by Lindsay Adams
The beauty of Colorado is all in the numbers! 41 State Parks, 12 National Parks and Monuments, 13 National Forests and Grasslands, and 58 14ers (peaks reaching more than 14,000 feet above sea level). All of this adds up to thousands of miles of hiking trails allowing everything from the beginner to the experienced hiker to enjoy all Colorado has to offer.
Hiking is truly one of the best ways to get out and get some exercise while taking in all of the beauty that is unique to Colorado. It is truly the outdoor adventure that can appeal to young and old, and to most fitness levels depending on terrain. And as we slowly move from having spent so much time indoors, feeling the sun on your face and smelling the mix of flowers, trees, and lush grasses on a good morning hike is just good for everyone’s soul.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you head out. First of all, decide what you are looking for in terms of difficulty. Did you have in mind a leisurely walk on a flat surface with little incline? Maybe a walking path or a nice loop around a lake would be ideal. If you are wanting a little more incline and are up for rocky terrain, and a bit of climbing, a more challenging trail hike might be more to your liking. Whatever your preference, do a little homework before heading out. There are several sites listed below that will give you a variety of options not far from the Carbon Valley.
In the heat of the summer, remember that hiking early in the morning ensures cooler temperatures and less risk for afternoon thunderstorms. With that, always have plenty of sunscreen (reapply often…I know, this sounds like your mother!), water (at least 2 quarts per person), snacks, masks (if required), layers of clothing, good shoes and a camera to capture the Colorado beauty.
Let’s take a look at a few hiking options that are fairly close to home (within 30 miles of the Carbon Valley). They all offer easy to moderate hiking trails ranging from 3 to 5.5 miles in distance.
1. Rabbit Mountain Open Space (northwest Longmont) offers an easy/moderate 3.8 loop that is dog-friendly (on a leash) and offers beautiful views. Picnic spots are also available at the trailhead. Rabbit Mountain has beautiful views and is also equestrian friendly. The hike here is good for all ages, and just to note, it is less crowded on the weekends than other areas.
2. Hall Ranch Open Space is just beyond Longmont in Lyons and offers a 4.5 moderate out and back trail. The trails here are also shared with bikers, so be on the lookout. You may not bring your dogs here…sorry. Also, be mindful of possible muddy spots following rainfall.
3. Button Rock Preserve, which is a 20-mile drive from Longmont, has 5.4 miles of hiking trails that follow a beautiful river. This is a great day trip for a family as there is lots of wildlife to be seen. Keep in mind there is no swimming in the reservoir though, and dogs are allowed on a leash (one dog per visitor).
4. McIntosh Lake is located in northwest Longmont and is a 3.6-mile loop around the lake. This is more of a walking trail but is very scenic with great mountain views.
5. Mount Sanitas, located in Boulder, offers easy, moderate and difficult trails. It is a very popular trailhead that is open to hikers and equestrians – no bikes here. The views from the top are incredible!
6. Chautauqua Park is also another Boulder hot spot. It offers a variety of level hikes from easy to difficult, and also a great open space park where you can enjoy a picnic. It’s a great place to bring out-of-town guests, but please be advised that during the summer, weekdays may be better as Chautauqua gets pretty crowded.
7. Heil Valley Ranch is just outside of Longmont and is another great family hiking spot. With lots of wildlife to take in and a short 1.8-mile loop, you can pack a picnic and take in the scenery. Shade trees, restrooms, and picnic spots are available here.
8. Devil’s Backbone Open Space, in Loveland offers easy, and moderate trails and is a good trail for kids and out-of-town guests. This close to civilization hike is fun and the Devil’s Backbone rock formation is stunning. A must-see!
These are just a few of the many beautiful spots you can roam that are right in our area. We are fortunate to live so close to so many outdoor options. Take it all in and happy hiking!
Lindsay Adams is a Firestone resident, blogger, and wellness resource for those seeking to bloom in their next chapter of life. Check out livingwellwithlinds.com for more great topics.