Guess what? Me and everyone else you went to college with started a blog. This one will probably not be different than any other page you stumble across, but it will be home to my adventures. I decided to formally record my 2019 “New Year, New Me” project, completing the 52 Hike Challenge (one hike each week for a year). My goal is to find inner peace and finally complete my 2017 and 2018 goals of being more mindful.
I think we all like the idea of reinvention. Isn’t that why we make these promises each year? I found that for me, I make goals to change myself time and again. This isn’t one of those goals though– instead, I want to be more present with myself, the good and the bad.
The sand dunes are one of the coolest places in Colorado— we definitely always stop by to hike the dune field anytime we are near the area! This was our first time hiking the dunes in the summer— we usually go off season and explore when the weather is cooler. To avoid baking in the sun, we went for golden hour Friday evening, when the temperature was perfect out!
We got to the Dunes parking lot around 7:30 PM— although we have a park pass, they do not collect fees that late on the weekdays. The dunefield is exactly what it sounds like— a field of sand dunes, and you can pick your own path. There is no defined trail once you are in there— perfect for social distancing. The Medano Creek was dried up, and there is about a quarter mile of flat sand before you reach the base of the dunes. We hiked around the dunes for awhile, but avoid high dune since many people were gathered there to watch the sunset.
We took Friday off work and headed down to the Sangre de Cristo range for some weekend adventures. We got to the trailhead late morning (about a 3.5 hr drive from Denver), a short drive from downtown Crestone on a dirt road. The parking lot was primitive, with some obvious bear signs on a parked car. The trailhead has a log for backpackers, with free permits available.
From the trailhead, we took the N Crestone Creek Trail 2.5 miles uphill, turning around at the trail junction with Venable Pass and North Crestone Lake. The trail starts wide and rocky, following the creek through aspens. I was thankful for the shade, as it was already almost 80 at 10 AM. The trail is mostly shaded and forested, until about mile two. Then, you hike out of the forest and have beautiful views of the San Luis Valley, aspen forests, and the Sangre de Cristo peaks. We were overheating fast, so we turned around at the trail junction and headed back to the car. Only saw two other hiking parties the whole time. We definitely want to come back for a longer hike or a backpacking trip!
Fourth of July was our second day in the backcountry, and we had just enough time to hike up to Crystal Lake before an afternoon full of storms. Crystal Lake is a small alpine lake above Lawn Lake, following a primitive trail. We hiked downhill from our campsite back to Lawn Lake, then followed the trail around Lawn Lake to the right. The trail is moderate for the first half mile around Lawn Lake, through marshes and melting out snow patches. The snow was avoidable, no need for traction.
Once at the end of the lake, the path opens into the alpine, and begins short switchbacks up the mountain side. At one mile (from Lawn Lake), you reach the junction with The Saddle Trail. Crystal Lakes is to the right, going slightly downhill for a quarter of a mile before a steep ascent to the alpine lake. Here we saw plenty of marmots and had a beautiful view of Mount Fairchild! The clouds were building, so we hurried back downhill to our campsite to escape the rain. Great backpacking weekend!
For the Fourth of July we continued our annual tradition of a weekend backpacking trip! We spent two nights in the backcountry, at the Lawn Lake site. We have been planning and scoping out this trip since this past December, so it was so fun to finally see it in person. This trail is located in the northern part of Rocky Mountain National Park, nestled in the Mummy Range, off Lawn Lake Trailhead. We packed in Friday morning, stayed at Lawn Lake for two nights, then packed out Sunday morning. From the trailhead, Lawn Lake itself is 6.4 miles (one way), but the campsite is a little further uphill.
When we got to the trailhead, I already wasn’t feeling great. I chalked it up to being car sick from the drive, and told our party to hike ahead. I briefly rested, hoping my stomach would settle, until I realized that I had told Trav to hike ahead and he had all the snacks / emergency supplies. Realizing that I was not setting myself up for success, I strapped my backpack on and slowly started the ascent to our campsite. I trucked on slowly and probably broke my record for slowest hiking speed— but, I made it!
The Lawn Lake Trail has a steep elevation grade for the first mile, snaking west towards the Roaring River. This rocky trail flattens and widens out around 1.2 miles, where there is an overlook for the Roaring River. Around 1.5 miles, there is a trail junction — we followed the path to the right towards Lawn Lake. The next mile was pretty buggy, following the river uphill through a shaded forest. At mile three, the switchbacks and elevation gain begins again. The rest of the hike packs the majority of the elevation over some switchbacks, finally opening up around 5.8 miles. This is where the trail from Lumpy Ridge Trailhead meets up with the Lawn Lake Trail. From this junction, Lawn Lake is a little under a mile. We did not encounter any snow.
Lawn Lake was way bigger than I thought it would be— I read that it used to be a reservoir, but the dam broke in the 80s and caused a major flood. You can see evidence of this flood throughout the hike. The lake is nestled in a beautiful cirque in the mummy range, below Mummy Mountain and Mount Fairchild. It was a great challenging backpacking trip!
I had the awful idea that a sunset hike at Walden Ponds would be the perfect weekday pick me up— we were almost eaten alive by mosquitos! Walden Ponds is a wildlife and bird sanctuary, with beautiful boardwalks and picturesque bogs. But, bogs = mosquitos from hell, so we ended up more or less trail running this 😂😂! Still a fun evening. I would recommend doing this easy hike during the day.
I’ve gotten a little behind on posting, but it was a hot weekend end of June! We went for an evening hike at Gross Reservoir Saturday night to beat the heat. Originally, we were planning on hiking to Twin Sisters from Gross Reservoir, a hike I found on Alltrails that requires parking at the reservoir. We walked down Lake Shore Drive as directed, but hit a “Things have changed” private property sign (see image below). So, we hiked back on the 4×4 road and changed our plans to hike around the reservoir.
