Recent Blog Posts

  • Bear Peak Hardcore Hike: How to Bag Bear and South Boulder Peaks in One Day

    The pointy 8,461-foot summit of Bear Peak grabs your eye along the skyline west of Boulder, claiming attention it deserves but hasn’t quite yet earned. Hiding just beyond it and harder to see is South Boulder Peak, which—at 8,549 feet—has Bear Peak barely beat, height-wise. But instead of picking one over the other of these two lofty summits, why not opt to top out on both of these killer Colorado peaks in one strenuous day? Yes, the tangled network of trails in the mountain parks west of town can be confusing. Here we offer step-by-step instructions for knocking off Bear and South Boulder peaks in one go, an excursion that involves a hike of 10.5 miles with more than 3,300 feet of climbing. You’ll follow Fern Canyon up Bear Peak, cross the saddle to South Boulder Peak, and then return via Bear Canyon. This hike is doable year-round but can get slippery, so bring snow cleats if there’s any chance of snow on the trail. The trailhead at Cragmoor Road is a locals’ secret. Avery Stonich To climb Bear Peak, you have three trailhead options. The first and most popular is NCAR, above Table Mesa Drive. This route requires you to do a big[…]

  • 20171121_aspen-highlands-04-21-2013 Aspen Snowmass—Colorado’s Best Big Mountain

    One of my favorite spring ski days of all time happened on a powder day at Snowmass—or, shall I say, it was a powder day at the top of Snowmass. The venerable ski area, which celebrates 50 years of operation in 2018, has an impressive 4,406 feet of vertical drop (the longest lift-served vert in the USA). If you happen to catch the weather just right, you could be smashing through the pow at the 12,510’ top and slashing through the slush at the base at 8,104’. It was crazy fun to drop down the mountain through a variety of conditions, then ride the lifts back up while the misty rain at the bottom hardened into a crystalline shell of ice on the ascent. The takeaway here is Snowmass is a big mountain—and one that is often overlooked by skiers looking for the perfect mountain getaway. Big Terrain, Long Runs, No Lift Lines All levels of skiers and riders will dig the varied terrain at Snowmass. Aspen Snowmass / Jeremy Swanso Nearby Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands ski areas may have more trendy reputations, but Snowmass is the quiet king of Aspen. Boasting 3,128 skiable acres with wide-open terrain, terrific[…]

  • An Ode to Boulder Creek

    With all the mountainous goodness surrounding Boulder, it’s easy to overlook one of the city’s best natural features: Boulder Creek. It is a geological curiosity to consider that the humble stream flowing through the heart of the city is the same agent that carved out the deep walls of Boulder Canyon. (Though Boulder did get a taste of the creek’s true destructive potential during the floods of 2013). But despite the occasional outburst, Boulder Creek is traditionally mild-mannered. The section that runs through downtown is a welcome summer playground, complete with a kayak course (near Settler’s Park) and of course, the legendary tubing. Ancient cottonwood trees tower 100 feet on its banks, and there are plenty of nooks along the way to recreate with your activity of choice (me, I like reading a good book by the creek). West of town, Boulder Creek cascades through the canyon with more power. Many rock climbing areas are accessed by clipping into tyrolian traverses (ropes strung across the river) and hauling oneself across the raging waters. Boulder Falls enters into the creek in spectacular fashion, while simultaneously guarding the gateway to Dream Canyon. A drive to the top of the canyon and the[…]

  • Colorado aspens fall Fall Foliage in Colorado: 5 Colorful Adventures Near Boulder and Denver

    It’s a magical time of year in Colorado’s high country: Cool, crisp air gives an invigorating kick to the day, bluebird skies prevail, and whole hillsides transform to bright, cheery hues. The aspen leaves are starting to hint at the full show to come. Soon Colorado’s hills will be blazing with fall color, the best kind of mountain fire. Now is prime time to get out and experience the great outdoors for one last hurrah before winter. Here are some great leaf-peeping options within an easy drive of Denver or Boulder. Decide whether you want to hike, run, bike, or simply drive, but be sure to get out and savor the spectacular fall foliage in Colorado. 1. Mountain Bike at Kenosha Pass The Colorado Trail from the top of Kenosha Pass is a prime place to roll through aspen glades on two wheels. Jason Bertolacci Kenosha Pass delivers the mother lode of aspen gold. From the top of the pass, the Colorado Trail winds through amazing glades, crosses an aspen-covered hillside, then climbs to the summit of Georgia Pass, a 24-mile, out-and-back ride that will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Where the trail descends the backside of Kenosha Pass,[…]

  • Wyoming Big Sandy Pass Trail Lonesome Lake below the Cirque of the Towers 10 Must-Do Hikes in the Mountain West

    From Montana’s Livingston Range to the Lechuguilla Desert of southern Arizona, the U.S. region known as the Mountain West is brimming with top-caliber hiking destinations. Narrowing down a list of 10 standouts is no small feat, but we took a stab at it anyway, choosing from the eight states that make up the U.S. Census Bureau’s Mountain West zone. Take note: These aren’t the 10 best hidden hikes in the Mountain West; none of these routes are particularly obscure. In fact, several rank among the most celebrated trails in the country—and for good reason. A journey into the maw of one of the world’s most sublime canyons, backcountry skylines gloriously rock-torn, adventures in wide-open heights and close-hemmed halls of stone: These destinations highlight the scenic punch and variety characteristic of this outdoor playground and its seemingly infinite opportunities for adventure. 1. The Chinese Wall, Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Montana As you might expect from a mighty watershed frontier, the Continental Divide in North America comes mantled in some pretty heady scenery along most of its length. And one of its most dramatic expressions comes in the heart of one of the largest roadless areas in the Lower 48, the Bob[…]

