Month: October 2019

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5 Best Hikes for Someone Relocating to Colorado

It’s no secret that Coloradans love the outdoors, and it's pretty obvious why. Look at this place; it's gorgeous! From canyons to mountains to waterfalls, Colorado has it all. It's no wonder that so many people move here from all over the country, and truth be told, that's one of my favorite parts about living here. No matter where I go, there are plenty of other non-native people taking advantage of the beautiful landscapes. We’re all over this place! So, for those of you just moving to the great state of Colorado, here are the 5 best hikes to make you fall in love with the Colorado outdoors at the drop of a hat.

1. Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs, CO)


Alyssa Onder

This is a great first hike in Colorado. Garden of the Gods is unlike anything you've ever seen. The giant rock formations jet up from the ground in every shade of red and orange. Although there are countless trails around the park, there is also a paved walkway that weaves between the rocks and is good for visitors of any skill level. The paved walkway isn’t a typical Colorado hike, but the views are definitely enough to make you want more. I suggest this hike to everyone simply because there’s no doubt that it will leave you wanting more.

2. Chautauqua Trail, Flat Iron #1 (Boulder, CO)


Alyssa Onder

Chautauqua Trail is an awesome introduction to a real Colorado hike. It’s the perfect length for beginners (2.9 miles round trip for Flat Iron #1) and the rise in elevation is just enough to make you work for the view. Speaking of, throughout the hike there are killer views of Boulder and the surrounding area. At the top you look out to snow-capped mountains and the rest of the Flat Irons. They are definitely some of the most interesting mountains in Colorado.

3. Green Mountain (Boulder, CO)


Alyssa Onder

Another great hike in Boulder is Green Mountain . Though you can hike from the base of the mountain, there is also a shorter and less steep hike called Green Mountain West Trail. This trail is 2.3 miles out and back with a 449ft rise in elevation. It’s a great hike for those of you who want to bring along kids or dogs. The trail itself is very well maintained, and other than a short climb up a wall of boulders, it’s a breeze. There are excellent views of the foothills, the city of Boulder, and a few 14ers along the way as well as at the summit.

4. Hanging Lake Trail (Glenwood Springs, CO)


Alyssa Onder

_Editor's Note: Hanging Lake requires a day-use permit as of 2019. For more information click here._This is definitely the most rewarding hike I’ve done in Colorado thus far. The trail itself is hard; in just 1.2 miles the elevation rises 1,050 feet. Luckily there are several spots along the way to take a break. The trail begins in Glenwood Canyon and follows a creek up to a breathtaking turquoise lake. The lake is almost untouched, which means swimming is absolutely prohibited. Several waterfalls pour into the lake and make for an excellent photo opportunity. If you’re not too dead from the hike up to the lake you can continue on to Spouting Rock just a half mile further. Spouting Rock is yet another waterfall that runs into the creek that feeds Hanging Lake. You can easily walk behind the waterfall and take a look at the cavern underneath. This hike is a must-do for any Coloradan, but especially for non-natives looking for a true local's experience!

5. Silver Dollar Lake Trail (Georgetown, CO)


Alyssa Onder

This trail is outstanding. Although it’s a little longer than some of these others (5 miles round trip), it’s well worth it. I hiked the trail in the beginning of July, which meant there was still a bit of snow, but definitely manageable in normal hiking shoes. Once out of the woods, the trail opens to a gorgeous valley that has tons of wildflowers scattered about. The trail is easy to follow and relatively popular, so you’re sure to make a few friends along the way. There are two main lakes on the trail, but you have the option to continue on the Lake Murray once you reach Silver Dollar Lake. Though the trail up to Murray is steep, it’s short and, of course, worth the view. This breathtaking hike reaches 12,100 feet and is worth every single gasp for air!

Written by Alyssa Onder for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Nate Kay

Clear Creek Canyon Rock Climbing


Clear Creek Canyon in Golden is about 40 minutes from Boulder. As a sibling to Boulder Canyon, the rock climbing here is less established but offers a bit more variety in terms of rock — gneiss, schist and sandy granite are all present, most of it relatively solid. Because the canyon is about 12 miles long, there are over 700 established routes and many of the areas feature specific types of climbing. Sport and trad are both to be found, but bolted routes far outnumber trad lines.

What Makes It Great

Difficulties run the full gamut, from 5.0 to 5.14, with the majority of routes favoring more difficult climbs over 5.10. Pitch length can vary, from single pitch sport routes to multi-pitch lines over 600 feet. In other words, there’s something for everyone. The climbs at the top of the canyon are tougher to reach and in some cases, require the use of tyrolean traverses.

Knocking off a good project in Clear Canyon likely means topping out on 5.10 and tougher climbs. Overall, Clear Canyon caters more to advanced intermediate and expert climbers.

Who is Going to Love It

Climbers of all abilities, but dedicated intermediates and advanced climbers will love the variety of tough pitches. Sections can vary quite drastically between regions, employing a full set of climbing skills. Slabs, overhangs, off-widths, roofs are all present in Clear Creek Canyon. It is a little less crowded than Boulder Canyon most days, though the lower canyon can get very busy on weekends.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Boulder, the best way to reach Clear Creek Canyon is to take CO Highway 93 (Broadway) straight south for about 25 minutes into Golden. Then take a right, heading west on US 6 into Clear Creek Canyon. Pullouts can be found along the highway, and most approaches are about 5-10 minutes.

There are no fees to climb in Clear Creek. For more info on specific climbs and crags, consult the Mountain Project website.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

7 Reasons Why You Should Choose Colorado for Grad School

Choosing a university or college graduate program is a big decision—there are tons of options out there, and every one of them is going to have pros and cons. Add in the extensive application process and then waiting to hear whether or not you’ve been selected. While it’s important to consider the reputation of the school and the programs offered, the location is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle—what are the opportunities in that city or town while you’re in school and once you graduate?

Here are seven reasons why you should consider Colorado in your graduate program search.

1. Colorado has several nationally-ranked schools in the sciences.

Colorado is known for research universities, particularly in engineering and applied sciences, with a couple specialty schools sprinkled in. The biggest system in the state is the University of Colorado, with several campuses, and then there is the internationally recognized Colorado School of Mines, with a focus on the geosciences.

2. Easy access to the outdoors.

If you are even considering Colorado, chances are you enjoy spending time outside. Every major Colorado city has miles of trails to enjoy, usually within a few minutes (or less) from campus. There are paved bike paths and natural walking paths, and when you get closer to smaller towns, it’s easier to get on bigger trails for grander adventures. There’s a reason why Colorado is named the fittest state year after year.

3. There is a wide variety of outdoor adventures.

As important as it is to study, you’ll also need to take breaks. There is so much to do in Colorado, you’ll wonder how to find time to explore it all.

In the summer and fall, there are hiking trails that range from a casual walk to summiting 14,000-foot peaks. The same peaks that are prime skiing destinations in the winter are perfect for mountain biking in the summer. Colorado may not have an ocean, but there are plenty of rivers and lakes for tubing, paddling (both whitewater and flatwater), or stand up paddleboarding. There are golf courses and frisbee golf courses, as well as plenty of parks to just hang out and enjoy the day. In the winter, try snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding at any one of the many resorts in the Rockies. If you are an experienced backcountry skier, head out on your own and carve your own trail.