Once we got back to the parking lot, we took one of the braided trails down some steep switchbacks to the shoreline trail. Then, we followed the thin shoreline trail around the side of the reservoir and back. The trail was pretty empty, although we did see a few evening paddle boarders. We have taken our kayak here before, it’s a great place to paddle that is usually not crowded.
I’m trying to get out for hikes more during the weekdays, after work in the evenings. Despite its’ close proximity, I’ve never hiked at Corwina Park before. For date night we did a quick hike before the rain came into the front range. Corwina Park is free, but the trailhead we were at had limited parking (enough for maybe 10 cars). At 5 PM, we snagged the last spot.
From the parking lot, there is one trail, Bear Creek. We took this narrow spur uphill for .8 miles to reach the junction with the panorama point trail loop. From the junction, we continued straight to complete the loop counter-clockwise. This method makes the hike a little steeper, so for a more gradual incline I would recommend going clockwise. This trail has definitely seen heavy use— lots of sections had significant erosion. The top featured some nice look outs of the surround mountains in Evergreen.
I have wanted to hike Thunder Pass ever since we saw it from American Lakes in State Forest State Park last September (see previous post). Thunder Pass is a trail that connects State Forest State Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, allowing you to hike between. We started this hike from our campsite, Valley View, but most hikers from Rocky Mountain take the LuLu City Trail from the Colorado River Trailhead (see previous post). The LuLu City route is about 3 miles shorter, one way. Since we were already in the mountains, our fastest route was to follow the Grand Ditch Trail to the Thunder Pass turn off.
From our site, we hiked down to the Grand Ditch and followed that for 5.1 miles. It was flat, wide and easy. Since the Ditch is packed down as a road, it was a little hard on the feet / hips as opposed to the soft dirt of most trails. One service vehicle passed us on the road, but other than that we did not see anyone. We passed the turn offs for Lake of the Clouds, LuLu City and some backcountry campsites. Finally, we reached the turn off for Thunder Pass, marked by a wide fallen tree over the ditch.
From the Thunder Pass turn off, the elevation started, gaining almost the entire 1500 ft. This 1.7 mile spur follows a creek uphill for a little over a half mile, before the Box Canyon backcountry site. Once you pass the sites, the trail opens to a meadow, where you hike over the creek and start the ascent again. The last .7 miles is in alpine tundra, with panoramic views of the mountains. The last quarter mile had a snow field we had to walk across, but the snow was soft and manageable without traction. The summit (about 11,800 ft) is marked with boundary signs between the two parks. The surrounding peaks were still pretty snowy — American Lakes looked like they were still partially frozen. From the top it’s another 1.4 miles to American Lakes, so I opted to eat some lunch and relax. We only saw five hikers the whole time! Highly recommend this hike.
After our pack in, we set up camp and hung out in our tents during a passing storm. Once our friends had all hiked in and set up camp, we went to explore our backcountry surroundings. From our campsite, we hiked back down to the Grand Ditch Trail, following the wide path to the right. For more information in the Grand Ditch, check out this website: https://www.nps.gov/articles/effects-of-the-grand-ditch.htm
The Grand Ditch trail is an old flat dirt road (not open to the public) that follows the river ditch for a total of 14 miles. We just hiked about a mile and a half south in the trail, passing an old turn off for a closed backcountry site. The trail features beautiful Mountains and was easy to hike.
This past weekend was our first backpacking trip of the season! We took Friday off work and spent two nights in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park with four of our friends. Our site, Valley View, was tucked into the Never Summer Mountain range area of RMNP, off the Colorado River Trailhead. To get there, you can either take Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park, or take highway 40 to the Kwanee Valley entrance near Grand Lake. This is a great beginner to moderate backpacking trip for one or two nights.
We started off on the Colorado River Trail, a shaded flat and wide trail near the river for the first half mile. At the trail intersection, we went left to follow the Red Mountain Trail (Grand Ditch via Red Mountain Trail). The next mile gained the majority of elevation, hiking up the side of Red Mountain. Around 1.7 miles in, the trail levels out for a little while. We crossed Opposition Creek twice— there were several beautiful small waterfalls and lots of bridges over the creek. They were easy to maneuver with a backpack. At mile 3, the trail began to gain the final ascent to Grand Ditch Trail, an old wide road that is not open to the public but accessible to hikers. Our campsite turn off was left, where we crossed a narrow wood bridge over the Grand Ditch and then followed the red arrows to the site. We got to our site just in time for it to briefly start snowing! Luckily it was just a quick passing storm.
The site was one of the most scenic views from a RMNP backcountry site! It was a great location to the Grand Ditch Trail, LuLu City and Thunder Pass trails (will cover in later blog post). There was not a privy, but we can close access to water from the grand ditch. This trail is not super scenic if you are not backpacking. We packed out on Sunday morning to avoid I-70 traffic. On our hike out, there was a moose on the trail! As you will note below, our hike in was slightly longer than our hike out. Slightly off navigation 🙂
We had our first date night in awhile and decided to drive up near Evergreen to eat on a patio and go for a quick easy hike. Evergreen Lake is located right off Bear Creek Road, close to several local restaurants. The trail encircles the lake, with several parking areas that have access to the trail. We parked at the Dedisse Park area and completed the hike clockwise. This is an easy, wide and flat trail. The route passes by the spillway, where there were a ton of bugs. There are a few sections of boardwalks over the marsh areas, with beautiful views of the foothills. Great quick trail!
