Thanks to its proximity to a popular fourteener, the Guanella Pass road is lined with cars all summer, but the fun doesn’t have to end when the winter road closure takes effect each November. The long-closed Geneva Basin Ski Area, situated a few miles south of the Guanella Pass summit, boasts an annual snowfall of 300”—on par with Aspen Highlands and Crested Butte, sans the long commute—and enough high-quality runs to keep skiers entertained all day. Backcountry travelers willing to skin the three-and-a-half miles to the base of the ski area are rewarded with a quiet, off-the-beaten-path experience—even on a sunny Saturday.
What Makes It Great
Like much of Clear Creek County, Geneva Basin Ski Area has a colorful history: it was owned for nearly a decade by former Colorado governor Roy Romer, who once joked that buying a resort was cheaper than lift tickets for his seven children.
Rumors of a ghost—the spirit of Edward Guanella, son of the pass’ namesake—circulated in the 1970s. When a ski lift collapsed in 1984, the resort closed for good, and nature has taken its course in the intervening decades: an old patrol hut (backcountry skiers often spend the night here) and a couple of tiny storage shacks are the only hints that Geneva Basin saw nearly 25,000 skiers in its last season. The beauty of backcountry skiing at an abandoned ski area—aside from the adrenaline rush of skiing through a Michael Crichton thriller set in wintertime—is the number and variety of runs, each just a few minutes’ skin apart. Newcomers to the backcountry will delight in the wide, gentle slopes near the top of the mountain, opting to ski the old cat track back to the meadow when the trails funnel into steeper tree runs—an expert skier’s dream, especially when there’s no shortage of fresh tracks to be had.
Who is Going to Love It
Thanks to the variety of runs, this tour has something to offer everyone from first-timers to seasoned backcountry veterans. Skiers comfortable on blue or more difficult runs at the resort will enjoy this outing the most; narrow runs, unmarked obstacles, and deep, ungroomed snow could present challenges for more novice skiers. The trade-off for a resort without the crowds is that there’s no one to mitigate avalanche danger for you—it’s up to you to know and avoid the dangers. Always carry rescue gear (and know how to use it) when venturing into avalanche terrain.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Geneva Basin can be accessed from the Georgetown side, but to maximize your backcountry experience (and shorten your skin), avoid I-70 traffic and take US 285. The Guanella Pass turnoff is in the little hamlet of Grant, about 60 miles from Denver—look for signs on the right-hand side of the road. From here you’ll drive just under seven miles to the winter closure gate and park on the east side of the road. It’s paved and fairly well maintained, but AWD and good snow tires are recommended. No permits or fees are required, and if you’re lucky, you might see the resident posse of majestic bull moose in the meadows southwest of the parking area.
Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
Once again, Outside magazine has confirmed what more than five million Coloradans already knew: the Centennial State is an awesome place to live and work. The magazine’s annual list of the 100 Best Places to Work featured 30 Colorado companies in 2015 and 36 in 2016—more than a third of the list, and that number just keeps growing.
"All the outdoor access in the world doesn’t mean much if your job keeps you chained to a desk with no time to enjoy it," Outside writes in the introduction to its yearly list of excellent employers, "The Best Places to Work list represents the cream of the crop—companies that empower their employees to live bigger, better lives.”
The process for selecting that cream of the crop is rigorous. The list is broken into five company categories: Gear, Adventure & Travel, Wellness, Culture, and Advertising. Outside partners with the Outdoor Industry Association and the Best Companies Group, an independent research firm, to survey potential Best Places to Work all over the country. Companies disclose information about workplace policies and the benefits they offer their employees—who, in turn, are asked to evaluate their workplaces on criteria like "corporate culture, policies and perks, role satisfaction, work environment, and overall employee engagement".
Colorado is no newcomer to Outside’s Best Places to Work list: Colorado companies have been showing up in force since its inception in 2011. It’s no wonder the Centennial State is so well represented in categories like Adventure & Travel and Gear—after all, Coloradans are surrounded by infinite opportunities to explore and test new gear. But plenty of Colorado-based companies made the list in non-outdoorsy sectors, too.
Based on the criteria Outside and the Best Companies Group use, Colorado companies snagged four of the top 10 spots in 2016, including the #1 and #2 seats—those went to Aspen-based interior and architectural design firm Forum Phi and Denver’s GroundFloor Media, respectively. Another 11 Colorado-based companies rounded out the top 30.
The Centennial State’s heavy-hitting presence on the list is in large part because Coloradans really value work/life balance, along with integration of innovation and thought leadership, says Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. He’s got science on his side. A 2012 study published by the Public Library of Science found that creative reasoning and problem solving were improved after participants spent time immersed in natural settings.
For the sake of work/life balance—and the benefits it brings—Colorado companies on the list offer perks like a weekly beer club, in-office yoga and meditation, quarterly office-wide outside time, paid time for volunteer work, free season-long ski passes, and, in the case of Steamboat-based Smartwool, a policy of mandatory "Powder Days" whenever it snows more than six inches. Several companies also offer unlimited paid time off, allowing their employees to experience what makes Colorado such an incredible place to live—and work.
Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated in partnership with Choose Colorado and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
Eldora’s location near the mountain town of Nederland means that Denver and Boulder skiers can access it without battling the traffic on I-70—a huge plus on powder days! As a smaller operation, Eldora is very family-friendly, with plenty of programs for kids and beginners but there’s also a nice mix of blue and black terrain for advanced skiers. Lift lines tend to be short as the mountain spreads out nicely from the base area. There are also excellent Nordic skiing and snowshoeing options on groomed trails.
What Makes It Great
Eldora is every bit a locals’ mountain, thankfully minus elitist snobbery. What Eldora lacks in size (680 acres) it makes up for in diversity. The base area lifts (Sundance, Challenge, and Cannonball) services easier terrain along with a modest terrain park and the surprisingly tight black diamond trees of Jolly Jug Glades. Indian Peaks lift is perfect for blue / easy black cruiser laps. And the Corona Lift access the Corona Bowl, where some brief but legit double black lines run down steep, forested terrain. Catch the Corona lift on a powder day and you may be surprised to see the hours pass in the blink of an eye.