4. Colorado has four national parks and 42 state parks to explore.

If you want a little more direction than "go hike that mountain over there", look no further than Rocky Mountain National Park or any one of Colorado’s 42 state parks. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of four national parks in the state (along with Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, and Sand Dunes) and the state parks are scattered throughout Colorado. From the plains in the east to the mountains in the middle to the western slopes, you’ll find something different at each one. Whether you use nature as an inspiration, as a learning opportunity, or as a break from the rigors of a grad program, you’re practically guaranteed to find it in Colorado.

5. Colorado is the second most educated state in the U.S.

A report released in September 2016 by stated that 39.2% of adults in Colorado have at least a Bachelor’s degree, second only to Massachusetts. Having a more educated employee pool is going to attract more quality employers, which means access to better jobs for you.

And better jobs mean better pay. The median household income in America is $55,775, but the median household income in Colorado is much higher—$63,909. Generally speaking, the cost of living in Colorado is a little bit higher than the national average, so making more definitely makes a difference.

6. The job market, especially in Denver, is consistently growing.

Besides finding a solid program, it’s equally (if not more) important to find a job once you get out of school. The state of Colorado has the seventh lowest unemployment rate in the country, and labor department economist Ryan Gedney says that the job market has "the strongest, most consistent growth we’ve seen since the mid-’90s".

And depending on what your career aspirations are, that job market growth might really benefit you. The key industries in Colorado, which is third in the United States in employment concentration, are: aerospace, aviation, breweries, bioscience, broadcasting/communications, energy, finance, health/wellness, and information technology. All of these industries have seen steady growth over the last couple years, and many are national hubs. Not to mention there’s also funding, mentorship opportunities, and even affordable housing for artists through Colorado Creative Industries.

7. If you visit, you’ll love it.

First turns on a winter day.
First turns on a winter day.

Zach Dischner

Above all else, make sure you visit any potential schools. Talk with professors, current students, or even alumni about their experiences, especially after graduating. Get a feeling for the area and how easy (or not) it might be to get around. You might get a different vibe from a school when you see it in person, even if it checks all the boxes otherwise. And once you see Colorado, your most difficult decision will be which school to choose.

Written by Abbie Mood for RootsRated in partnership with Choose Colorado and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Zach Dischner

How to Elevate Your Backpacking and Camping Food Game

Food tastes better in the outdoors… we’re pretty sure it’s science. But no matter how delicious your favorite freeze-dried meal is, or how much you swear by tortillas and peanut butter, trying something new never hurts.

It’s easy to enhance backcountry meals without much extra effort. Whether you’re car camping, out for a backcountry weekend, or in it for the long haul, here are a few ways to elevate your food game during your next trip.

1. Car Camping

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chow time

A post shared by Jake Wheeler (@jakeewheeler) on

The sky’s the limit regarding weight/packability when car camping. Get a good cooler, bring a spare fuel canister, and stash a few extra garbage bags to pack out waste.

Prep each meal as much as possible

Prepping meals at home helps eliminate food waste to pack out, keeps the campsite organized, and saves time you’re better off enjoying in the great outdoors. Prepping can include pre-scrambling eggs in a Tupperware instead of packing the whole carton, slicing and portioning veggies, and throwing seasoning on your food while you have your whole spice rack in front of you.

Adding protein saves even the most boring meal

Add protein to everything, and cook it ahead of time if you can. Not only does pre-cooking save the ickiness of packing around raw chicken, but it lets you portion and plan better for meals. Adding packaged meat, like tuna or chicken packets, works wonders for generic carb-heavy dinners. Bacon bits on your wrap is a surprisingly delightful addition for lunchtime fuel, and those meaty morsels enhance a morning scramble as well.

Make This: Pesto Pasta with Chicken

At Home:

Season and cook two chicken breasts, cut into chunks, and tuck into your cooler where it will stay chilled. Pack a box of pasta, one package sundried tomatoes, and one package dried mushrooms.

At Camp:

Bring water to a boil, add pasta, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms; cook. Stir in chicken and pesto. Eat the heck out of it.

2. Overnight/Weekend Trips

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setting up camp

A post shared by Jake Wheeler (@jakeewheeler) on

An overnight trip isn’t long enough to worry too much about food weight, but you still aren’t packing cans of refried beans. Trail recipes are fun to experiment with, and you can plan ahead and bring extra ingredients to have something to look forward to at camp.

Season the heck out of generic meals

Mixing up another Alfredo Pasta Side? Spice it up. Tic-tac boxes make terrific portable spice containers—bring a few staples (garlic powder, paprika, cumin) or create your own blends at home and pack your favorites. Adding a cajun or italian spice blend to couscous or pasta brings it up a few flavor notches while hardly adding any weight to your food bag. Packets of soy sauce, mini bottle of Tabasco, and even a travel-size salt/pepper shaker make a huge difference when you’re craving flavor.

Drink your breakfast

You need fuel for the morning miles, but sometimes the desire for another crumbling Pop Tart or gummy oatmeal packet isn’t there. Enter Carnation Instant Breakfast. Two packets shaken in a liter of water = quick and easy calories. Feeling fancy? Toss an instant coffee packet in the bottle as well. This is a dirtbag mocha and it tastes better than it sounds.

Make This: Overly Indulgent Breakfast Bag

At Home:

In a Ziplock: Mix one cup of your favorite granola with a handful of freeze-dried fruit, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. Add ½ cup powdered milk (or protein powder for an extra boost) and zip ‘er up tight.

On Trail:

Wake up, take in the view, add enough water to rehydrate the milk, shake it up, and enjoy a surprisingly fancy breakfast-bowl-in-a-bag.

3. Long-Distance Hiking

This is all about the weight-to-calorie ratio. When you’re packing food for up to a week, or planning resupply boxes for a thru-hike, you want to keep your food weight down while your calories sufficient to fuel long miles with a heavy pack. We don’t differentiate as much between extended trips (1-2 weeks) and thru-hikes (3-6 months) because most hikers won’t be out much longer than a 7-9 days without resupplying.

Stoveless? Try cold-soaking couscous

Many long-distance hikers swear by their cold food. It saves the weight of a cookset and fuel and eliminates the effort of washing dishes and gathering extra water. Couscous can be cold-soaked in a Ziplock bag (allow 30 minutes to fully soften) and devoured right on the spot.

Add olive oil… to everything

A thru-hiker can burn up to 10,000 calories a day, so sneaking calories without extra bulk is important to keep energy high and chewing effort low. Olive oil is a fast, easy, and relatively tasteless way to add extra calories to your meals. Choosing the higher-calorie items, like tuna packed in oil instead of water, will also add similar calories without having to eat more.

Resupplying during your hike? Pack out heavy food and eat it the first day

In the battle between weight and calories, fresh foods come out on the losing end, which means you’ll be eating a lot of processed foods during an extended hike. But on resupply days, allow yourself to pack out the heavy things, and eat them on the first day. Thru-hikers often pack out fresh fruit, a pack of deli meat, and sometimes an entire pizza, then eat it during the first day back on trail.

Make This: Low-Cash Lo Mein

Dig a Ramen packet, a handful of beef jerky, and a soy sauce packet out of your dilapidated food bag.