I finally made it back to Rocky Mountain National Park after a quarantine hiatus. We have some upcoming backpacking trips planned, so I needed to head up to the backcountry office and pick up our upcoming permits. To follow social distancing, Rocky Mountain National Park has implemented a timed entry system for all visitors between 6AM – 6PM. I spoke with the park ranger on the phone earlier in the week and inquired about the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. He told me that I was fine to hike without a reservation as long as I got to the trailhead prior to the timed entry reservation start. So, that’s what I did! Early bird gets the worm 🥰
I took the Gem Lake Trail to Gem Lake, then hiked beyond the lake on Gem Lake Trail, before heading back to the trailhead. The first quarter mile of the trail is moderate, before splitting right at the trail junction and adding elevation. It is about 1.7 miles from the trailhead to the lake, gaining around 1000ft. The trail was heavily shaded in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised with how quiet the trail was— I’ve seen this way busier in the winter time.
Once at the lake, I continued the trail about a mile following signs for Balanced Rock Trail. This section of the trail flattened out and began to slowly descend. At around 2.5 miles, I sat on a nice boulder before heading back to the trailhead on the same trail.
Oldie but goodie! This south Boulder loop is one of our go to hikes, especially in the evenings. We went right after a Saturday afternoon rainstorm, relieving us from crowds and the heat. We parked in the Greenbriar neighborhood and started hiking from the Shanahan Ridge Trailhead (no fees, dog friendly).
Normally when we do this hike, we complete it clockwise for an easier elevation grade. We decided to shake things up and punish ourselves! We started uphill on North Shanahan Fork, gaining the majority of elevation in the first mile. Once to the Mesa junction, the route makes a hard left. As you can see in my Alltrails recording, I missed this turn at first 🙃. From the Mesa trail, you continue uphill about a quarter of a mile, before the trail flattens and begins to descend to the creek. We took the Upper Bluestem Trail a mile to Lower Bluestem, then followed the Bluestem Connector, then finished the loop. The trail recently had a cattle migration, so there were a lot of close by cows on the Lower Bluestem Trail. Great wildflowers this time of year, frames by the flatirons.
We stumbled upon this state wildlife area off the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. We followed a sign pointing towards Vega State Park, then saw a faded sign for “Jerry Creek” and decided to swerve on the chance for adventure. The trailhead had a bathroom and a faded map for a quick hike up to a reservoir. There was also a gravel road (not open to vehicles) that you could take up to the reservoir for a more gradual elevation grade. We opt for the trail, which started to the right of the gravel road.
The trail began at a wooden bridge and snaked up the mesa side through sage brush. Despite the trail being narrow and overgrown, it was easy to spot and navigate. There were two trail markers (metal posts) in the sections that were the most washed out. Once at the top, we found ourselves at the base of a reservoir, with picturesque views of the red rock canyon on one side and the Grand Mesa on the other. We followed the gravel path around to the second reservoir, past a single stall bathroom. The trail then descends back to the trailhead crossing the gravel path (you could also back track and go the other route). This section of the trail did not have any signage, was easy to spot, but was really steep.
The area seemed to be mainly used for catch and release fishing. I looked it up online afterwards and I was surprised to see that it is part of BLM. Check out the link above.
Travis and I really really wanted to see wild horses while we were on the western slope. I read about Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area, a wild horse refugee located northeast of Palisade. This is a 36,000+ acre BLM area where horses and burros roam free in herds. I could not find this trail on Alltrails initially, so I looked up trip advisor reviews and found that most wild horse spotting happen early morning or late at night. So, on Saturday we woke up at 4:45 AM (only a 15 minute drive from my parents) so that we could get to the trailhead before dawn.
From 1-70, we took the Cameo exit (45) towards Kokopelli Farms. Once off the exit, we followed the road under the interstate, past the energy plant and over the train tracks. Here the road turned to gravel, and we saw signs for Cameo Shooting Range. Kept driving straight for a few miles and the road reached a dead end at the trailhead. At 5am, we were the only car on the road and at the trailhead. When the road is dry, a 2WD car is fine.
The trail head had a faint sign riddled with bullet holes that had the trail mileage. Other than that the trails were not marked. There was a gate to open / close to get into the wild horse area, then we followed a faint trail to an old dirt road (Coal Canyon) and hiked slightly uphill towards the canyon mouth. We saw mounds and mounds of wild horse poop, some that looked fresh. Despite these obvious signs of horses, we did not see any.
We had hiked a little over a half mile when something unexpected started to happen— it began to pour rain. We ducked under a pinyon tree to seek shelter, but the storm did not appear that it was going to pass. After a few minutes, the dirt road we were hiking on quickly turned into wet slippery mud. “If the rain gets worse our car will get stuck,” Travis realized, and with that— we were running back to the trailhead. I was disappointed that we did not see any horses and had to turn back early with the rain. However, our car did not get stuck on our way out so that was a win! We will definitely be coming back to peep some horses.
Why did it sound like a good idea to go for a hike in 103 degree weather? I thought I was in a brick oven during this hike. The desert heat is no joke. No wonder we only saw two other people this entire hike. I would recommend completing this hike during a shoulder season, since there is no shade.
McInnis Canyon National Conservation area is located west of Grand Junction. This BLM area is free and conveniently right off the interstate, despite feeling remote. We followed signs for the Kokopelli Trailhead, then followed the dirt road until it dead ends at Rustlers Loop Trail. From the trailhead we went clockwise, immediately gaining altitude to the top of the bluff. From there, the trail levels off for awhile and provides widespread views of the valley, red rock formations and Colorado River. This trail was pretty narrow, despite it being a multi-use path. Based on the trail markings, I believe the trail is mostly used by bikers.