  • The inner canyon of Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Insider’s Guide to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

    From the surface high above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the gash that cuts across the land appears to be little more than a shallow indentation, no different than any other river that that flows through Colorado’s mountain valleys. Only when peering over the rim does the dramatic depth of the sheer cliffs—in places more than 2,000 vertical feet—disrupt the seamless narrative of typical river topography. Mother Nature patiently put her all into splitting open the earth in the Black Canyon, carving out a deep rend in the hide of the planet through some of the oldest known rock in the world. The “black” in the name Black Canyon comes from its near-perpetual state of shadow and darkness—the canyon only receives a maximum of 33 minutes per day of direct sunlight. The world illuminated at the floor of the canyon has a filter of shade that gives a spooky ambiance to the grey and pale green walls. As these rock walls rise into the light, the striated gray and white faces reveal the intrusion of the lighter colored pegmatite, creating a marbled canvas on ancient stone. Known for centuries by the local Ute tribe, the first documented exploration of[…]

  • 201702 SLV Destinations Penitente Penitente Canyon – Climbing

    Intro Set in the heart of the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado, Penitente Canyon was once a refuge for the Penitente Brotherhood of Catholic monks, who lived and worked in relative seclusion near the Colorado/New Mexico border in the early 20th century. The canyon was named for this society, who painted a blue Madonna on one of the cliff walls by suspending tired from ropes and hanging in space to complete the project. You can still see the painting on the cliff known as Virgin Wall. Rock climbers began developing the area in 1985, and today, Penitente is known for its world-class sport climbing on bullet-hard rock. What Makes It Great Penitente Canyon is primarily a sport-climbing destination. It boasts more than 300 bolted routes. There’s also some trad climbing to be had here, but bring plenty of tape—if you’re plugging your own gear, you’ll be following rough crack systems. Bouldering here is largely undeveloped, but with plenty of opportunities. The majority of climbing at Penitente—including its most classic routes—is graded 5.10 and above. There are several 5.8 and 5.9 routes, and a handful graded easier, but if you’re a 5.11 climber, a visit to Penitente will make you[…]

  • Fourth of July Trailhead Fourth of July Trailhead

    Intro Located a few miles past the town of Eldora, the 4th of July trail is a portal to an amazing assortment of peaks, lakes and vast mountain scenery. The trail is named for the old 4th of July mine which is part of the many mine ruins along the way. As a gateway to the Indian Peaks Wilderness, this popular trail is ideal for day hikes, backcountry camping and mountain climbing. What Makes It Great As an easy-to-access backcountry trail, the wealth of wilderness scenery along a well-maintained path opens up many options for intrepid explorers. South Arapahoe Peak (13,379 ft.) is a popular walk-up that offers a class 3 scramble over to North Arapahoe Peak (13,502 ft.). Mount Neva (12,814 ft.) has a nice, semi-technical scramble from Arapahoe Pass. These are also fine mountains to ascend in the winter/spring via several couloirs. For those just looking to hike, the trail is only 2.0 miles to breach treeline, where several old boilers and mining ruins remain embedded in the landscape. A standard day hike along the trail parallels the rushing waters of the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek, complete with waterfalls and a few easy river crossings. Hiking[…]

  • Feature Weekend Epic: 14er Triple-Header in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristos

    For a weekend of high-alpine adventure, answer the alluring call of the Crestone Group, a cluster of fourteeners in southern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo range. These rugged peaks rise like a hilltop castle, forming a rocky rampart between the San Luis Valley in the west and the Wet Mountain Valley in the east. In one weekend, you can knock off three giants—14,081-foot Challenger Point, 14,165-foot Kit Carson Peak, and 14,064-foot Humboldt Peak—amidst some of the most stunning scenery in the state. There’s no doubt this is an epic journey, requiring solid navigation and class-three scrambling skills. It could even turn into “An Epic.” If you live in Colorado, chances are you know the difference. Epic is off-the-charts awesome. “An Epic” is an adventure where plans go slightly awry—perhaps you wander off-course, encounter unexpected obstacles, battle bad weather, or the journey stretches a tad too long. In either case, the word epic is rooted in poetry, involving long tales of heroic feats, and creating everlasting lore. Whether epic or An Epic, this adventure will leave you war-torn and weary, yet satisfied. It’s a Hero’s Journey. Here we outline a rough route. The rest is up to you. Part of the challenge[…]

  • Grand Teton 35967549865_462dd883c4_o The Matterhorns of North America

    The word Matterhorn smacks of the golden days of Alpine mountaineering, and summons up the signature, craggy summit that even today tantalizes climbers. Indeed, it’s the Matterhorn of the Pennine Alps—not Everest, not Mont Blanc, not Mount Fuji—that perhaps best embodies the idealized, majestic mountain, particularly its enshrined east and north faces. This windblown-looking 14,692-foot tooth of rock is the textbook example of a glacial horn: a steep-sided peak whittled by the headward erosion of ringing cirque glaciers. It has a fantastical look to it: a subtly corkscrewed slant, and the sort of fierce posture of the flagpole dorsal fin of a bull orca among whitecaps. A bit of science here: To qualify as a true glacial horn, a peak generally must have at least three sheer faces. The Matterhorn (big “M”) has given its name to a particularly extreme version of the glacial horn: those that come planed on all four faces. In other words, you don’t have to travel to the Alps to feast eyes on a matterhorn (little “m”). In fact, many of these pyramidal peaks can be found in the glaciated (or once-glaciated) heights of North America. Let’s get acquainted with some of these mythic rock-skyscrapers,[…]