Mix it. Cook it. Enjoy it. The whole thing weighs several ounces at most and is an easy way to make your sad instant noodles more palatable.

Written by RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Ry Glover

The 20 Best Day Hikes in Colorado

These are the kind of articles that keep me up at night.

Whittling down a list of Colorado’s best day hikes to a mere twenty is a daunting task. There are literally hundreds of hikes that would fit the bill, and none of them would be wrong. If that comes off like a big, fat, humblebrag, well it is. The wealth of quality hiking adventures in Colorado is nearly limitless. Some hikes offer instant glory right from the parking lot (such as Brainard Lake in the Indian Peaks) while others take liberty with the definition of “day” hike, (such as the 16+ miles to Storm King Peak in the Grenadier Range, possible to knock out in a single day by strong hikers).

What makes a hike great is in the eye of beholder, but this collection of adventures is a worthy compilation that showcases the best natural settings in Colorado: towering mountains, crystal-clear alpine lakes, jagged rock faces, expansive views, and good wildlife sighting potential. A personal preference for longer days out (between 4 – 8 hours) is reflected in many of these adventures. With that in mind, these hikes offer a variety of wilderness environments across the state and range from simple on-trail walks to difficult—yet non-technical—scrambling (assuming the seasonal conditions are free of ice and snow). Please feel free to add some of your own favorites not listed here in the comments!

1. Longs Peak – Keyhole Route

Difficulty: Hard

The Keyhole Route before transitioning to the class 3 scrambling on Longs Peak. Note the shelter at the base of the notch

Katie Dills

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. At 14,255 feet, Longs Peak is the 13th highest mountain in the state and one of the most visited peaks with a notoriously elusive summit. The National Park Service estimates about 15,000 people attempt to get to the top of Longs each year, with only 50% of them actually reaching the highest point. The 15-mile roundtrip, 5,000+ feet of elevation gain, thrilling exposure, and unpredictable weather add up to create a mountain whose mood can welcome or thwart even the most experienced hikers. Passing through the Keyhole itself is like shifting worlds into a mountainous kingdom hidden from sight during the 5.5 mile approach through forests and boulder fields. The trail is well-marked and can be crowded on summer weekends, but Longs nevertheless delivers on the promise of incredible views and worthy terrain.

2. Mount Bierstadt

Difficulty: Moderate

Mount Bierstadt’s welcoming slopes as seen from Guanella Pass.

Patricia Henschen

A common mistake many aspiring Colorado hikers make is to target Longs Peak before they have the fitness or experience to stack the odds of a successful summit in their favor. Here’s where Mount Bierstadt comes into play. The popular 14,060’ peak off of Guanella Pass near Georgetown is an accommodating 6-mile round trip along a well-maintained trail. It’s a great starter mountain for those hoping to hike all of Colorado’s 58 14,000’ summits (the eponymous 14ers). More experienced hikers can test their mettle on Sawtooth Ridge, a 1-mile stretch of Class 3 rock that connects the summit of Bierstadt with the shoulder of 13,842’ Mount Spaulding and eventually 14,264’ Mount Evans. The typical descent back to Guanella Pass involves bushwhacking through moose-infested swampland, where 7-foot tall willows create a natural garden maze.

3. The Base of Lizard Head Peak via Lizard Head Pass

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Lizard Head is the throat of an extinct volcano.

Jim Good

Lizard Head Peak is one of the toughest 13,000’ mountains in Colorado to summit, thanks to the chossy, loose, 400’ vertical tower that requires 5.8-graded climbing on poor rock to reach its highest point. Thankfully, this hike follows a good trail 3.5 miles one-way to the base of the tower—no climbing required. The adventure begins atop the paved Lizard Head Pass, about 15 minutes from the town of Telluride. Though it’s a 7-mile out-and-back, the trail starts off nearly flat as it wanders through alternating alpine meadows and pockets of pine forest. As views open up, the grandeur of the San Juan Mountains unveils itself, including the impressive profiles of the Wilson Massif. Standing at the base of the crumbling tower (an extinct volcanic pipe) makes the fact that it was originally climbed in 1920 even more impressive.

4. Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

The imposing rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Matthew Macpherson

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, an oft-overlooked national park, flips the script by bringing you down rather than up. Oh, and the “trails” are more like suggested scrambles rather than fully developed hiking paths. The easiest of these is the Class 3 Gunnison Route, a vague idea of a trail that has an 80-foot section with a handheld chain for support. It drops down 1,800’ in one mile, so what it lacks in total distance it makes up for in thrilling scrambling. Rivers flow deep along the canyon floor, a shadowy place where the towering walls feel like the entrance to the netherworld. Wandering the canyon base is so marvelously unique for Colorado, it deserves a visit for adventurous hikers who aren’t afraid to get a little dirty on the way down.

5. Bison Peak

Difficulty: Easy but Long

A hiker in the midst of the incredible rock towers on Bison Peak.

James Dziezynski

At 12,431 feet, Bison Peak is a collection of spectacular rock towers built up from a flower-festooned alpine meadow. The Class 1 hiking trail is 11 miles out-and-back starting near the Tarryall Reservoir in the Tarryall Mountains. The gradual hike up to treeline tends to go quickly, and it can get hot and dry in the summer—bring extra water! Cresting treeline opens up views of the wobbly, blocky, stone towers, some of which are over 150’ tall and seemingly transported from the Moab desert. Thankfully, the summit is a half-mile hike off the main trail across grassy meadows with a few easy hills or rock scrambles to the top. Once a bit of a secret, this unique peak has gained popularity in recent years, but is nonetheless rarely ever crowded.

6. Star Dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Difficulty: Easy

Great Sand Dunes National Park.

NPS/Patrick Myers

While most of the hikes in this list ascend mountains, it would be folly to ignore the fun, open-ended hiking at Great Sand Dunes National Park (especially from October-May, when the park is much cooler than in the summer). Star Dune is the largest of them all, standing at about 700 feet. In the early spring when the rivers run through the fine sand basin, the landscape transforms into a living, breathing desert in a compact package. Above the dunes stand the Sangre de Cristo Peaks, many towering over 13,000’. Wandering among the dunes can be as long or as short as you like it to be—consider it your own personal sandbox.

7. Lion Lakes at Rocky Mountain National Park

Difficulty: Moderate

The Lion Lakes are a chain of small pools in a pristine basin. Mount Alice looms in the background.

James Dziezynski

The Lion Lakes are a chain of high alpine pools in the cirque between 13,310’ Mount Alice and 13,579’ Chiefs Head Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Accessed by the less-crowded Wild Basin Trailhead, this 12 mile out-and-back is mostly on the shared Thunder Lake Trail (itself a fine destination) before eventually splitting off and fading into one of Colorado’s most exquisite backcountry basins. Though the trail eventually fades out, navigation is relatively easy: follow the lakes and connecting streams and waterfalls up to the next tier. Wildflowers abound and the pristine meadows have all the elegant natural charm of Rocky Mountain National Park’s best settings—minus the crowds. Don’t let the high mileage fool you, most of the trail is smooth, flat, and easy to cruise.

8. Pyramid Peak

Difficulty: Hard

Pyramid Peak’s famous Green Gully.