Rustlers Loop was easy to follow. The last mile featured a little bit of shade thanks to the wall of the canyon. In this cooler area, we saw a bunch of wild horse poop under some trees. If you do this hike, bring lots of water and a hat.
This past week we drove out to the western slope to help my parents move into their new house! We were able to fit in a few hikes as well, checking off a few bucket list items we wanted to complete. This hike we did with my mom on her birthday. Travis and I have wanted to explore the Grand Mesa National Forest for a long time— this is definitely the best way to escape the desert heat in the summer on the slope! Located about 45 minutes east of Palisade on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, the Mesa Lakes Trailhead is nestled right below 10K ft elevation, for spectacular views of the valley.
This trailhead has a $6 vehicle fee, although a national park pass can be used for access. We parked at the main trailhead and took the trail around Mesa Lake a quarter of a mile, until the junction with Lost Lake Trail. From this trail junction, we gradually gained elevation through the shaded forest to the base of South Mesa Lake. From this lake, we continued around to the left for Lost Lake.
The trail has a few switchbacks to the saddle, then descends to Lost Lake. We passed a few snow patches, but the trail was dry. Lost Lake was SO GREEN! We also saw a ton of wild strawberries. After we stopped at Lost Lake, we backtracked to the start of Lost Lake Trail, then continued around the main Mesa Lake to make it a loop. This area was extremely buggy— we all got a ton of mosquito bites!
Quick, easy local hike that I completed after work last week! I was really impressed with the beauty and convenience of Standley Lake South the previous week, so I decided to check out the north side trails after work last Tuesday. The park is open sunrise to sunset, requires no fee and is dog friendly. The trail was wide for social distance and is multi-use— I saw more bikes than walkers!
I started from the parking lot on the wide main trail leading straight towards the lake. This trail then intersects with a wide gravel road (currently closed to motor vehicles), where I made a left and followed it east of the lake. I did not find the north side trails as scenic as the south, since the spillway separates the trail from the lake itself. There is an embankment blocking the view of the reservoir, so instead you get some views of a neighborhood and the spillway. I followed this trail down to the trail junction with some other paths, then back up to the main trailhead. Not too exciting, but it was nice to stretch my legs on a weekday!
We loved our first visit to Staunton State Park so much we came back for a second weekend in a row to do another loop! We started a little earlier than our previous weekend, and parked at the Mason Creek Trailhead— a multi-use trail with a wide parking lot for horse trailers and mountain bikers. This trailhead has limited parking— when we left for the day, it was one car in, one car out.
We completed a 9 mile hiking loop by combining Mason Creek, Bear Paw, Old Mill and Staunton Ranch trails. There is a slight modification you can make for the hike to be closer to 7 miles by following Mason Creek at the Bear Paw junction— however, that section of Mason Creek trail is currently closed. We completed this hike counterclockwise to spread the elevation gain evenly, although in the future I will probably do it clockwise to maximize shade in the afternoon.
We took Mason Creek trail to the junction of Bear Paw, about 2.5 miles. This section is shaded and gains the majority of elevation. From Bear Paw, we went left and were treated with some overlooks illustrating Pikes Peak and surrounding mountains. once back to Mason Creek, we made a left and started to descend towards the historic sawmill and Old Mill Trail.
The junction of Mason Creek and Old Mill Trails featured an abandoned bunkhouse and what is left of the historic sawmill. Both of these ruins are not preserved too well. We descended Old Mill Trail, a hiker-only spur that connects you back to Staunton Ranch Trail. We took this wide main spur back to the junction of Mason Creek, then went right to finish the loop. Great hike!
A little over a week ago we met up with some friends for a day hike in Lyons! I’ve been eyeing Picture Rock Trail for awhile but it always seems to be closed due to mud. We had good luck for our second attempt on this multi-use trail! I would recommend starting early to avoid both the heat and the mountain bikers. I dressed way too warm for this 7:30 AM hike and regretted it almost immediately. The shade coverage of this hike is partial at best. Picture Rock is a singular trail north of the majority of Heil Valley Ranch Open Space. This trail starts across the road from its’ trailhead and is not dog friendly.
The beginning of the trail is pretty flat, slowly gaining elevation the entire hike. We passed through lots of willows and wildflowers. At around 2 miles you get a brief stretch of shade as the trail widens. Then, at mile three you pass by the old ranch. It was cool seeing the old cars and equipment! The end of this trail meets up with Heil Valley Ranch Trails, but does not have a scenic overlook.
Work has finally slowed down and I’ve been able to go back to my usual Friday schedule! I went for a quick hike before the rain came in nearby, at Standley Lake Park in Arvada. I have driven past this spot a few times since we have friends in the area, but I have never stopped to hike it. I was so surprised with how big it was!
I parked at the south trailhead. This park is open sunrise to sundown. This easy trail is wide for social distancing and has braided paths allowing the user to customize the route. For a summer afternoon, I probably should have picked a more shady hike, but the incoming storm luckily gave me some cloud coverage.
Not too much to say about the trail, it immediately takes you downhill to the lake. I saw a few kids with fishing poles down by the water and some teenagers doing teenage things. There are signs that you can’t drop in a kayak / canoe / SUP from this side of the park (annoying). I could have made the trail about a mile longer, but it started raining. This would be a good place near the city to walk your dog!
This is my favorite Colorado State Park to date— I can’t believe how close we are to Staunton State Park! The drive was under an hour from Denver, off 285 south past Conifer. The front range got a light dusting of snow the previous evening, keeping crowds low on Memorial Day. We started around 8AM and were pleased with how quiet the park was.
