A common question of 2020 seems to be, “Where can I go hiking in Colorado?” There are all kinds of caveats with this question, such as, with a dog? with young kids? within less than a 2-hour drive of the Denver metro area? with water? and many more.
My new book, “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Denver and Boulder” provides the answers to these questions, along with details like driving directions, elevation gain, and so on. Some of these hikes are well known to people who have hiked around Colorado’s Front Range before and others might be less traveled. See if these hikes are familiar to you or of interest for your next outing:
1. Mount Herman Trail above Monument, Colorado packs plenty of challenges in only two miles roundtrip. Due to the location on a dirt U.S. Forest Service road, the trailhead is not accessible year round. Once you find the small parking area next to the thin trail marker #716, there is a distinct streamside path to follow but soon enough you find yourself on a steep gravel area trying to keep your footing before the trail disappears completely in an old rockslide. It took me three tries to get to the summit here! Once on top, you can see the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, Pikes Peak, and more views to the east and south.
2. Head east of Denver to avoid the mountain trail crowds and learn about Colorado history at the Plains Conservation Center. On site there are teepees, a sod homestead, an education center, a herd of pronghorn, and maybe some rattlesnakes. Despite the snake awareness, I had families with young children in mind when I did this hike as it’s not too far of a drive and you can learn about the prairie. Remember to bring a hat, water, and sunscreen for this exposed hike. I have a number of hikes that aren’t in the mountains in this book so that there is something for everyone—you can even push a stroller on some of these outings.
3. Colorado’s state parks offer so many trails and you can get a pass to visit as many as you like in a year so you don’t have to pay the daily fee each time. I included hikes at five different state parks in my book and the one that was new to me was Castlewood Canyon State Park, south of the metro area. The parking lot at the trailhead is enormous so it clearly was not a secret to others, but I happened to go on a weekday and practically had the place to myself. It’s all about timing. There is a lot of interesting history here about Cherry Creek and a burst dam.
Whether you choose a new-to-you trail or an old favorite, I recommend going as early as you can in the day (yes, even on a weekday) to avoid heat and crowds in the summer. Check websites and social media channels for land management agencies prior to your hikes to get the latest information about wildlife encounters, possible trail closures, and more useful information to make your hike safe and enjoyable.
Mindy Sink is a freelance journalist and author/co-author of six books. Her focus has been on the best of what’s local to give her readers an authentic experience when going out in Denver and other cities along the Front Range of Colorado. Her most recent book, “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Denver and Boulder” can be purchased at local bookstores, including BookBar, The Tattered Cover, and online. Visit www.mindysink.com for more information.