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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 Chrissy Morin, Examiner.com

The color in the Rocky Mountains is at its peak September through October so plan your short trip form Denver to the Aspen Snowmass area through October to see some of the most spectacular fall color that Colorado has to offer.

Not only is the hike accessible to everyone, but once you are done with the hike you are just a short distance from Aspen for shopping, gourmet restaurants, and perhaps a bit of celebrity sighting along the Aspen mall if you are lucky.

If you’ve never been to Aspen you might think of it as a stuffy expensive place to visit however in the off (non ski) season you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the reasonable pricing at the bed and breakfasts and hotels in the area.

If you aren’t up for the full Maroon Bells hike you can also enjoy some fabulous scenery at the John Denver Memorial Tribute Park.

This spot is one of the most photographed mountain peaks in the world and once you witness it for yourself you’ll understand why.

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 Cecilia La France, Examiner.com 

Break up the Colorado mountain road time while heading to or from Denver this summer.  The Colorado mountains are breathtaking from the road, but are truly experienced when foot meets the trail and the pine fresh air fills the lungs.  Here are five beautiful hikes easily accessible from I70 between Denver and Grand Junction.  All of them are in-and-out hikes, accommodating to restricted time and energy available at each stop.

Beaver Brook Trail, up to 10 miles one-way, Exit 253 near Genesee

Beaver Brook Trail starts off downhill and is sheltered for the majority of its length by tree cover.  At its start, hikers have the option of following the Braille Nature Center Trail, which is nicely marked with guidelines and interpretive signage.  The Caesar Chavez trail option will connect back with the Beaver Brook main trail, but winds along the brook first.  After about a mile and a half, the route climbs and provides great outcrop areas for scenery.  The Gudy Gaskill loop offers addition mileage and views of Clear Creek.  Those hikers that make it past the 8 mile range will have some boulder stepping and maneuvering before they reach the Windy Saddle at the end of the hike.  Take exit 253, turn north on Genesee Dr. and turn right on Stapleton Rd.  Follow it 1.3 miles ahead as it turns to gravel and leads to parking areas.

Mt. Parnassus/Watrous Gulch, 4 miles one-way, Exit 218

Turn right and pull into the parking lot on the north side of I-70 that serves both Herman Gulch and Watrous Gulch.  When the trail splits early on, take the Watrous Gulch route.  Within a mile, the noise of I-70 fades and a well-maintained trail leads through the wooded cover.  This trail offers great variety because within a couple of miles, the tundra changes to tree line and above.  The trail fades as the creek turns west.  In order to continue to Mt. Parnassus to the east, hikers are off-trail through a grassy climb dotted with wildflowers.  This is the most strenuous part of the hike.  At the rewarding summit, 13,574 ft., several mountain ranges, ski resorts, and some of Colorado’s highest peaks can be seen on a clear day.

Lily Pad Lake, 1.2 miles one-way, Exit 203, Kid-friendly

For a quick lake trail, Lily Pad Lake can be accessed from a side trail of the Meadow Creek Trail.  Take the Frisco Hwy 9 exit and follow the trail sign on the roundabout on the north side of the interstate.  Within half a mile is a parking lot.  The well-maintained trail gains some elevation within the first half mile, but levels out for a short time at the Lily Pad Lake Trail juncture.  Several switchbacks and a stream crossing lead up to an open ridge area with great views of Lake Dillon and the mountains to the south.  Buffalo Mountain serves as the backdrop to the lake and is reflected on its surface on a calm day.  The trail continues another 3 miles through the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness.  See Summit County for information.

Pitkin Lake, 4.4 miles one-way, Exit 180

While passing or visiting Vail, get out of the crowds by heading into the Gore Range just on the north side of town.  The whole route to Pitkin Lake may take several hours and will test a hiker’s endurance, but the trail is rewarding enough without its end destination.  After taking exit 180, take the frontage road on the north side of I-70 to the east. Continue less than .5 mile to the parking lot.  Pitkin Lake trail climbs quickly through aspens and pines for over a mile, but then changes to moderate hiking through meadows and groves of trees.  The trail leads through the valley of two ridges with spectacular scenery on both sides.  Switchbacks and climbs in the last 1.5 miles eventually carry to Pitkin Lake, a clear mountain lake picturesque against the mountain ridge backdrop.

Hanging Lake, 1.2 miles one-way, Hanging Lake Exit (7 miles east of Glenwood Springs—Eastbound Exit Only), Kid-Friendly

This highly popular hike is worth the crowd.  Ample parking is available and a paved trail leads to the gulch.  From here, it’s over 1,000 feet up trail and rocky steps, across bridges, and to a boardwalk around a pristine lake fed from a waterfall backdrop.  The clear water reveals the trout beneath.  A short trip up around the backside of the lake reveals Sprouting Rock, a waterfall with a hefty shower.  Great views of Glenwood Canyon are spotted throughout the hike.  No dogs or off-trail adventures are allowed, though, due to the preservation efforts of the Forest Service.  See trail information and a linked map at the Forest Service Web site.

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 Matt Payne, Examiner.com 

Being quite obsessed with climbing 13ers, I often find myself searching the internet for route descriptions, driving directions, and photos of mountains that are not commonly climbed. This search often leaves me wanting for more. In this search, I discovered the book “Colorado’s Thirteeners – From Hikes to Climbs” by Gerry and Jennifer Roach. This book is fantastic to say the least. The photos are descriptive and relevant, and the variety of routes that are presented is just too good to be true.

The book is broken up into sections comprised of mountains that are near each other. It provides color maps and photos of the areas and describes several routes for each mountain. The routes are color-coded based on difficulty. This book specifically focuses on the 13ers between 13,800 and 13,999 Feet in elevation, but don’t let that stop you from picking up a copy. One of the best features of this book is the use of a new system for rating the difficulty of a given route, called ‘R Points.’ R Points, or RPs for short, is a way to measure the difficulty of a hike, not only by the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS), but also the difficulty in arriving to that mountain (distance, elevation gain, etc). It is a wonderful way to rank a hike’s difficulty. On first glance, the system seems quite reasonable, ranking the difficulty of similar hikes I’ve completed in what seems to be a very accurate manner.

If climbing the highest 100 mountains in Colorado is one of your goals, as it is mine, then this book is an absolute must. The only complaint I have about the book is that it is too short! I wish it went into even more detail on each route or expanded to the highest 300 in Colorado. Having completed many of the routes highlighted in the book, I can attest to the quality of the route descriptions.

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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