From the parking lot, we crossed the road to Staunton Ranch Trail adjacent to the camp ground and pavilion. The first mile and a half of the trail is multi-use and wide, with gradual elevation gain. At the first trail junction, we were treated with a privy, then we went straight to continue on Staunton Ranch Trail. Elevation grade is a little more steep on this section, with a wide trail. Once we met up with Bugling Elk Trail, we went straight for the shorter route to Elk Falls Pond. Bugling Elk briefly crosses out of the state park, then continues to Elk Falls Pond (slight downhill). We took a break at Elk Falls Pond to soak in the view and watch some marmots.
From the pond, we followed Marmot Passage up switchbacks, gaining quite a bit of elevation rapidly. The views from this section were incredible! Once we hit the trail junction, we chose the longer way to follow Scout Line trail, a more scenic route. This trail follows the ridge line and then descends to the access road along Staunton Ranch Trail. Once back in Staunton Ranch Trail, we took the same route back to the trailhead. I’m glad we started early— Staunton Ranch Trail did not offer much shade! Luckily the clouds were building for an afternoon storm and we got some coverage. Highly recommend this park!
We were the only car at the trailhead when we parked late morning, and we only saw four people on the trail total. Great location to avoid crowds! The full trail map is not available via AllTrails and there was no posted map at the trailhead. We reviewed other hikers recordings to get a feel for the park prior to going. We also luckily had cell reception the whole time! Despite the map not being posted, all paths on this route were clearly marked by name.
The first mile of the trail, Redemption Trail, was a short descent into the wash, then crossed the wash. From there, the trail made a sharp ascent through the canyon, before the trail junction with Shiv Trail. We made a right to follow Shiv trail uphill through pinyon, before meeting with Hard Time Trail and going left. This section had beautiful sweeping views of the canyon and surrounding mountains! The trail snaked around the edge of the canyon and was rocky in this section. We passed a few other trail junctions and continued on Hard Time Trail until we reached the junction for Redemption Trail. Then, we followed Redemption back to the trailhead. We took the canyon route back to the wash, which runs parallel to the trail. Beautiful hike!
Memorial Day weekend— the unofficial start of summer! We originally had a permit to backpack in RMNP, but the park is still closed following CDC guidelines. Our back up plans turned out to be so much fun— we started the long weekend off with this hike at Roxborough State Park.
We got to the trailhead before 8AM, but it was already very hot — while the trailhead was quiet, I wish we had started earlier to avoid the heat. The first mile of the trail snaked through willows and offered shade, along with minimal elevation grade. Around 1.2 miles the trail crossed over the access road, with clear signage for Carpenter Peak Trail. From there, the trail narrowed and began switchbacks for the next mile, before leveling out. The last mile of the hike had a little bit of shade before the last stretch to the summit.
Beautiful views of the canyons below and the red rocks!
We stopped for a quick hike on our way back from the garden store to enjoy the weather! This trail was on our route home, so we stopped to enjoy the sunshine and the views. This is an off leash dog trail, an easy flat loop with a wide trail. There is no shade, but also no real elevation gain. Great local hike to stretch your limbs!
This trail was impacted by the 2013 floods and just reopened this spring to the public! Since we have hiked almost all the trails in Boulder already at least once, we were so pumped to have a new trail to explore. This trail is off Lee Hill Drive, away from the more crowded areas on Boulder. Perfect to maintain social distance and explore!
This out and back trail follows a creek through a shady forest. It’s a great trail to escape the summer heat. The path is almost flat, with almost no elevation gain— pretty unusual for Boulder! There is a very small waterfall near the end of the trail— pretty anticlimactic. The actual end of the trail just dead ends into private property. I would recommend this hike for families.
Awesome hiking area near my parents house! We did this hike as a family on Mother’s Day. This hiking trail features petroglyphs carved into the rock face and elevated views of Palisade, Orchard Mesa and Mount Garfield. Warning: this hike has no shade! It was a hot day when we went, and the uphill sections in the heat definitely has me over worked. I would recommend starting early!
We completed the hike counter clockwise for a more moderate elevation gain. The trail is narrow and rocky, with a few steep drop offs. I somehow paused my recording during our hike, so I estimate the full trail to be around 3.5 miles. There is one trail junction, near the petroglyphs, for an upper loop. So many cactus flowers!
It’s already hot as hell in the desert! We hiked this trail last year and I made it up to the Liberty Cap then— but this time around, I got way overheated near the top and decided to not push myself. Trav and I had got to the trailhead middle of the afternoon, the worst time to hike something in the desert with no shade. Despite the heat, this is still one of our favorite trails of all time!
From the trailhead, we took the main trail slightly uphill towards the rock formation, about a half mile. We hiked past some beautiful desert wildflowers and even saw a yellow collared lizard in this section! At the trail junction with Corkscrew, we continued right (the steeper approach) towards Liberty Cap. The next half mile of the trail gains the mostly altitude and is the most difficult part of the trail. This section is eroded and washed out, definitely requiring careful footwork. At a mile, we turned right to follow switchbacks to the cap. As you will see by my recording, I stopped near the stop and then meandered back down. Trav scampered to the top and had it to himself! We only saw a handful of people.
I am WAY behind on my posts! Now that certain restrictions have been lifted, we have been trying to get outside as much as possible while still staying safe. A few weekends ago we visited my parents in Palisade for Mother’s Day and were able to get out for a few local hikes. The western slope is so quiet, it’s the perfect area for social distance.
