Hiking is one of my most favorite hobbies and a huge passion. Having hiked in the Himalayas, the Western Ghats and the Caucasus Mountains, I’m always on the lookout for spots around the world that pique my interest. In search of the highest summits of the world, I’ve been mesmerized by Mt. Denali in Alaska the highest in North America, which is now there on my bucket list. But that’s when I stumbled across a little-known state at least outside of the USA, Colorado.
Colorado is home to the southern Rocky Mountains and known for its varied terrain of high mountains, low plains, plateaus, rivers, and a whole bunch of awesome stuff for adventure junkies. And the first thing to look out for are the hikes. After all, the great state is home to one of the most diverse hikes in the entire country. You can meander through fields, climb grand mountain peaks, walk amongst incredible wildlife and even cross some sand dunes. Coloradans all across the state explore the region every weekend and come across these thick forests, open meadows, alpine lakes, waterfalls and not to mention the spectacular views. If you are looking for an expert trip or a simple hike, Colorado has something that is sure to meet your needs. Lodging is not an issue as there are plenty of private cabins in Colorado, where one can enjoy a comfortable and affordable stay while hiking.
It is indeed difficult to round-up some of the most popular and best day hikes in a state like this. Nevertheless, based on reviews and experiences online, here are some of the top hikes to explore in the Centennial State.
Dubbed as the most visited mountain peak in America. Hiking Pikes Peak is indeed one of the most challenging ways to experience the mountains. The peak sits at a whopping height of 14,115ft/4302m in the Pike National Forest. Pikes peak mountain is a focal point in Colorado Springs and is the 31st highest peak in Colorado. It would indeed feel great to summit this awesome mountain. However, the conditions up on the mountain can change drastically and it is better to stop at Barr Camp before going up.
Four Pass Loop
The hike through the Four Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells, the two peaks in the Elk Mountains, will take you on an adventure that will create lifetime memories. You trek four mountain passes and reach an elevation of 8,000 feet. Be sure to go prepared and do not take this hike lightly as it is a tough level hike but promises great views of the most beautiful wilderness in Colorado.
Another fourteener as you call it at a height of 14,255ft/4346m, Longs Peak is the 13th highest mountain in Colorado. It is one of the most toured peaks and has a notoriously elusive summit too. Get ready for unpredictable weather and heart-thrilling exposure up. Longs Peak hike can frustrate even the most experienced hikers as they walk on the well-marked trails. The weather can also be a deciding factor if you attempt this one. Certainly not a peak for the faint-hearted or the novice hiker. However, if you make it with your guts then glory awaits you with the incredible views of the Colorado Rockies.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The national park in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison will take you down rather than up. The trails may not be entirely developed hiking paths but as you go down, it is like entering the netherworld, moving into a shadowy place with the towering grey walls on the canyon floor. As the trails pass by steep drop-offs, hikers should keep a close watch of the bears which are common here.
Bison Peak comprises of a collection of striking rock towers. The gradual hike up to the treeline can get hot and dry in the summer. The cresting treeline offers you a great view of the blocky and wobbly stone towers. This hike takes you across grassy meadows, hills, and rocks to climb the unique peak. You come across awesome granite rock formations when you reach higher elevations. The summit of Bison peak is easy to pick out.
The Lion Lakes can be accessed by the Wild Basin trailhead which is less crowded. These are a chain of high alpine pools and are placed between Head Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park and Mount Alice. The hiking trail take you through Colorado’s most exquisite backcountry basins. A great place to explore the elegant natural charm of the Rocky Mountain National Park as you walk through the pristine meadows and follow the lakes and connecting streams and waterfalls.
The Blue Lakes are situated in a scenic glacial basin and within the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area. Do not miss this epic hike and the chance to explore the beauty of the San Juan Mountain Range. As dreamy as it can be, you can walk through the lush wildflowers, across craggy peaks, and the gorgeous alpine lakes. You can enjoy the drive to the trailhead, which offers outstanding panoramic views of the area.
Great Sand Dunes
Hiking at Great Sand Dunes National Park is quite a unique experience. While most of the hikes end up in ascending mountains, the Great Sand Dunes hike takes you across fun and open spaces albeit on sand dunes. Star Dune standing at about 700 feet is the largest of them all. Watch the landscape transforms into a living desert as the rivers run through the beautiful sand basin and beautiful mountain peaks in the background.
This peak is indeed among the most challenging hikes. Another Colorado fourteener rising up to 14,025/4275m. It is essential to carry rope and harnesses and other technical gear to climb Pyramid Peak and it’s not an easy hike at all. You start early morning as you hike the steep headwall. Mountain goats are regular spectators here, and you get amazing views from impressive Elk Range Peaks and the Maroon Bells. Even strong hikers take about eight to ten hours to reach the summit which resembles a pyramid.
The Base of Lizard Head Peak
Lizard Head Peak is looked upon as one of the toughest hikes in Colorado. It is because of loose rocky towers that take you to the highest point. The adventure starts at the paved Lizard Head Pass as you wander through pockets of pine forest and alternating alpine meadows. The climb looks even more impressive as you stand at the base of the crumbling and eroding tower from where you need technical expertise in climbing up to the top.
So there you have it, my bucket list hiking trails in Colorado. If you have attempted any of these, hit me up in the comments below and share your experience.
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Travel Blogger from Kochi, India. An inspired traveler, a travel writer, a photographer, an aspiring mountaineer, a positive thinker and a minimalist.