James Dziezynski

Pyramid Peak (14,018’) near Aspen is the most difficult day hike on this list—even more so than Longs Peak. While most hikers tackle the Class 3 (or Class 4, in some opinions) without any technical gear, it’s not unheard of to bring along a rope and harnesses. With good route finding, however, the standard route will stay at a tricky but solid Class 3. Most hikers start in the blackness of early morning (3 am is a reasonable start time), chugging up a steep headwall to an exciting scramble to the top (roughly a mile). Mountain goats are regular spectators, and the rock is solid for Elk Range terrain, especially in contrast to the neighboring Maroon Bells. Views from the flat summit look out over the aforementioned Maroon Bells and several other impressive Elk Range Peaks. The round trip is about 8.2 miles, but even strong hikers should give this one 8-10 hours. And bring a helmet!

9. Boulder’s Guardians of the Flatirons

Difficulty: Moderate

A walk above the Flatirons is a great way to have a true mountain adventure right from the city of Boulder.

Michael W Murphy

The trio of peaks that stand over Boulder’s iconic Flatirons make for an excellent day hike, which can be done as a loop or a point to point (approximately 12 or 10 miles respectively). Hikers can start at several different trailheads, all within the civilized confines of the city of Boulder. A popular route starts at Gregory Canyon Trailhead near Chautauqua and begins by ascending 3.2 miles to 8,150’ Green Mountain. Next, drop down to the Green-Bear Trail to the West Ridge of Bear Peak and ascend to the 8,460’ summit, where exposed, iron-rich rock offers the best 360 degree views along the traverse. On a clear day, one can see from Denver to Longs Peak to Pikes Peak. The highest and least-visited of the mountains is 8,549’ South Boulder Peak, whose boulder-adorned summit has great views to the west but is obstructed by trees to the east. Return via the Mesa Trail at the foot of the mountains back to Gregory Canyon or make it a point-to-point by leaving a second vehicle at the South Mesa Trailhead.

10. San Luis Peak

Difficulty: Moderate

San Luis is one of the best walk-up 14ers, especially in early summer when many small streams run and wildflowers are in full bloom.

James Dziezynski

14,014’ San Luis Peak is a nice, long day hike (13.5 miles from the Stewart Creek Trailhead) through one of Colorado’s most vibrant basins. The gradually ascending trail is mellow, Class 1 terrain that starts in a piney forest, passes ponds and pools, and eventually opens up to large meadows with trickling streams, dense beds of colorful flowers, and wide-open views. It’s rarely crowded, despite being one of the 14ers, and the rocky trail at the top is welcoming and easy to follow. Views are understandably incredible, partially due to the relatively remote location of this San Juan mountain Very little manmade evidence is seen from the summit. It’s not technical, it’s not burly, but it sure is lovely.

11. Lost Man Lake

Difficulty: Moderate

Lost Man Lake with UN 13,001—Colorado’s lowest official 13er—in the background.


The trailhead for Lost Man Pass / Lost Man Lake is one mile west of the summit of Independence Pass. It’s easy to find, but note that the road is usually only open from late May to early October when snows close it down. This hike is roughly 7 miles out-and-back (depending on how much wandering you do around the lake itself) and follows the Lost Man Loop Trail through a rocky, rugged, basin. The chunky glacial rock debris is offset by serene lakes on the south side of Lost Man Pass, most notably Independence Lake. Keep hiking up Lost Man Pass up to 12,850’, where the dark, inky waters of Lost Man Lake reveal themselves on the north side. It’s a great place to have a mountain picnic or a chilly dip. Peak baggers have a lot of options in the area, including 13,301’ Geissler Mountain’s rolling ridges and 13,711’ Twining Peak.

12. Mount Elbert

Difficulty: Moderate

Summit views from Mount Elbert.

Michael W Murphy

Colorado’s highest peak (and the highest in the entire Rocky Mountain Chain) stands at 14,433’ but luckily it’s a friendly hike via its standard route, the Mount Elbert Trail. This 9 mile out-and-back follows a solid trail from forest to treeline, where hikers get acquainted with the thin air and the possible heartbreak of a pair of false summits. Fear not, the actual summit is not far past the second false summit, and the wide, flat apex has a collection of wide shelters. There is very little exposure along the way, though the views of the town of Leadville and the Sawatch Range are mighty impressive. Worth noting: Colorado’s second highest peak, 14,420’ Mount Massive is just across the street from the Mount Elbert Trailhead. The duo make a nice two-pack punch for an ambitious weekend.

13. Mica Basin

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Mica Lake and the Mica Lake Basin as seen from “Middle Agnes” with one of the two Little Agnes Peaks in the distance.

James Dziezynski

The roughly 3.8 mile hike (7.6 mile round trip) to Mica Lake starts from the Slavonia Trailhead near Steamboat Springs and is a wonderful introduction to the Park Range. The Zirkel Wilderness is one of the lushest mountain regions in Colorado thanks to its northern location and relatively low elevation. The same storms that keep the rivers flowing provide the ski area’s legendary winter powder. As a result, the area is rich with flowers, flora, and colorful grasses and willows. Mica Lake is a small, greenish blue pool that is a favorite with canines. Nearby summits can be hiked or scrambled up including Little Agnes Peak, a second Little Agnes Peak, Big Agnes Peak, and a scenic point between them not officially named but locally known as “Middle Agnes Peak”. Mica Basin is one of the best autumn day hikes thanks to the variety of colorful foliage.

14. Argentine Pass

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Argentine Pass as seen from Mount Wilcox. If you look closely, there is a Jeep cruising up in the middle section of the road. Grays Peak (l), Torreys Peak (middle) and Mount Edwards (r) stand tall beyond the saddle.

James Dziezynski

Argentine Pass connects two basins, one accessed from Guanella Pass near Georgetown and a second accessed from the tiny mountain town of Montezuma near Keystone Resort. Both access points require a little 4×4 action to reach (stock SUVs should do fine either way). The eastern approach from Guanella has a parking area at the mining ghost town of Waldorf, where a battered building that once housed the post office still stands. From here, a walk up to the 13,207’ pass is roughly 2 miles one-way up a 4×4 road (dedicated 4×4 vehicles can drive to the top of the pass). From the the Montezuma side, hikers take a 2.5 mile trail up from the less-developed Horseshoe Basin to the pass. From the top of the pass, peak baggers can carry on to grab 13,738’ Argentine Peak to the South or 13,850’ Mount Edwards to the north. An ambitious point-to-point with two cars offers a chance to grab the nearby 14ers, Grays and Torreys Peaks, with a descent to the popular Stevens Gulch Trailhead.

15. Peak 6 via the Colorado Trail

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

The Colorado Trail below Peak 6 with Crystal Peak and Pacific Peak on the horizon.

James Dziezynski

The Tenmile Range is home to the Breckenridge Ski Area, but this lesser-known hike begins from the overflow parking area of Copper Mountain at the Colorado Trail trailhead. This beautiful section of the Colorado Trail ascends through a shady forest before emerging from treeline in roughly 3 miles to vast, open, mountain meadows and stellar views of Copper Mountain to the west and the town of Breckenridge to the east. It is easy to get off trail and walk along the gently rounded hills to gain the ridge between Peaks 6 and 5 and take in the views—the Gore Range to the far west is notable. This is a great trail for a more casual day with friends and dogs, as it never gets too steep and the rewards are well worth the 7 mile round trip. Ambitious hikers can traverse along the ridge north or south if they want more summits or if they want to explore the Breck Ski hills in the offseason. Strong hikers who want a unique point-to-point can traverse past Peak 10 to Crystal Peak and descend all the way to Mayflower Gulch parking area—an adventure that snags 6 named mountains!