The family friendly element is quickly apparent, especially on weekends. There are a host of programs for kids of all ages to get them dialed in to a lifelong love of skiing and snowboarding. Not to be overlooked are Eldora’s wonderful Nordic trails, groomed for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. These trails follow Jenny Creek through pine glades and open meadows. Exploring this network as afternoon winter shadows fall is a photographer’s dream, with deep orange sunbeams casting elegant shadows onto blankets of powdery snow.
Food is available at the base and at the lofty Lookout dining area at the top of Corona lift. Views west to the Indian Peaks are spectacular from the here.
Who is Going to Love It
Families love the easy access to kid-friendly terrain and skiers of all levels enjoy avoiding I-70 on busy winter weekends. Eldora actually has some challenging black diamond runs on the north side of the mountain, including steep trees and tough natural bumps. Runs aren't terribly long but the lack of lift lines mean you can get in many laps if you have the legs for it.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Boulder, take Canyon Blvd. West (Canyon Blvd. is Hwy 119). Follow 119 to Nederland. Turn left at the Roundabout. Continue South on 119 for one mile. Turn right on 130 and follow the signs to Eldora.
Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
Jackson Hole has Teton Pass. Salt Lake City has Little Cottonwood Canyon. Bozeman has Bridger Bowl, and Bend has Tumalo Mountain. Boulder, Colorado, has, well, nothing analogous that caters to ravenous dawn patrollers, those of us who like to fit in a backcountry ski before work.
Nevertheless it's not impossible for Boulderites to squeeze in a_ _ski at first light—and still be at the office by 10 am. It just takes a little extra work and planning, but the rewards (an invigorating workout, bragging rights at the water cooler) are well worth it.
There are still ruins from this former town’s mining days, but mostly you’ll find undulating hills, a well-established track, and a mellow 25-degree slope good for a few laps.
Getting there: Drive west up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, and at the first roundabout take Highway 72 north. Just past the fire station, turn left onto Caribou Road. Follow the road until it dead ends. The total drive is about 40 minutes from Boulder.
Plan to drive about 45 minutes from Boulder to the trailhead at Moffatt Tunnel , and then to skin for another 45 minutes to the low angle, forested slopes. If you’ve got more time—and conditions are safe—you can make more of an expedition by skiing to the top of Radio Beacon Peak.
Getting there: Head south out of Nederland about five miles to Rollinsville, and then turn west onto East Portal Road. The trailhead is about eight miles down the road.
3. Hidden Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park
Make sure to leave well before first light to make the hour-long drive up to this now-defunct ski area in Rocky Mountain National Park . The skiing is mellow and lower angle, but the views are absolutely epic. Who doesn’t want to start the day waving to 14,259-foot Longs Peak and the surrounding mountains?
Getting there: From RMNP's Beaver Meadow Visitor Center, follow Trail Ridge Road into the park to signs for Hidden Valley Picnic Area at 6.8 miles.
Find high alpine bowls, chutes and glades at this former ski area on the 11,307-foot pass that straddles the Continental Divide on Highway 40. A former ski area, this is now a popular backcountry spot with big crowds on any given weekend. Come the crack of dawn at midweek, however, you might enjoy a solo pre-descent sunrise.
Getting there: Plan on at least an hour and 15 minutes to drive 66 miles from Boulder to Berthoud Pass. Drive south on Highway 93 to Interstate 70. Take I-70 west for about 25 miles to exit 232, US-40W toward Granby, climb up the east side of the pass, and park at the summit.
5. Bear Peak, Boulder
When the stars collide and Boulder gets the occasional blizzard dump (generally in late March and early April), the town’s extensive trail network is transformed into ski trails. While you can’t actually ski from the summit of this 8,459-foot peak (too many cliffs), you can ski up Bear Canyon Trail to the Mesa Trail and get a solid workout—with some turns thrown in for fun on the descent.
Getting there: Head west onto Table Mesa Drive at the Broadway and Table Mesa intersection. After 0.7 miles, turn left onto Lehigh and take the immediate right onto Bear Mountain Drive. The trailhead is a half-mile ahead on your right.
Written by Rachel Walker for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
Winter in Vail is unforgettable, but a visit to the hills around this quintessential resort town in the heart of Colorado’s Gore Range during the warmer months is pure magic. Hiking options abound throughout the hills surrounding Vail, but it’s the high alpine lakes hidden in the upper reaches of the Gore that make for some of the most rewarding of adventures. Here's a sampling of some of Vail's best mountain lakes that offer different accessibility and experiences for anyone ready to take the plunge.
1. Piney Lake
A must while in town, Piney Lake has long been a favorite for visitors and locals looking to quietly relax by the high alpine lake, or experience a bit of adventure in the heart of the Gore Range.
The road to Piney Lake, in particular, is accessible via a dirt road throughout the summer months, and is a favorite among snowmobilers, snowshoers, and backcountry travelers in the winter. Camping sites are a frequent sight along the dirt road, with primitive pull offs offering easily accessible spots to pitch a tent for the night.
For those needing a bit of inspiration—or equipment—to enjoy all that Piney Lake has to offer, Piney River Ranch is open from mid-June to the beginning of October annually, and offers everything from canoe rentals to guided horseback rides throughout the area’s mountainous terrain.
Piney Lake is just as welcoming to visitors looking to independently take in the views and recreation around the area as well, and hiking trails abound, with the Upper Piney Trail being a popular option. The trail takes hikers 7 miles each way, and offers some pristine access into the surrounding wilderness area. Hikers looking for a more strenuous excursion can continue on Upper Piney Trail to Knee Knocker Pass, or push for a summit of Mt. Powell, a 13er that boasts the highest elevation of any of the peaks in the Gore Range.
Access : Travel 11 miles via the dirt road from Red Sandstone Road following signs to Piney Lake. Four-wheel drive is recommended, but not a must.
2. Booth Lake
Another Vail area classic, Booth Lake is accessible via a 4.1 mile one-way trek and over 3,000 feet of elevation gain on Booth Creek Trail. Worth the sweat, the lake is ringed by peaks of the Gore Range, and offers an icy reprieve for those brave enough to take a dip. The trail grants a bit of scenery for hikers not quite ready to conquer the trail in its entirety as well, as Booth Falls is a popular turnaround point on the trail, and offers visitors a popular vista to take in the 60 foot waterfall.