I only recorded this trail one way— too busy talking with my mom to take a lot of pictures as well. This trail starts from a residential neighborhood and follows the river close to the main part of town. It’s a multi use path with lots of bikers. Actually, my dad said you can take the path all the way to Moab via bike. Definitely a trip Trav and I will have to plan. This is a great easy family hike!
Last weekend we went back to Green Mountain to hike the same trail as the week before! Nothing too different to report in terms of the route / conditions. We went a little bit earlier to avoid the heat and crowds— this time, we went up to the summit, then followed the same way back. The trail was a bit more crowded than the previous weekend, but still had plenty of parking and ability to stay six feet apart from others. Great wildflowers!
This is the first real hike I’ve been on since quarantine! It felt so good to get out and put some miles in. I had been avoiding this close proximity park (follows the 10 mile radius guideline) because I assumed it would be too busy and hard to practice social distancing. I decided to drive and scope out the trailhead in the morning— I was pleased to only find three other cars in the parking lot!
I started this hike clockwise from the trailhead, climbing west steadily uphill following Rooney Valley Trail. The trail is multi-use and dog friendly, but there were more bikers than hikers that I encountered. The entire route was dry and exposed, offering no shade— even in the morning, I was very thankful for the cloud coverage. The trail spreads the elevation gain over switch backs; in general, it seems to be designed with more of a biker in mind than a hiker.
I followed Rooney Valley Trail for about three miles to the top of Green Mountain, where I made a right on Green Mountain Trail. The trails on the summit where extremely wide, making it easy to practice social distancing. I then descended back to the trailhead following the John Hayden trail. Near the base of the trail towards the trailhead, I almost stepped on a rattlesnake (pic below)! Normally, I hike in high altitudes where there are not as many snakes. This was the first rattlesnake I have seen in Colorado!
Now that Colorado is transitioning to a Safer at Home model for quarantine, I’m excited to get out hiking more often! Although I have been impressed with how in shape biking is keeping me. It will be difficult for my body to adjust back to high altitudes when this is all over!
Happy Earth Day! I’m so lucky to live in a state where I am reminded of the earths beauty every day! In honor of Earth Day, but mostly quarantine boredom, here are my top five favorite areas of Colorado to explore.
5. Poudre Canyon / Roosevelt National Forest
West of Fort Collins, the Poudre Canyon cuts through Roosevelt National Forest, tracing the Poudre River. The canyon is a lot more secluded than most Colorado summer destinations. You can go for a quick drive or explore the hiking options off this road. When Travis and I first started dating, within a month we were already on our first backpacking trip here. We backpacked off of Emmaline Lake. Camping was free and dispersed, with lots of options.
When to Visit: Summer, Fall Local Dig: The Mishawaka, Bellvue What to Do: Drive through the canyon, hike Emmaline Lake or something near the mummy range, see a music concert at The Mishawaka
4. Durango / Mesa Verde National Park
The four corners region of Colorado is really unique compared to the rest of the state. I have been wanting to come back here for awhile, but it is a haul to get to from Denver. Travis and I went with some friends over memorial day weekend a while back; late May was already almost too hot to hike during the day. Unlike other national parks, the main attraction for Mesa Verde are the cliff dwellings. You will want to get tickets in advance, as tours are required and fill quickly. When we went, we stayed at free campsites which were easy to find in the area.
When to Visit: Spring (avoid the heat) Local Dig: Steamworks Brewing Company, Durango What to Do: Cultural tour of a cliff dwelling (Mesa Verde National Park)
3. Yampa / Flat Tops Wilderness
Flat Tops Wilderness has a really unusual landscape and features so many alpine lakes. Travis and I drove here on a whim one summer weekend, after our coworker recommended it for remote hiking. We went late June / early July and the area featured fields and fields of wildflowers. I have never seen so many or so many varieties on a hike as Devils Causeway. This area is known for backpacking and fly fishing as well. We chose to car camp near the trail head; on a Friday evening, we did manage to find a camping site, but it was slim pickings.
When to Visit: Summer (wildflower season) What to Do:Hike Devils Causeway, Fish Trappers Lake
2. Montrose / Blue Mesa Reservoir / Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has achieved International Dark Sky Park distinction due to reduced light pollution in the area. We backpacked into the inner canyon a few summers ago during the Perseus Meteor Shower. We camped along the river with the fly off of our tent and saw SO many shooting stars that night. The hike to get to the inner canyon was no joke — 1900 elevation decent in under a mile. The trail is so steep it features metal chains to keep you balanced. This area of Colorado was a drive to get to, but it’s remote enough that it avoided summer weekend crowds.
When to Visit: Summer, Fall What to Do: Stargaze (International Dark Sky Park), hike inner canyon at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, paddle Blue Mesa Reservoir
Crestone / Sangre de Cristos / Great Sand Dunes National Park
The San Luis Valley is breathtaking– you just have to see this remote gem in person. Crestone is about 3.5 hours southwest of Denver, making it the perfect destination for a long weekend. Check out camping at the national park, or explore one of the unique AirBnB options in the Baca Grande. Crestone is an inter-faith community, with unique stupahs and artwork to explore through this small town. Definitely do not miss the UFO Watch Tower!
When to Visit: Fall Local Dig: Crestone Brewery, Crestone What to Do:Hike dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park, explore inter-faith community in Crestone, visit the UFO watchtower, hike Sangre de Cristo mountains
Happy Earth Day! Let’s leave it better than we found it. Today’s post is dedicated to organizations, resources and strategies to protect the great outdoors. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few of my suggestions. Comment some of your ideas!
