If you come to Boulder, you better pack hiking boots.
Boulder County has more than 100 miles of trails. And nearby areas offer novice and expert day-trippers everything from low-impact outings along the Front Range to hair-raising challenges above 14,000 feet elevation.
Where to begin?
That’s like asking a sugar fiend to pick one treat from Willy Wonka’s factory.
Let’s start with a monster called Longs Peak, one of the most popular of Colorado’s 53 hikes above 14,000 feet.
Nearly 15,000 people take on the stunning Rocky Mountain monolith each year. About half make it to the top.
This “fourteener,” as peaks above 14,000 are called, is not recommended for first timers. Longs Peak can be rough, especially for anyone not accustomed to high altitude. The 5,000-foot elevation change is significant, and the terrain can require adrenaline-surging scrambles over loose rock and boulders.
Oh, and don’t forget, the summit is the halfway mark. You still have to march down.
On average, one person dies each year on Longs Peak.
Because Longs Peak is 14-hour-journey, hikers are urged to start early. Way early, like 3 a.m. Afternoon storms and lightening strikes are common. Hikers should always check weather conditions on the mountain and be sure to head down from the summit well before noon.
How to Get There
The trailhead is west of Colorado 7 and can be reached from the north or the south. For the northern approach, drive 9.2 miles south from the intersection of U.S. 36 and Colorado 7 to the turnoff for the Ranger Station. For the southern approach, drive north 10 miles from the junction of Colorado 7 and Colorado 72 on the Peak to Peak Highway to the ranger Station turn off. From the turnoff, drive west one mile to the trailhead.
Diamond Lake Trail
If a 14,000-foot hike seems a bit much, fear not, because there are many less harrowing experiences a short drive from Pearl Street.
One of the prettiest hikes— a fairly moderate trip — is located about an hour west of Boulder outside the cozy mountain town of Nederland.
The Diamond Lake Trail (elevation 10,940) is only about five miles round trip, but the views of sheer, snow-capped mountains surrounding a clear and cool alpine lake makes this a must.
Though relatively short, the hike is a bit of an up and down challenge. It’s steep at times, then very mellow. There are plenty of boulders and fallen trees to enjoy as rest stops before reaching Diamond Lake.
It’s common to see families bounding along the trail with fishing gear in tow. The hike is also dog friendly. Just keep the furry friend is on a leash.
How to Get There
Take a 40-minute drive due west up Boulder Canyon (Colorado 119) to the Eldora Ski Resort. Travel west on County Road 130 and then northwest on County Road 111 to the Fourth of July/Buckingham Park Campground.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Yet another day experience can be found 40 minutes south along Highway 93.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park has 35 miles of hiking trails that offer a one-stop variety pack for hiking enthusiasts.
The park is also dog friendly. Bring a leash.
The park has something for every level of hiker. The hearty can enjoy a 2.8-mile loop along Beaver Trail, which provides a 1,050-foot climb and great views of the Continental Divide.
Blue Grouse Trail offers a gentler path through a small aspen grove on the 1.4-mile round-trip route.
No matter where you hike, remember to bring lots of water and some food. A change of clothing is also recommended. You should wear layers, because weather changes are common. Be sure to tell someone about your plans. Tell them where you are hiking and when you are due back. Keep in mind that cell phone service can be sketchy in the mountains.