Access : From exit 180 off of I-70, head west on the North Frontage Road. After passing Vail Mountain School, turn right onto Booth Falls Road. The trailhead is located at the end of this road.
3. Gore Lake
Pressed up against the Gore Range deep in East Vail, Gore Lake is a wilderness experience that takes hikers on a 6-mile trek to the high alpine gem via 2,700 feet of climbing. Gore Creek Trail is the lake’s only access point, and offers exceptional views of Vail’s signature Gore Creek and the East Vail chutes as it winds through pine and aspen forest. The view from the lake is magnificent, and is a welcome spot to take in the scenery, or for late night star gazing.
Access : From exit 180 on I-70, head east on Bighorn Road for 2.5 miles, following the road under the overpass until the trailhead appears on the left. Once on the trail, hikers soon encounter a marked fork. Head right to Gore Creek Trail.
Written by Kirsten Dobroth for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
Get away from any trailhead in Colorado and the noise of everyday life disappears. Wind whispers through stands of pine trees and aspen leaves chatter like unruly children.
But in the fall, things get a little louder. Rocky Mountain elk, some of the largest land mammals in North America, are feeling frisky. Fall is the mating season for elk and their mating rituals make backcountry hikes a lot more entertaining.
Bull elk are on the prowl right now, looking for that special someone in small groups of cows and calves, called harems. To get the attention of the females, the bulls squeal, chirp and whistle, and often joust with other males in the hazy light of dusk.
Elk are found throughout Colorado, and hikers in the Pikes Peak region don’t have to go far to find them. Here are five places where this fall drama can be experienced.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument This park sprawls over nine square miles of rolling meadow and forested hillsides. It’s the perfect place to see large herds of elk staging their drama in the fall. Try the Boulder Creek Trail that begins and ends in ponderosa forest with a long stretch through meadows where beavers have diverted the creek water. For a different view of this national monument known for its fossils, choose the trail to the Hornbek Homestead that takes you over a meadow that was covered by Lake Florissant millions of years ago.
Mueller State Park This park’s rolling hills and hidden meadows attract elk year-round. In the spring, several trails are closed because of elk calving. In the fall, check out the Lost Pond Trail. It takes hikers to a small picturesque pond in a lush valley. For stunning views, check out the Outlook Ridge to Ravenwood Overlook.
Catamount Ranch Open Space This is a hiking-only open space west of Woodland Park. Its two main trails wind through dense stands of aspen and conifer forest with occasional views of Pikes Peak. The Elder-Fenn trail rolls along and tops out at 10,000 feet. The Vayhinger trail joins up with the Ring the Peak Trail (that loops around Pikes Peak) and the North Slope Recreation Area (closed from October to May).
Lost Creek Wilderness – Lost Park
The drive to this remote section of a remote wilderness area is just as magical as a hike through this trail that follows a winding creek through a fairyland mountain park. Lost Park is tucked between dark green hillsides and it offers solitude. Elk can be seen grazing in the open spaces here. (For the scenic route, head west on US 24 to Woodland Park. Turn right on Colorado 67; at Deckers, take CR 126 to Pine Junction. Turn left on U.S. Highway285 and drive over Kenosha Pass. Watch for FS Road 127 on your left – that takes you 20 miles to Lost Park Campground, where you will start your hike.)
Cheyenne Mountain State Park Hikers often share the 20 miles of trails in this park with its wild residents – black bears, mountain lions, mule deer and elk. For best wildlife viewing, choose trails that are furthest from the entrance – favorites include the 3.24-mile Sundance Loop and a 5-mile loop connecting Talon, North Talon and South Talon trails.
If you hike in Colorado in the fall, you’ll probably encounter an elk. Round a switchback and there he is – eyes ablaze and head high. The bull can weigh 700 pounds and he has one thing on his mind – assembling his harem and protecting his chosen cows.
Size isn’t everything in a mountain. Neither is topographic prominence, or isolation, or vertical rise, or geologic age, or symmetry, or wildness.
The best mountains, of course, are those that get lodged in your heart so that you feel them even when you’re far away, and lodged in your subconscious so that you dream about them. Maybe it’s the Grand Teton or Denali; maybe it’s that anonymous desert butte or that glorified hillock you keep coming back to—a personal sacred summit, “stats” be damned.
That said, stats serve a useful (and sometimes entertaining) purpose. Whether you’re seeking applicable knowledge about specific peaks, or just hoping to be a human repository of ‘did you know’ facts among your climbing and hiking buddies, this hodgepodge of mountain trivia should help.
From the fundamentals, like highest and most prominent, to the obscure little tidbits and other random stuff in between, here’s a brief breakdown of some of America’s best mountains (for one reason or another).
The Highest: Elevation Revelations
Drawing from this Summitpost ranking of the highest summits in North America with at least 2,000 feet of clean prominence (a cutoff that excludes the sub-peaks of a massif), here’s our U.S. top 10:
Denali (Alaska Range, AK): 20,320’
Mount St. Elias (St. Elias Mountains, AK, shared with Yukon): 18,008’
Mount Foraker (Alaska Range, AK): 17,400’
Mount Bona (St. Elias Mountains, AK): 16,500’
Mount Blackburn (Wrangell Mountains, AK): 16,390’
Mount Sanford (Wrangell Mountains, AK): 16,237’
Mount Fairweather (St. Elias Mountains, AK, shared with B.C.): 15,325’
Mount Bear (St. Elias Mountains, AK): 14,831’
Mount Hunter (Alaska Range, AK): 14,573’
Mount Whitney (Sierra Nevada, CA): 14,495’
Alaska obviously takes the cake when it comes to the country’s loftiest peaks, but when we consider sheer number of mountains 14,000 feet or higher, it’s the Colorado Rockies ahead of the pack with a whopping 55 Fourteeners.
