes and my favorite waterfalls to visit with little to no hiking. Here are some waterfall hikes: Bridal Veil Falls (RMNP), Alberta Falls,  Lost Lake (Indian Peaks Wilderness),  Maxwell Falls (Evergreen), Horsetooth Falls (Ft. Collins),Boulder Falls.

County Web sites: Boulder open space trailsJefferson County open space trailsLarimer County parks & open landsDenver parksDouglas County parks & trailsSummit County open space & trailsEl Paso County parks & trails

Federal government Web sites: Rocky Mountain National ParkIndian Peaks WildernessBrainard Lake Recreation AreaArapahoe & Roosevelt National ForestsPike & San Isabel National Forests.

State Web sites: Colorado State Parks Web site

By Deb Stanley, Examiner.com

Need a trail? Pick one of these! I have them organized first by area – Jefferson County, Douglas County, Boulder County, Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks & James Peak Wilderness, State Parks, Colorado Springs, Pike National Forest, Summit County, Holy Cross Wilderness, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Northern Colorado, Grand Junction, urban areas and others.

Then I have the hikes in different categories – waterfalls, homesteads, arches, fire lookouts, snowshoes and odd/interesting hikes.

Let’s go!

Jefferson County Open Space & nearby area:

Douglas County:

Boulder County:

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Indian Peaks Wilderness & James Peak Wilderness:

State Parks:

Colorado Springs:

Pike National Forest:

Summit County (incl. Leadville):

Holy Cross Wilderness:

Glenwood Springs area:

Aspen area:

Northern Colorado including Steamboat Springs & Fort Collins:

Southern Colorado, near Silverton:

Grand Junction/Fruita:

Urban trails:

Other areas:

Waterfalls:

Homesteads:

Arches:

Fire lookouts:

Snowshoes:

Odd/Interesting hikes you have to check out:

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