16. The Devil’s Causeway

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

The Devil's Causeway is a section of rock only a few feet wide elevated 1,500 feet from the ground.

Robin Carroccia

If the Spinner of All Lies has affixed his name to a geological feature, you know it’s going to be interesting. The Devil’s Causeway sits in the Flattop Wilderness, an isolated patch of mountains that are accessed from the town of Yampa between I-70 and Steamboat Springs. The hike itself is a nice, 6 mile round trip starting from the East Fork Trail. The namesake feature is a non-technical but heady 50-foot stretch of rock that narrows to 3 feet wide and has drops of 60-80 feet off either side. Depending on your reaction to exposure, this is either a neat walk along a solid spine of rock or a belly-crawling, sphincter-clenching ordeal—or maybe somewhere in between. Even if you opt out of the traverse, a visit to the Flattops is worth the time, as it’s one of Colorado’s less-known mountain areas, and the rock walls and tabled-off summits are quite spectacular.

17. Ice Lakes Basin

Difficulty: Moderate

One of the upper feeder lakes and old cabin above Ice Lakes Basin, seen from Golden Horn.

James Dziezynski

Silverton is known for spectacular mountain scenery, and Ice Lakes Basin out of South Mineral Campground offers a snapshot of what makes the San Juan range in southwest Colorado so special. This 7-mile round trip follows a steep but steady trail through the forest to a series of shimmering, blue alpine lakes, including Island Lake. Creeks cascade through the green valleys and roll over rounded rock walls, painting them a mixture of green, black, and grey. The imposing “sinking ship” profile of 13,780’ Golden Horn dominates the skyline—from the perspective of the lakes, it’s hard to believe this cracked and crumbling peak is only a Class 2 scramble! Nearby Pilot Knob, 13,738’, is a shattered comb of rock that is rarely climbed (and usually just by mountaineers knocking off Colorado’s 200 highest mountains; Pilot Knob is the 131st highest). There are also smatterings of mine and cabin ruins at the upper lakes, a testament to the area’s mining history.

18. Sharkstooth Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Sharkstooth Trail is a great day hike in a region of Colorado many overlook.


The La Plata Mountains can be found in southern Colorado and are normally accessed from the small town of Mancos. The Sharkstooth Trail is an excellent way to tour this lonely chain of distinct peaks. Starting from the Sharkstooth Trailhead, a hike up to 12,000’ Sharkstooth Pass and back (4 miles round trip) may satisfy your mountain cravings. From the start you’ll see the remarkable alternating red and white stripes of 13,232’ Hesperus Mountain, one of the four sacred Navajo mountains. Approaching Sharkstooth Pass, the namesake 12,462’ Sharkstooth Peak juts out from an ocean of talus rock, but the trail remains easy to follow with good footing. Those looking for a bigger day can traverse the basin on the east side of the pass 2.7 miles to the next pass, where the Colorado/Highline Trail continues to the north above Cumberland Basin.

19. Rattlesnake Arches – McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

Difficulty: Moderate

The incredible, airy arches at McInnis are one of the most photogenic areas of Colorado.

John Strother

The Colorado Plateau in Mesa County is home to McInnis Canyons, an area many Coloradans have no idea exists. This spectacular desert playground has the second highest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world—only nearby Arches National Park has more. There is a lot of open terrain to explore, but a tour on the Rattlesnake Arches Trail (starting from Black Ridge Road) is the best way to take it all in. The arches here resemble prehistoric fossils, pockmarked and elegantly curved. A full out-and-back is about 7 miles, though most hikers detour and explore the many formations along the trails. Crowds are low and the landscape is incredible, so take your time as you walk among these natural wonders.

20. James Peak

Difficulty: Moderate

James Peak’s approach above St. Marys Glacier.

James Dziezynski

Finally, we come to the tastefully named James Peak. This 13,301’ summit is a nice walk-up that is 8 miles round trip as an out-and-back. The appeal of the mountain isn’t just its proximity to the Denver/Boulder metro area—its standard route also ascends one of Colorado’s last remaining glaciers, the St. Marys Glacier. The glacier (which has been downgraded as a “semi-permanent snowfield”) is safe for foot travel, as it lacks deep crevasses. A tiny ski area once operated year-round on the glacier from 1930-1986, and the remains of the ski lift can be seen on the way up to the trailhead parking. Above the glacier, the approach to James crosses a long, flat section before ascending up a Class 2 trail along the rounded slopes. Views from the top look out into the Winter Park ski area to the west, the Indian Peaks to the north, and the Front Range to the south.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

Insider’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park showcases the incredible diversity that defines Colorado’s mountainous reputation. Rugged, dramatic spires of rock contrast with carpets of colorful, hearty alpine flowers; gentle, rounded summit domes contradict sheer mountaintops that pierce the sky like shattered glass; placid alpine lakes issue forth deeply chilled streams while tumultuous storm clouds gather above in the afternoon sky. Wildlife great and small call the park home. Extroverted elk gallivant in open view, while less social species like black bears and mountain lions insulate themselves in the deep forests and remote valleys far from the crowds. Secluded in the innermost sanctum of the park are glaciers, gorges, and lonely mountains that, despite over 3 million visitors per year, remain largely unknown.

The iconic park was opened in 1915 and has grown to encompass an area of 265,761 acres. With a top elevation of 14,255’ atop Longs Peak, wilderness areas inherit most of their trademark features depending on which side of the Continental Divide they are found. Eastern aspects have been smoothed and contoured by ancient glacial waves, while the less-yielding western mountains are built on a bases of boulders and topped with defiant, broken ridges. The upshot is a variety of astonishing natural beauty that offer the adventurous a lifetime of exploratory possibilities.

Classic Adventures

The majority of RMNP’s most well-known adventures are found in the eastern half of the park. Day hikes out of two main trailheads, Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake, are popular for their access to alpine lakes. Out of Glacier Gorge, the marquee lake viewing experience is along the Glacier Gorge Trail, a 9.6 mile out and back that bypasses Mills Lake and Jewel Lake before reaching its terminus at Black Lake in the rocky, windswept basin above treeline. Almost as popular out of Glacier Gorge is the trek on the The Loch Trail / Sky Pond Trail to the aptly named Sky Pond, 9 miles out and back. The inky waters of the Loch, surrounded by pine forests, comes first, eventually climbing above treeline to the chilled waters of Sky Pond.

A Winter hike to Emerald Lake.

James Dziezynski

The Bear Lake Trailhead is a busy place. During summer months, the parking lot typically fills up by 6:30am, requiring a free shuttle from the Beaver Meadows visitor center — so get there early if you want to leave your car at the trailhead. Bear Lake is right at the trailhead and is a nice introduction to the lakes in the area. The Emerald Lake Trail is a 7 mile out and back that passes Nymph and Dream Lakes before arriving at Emerald Lake, one of the most photographed areas in RMNP. The deep green waters sit at the foot of the towering half-dome of Hallett Peak and the craggy towers on the shoulder of Flattop Mountain. Intrepid explorers can continue west past Emerald Lake to the Tyndall Glacier, a rugged mile of difficult, off-trail scrambling and 1,800 vertical feet beyond.