Tallest in the Lower 48
What if we exclude those Far North monsters from consideration? Here are the tallest peaks (again, with 2,000 feet or more of clean prominence) in the Lower 48 States:
Mount Whitney (Sierra Nevada, CA): 14,495’
Mount Elbert (Sawatch Range, CO): 14,433’
Mount Massive (Sawatch Range, CO): 14,421’
Mount Harvard (Sawatch Range, CO): 14,420’
Mount Rainier (Cascade Range, WA): 14,411’
Mount Williamson (Sierra Nevada, CA): 14,375’
Blanca Peak (Sangre de Cristo, CO): 14,345’
Uncompahgre Peak (San Juan Mountains, CO): 14,314’
Crestone Peak (Sangre de Cristo, CO): 14,294’
Mount Lincoln (Mosquito Range, CO): 14,286’
The Southern Rocky Mountains, the elevational climax of the entire Rocky Mountain chain, dominate this list nearly as thoroughly as Alaskan peaks dominated the first one.
That’d actually be Mount Whitney: Both it and the other Sierra Nevada Fourteener, Mount Williamson, are a bit more equatorward than the Southern Rockies’ southernmost, 14,047-foot Culebra Peak in the Sangres.
Edit: The Southernmost 14er is actually 14,032-foot Mount Langley in the Sierra Nevada.
Of course, elevation isn’t everything: The amount by which a mountain stands above its immediate surroundings—aka prominence—is often the more important measure when it comes to visual grandeur. Here are the United States’ top peaks ranked by prominence:
Denali: 20,146’ of prominence
Mauna Kea (HI): 13,803’ (its elevation above sea level—because it rises out of the ocean, of course)
Mount Rainier: 13,210’
Mount Fairweather: 12,995’
Mount Blackburn: 11,640’
As Peaklist shows, Denali only loses out on the global scale prominence-wise to Everest (with 29,028 feet) and Aconcagua (with 22,841 feet), crowns of Asia and South America, respectively.
According to this Peaklist tally, the Lower 48 has 57 mountains boasting 5,000 feet or more of prominence (so-called “ultras”), all but two in the West. The Appalachians, of course, supply those eastern ultras: Mount Washington in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, with 6,158 feet of prominence, and Mount Mitchell in the Black Mountains of North Carolina, with 6,092 feet.
Crowning Peaks of the East
Speaking of the East, it obviously gets the shaft when the country’s mountains are ranked by elevation, but those timeworn Appalachians and Adirondacks include plenty of imposing highlands in their own right.
The eastern counterpart to the Southern Rockies would be the Southern Appalachians, where the 1,600-mile-long Appalachian Mountains reach their pinnacle in the Blue Ridge of the Tennessee-North Carolina borderlands. The 10 highest summits are:
Mount Mitchell (Black Mountains, NC): 6,684’
Mount Craig (Black Mountains, NC): 6,647’
Clingmans Dome (Great Smoky Mountains, TN/NC): 6,643’
Mount Guyot (Great Smoky Mountains, TN/NC): 6,621’
Balsam Cone (Black Mountains, NC): 6,611’
Mount Le Conte (Great Smoky Mountains, TN): 6,593’
Mount Gibbes (Black Mountains, NC): 6,571’
Potato Hill (Black Mountains, NC): 6,475’
Mount Chapman (Great Smoky Mountains, TN/NC): 6,417’
Richland Balsam (Great Balsam Mountains, NC): 6,410’
The Southern Appalachians contain a little more than 50 peaks beyond 6,000 feet: the so-called “Southern Sixers.” These account for all the 6,000-plus-foot peaks in the Appalachians, save for one: 6,288-foot Mount Washington, some 1,500 miles north of the nearest Southern Sixer (Roan Mountain in North Carolina’s Roan Highlands).
The Presidential Range is the crowning crest of the White Mountains, which more broadly compose the highest country in New England. The Whites include all 20 of the tallest mountains in the Northeast with one majestic exception: 5,268-foot Katahdin in Maine.
Steepest, Most Relief
The Wellsville Mountains of northeastern Utah, basically a northerly spur of the Wasatch Range, are often called the steepest mountains in the country. A mere five miles wide or so, the Wellsville crest makes an impressively narrow and high blade. Without so much as a friendly foothill or two, the terrain lurches up nearly 5,000-feet from valley lowlands on either side to the razor-edge divide, which reaches 9,372-feet at Box Elder Peak.
Faulting has formed plenty of other impressive mountain fronts in the Lower 48, though few ranges have the double-sided sharpness of the Wellsvilles. The eastern scarp of the Sierra Nevada towers as much as 10,800-feet above the Owens Valley. The Tetons form their celebrity rampart above Jackson Hole via some 7,000-feet of vertical rise, while the sweep is better than 8,000 feet between the High Plains and the Colorado Front Range.
With gulfs of 4,000 to 6,000 feet common between valley floors and peaks, the North Cascades definitely make the short list of the steepest overall ranges in the Lower 48. Their standout relief is largely due to being an uplifted maritime mountain block that’s been absolutely chewed up by ice.
Northernmost and Southernmost
Alaska’s remote, ravishing Brooks Range is the northernmost mountain range in the continental USA. The southernmost? The remote, ravishing Chisos Mountains in Texas’s Big Bend National Park.
What’s the real rooftop of the Lower 48? Well, you could argue more than a few spots, but certainly three burly alpine battlements in the Rocky Mountains should be part of the conversation:
In the Middle Rockies, the Beartooth Plateau forms an awesome 10,000-foot-plus shelf of Precambrian gneiss and granite, rolling tundra, and several hundred lakes.
On the southerly side of the Middle Rockies, meanwhile, Utah’s Uinta Mountains—said to be the Western Hemisphere’s biggest west-east-oriented mountain range—swell to another mighty above-timberline kingdom. The Uinta crest supports a continuous swath of barrens above 11,000 feet that’s more than 300 square miles across: perhaps the biggest single expanse of tundra-land in the conterminous U.S.
The San Juan Mountains in the Southern Rockies, meanwhile, hold court over more than 10,000 square miles—they’re the largest component range of the American Rockies—and it’s said they contain more land above 10,000 feet than any other part of the U.S.
Other corners of the Colorado Rockies as well as Wyoming’s hallowed Wind Rivers deserve mention in terms of sheer extent of high-elevation country. And we definitely can’t overlook the High Sierra on this count: As Stephen Whitney observes in his excellent Sierra Club Naturalist’s Guide to the Sierra Nevada, a 90-mile reach of the Sierra crest between Duck Pass in the north and Trail Pass in the south lies at or above 11,000 feet.