Our hiking and camping mantra is “pack it in, pack it out” when we are on the trails. This means planning and making sure that we are cutting down on waste and packaging ahead of time. We try to also always pick up others’ trash when we find it on the trails. Pro tip: Ziploc bags are easy to fit in your backpack and are great at holding lots of pieces of trash. You can even purchase reusable ones! It’s especially great for food packaging that you do not want to get all over your backpack supplies. They can be rewashed and reused for a whole season!
There is no better way to support our planet than getting your hands dirty and volunteering! The possibilities of supporting trails, environmental initiatives and the outdoors are endless. Volunteer Match is a great website to search through local volunteer options, by topic and /or frequency of volunteer event. Check it out here: https://www.volunteermatch.org/
Travis and I volunteer with an Coloradan front range outdoor group called Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, or WRV: https://www.wlrv.org/ . We typically sign up for a few events a summer and really enjoy the back country trail building projects. Trail building has given me such an appreciation for hiking– I now understand how much effort is put into every section of a path. If you are in the local area, check them out!
Financially support the outdoor causes that you care the most about through donations! Whether it is a local, national or international organization, make sure that you do your research on how the money is used. If you cannot give direct donations, think about adding a nonprofit outdoors organization to your Amazon account through Amazon Smile: https://smile.amazon.com/ . I also recently got a birthday gift from Parks Project, where a proceed of the sale goes to support the National Parks Foundation.
Travis and I rode our bikes over 35 miles around the city this past weekend. Denver has closed some streets downtown for more biking options, and the snow from this past week has already melted in the city. On one of our excursions, we rode to the north side of Denver and hiked around Bluff Lake Nature Center. This is such a hidden gem in the city! No dogs or bikes, just a beautiful nature path.
The entrance is off MLK Boulevard and Lima, a bit difficult to find with surrounding construction. We chained our bikes to the rack and completed the short loop counter clockwise. The path snakes around a small lake, with cottonwoods surrounding and a few benches for a quick sit. It was not as busy as I expected it would be, most everyone was following social distancing and wore protective gear. We saw a lot of birds!
Today marks a month that we have been working from home. I am also reminded today that April is the second snowiest month in Colorado. We have about three inches and more on the way! I thought I would share media that is helping me pass the quaran-time and spring snow. Here is a quick list of my favorite internet things right now. Give them a try or comment suggestions of your own!
Little Fires Everywhere, Hulu Drama. First season currently airing on Hulu.
Schitt’sCreek, Netflix Current favorite comedy for reruns.
Tiger King, Netflix If you can, just go into this viral docu-series blindly.
The Morning Show, Apple TV Drama. First season on Apple TV
Ira Wolf , Facebook live concerts & Patreon & Spotify One of my favorite musicians! Ira plays concerts from the couch Sunday evenings at 6 PM and also has a Patreon page for exclusive content. I’m really digging her new song “Love Song for the Apocalypse” that you can watch here.
Dozzi , Facebook live concerts & Spotify Fun Australian band of sisters that I discovered in Nashville– great covers and I love their original song “Fools” that you can hear on Spotify.
Emily Scott Robinson , Facebook live concerts & Spotify Emily has been doing the coziest RV live streams on Facebook and Instagram. Check out her song “Better with Time” and “Dress” on Spotify if you want to cry.
Crime Junkie Indiana based true crime podcast that tries to focus on stories that have not been blasted by main stream news. Jump in with any episode.
Oddity Files Indiana based podcast that explores all things paranormal. Some of my favorite humans create this podcast! Jump in with any episode.
Women on the Road Podcast by She Explores which shares stories of life on the road for women. Jump in with any episode.
The Dream Is everyone from college trying to sell you something? Season one of this podcast investigates the world of MLMs. Start with season one, episode one.
Reply All Humorous tech podcast examining everything on the internet. We particularly like the “yes, yes, no” section. Jump in with any episode.
Colorado Chelsea One of my local hiking pals has a great blog of regional and US hiking! Follow her miles above.
Damn Delicious This is more of a recipe website than a blog, but I love the quick and comforting recipes on here. I would also recommend following the chef on Instagram (same handle) for cute pics of corgis.
Cassandra Michelle Photography Maybe I’m biased because my wedding is on here, but I love looking through Cassey’s adventure photography! She is also posting more about her gear and adventures.
Jess Wandering If you want to experience FOMO, definitely look through this blog– some of the most beautiful remote places are captured in her travels. I also love her suggestions for cold weather camping gear.
Colorado issued a stay at home order effective March 26 – April 26, requiring residents to stay at home with the exception of essential functions. Prior to this, Travis and I were working from home and practicing social distancing for a few weeks, but the order cut most of our hiking range. Although the order is set to lift in a few weeks, with the COVID-19 pandemic, I am expecting it will only be extended. I wanted to take a side step from my usual post and instead write about what is keeping me sane during quarantine. Leave me a comment with what you’re doing and how it’s helped you!
Be (responsibly) Active
Exercise is just as important for your mental health as it is your physical health. The stay at home order lists physical activity as an essential function, but prohibits travel to do so outside of your neighborhood or region. Additionally, essential functions still need to follow social distancing guidelines (staying 6ft away from people). These guidelines limit certain activities and definitely require that you are more mindful of your physical space.
I have been focusing on getting at least 30 min of outdoor exercise a day (although these late spring snows have intruded). We live near three big parks in Denver, so we have been walking / biking to a park in the afternoon. One of the unintended positive results of the virus is that the downtown streets are completely empty, making it really nice for biking.
Per usual, I have also been using AllTrails Pro to find local hikes, by using the map feature when searching based on my location at home. When I can’t get outside, there are a lot of free online resources for work outs at home. I’m not diligent about home workouts, but I do like the Nike Training Club app for free, quick routines.