Peakbaggers have a wealth of summits to choose from but none is as coveted as 14,255’ Longs Peak. This difficult, exposed, class 3 hike and scramble is a burly 15 mile round trip, most often done as a single day hike. It is critical to start long before sunrise (2 am is a good idea) to avoid being caught in the open when the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms roll in. The Keyhole Route is the classic way to the top. Hikers pass through the well-defined notch and transition from modest class 2 hiking to traversing a series of airy ledges, ascending a loose and scrappy gully, then scrambling up solid rock to the surprisingly broad, flat, and spacious summit.

Hiking the Narrows section of Longs Peak.

James Dziezynski

Of course, there are much more modest options. Off Old Fall River Road is the Chapin Pass Trailhead which offers trails to the trio of peaks: 12,454’ Mount Chapin, 13,069’ Mount Chiquita and 13,514’ Ypsilon Mountain. At 8 miles out and back, these peaks are all reached by rolling, non-exposed class 2 hiking trails with nearly all of the hike above treeline.

One more classic is Mount Ida, a 10 mile out and back from Milner Pass Trailhead off Trail Ridge Road that travels along the ridgeline that overlooks the Never Summer Mountains to the west. This non-technical trail traverses wide-open alpine meadows leading to the 12,880’ summit on a smooth path. Along the way, elk, deer, and marmots go about their lives among the flowers and grassy plateaus, taking in the brilliant views that extend all the way into Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains.

Secrets of the Park

Trail Ridge Road is the main artery for visitors in RMNP and is definitely worth exploring, but there is much more to see beyond the well traveled road. On the eastern side of the park, Wild Basin is something of a local’s secret. Waterfalls, pristine lakes, peaceful camping, and inviting summits await from this special region of the park.

Wild Basin backpacking

James Dziezynski

Wild Basin has excellent on-trail options, such as the 8.6 mile out and back hike to Sand Beach Lake from the Sand Beach Lake Trailhead, but many adventurous souls are enticed by what can be discovered where the trails end. The Wild Basin Trailhead has excellent trails that are relatively flat for the first few miles, so don’t let the high mileage intimidate you. There are several waterfalls, including Calypso Cascade and Ouzel Falls, and a myriad of options to trek to remote lakes such as Thunder Lake (6 miles one way, with great camping) and Bluebird Lake (6.3 miles one way, also with nice camping nearby). Trails fade out along the Lions Lake Trail (6 miles one way) but this smattering of placid alpine ponds are some of the most beautiful in the park. Likewise, trekking west beyond Thunder Lake off-trail goes to the rarely visited Lake of Many Winds and the year-round snow fields of Boulder Grand Pass. Several excellent summit scrambles are in this area, including 13,310’ Mount Alice, 12,420’ Tanima Peak, and 13,579’ Chiefs Head Peak. And from Boulder Grand Pass, two of the parks most coveted, remote destinations can be reached: 13,118’ Isolation Peak and the rarely seen Moomaw Glacier.

Likewise, the western reaches of the park are far less visited. Spirit Lake and Lake Verna can be accessed by the East Inlet Trailhead and offer a 7 mile round trip adventure into the western side of the Continental Divide, where dense flora carpets the low-traffic trails and the lakes carry a primitive aura. Lulu City, a ghost town, is a 6.2 mile roundtrip outing via the Colorado River Trailhead that explores both the ruins of the boomtown but also the gnarly, craggy Never Summer Mountain range. And finally, if you’re in the mood for moose, Summerland Park from the North Inlet Trailhead, 3.4 miles roundtrip, is a wonderful place to spot Colorado’s largest mammal in the wild.

Extended adventures in RMNP are a great way to experience all that the park has to offer. Backpacking east to west across the park from the East Inlet Trail to Wild Basin is an excellent three day excursion with excellent camping options (Spirit Lake, Thunder Lake) that goes directly through the heart of the park. Mirror Lake, approximately 13 miles out and back, is a great weekend backpacking adventure to the quiet, northern reaches of the park.

Nearing the summit of Tanima Peak near Boulder Grand Pass.

James Dziezynski

Beyond hiking and backpacking, add more depth to the RMNP experience by rock climbing (over 350 established routes, some alpine classics) and winter adventures (snowshoeing, ice climbing). October through May, the park quiets down significantly. Snowy adventures, such as snowshoeing to Mills Lake / Jewel Lake or ice climbing in Glacier Gorge reveal the frozen beauty of the mountains.

Quick Tips: Getting the Most Out of Your Trip

  • If you plan to hike, get out early – 6 am at the latest – to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and to ensure trailhead parking before the crowds arrive (when you’ll have to take a shuttle to certain trailheads).

  • Trail Ridge Road (the main road through the park) is beautiful but, but clogged with traffic in the summer months. If your goal is to have a casual cruise through the park, it’s fine but if you want to get into the wilderness, consider Wild Basin or the western entrances of the park.

  • Make reservations well in advance (3 months or more) for car camping in the park. Backcountry camping permits are easier to get but it’s worth planning at least a month in advance if possible. For more information, visit the NPS website.

  • The Longs Peak and St. Vrain trailheads are two entrance points where it is legal to enter the park without paying a fee.

  • While dogs aren’t normally allowed beyond the parking lots in the summer, a few select winter closure roads allow on-leash dogs in the winter.

  • Photographers can count on incredible sunrise and sunset shots most days, even when afternoon storms blow in. They blow out just as quickly, making for spectacular sunsets.

Eyeing the east ridge on Mount Lead in the Never Summer Range.

James Dziezynski

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Steve Bratman

A Guide to Dispersed Camping in the Mountain West

A loud bugling throws my eyes open. I’m curled up in the back of my car, zipped tight into my sleeping bag. The windows have frosted over a little bit in the cold. The night before, I’d sped south from Yellowstone in search of some place to sleep before heading to Grand Teton National Park in the morning. It was dark when I pulled in, crawled in the back and fell asleep, but now, opening the back hatch, I can see where I am. I had backed up to the edge of a small knoll over the Snake River, and the bugling that woke me was coming from a small group of elk wading into the steaming water only a few hundred yards away.

Not a bad spot, I think.

For anyone van-lifing, road tripping out of their car, or living the climbing bum lifestyle, one perpetual stress is knowing, after a long day on the road or trail, where you’ll be spending the night. If you’re away from home for any extended period, paying much more than a few dollars a night—whether that’s for a cheap motel room, Airbnb, or in an established campground—is generally out of the question. Night after night, those expenses add up quickly, which makes finding a free place to pull over and get comfortable a daily priority.

Thankfully, especially in the Mountain West, finding a quiet, picturesque and free campsite is a lot easier to do than you might think.

Not Your Average Walmart Parking Lot

One of the best car camping experiences you can have in Colorado: Lincoln Creek Campground.