Mountain Superlatives: Volcano Department
Let’s talk fire mountains. (And let’s emphasize mountains, leaving badass supersized calderas such as Yellowstone and California’s Long Valley out.)
The volcano with the greatest summit elevation in the USA is also the fourth tallest mountain in the country: 16,500-foot Mount Bona, a stratovolcano in Alaska’s St. Elias Mountains. (In North America, only three Mexican volcanoes are taller than Bona.)
In terms of the distance between mountain top and base, though, the Big Island of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is the undisputed champion—and also, by that measure, the planet’s king mountain. Though just 13,803 feet above sea level, this great shield volcano’s feet lie nearly 20,000 feet below sea level, giving it a total rise of more than 33,000 feet.
Though Mount Shasta’s the second-highest stratovolcano in the Cascades, a few hundred feet shy of Mount Rainier, it’s the most massive at some 85 or 90 cubic miles. But it’s out-bulked by two huge (if topographically subtle) Cascade shield volcanoes: the 120-cubic-mile Newberry Volcano in central Oregon and the 140-cubic-mile Medicine Lake Volcano in north-central California.
Alaska, as usual, makes ‘em bigger: Mount Wrangell, an andesitic shield volcano in the Wrangells, encompasses some 216 cubic miles.
In this case, though, Hawaii makes ‘em even bigger: At some 18,000 cubic miles, Mauna Loa on the Big Island is the heftiest volcano in the world that juts above sea level. (The recently discovered Tamu Massif, a submarine shield volcano some 1,000 miles east of Japan, is likely the biggest volcano on the planet.)
Mountain Superlatives: Big-Wall Department
Debating the greatest big walls of the world is real bar room fodder for climbers and geologists alike: You can really get down into the weeds (er, gravel?) distinguishing between walls and cliffs, purely vertical and nearly vertical drops, and so on.
Instead of rappelling too far down into technicalities, let’s just spotlight some of the superlative mountain walls of the U.S. (We’re excluding the sidewalls of gorges here, such as the 2,250-foot-tall Painted Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, as well as monumental cliff escarpments of the kind you’ll find on the Colorado Plateau.)
It may be outdone (numbers-wise) by such epic mountain prongs as the Trango Towers in Pakistan’s Karakoram or Baffin Island’s Mount Thor, but Yosemite’s El Capitan is surely the most famous big wall on the planet. Its 3,000-foot granite face above Yosemite Valley marks ground zero for big-wall climbing. And El Cap’s only “the Chief” of numerous Sierra walls in Yosemite country, including Half Dome (2,000 feet) and Washington Column (1,800 feet).
The Rockies harbor their own share of wow-worthy walls. Take the North Face of Mount Hooker in the Wind River Range, a fiercely remote 1,800-foot bulkhead. And then there’s the most celebrated big wall in the Southern Rockies: the Diamond, the 900-some-foot east face of Longs Peak in the Front Range. Greater yet—and maybe second only to El Capitan in the Lower 48—is the fault-scarp west face of Notch Peak in Utah’s House Range: This limestone and dolomite cliff boasts a nearly vertical drop of 2,200 feet.
Not many walls in the Lower 48 are so ferocious as the north face of Mount Rainier: the infamous Willis Wall. This 3,600-foot headwall of the Carbon Glacier—the biggest cirque in the Cascades—sports a 300-foot overhang of ice cliffs that have the nasty habit of shedding frozen shrapnel. That, coupled with regular issues of rockfall and avalanches, makes the Willis Wall Rainier’s riskiest climbing approach.
The Last Frontier’s home to some of the all-around gnarliest walls and rock faces in North America, not least the mythic Devils Thumb stabbing out of the far flung fortress of the Stikine Icecap on the B.C. line. The still-unclimbed northwest face of this granite tooth (err, thumb) has a staggeringly steep 6,700-foot pitch—a wall just about unrivaled on the continent.
Other superlative walls rear from that most rugged division of the Alaska Range, the isolated and dangerously storm-swept Kichatna Spires.
Highest Mountain Lake
That’d be Pacific Tarn at 13,420-feet in Colorado’s Tenmile Range. As this interesting roundup by the guy who christened Pacific Tarn points out, there are several other lakes in the Southern Rockies above 13,000 feet. Better known is Lake Waiau, pooled at 13,020 feet on Mauna Kea; a sacred Native Hawaiian landmark, this cinder pond actually freezes over most winters—quite the novelty, by Hawaii standards.
*Have any fun mountain trivia of your own? We’d love for you to share in the comments below! *
Written by Ethan Shaw for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
There’s nothing like a scary story or creepy folklore to add some extra spirit to your hike. And there’s no better season than fall—the time for haunts and haints—to point your hiking boots in the direction of the spooky trails across the United States. The these hikes all feature some association with the supernatural (or, in one case, with a resident creature called a “cryptid”), from a little but mighty portentous black dog to a caterwauling spirit giving voice to her grief alongside one of the greatest canyons on the planet.
It’s worth noting, of course, that not all trails need have a local phantom or monster—nor some connection to a long-ago murder or massacre—to be spooky. Gnarled barren trees, dangling lichens or mosses, skeletal snags, otherworldly rock formations, the dark backwaters of a flooded wood, a clutter of strewn animal bones, simply a shift in light from friendly sunshine to dark overcast: Plenty of natural qualities can instill an eerie mood to a path.
(Sometimes it’s not even apparent what particular trigger, if any, makes a certain trail seem foreboding. No well-established paranormal reputation, no ugly bygone crime, no particularly strange-looking landscape or unknown noises: just a creepy or sinister feel. I have a hunch we humans have been having these inexplicable unnerving responses to certain places—these hunches, you might say—since about Day One.)
The following trails, though, have some pretty clear-cut credentials when it comes to the spooky and the strange, and as such they make a worthy Halloween bucket-list for any brave hiker.