Learn Something New
Lots of down time seemed like the best opportunity to learn something new that would take lots of practice. I have been interested in learning the ukulele for a long time, so Travis encouraged me to buy a basic one and some online lessons. It’s been fun to focus on a new hobby; Travis has been teaching be the basics he knows, and we have been learning the harder chords together.
Other things on my list to try this quarantine season— baking sourdough bread from scratch, learning more blog hacks on WordPress, and making beeswax candles (I usually just make soy wax candles). I’ve also been trying to get back into meditation— seems like a great time to learn some new mindfulness techniques.
Practice Some Hygge
This past January, I read The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. Hygge is a danish concept that promotes indulgence, coziness and wellness. The book is an easy quick read and has great tips for creating your own hygge routine. I practice it by lighting homemade candles, drinking an obscene amount of strong coffee out of my favorite mugs, and wearing lots of face masks. I like to use it as justification for eating my leftover birthday cake for breakfast.
Stay (virtually) Social
It’s definitely no surprise that I’m an extrovert! I also have a very social job, where I meet with anywhere from 5 to 40+ students in a day. Quarantine has dramatically altered my in-person interactions, but it can’t squash my need for connection. I’ve stayed virtually connected with my friends and family through Google Hangouts, where we chat throughout the day, get together for happy hour or play games through Jackbox Games. Some of my friends organized a virtual trivia night last week where we texted him our team answer— at the end there was even a virtual prize!
Happy April 4th! Three years ago today I met Travis for the first time ❤️
We found some hiking trails near Rocky Mountain Arsenal, so we decided to do a quick hike followed by driving through the wildlife refuge. The trails are short and easy, so we added a few together to make a longer loop. We parked at Ladora Lake and followed the trail north east along the lake. The trail snakes around Ladora, then runs parallel to the road. We crossed the street to add on Woodland Trail, taking that to Prairie Trail to finish the loop. The trail is pretty wide, with no shade throughout. It was a great trail to do to follow social distancing guidelines!
Travis and I took PTO and got one last long hike in this week before the stay at home order. So glad that we did! It will be hard to stay so isolated for two weeks, I’m hoping things will lift by April 11th. Our posts will be pretty local for the next few weeks, mostly sticking to Denver city parks. Normally Travis and I call these “urban hikes” and I do not factor them into my mileage, but I might start with this order. Some other metro area followers might need some outdoor recommendations! If you are planning on hiking during the COVID-19 pandemic, please review how to do so responsibly, here: https://www.outdooralliance.org/blog/2020/3/24/how-to-get-outside-during-a-pandemic (attaching info-graphic below).
ANYWAY, This hike was supposed to be 10 miles, but we were using a custom all-trails map, and we ended up stopping when we saw a private property sign. I’ve hiked at Button Rock Preserve in Lyons several times on Sleepy Lion Trail, but we wanted to explore some of the other mileage we saw off of all trails. Tuesday I created a custom map for a 10 mile loop adding in some trails I had not hiked before. Custom maps are a great feature of the app, but the listed trails do not always offer accurate private property alerts. We turned around at the sign, backtracking and adding some mileage.
From the parking lot, we hiked along the wide access road next to the creek for about a mile to the Sleepy Lion Trail junction. Then, we took Sleepy Lion Trail up the canyon, climbing 700 ft in elevation over the second mile. Then, mile three descended to the spill-hole, where we took the Hummingbird Switchback Trail back up to the dam. This stretch definitely had me huffing and puffing; the trail has a steep elevation grade and no shade.
Once we made it to the top, the trail widens and we continued to the right, around the reservoir. As we hiked around the reservoir, the wide trail turned to the right, and we continued left across the sandy beach to the start of the narrow footpath leading around the reservoir. This trail was easy to find and well beaten in. At mile 5, we reached the end of the reservoir, and took the trail (fire road) to the right. (If we do this trail again, this is probably where we will stop.) This wide path slowly climbed through a meadow, before reaching the private property sign near mile 7. From there, we back tracked to the beginning of the dam, then took the Button Rock access road from the spillway back to the parking lot.
We were going on day 8 of the quarantine and definitely feeling stir crazy, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather and drove to Golden for a quick afternoon hike when we finished work. We were very lucky to get a parking spot late afternoon, many people were parked illegally on the side shoulder. Luckily we snagged a spot from someone leaving. This is a free and dog friendly park located in the foothills of Golden, less than a half hour drive from Denver.
The hike steadily gains elevation from the beginning, snaking around the side of the mountain. At almost the half mile mark, the trail falls into the shadow of the mountain, making it very icy. We used spikes and I would recommend anyone who does the trail bring traction, as the path is narrow and the drop off steep. The icy section did not last long, the we were back to hiking in the blazing sun. We hiked to the end of Cedar Gulch Trail, opting out of doing the final loop. Great view of Denver!
The end of the week snow has made trails in the foothills very muddy and wet; which is so frustrating when trying to get outside during this quarantine! We drove to Mount Falcon park yesterday planning to hike Castle Trail to the ruins, but the trail conditions were not favorable — so we cut it short and completed Turkey Trot Trail loop clockwise. This metro area park is close to Denver and was not too crowded.
When we started the hike, the ground was cold enough that the mud was still frozen. We went left following Castle Trail, climbing elevation steadily through switchbacks 1.5 miles to the trail junction. Near the top of the trail, the path was thawing and becoming extremely muddy. To save the trail from erosion, we went right towards Turkey Trot trail, which descended around the back on the ridge, through a pine forest. This section was shaded and icy, requiring traction. Once through the forest, we continued our descent back down to the parking lot, through thick mud. A few times we almost slipped and fell right in it. I assume the park will close the trail soon for mud!