Ry Glover

All overnight parking is not created equal. RV travelers and truckers have become accustomed to hopping between 24-hour Walmart parking lots and large, rumbling travel centers, which, for dirtbags, will certainly do in a pinch (just check with management at that location to make sure they follow the Walmart norm and allow overnight guests), but they’re definitely not ideal.

While plenty of random locations like local parks, some private land, and other municipalities and retail locations allow overnight parking, they’re far from reliable and the consequence for getting caught staying somewhere you shouldn’t could, in the end, make you wish you’d spent the money on a comfortable—and legal—hotel room. Even day-use areas, trailheads, and other seemingly vanlife-friendly locales typically don’t allow overnighters.

“Dispersed” Camping?

Dispersed camping cooking in the BLM lands of Southern Utah.

Jake Wheeler

Luckily, the Mountain West is ripe with public land, chiefly National Forests, and as taxpayers, we’ve often already paid our campground fees. Dispersed camping is the general term for camping anywhere outside a developed campground, and it’s the bread and butter of the cheap road trip.

A dispersed campsite would be the National Forest equivalent of a backcountry campsite in a Wilderness Area, but because National Forests have roads running through them, a dispersed campsite doesn’t necessarily require a long trek into the backcountry, and they’re easy to find right off the road.

As you might expect, free dispersed camping doesn’t come with the amenities of established campsites. Even outhouses aren’t guaranteed at all but the heaviest-use sites. But what you trade away in luxury, you gain in solitude and a feeling of remoteness that’s hard to get mere feet from your vehicle.

Finding Your Campsite

The dispersed camping at Colorado's Alta Lakes is easily some of the best you'll find in the West.

Jake Wheeler

Often tucked away down rocky Forest Service roads, a dispersed site could be anything from a small pull-off, to a spot tucked farther away, but they almost never have signs or can be found with a quick Google Maps search. Researching your spot beforehand is a must.

However, what you can find on Google Maps are the lands that might contain these campsites. Bureau of Land Management properties, National Forests, or Wildlife Management Areas are typically good places to start to look. Not all public land is open to dispersed camping, so be sure to check the rules and regulations for those specific properties. From there, scouring satellite imagery can be a good way to identify open areas, pull-offs and specific campsites. Check out Forest Service roads (typically identified only with numbers) first or use websites like or to crowdsource the work and look for locations that others have found.

Also pay attention to any other special restrictions or permits that might be required for specific areas.

The final step is to go check them out! Drive roads in search of pull-offs and offshoots. In many cases, sites will have obviously been used by others passing through. If you’re lucky, there will be a makeshift fire ring ready to go! Always keep an eye out for “No Camping” signs or other posted rules, which can be instated to help protect some places that have been used heavily.

A Few of Our Favorites

Watching the sunset behind the Tetons from Shadow Mountain Campground.

Jake Wheeler

– Shadow Mountain Road (Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming)

Is Shadow Mountain the best camping near the Tetons? It'd be tough to find a better alternative. Hidden around the backside of the National Elk Refuge, this rugged dirt road climbs Shadow Mountain to a collection of open grassy areas with unbeatable views of the rocky peaks across the valley floor.

– Kaibab National Forest, Arizona

Get away from the summer crowds swarming the campgrounds within Grand Canyon National Park without sacrificing an inch of scenery. A number of prime camping spots dot this forest just 15 minutes south of the park, offering some of the best dispersed camping in the Southwest. You’ll stay shaded among the some of the densest ponderosa pines in the country, and you'll likely have your pick of the litter when it comes to campsites.

– Blankenship Bridge (Flathead National Forest, Montana)

Another gem just outside a popular national park, this pull-off is just minutes from the collossal mountains of Glacier NP. Pull right out onto the spectacular rocky banks of the Middle Fork Flathead River and fall asleep listening to the water just footsteps from your car.

Things to Keep in Mind

A starry night beneath the ponderosa pines of Kaibab National Forest.

Brian Bates
  • Bring your own water, or water treatment equipment. Dispersed campsites don’t come with running, potable water.
  • Dispersed campsites are always first-come-first-serve and can not accept any reservations. If you find what you think could be a busy area, get there early or have a backup plan.
  • You can’t live here, but you can hang out for a while. Dispersed campers are allowed to stay a maximum of 14 days in any 30-day period.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace. You won’t find any trash cans at dispersed campsites, and most receive minimal maintenance, so be sure to pack out everything you drive in with, and leave the site cleaner than when you arrived.
  • Forest roads can be rough in the Mountain West, so a high-clearance vehicle that can handle rocks and mud will always make you more comfortable in the woods.

Written by Ryan Wichelns for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Zach Dischner

How to Ski Eldora Mountain Resort: Insider Tips for the Local Hill

Just minutes up the hill from Boulder, and a mere hour-plus drive from downtown Denver, lies the lesser-known ski “resort” of Eldora.

Famed for its less expensive lift tickets and “Just Say No to I-70” slogan—which encourages people to avoid the crowds and traffic at bigger, more popular resorts along the I-70 corridor—locals have long loved this little family ski area, affectionately known as “Eldo.” Just 47 miles from Denver, the ski area sits at 9,200 feet, boasts 680 acres of skiable terrain, and is accessed by three main lifts, with an additional seven across the mountain.

And while the powder days at Eldora Mountain Resort can be somewhat scarcer than those at a larger resort, it’s still well worth a visit by local snowsport enthusiasts, with surprisingly powerful snowmaking efforts ("100 percent coverage of groomed terrain", it claims), a welcoming, no-attitude vibe, and more wallet-friendly passes than some of its pricier cousins (day tickets max out at $89 this year compared to $165 at Vail; see the resort's website for all of its pass deals, including the Rocky Mountain Super Pass this year.)

Eldora traces its history back to the 1950s, when it was a summer playground for cabin owners in the Indian Peaks area. In 1962, it opened for skiers, having been through multiple ownerships over the years like most ski areas in the fight for profitability.

In order to maximize the ROI on your season pass or day ticket, you need some insider tips on attacking the hill. RootsRated tapped into some well-known locals to get the beta on how to ski Eldora.

Which Runs to Choose?

Eldora's 680 acres are serviced by 10 lifts.
Eldora's 680 acres are serviced by 10 lifts.

jan go

On a powder day, while the interstate is full of carloads of eager skiers, Eldo's proximity to Denver means you can be heading up the mountain while other are still battling traffic. Here's additional intel on how to plan your day.

“On a powder day at Eldo, take first chair up and hit Around the Horn to Upper Ambush," says Nederland local James Brooks, a former Eldora ski patroller. "Stay skier's left and merge back onto Around the Horn to get back into the Corona Bowl area. Take one lap each on Corona Bowl and Brian’s Glades to Muleshoe on skier’s left before they drop the rope.”

For skilled skiers, Brooks then recommends heading skier’s left from the top of the Corona lift out the gates to the double-black diamond terrain called Salto and West Ridge; both of these runs/bowls are steep and expert-only. Moose Glades holds snow until later in the afternoon, especially the second and third “fingers” of the glade, says Brooks.

Placer Glades, off of the Indian Peaks (central) lift, also tends to hold powder until the afternoon, especially mid-week. “After Indian Peaks lift closes, ski Jolly Jug Glades before taking your last run down on La Belle as a cruiser, or take Psychopath, if your legs can bump it out,” Brooks says.