Metacomet Trail: West Peak of the Hanging Hills, Connecticut
Part of the great traprock complex of the Metacomet Ridge in the Connecticut River Valley, the Hanging Hills form some of the highest ground along the East Coast south of Maine. Their apex, accessed by the long-distance Metacomet Trail (part of the New England National Scenic Trail), is 1,024-foot West Peak, which rises gently from the northeast while boasting sheer cliff-banded west and south faces.
Many hikers flock to adjacent East Peak to climb the 1900-built native-stone tower called Castle Craig. But the summit of West Peak presents such as expansive a view: all the way from the Berkshires to the iconic traprock height of Sleeping Giant to the south and Long Island Sound beyond. The impressive terrain comes complemented by an enduring paranormal legend: that of the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills. This refers to a phantasmal small black hound said to soundlessly haunt the traprock heights. It’s a sign of good fortune if seen once and a warning if it’s seen twice. But see it three times, the legend goes, and you’ve got a forthcoming date with the Grim Reaper.
The classic story of the Black Dog was related in an 1898 issue of the Connecticut Quarterly by the geologist W.H.C. Pynchon, who describes a wintertime visit to West Peak in the company of Herbert Marshall of the U.S. Geological Survey. Pynchon had already seen the Dog once in a rather friendly encounter; Marshall, meanwhile, had seen it twice, but laughed off the legend.
As the two reached the cliffs of West Peak’s southern rim, they spotted the Black Dog perched above them. “We saw his breath steaming from his jaws,” Pynchon wrote, “but no sound came through the biting air.” Spooked, Marshall told Pynchon, “I did not believe it before. I believe it now.” He then abruptly lost his footing and fell to his death in the ravine below.
As it happens, Pynchon himself met his end in the Hanging Hills some years after he penned his report—his body discovered in nearly the same spot where Marshall had come to rest. Pynchon’s demise, plus a number of other deaths in the vicinity (including a climber in 1972), have also been attributed by some to the silent canine specter.
So by all means hike the scenic spine of West Peak and enjoy those traprock vistas, but make sure you carefully tally how many times the Black Dog makes a cameo appearance. (Actually, we might recommend ditching the mountain after just the first glimpse—probably best to keep things on the lucky side of the fate spectrum, yeah?)
Bloody Lane Trail: Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland
September 17, 1862 was the bloodiest day of the blood-soaked American Civil War. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) in Maryland saw nearly 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing, and many of those casualties resulted from the clash between two Union divisions and some 2,300 Confederate soldiers under General D.H. Hill, who’d holed up in an entrenched farm lane called the Sunken Road.
It took several hours for the bluecoats to overwhelm Hill’s men, and the carnage required to do so earned the Sunken Road a grisly new name. “Quite suddenly,” historian/novelist Shelby Foote wrote in his seminal The Civil War, “as if they had tumbled headlong by the hundreds out of the sky, dead men filled whole stretches of the road to overflowing.” Thus the Sunken Road became Bloody Lane.
Today you can walk this once-corpse-choked “holloway” on the 1.6-mile Bloody Lane Trail at the Antietam National Battlefield. It’s a solemn trek on which more than a few visitors have reported ghostly phenomena: the rattle of guns and marching drums, chanting and singing voices, the aroma of gunpowder. “Sometimes, people even report reenactments when none have happened,” writes Maren Horjus in Haunted Hikes.
As Rickie Longfellow notes in a Federal Highway Administration profile of Bloody Lane, an especially noteworthy observation was shared by a group of Baltimore schoolboys who claimed to hear singing of a melody like Deck the Halls while walking the trail. “The area was near the observation tower where the Irish Brigade charged the Confederates with a battle cry in Gaelic, which sounded like the Christmas carol,” Longfellow explains.
So keep those ears (and eyes) open as you tread Bloody Lane. Even if you don’t run across phantom soldiers, you’ll surely sense some sort of psychogeographic gloom hanging about the place, so convulsed with violence on that long-ago September day.
Sleepy Hollow Walkabout, New York
Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is one of the most enduring—and enduringly eerie—American ghost stories, and an autumnal visit to its setting is the perfect way to mark the Halloween season. Irving’s Headless Horseman may be a fictional specter, but it’s not difficult to conjure the distant clatter of undead hoofbeats while wandering the village of Sleepy Hollow on the east banks of the Hudson River.
The Horseman is (in Irving’s words) “said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of the night, as if on the wings of the wind.”
Tap into your inner Ichabod Crane on a dusk walk through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery—where Irving is buried—and the adjacent churchyard of the Old Dutch Burying Ground, which figures in “The Legend.” Try to stay light on your feet while you do, just in case you have to dodge the spectral, decapitated rider’s hurled head.
Concho Billie Trail: Big Cypress National Monument, Florida
So that stinky, subtropical cousin of Bigfoot known as the Florida skunk ape almost assuredly doesn’t exist. But slog through the backcountry of Big Cypress National Preserve on the Concho Billie Trail (or, alternatively, the southernmost leg of the Florida National Scenic Trail nearby), and you might find yourself a temporary believer given the strangeness of the country. Savannas of slash pine and sabal palm, mucky cypress swamps, and strands spangled with airplants: This backland, home to legit flesh-and-blood phantoms such as Florida panthers and black bears as well as alligators and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, looks and feels like the sort of real estate some bipedal, fetid, off-the-scientific-radar hominid might tromp around in.
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Kentucky’s labyrinthine Mammoth Cave isn’t only the longest-known cave system on the planet: It’s also said to be among the more haunted units of the National Park Service, generating better than 150 subterranean paranormal observations over the past couple hundred years. Hiking the shrouded limestone passages on a ranger-led tour, there’s no telling which of the sundry supernatural phenomena you might be privy to.
Periodically reported disembodied coughing from the shadows may link to an ill-fated underground sanatorium for tuberculosis patients housed in the depths of the cave back in the mid-19th century. Corpse Rock gets its cheerful name from the bodies of several sanatorium patients who succumbed and were laid out upon it.
Various specific Mammoth Cave specters have been identified, including the behatted ghost of Stephen Bishop, a slave who guided early visitors to the cavern system and also intrepidly mapped many of its features. The spirit of promoter Floyd Collins, meanwhile, who perished after being trapped by a cave-in in 1925, is thought to explain the man’s voice sometimes heard screaming for “Johnnie”—apparently Collins’ friend Johnnie Gerald, who according to Charles Wetzel in Haunted U.S.A. was the last man to speak to Collins during the drawn-out and ultimately unsuccessful rescue effort.