That has you working your way from west to east across the mountain, hitting the steep and deep first and skiing bell to bell.

Where to Fuel Up

Eldo features 9,200 acres and 10 lifts.
Eldo features 9,200 acres and 10 lifts.

Robert Tadlock

Brian Biggs, a local and former snowboard instructor at Eldora, also recommends Muleshoe, especially the left side where the wind doesn’t blow the snow away. “Jolly Jug trees on the front side are a nice way to wind down the day with good afternoon sun,” Biggs says. “And I like to get gnarly in the Trick Ditch.”

At some point mid-morning. you’ll most likely want to warm up at the top of Corona lift/Corona Bowl at The Lookout. You’ll find soups and sandwiches, a grill (sometimes), snacks and beers, all served up protected from the wind at 10,800 feet above sea level with pano views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, where the Continental Divide begins its cascade down to the Front Range.

Down at the base, head up to the Corona Bowl Bar on the second floor of the lodge, where you can get a Dale’s Pale Ale and an elk bratwurst.

Cross Country Options and More

ski Eldora Mountain Resort Far View
The front side of Eldora has a lot of options that may not be immediately apparent.

Eldora Mountain Resort/CSCUSA

A bonus about Eldora? The flexibility offered by its world-class Nordic center and trails. Because there are so many windy days up there, it’s especially nice to have the option to go cross-country skiing in the trees and out of the wind, especially if there are lift closures. Last year, Eldora changed its policy that previously allowed regular season pass holders to also ski the Nordic Center trail system. Now, you are required to buy a separate Nordic season pass for $309 (adults).

However, if you are into cross country/Nordic skiing, whether light backcountry, classic, or skate, and even snowshoeing, locals highly recommend getting the Nordic pass in addition to the Alpine pass. This opens up your terrain and sport options at a local ski resort that really does have it all. You just have to know where to find it.

Written by Aaron Bible for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Eldora Mountain Resort/CSCUSA

Hessie Trail – Snowshoeing


Though it can get a little crowded on winter weekends, the Hessie Trailhead out of the tiny town of Eldora is worth a visit. Only about an hour from Boulder, this snowshoe-friendly trail features a 1.5 mile route to Lost Lake, a scenic destination that is easier to find than its name suggests. Beyond that, there are miles of forested trails to explore so you can make the day as long as you like.

What Makes It Great

The access road to Hessie Trailhead is not maintained in the winter and will close as soon as snow makes it impassable (usually mid-November). Normal parking is here at the end of the paved road / closure gate and it is 1-mile to the trailhead proper. If the road happens to be open, stay left at the fork about 0.5 miles up (the right road goes to the popular 4th of July Trailhead). Cars often park at this juncture during the shoulder seasons as the road to the actual trailhead is a short but unnecessarily tricky hill that isn’t worth the trouble to drive. Note that a ski / snowshoe up to 4th of July trailhead and trails is also an option, though the split begins just before the Hessie Trailhead. From the Hessie Trailhead, you’re immediately treated to the ghost town of Hessie, which consists of a few maintained buildings and information placards. Soon there after, the trail twists into the woods and gradually climbs up along a well-trodden path to the modest shores of Lost Lake. Above the lake are several old mining sites that are worth a visit but please be aware that these slopes are prone to the rare — but possible — avalanche. Beyond Lost Lake, there are three distinct drainages that lead to several nice, forested snowshoe options, including King/Betty/Bob Lakes (which sit below Rollins Pass, another fun snowshoe destination), Skyscraper Reservoir and Jasper Lake/ Devil’s Thumb Lake.Whereas the trail to Lost Lake is stomped down with regularity, these lake destinations may not be as well traveled and you could be breaking trail and navigating through the woods from here on out. Be warned that beyond Lost Lake, this becomes a very long snowshoe day — anywhere between 8 – 15 miles, which can be an all-day affair on snowshoes. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just getting out and turning around after soaking in the views or getting in your workout. The crowds tend to dissipate and there’s always the option to simply turn into the woods and make your own tracks.

Who is Going to Love It

Snowshoers of all levels who want to enjoy the history, scenery and tranquility of the mountain forests. The crowds get much thinner past Lost Lake — and the navigation gets tougher — perfect for those looking for peace away from the higher traffic sections of the trail.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the town of Nederland, take the roundabout south (which will be the left exit if coming up from Boulder Canyon) onto Highway 72. Be sure you don’t accidentally take the northern turn to highway 72, which will abruptly climb towards Sugarloaf Road. From the roundabout, the right turn towards Eldora ski area is only about a mile up the road. Follow this road to the town of Eldora, staying right when the road splits uphill and left to Eldora ski area. Continue to the very small town of Eldora. Go through town on the main (paved) street and park where the road ends at a closure gate. Follow the trail 1.0 mile (staying left at the fork in the road) to the Hessie Trailhead.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

Boulder Valley Ranch – Fat Biking


North Boulder’s network of biking trails are rather tame in the summer but once they hold a little snow, they become ideal for a fat bike tour. Boulder Valley Ranch is a fine starting point, since it offers riders the option of doing a few quick laps around the Sage Trail or linking together farther out trails for a longer day. All the trails are either single or double track and are non-technical, though there is one brief, steep hill that connects the Sage Trail with the upper mesa trails that can be a bit tricky if it’s icy.

What Makes It Great

A single lap around the Sage Trail is 3 miles, so it goes quickly but is very scenic (the entire trail surrounds a working farm). At 1.5 miles, the trail meets the Eagle Trail, which can be ridden over to the Boulder Reservoir which features a 5 mile, rideable loop. From the parking lot, there is also the option of going north on the Left Hand Valley Trail, a 3 mile trail that ends at the parking lot for Left Hand Valley Reservoir. Climbing up the connector trail (technically, the upper Eagle Trail) eventually goes to the Foothills parking area, where a tunnel under Highway 36 connects with trails that go all the way to Wonderland Lake. There’s enough terrain to cover to make a 1 – 2 hour ride in the winter a lot of fun and the scenery is fantastic throughout, especially from the mesa looking south onto the Flatirons. North Boulder has a bucolic feel to it and at times, it’s hard to believe a major city is just over the horizon. Riding out to Boulder Reservoir for a winter picnic is fun, especially on a sunny January day. Parking at Wonderland Lake is also an option — you can hit up the trails, then come back into town to enjoy a warm meal at one of the local restaurants in north Boulder (we like Proto’s pizza).

Who is Going to Love It

Riders who are looking for a scenic tour without difficult trails will appreciate the mellow terrain. First time fat bikers will have fun getting used to the feel of the bulbous tires by taking a few laps on the Sage Trail. Fitness buffs will have fun making laps and challenging the Eagle Trail’s abrupt hill climb. The Left Hand Valley trail is refreshingly quiet and is a bit of secret for bikers.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the intersection of Highway 36 and Broadway in north Boulder, go north 1 mile on 36 and turn right onto Longhorn Road. Follow Longhorn Road 1 mile to the trailhead (the road goes from pavement to dirt halfway through). Park at the Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead. The parking area is well marked and obvious on the right side of the road.

There are restrooms at the trailhead.

The area is open dawn until 11 pm — consider a fat bike night ride if you have lights!

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Yuya Sekiguchi