The Transept Trail: North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
This easy two-mile-long trail in the North Rim unit of Grand Canyon National Park edges a yawning, stair-stepped cleft called the Transept, a tributary of Bright Angel Canyon that itself empties into the main chasm of the Colorado River. The Transept Trail connects the vicinity of the North Rim Campground with the Grand Canyon Lodge, alternating between soaring views along the Transept brink and fragrant portals through the North Rim’s conifer stands.
All things considered, this must be among the most dramatically scenic of America’s haunted trails. The Transept Trail’s celebrity phantom is the Wailing Woman, a nighttime apparition sometimes considered the North Rim’s incarnation of a widespread figure of Mexican folklore, La Llorona. Various specific origin stories are given for the Transept Trail’s haunt: Some say she’s the ghost of a victim of a 1932 fire at the Lodge, known for door-slamming inside the building. Others suggest she’s the lingering spirit of a grief-wracked woman who committed suicide here in the 1920s after her husband and children fell to their deaths from the trail.
The Wailing Woman is typically described as wearing a white dress patterned with blue flowers, though your first notice of her will probably be her agonized cries on the rim-edge wind.
Written by Ethan Shaw for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
So much to do, so little time. From the rolling mountains of the Southeast, to the jagged peaks of the West, to the river canyons, waterfalls, and old-growth forests of the Pacific Coast, the Continental United States is home to a lifetime's worth of places to visit and things to do.
RootsRated works with outdoor and adventure travel experts across the United States, and to produce this piece, we've polled our network to showcase their suggestions for the best adventure travel experiences in their towns and cities.
So, without further ado, here's our breakdown of 23 American cities that you should visit at least once in your lifetime. Some are small; some are huge; some are obvious choices, others are towns you've possibly never heard of. All are incredible for the modern day adventure traveler.
1. Asheville | North Carolina
If there’s one mountain town in the Southeast that needs very little introduction, it’s Asheville, NC. Well-known for being a creative hub for art and music, a craft-beer mecca, and a gateway to endless Appalachian adventure, Asheville is a place that’s practically overflowing with all the right ingredients for a world-class outdoor town. Thousands of trail miles crisscross the surrounding mountains, and a vast network of waterways run through and around the town, making Asheville a dream destination for any outdoor enthusiast.
Situated in the Willamette River Valley, at the base of towering volcanic mountains and sprawling evergreen forests, Portland is a Pacific Northwest city that's well-known for being an adventure paradise. Within city limits, the most impressive natural area to visit is Forest Park —home to 5,000 acres of green space filled with classic moss-covered Oregon forest. Just outside of Portland, the 11,250-foot Mount Hood is an accessible peak for aspiring mountaineers, with endless amounts of trails and world-class ski areas. And closer to the city, the Columbia River Gorge has a seemingly endless amount of hiking and biking trails, plus some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the country .
In the heart of the Lowcountry, with beaches and surf breaks that beg you to stay outside from sunup to sundown and an enticing local history, Hilton Head might be one of the Southeast's most inviting coastal destinations. Whether trail running through live oak forests, or kayaking next to dolphins, or going for sunset bike rides on the beach, Hilton Head offers up all sorts of irresistible Lowcountry adventure. And the nightlife is equally lively, as you can have your pick of the litter between classy wine bars, underground sub shops, or some of the best oysters and seafood in the country.
Situated on the eastern edge of Yellowstone National Park and the western edge of the Bighorn Basin, Cody is a cowboy town that serves as the ultimate gateway to Wyoming adventure. It's the type of town where you can summit towering peaks in one of the four surrounding mountain ranges, whitewater paddle down the Shoshone River, or venture off to Yellowstone's Lamar Valley, and then make it back in time to catch a local rodeo in the evening.
Aspen is at the heart of the best the Rocky Mountains have to offer. No matter what season you find yourself in Aspen, there’s always great food, a laid-back vibe, and all the adventure you can handle. Its unique location in the Elk Range Mountains offers incredible access to year round adventures. In the winter, you can choose between three different ski mountains—Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, and Aspen Highlands—and there’s nothing quite like turning down a slope that ends directly at the shops and hotels of downtown Aspen. In the warmer months, a visit to the Maroon Bells is an absolute must, as these twin summits offer one of the most breathtaking views in all of Colorado.
Mount Baker, the snow-covered volcano ripe for winter sports and summer hiking, provides a regal backdrop to Bellingham, WA, and the town’s famous Ski to Sea race is a rigorous trek from the slopes of Mount Baker to the waters of Bellingham Bay. Bellingham’s extensive trail networks offer year-round biking, hiking, and trail running, and the town’s lakes and coastal waterways make it a perfect place for kayakers and SUP enthusiasts. The microbrewery scene is on the rise as well, so there's no shortage of places to grab a locally-brewed, post-adventure pint.
It's almost as if the San Juans surrounding Telluride were handcrafted by a mountain biking, ultrarunning, olympic-skiing, adventure-loving demigod, and then carefully placed into the most gorgeous box canyon in the world. Telluride is undoubtedly one of the strongest contenders for best all around mountain town.
A city by the bay, within touching distance of Acadia National Park as well as Baxter State Park and its most famous peak, Mt. Katahdin, Portland is Maine's largest and most-visited city. The Old Port district is home to cobblestone streets, 19th Century buildings, and New England-style fishing piers that are frequented by seagulls, seals, and hungry tourists who sit at dockside restaurants and listen to live music while indulging in some of the finest lobster rolls in the country.
Situated on the edge of the mountains and high desert, Boise offers a network of roughly 130 miles of trails at the edge of its city limits, as well as one of Southwest Idaho’s best canoeing rivers, the Boise River—which cuts right through downtown. The city is situated in a valley roughly an hour away from three whitewater rivers, hundreds of miles of high-desert trails in the Owyhee Canyonlands, and trailheads on the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness.
Nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is the northernmost gate of the Southern California Kingdom. Blessed with a year-round, Mediterranean climate and topography that allows for surf sessions and mountainside hot spring soaks in the same day, the greater Santa Barbara region is a certifiable Garden of Eden for folks who love to get their kicks in the great outdoors. A bounty of outdoor opportunities, coupled with a culture that prioritizes working to live rather than living to work, has helped turn Santa Barbara into a year-round hub for outdoor adventure travelers.
Encased by forests, mountains, and sea, there are few major cities in America that have it as good as Seattle when it comes to outdoor adventure. Whether it's paddling in the Puget Sound, or traipsing to the top of evergreen-strewn peaks in the Cascades, or even making the short two-hour journey to America's fifth most visited national park , there's much to experience in this Pacific Northwest gem.
As the only city to have won Outside Magazine's "Best Town Ever" on two separate occasions, it's safe to say that the secret is out about Chattanooga. In the summer, don’t miss putting-in to the Tennessee River from the downtown riverfront and SUPing to Maclellan Island, or hiking on Lookout Mountain to Sunset Rock and Point Park for beautiful vistas of the city. From the summit of Lookout, you’ll witness the undulating ridgelines of the Cumberland Plateau and Missionary Ridge, which constitute sections of the Appalachian chain’s southern terminus. For paddlers and climbers, the Tennessee River Gorge—also known as the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee—offers miles of gorge-lined flat water and sandstone cliff bands. In the evening, head to the Flying Squirrel Bar , and in the morning, don’t miss brunch at The Farmer’s Daughter .
Every season in Jackson Hole brings with it particular marvel. Winter brings skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and skinning into the Teton backcountry. In the spring, there’s road running and road biking in the National Elk Refuge, plus muddy trail sports and whitewater paddling. Teton summers are prime time for hiking, camping, and climbing, as well as flatwater paddling on the Snake River and at String Lake. And there are few images in the world more iconic than a Jackson Hole autumn with golden Aspens along Jenny Lake.
Take a simple stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, embark on an overnight backpacking trip in the Marin Headlands, tackle the singletrack terrain where mountain biking was born, paddle through marine sanctuaries or through the challenging waters of the San Francisco Bay, and reward your efforts with a post-excursion pint of Northern California beer. No matter what appeals to your adventurous taste, you can find it in San Francisco.
Located in the red rock desert of Eastern Utah, on the back doorstep of two national parks—Arches and Canyonlands—Moab is an otherworldly destination town with staggering adventure opportunities. Mountain bikers know the name all too well, as it's consistently ranked as one of the top towns for mountain biking in the world. In town, there's a long list of outfitters and touring companies that can set you up with gear and local beta, and as the sun goes down over the desert, there are plenty of top-notch margarita and taco joints, including our favorite Miguel’s Baja Grill .
Outside Magazine published an article called The 16 Best Places to Live in the US: 2014 , and Minneapolis made it to #3, based on the city’s “access to adventure, healthy eating options, bike lanes, and green space.” With more parks per square mile than in any other city, and with more than 70 miles of well-maintained trails, it's no wonder that Minneapolis is garnering such well-deserved acclaim.
Situated on the dry side of the San Juans, Durango is a much-loved hub for endless Southwestern Colorado adventure. With the Animas River snaking through and Animas Mountain rising high above, not to mention gigantic swaths of wilderness and towering mountain peaks within an hour’s drive of downtown, it would be a mistake to pass over Durango on a Colorado tour.
Although Austin isn’t on the sea or high in the mountains, its location in the Hill Country of Central Texas means that it’s home to a diverse and inviting mix of tree-covered limestone ridges, creek-filled valleys, ancient 500-year-old cypress groves, and underground springs that feed a multitude of watering holes and create a vast network of underground (and mostly undiscovered) caves. Such topography offers outdoor enthusiasts everything from premier mountain biking at Reveille Peak Ranch, to excellent hiking at Balcones Canyonlands, to limitless limestone climbing along the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Although there are many fine cities in America, there is only one city that bears the title, “America’s Finest City.” And it’s San Diego, California. San Diego is a city that has it all—from the best beaches in Southern California, to an amazing amount of wilderness diversity, where you can go from ocean, to foothills, to mountains, to desert, and back, all in time to enjoy fresh, authentic tacos and Mexican lagers back in the city center. Simply put, if you like constant sunshine, gorgeous beaches and bluffs, super-model-esque people, and a never-sleeps kind of energy that pulses throughout the city, you'll love San Diego.
For decades, whisperings of beer scarcity kept the outdoorsy masses away from Utah. But in recent years, skiers, climbers, runners, cyclists, and paddlers are all flocking to Salt Lake City as they discover its an enticing blend of proper city and rugged mountain town. You can mountain bike in the morning, ski in the afternoon, catch an evening symphony, and of course, top it all off with a few local microbrews. And let's not forget that Salt Lake might be known best of all for its peerless Utah powder .
Boulder's wealth of outdoor adventures and its more than 300 days of sunshine make it the ideal place for those looking to get out for some classic Front Range adventure. Located at the divide between prairie and mountain, the foothills around Boulder leading into the mountains are home to excellent rock climbing, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and wildlife watching (including mountain lions). Within jogging distance of Boulder’s lively Pearl Street are trailheads that lead straight into the Flatirons, so don’t be surprised to find world class mountain athletes training at altitude.
Without any mountains to speak of, Orlando may not be at the top of anyone's adventure bucket list, but it actually has quite a bit going for it. The Chuluota Wilderness area offers pristine woods only a few minutes outside of Orlando. The Hal Scott Preserve has nearly 17 miles of trails and 9,300 acres along the Econlockhatchee River, where you’ll alternate between grass and-hard packed sand. And there's also world-class paddling along the numerous creeks, springs, and rivers that ink their way through the tropical forests and marshes of Central Florida.
Burlington’s location along Lake Champlain would be good enough to make it a great adventure destination. But throw in the Green Mountains, miles of open forests, and the entire wilderness of the Northeast Kingdom, and it becomes one of the crown jewels of northern New England. Hikers, mountain bikers, and backpackers have access to Vermont’s finest less than an hour away: Mount Mansfield (the state highpoint), Camel’s Hump, and the Long Trail are all great places to get lost, and of course, there is always paddling on Lake Champlain, which never ceases to amaze.
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)
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)
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)
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)
_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)
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]