Where to Walk around a Lake in Denver

Where to Walk Around a Lake in Denver

When people think of Denver, they think of the Rocky Mountains. But the truth is, Denver is flat. And dry. Super dry. It's the high plains, after all. Although Denver is the west's water tower, it's tough to find water. Just ask the engineers who built the High Line Canal and the series of ditches around Denver. Water is scarce. But there are several neighborhoods with great lakes that invite wonderful walks, ranging from one mile around to over six.

Here are five great places to take a walk around a lake (and ALL are dog friendly.)

Be sure to click the links for maps and more details about the parks.

Berkeley Lake

In the Berkeley neighborhood, which originally watered the alfalfa of John Walker's farm, you'll find Berkeley Lake in Berkeley Park. It's also got a great dog park next to it. Although leashes are required around the lake, your pup can run free in the dog park. A lap around the lake clocks about a mile. Be sure to stop in on the hip Tennyson neighborhood for a quick bite and cold craft. See a video about the park.

Find Berkeley Lake at 5031 W 46th Ave, Denver, CO.

Rocky Mountain Park Lake

Next door to Berkeley is Rocky Mountain Park, which is loaded with cedar, oak, pine, birch and cottonwood trees. Not to be confused with Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain Park and its small lake offer up great views of the front range. Also a mile around and dog friendly (on leashes), you can finish your walk with a game of tennis! See a video about the park.

Find Rocky Mountain Lake Park at 3301 W 46th Ave, Denver, CO.

Sloan's Lake

Always bustling with skaters, riders, walkers, joggers, and strollers, the 3-mile lap around Sloan's Lake offers picturesque views of the front range as well. You'll often find different boating activities happening on this historic lake, including dragon boat races and sail boat regattas. From the historic Manhattan Beach, which housed circles acts, ostrich-drawn Cinderella sleds, elephants, and even flying human cannons, to pleasure boats that cruised the lake yet ultimately sank, Sloan’s Lake has invited Denverites to its shores for over a century. Now the banks have sail boats, paddle boats, and if it ever gets cold enough again for the lake to freeze for consecutive days, ice skating. Plenty of benches and playgrounds encircle the lake and in the spring and summer, you can seek out budding rose gardens. See a video about the lake.

Find Sloan's Lake Park at 1700 Sheridan Blvd, Denver CO.

City Park

Not only will you find lots to do in City Park, including playing in the water fountains, meandering through the rose gardens, and playing tag in the open fields, but you can do the mile-walk around Ferril Lake, named after Denver's Poet Laureate. In the summer, rent paddle boats or kayaks and float your way to the aviary in the center of the lake to watch geese and cormorant thrive. Be sure to find the Six Legs statue! See a video about the park.

Find City Park at 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO.

Wash Park

With several choices of lakes to circle, including Smith's Pond, Grasmere Lake and Lily Pond, you can walk over 6 miles around Wash Park if you round all the choices. In addition you'll find formal and informal gardens, fireplaces, a new playground, and even summer volleyball tournaments. Thriving with activity year round, be sure to stay in the proper lane when traveling throughout the park, as there are well-designated lanes for walkers, runners, and bikers.

Find Wash Park at 701 S Franklin St, Denver, CO.

What is your favorite lake to walk around in Denver? Post your pictures and tag them with #denverbyfoot so I can see them!

See you on the trail,
~Chris

PS If you'd like to see more videos about the parks, subscribe to my YouTube video channel where I review over 150 parks!


Hiking Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

Hiking Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

Need a great hike that's close by, is fantastic for kids, invites world travelers, and includes world history?

And you might even see bison, deer, foxes, prairie dogs and bald eagles?

Then head over to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge.

From Homesteaders to Bison

The Wildlife Refuge, which now hosts a bison herd of close to 100, two types of deer, lots of foxes, coyotes, prairie dogs and ferrets, used to be the dirtiest land in the country. Seized from homesteaders after Pearl Harbor, the Army built munitions and chemical warfare, creating a toxic cocktail of mustard gas and dioxins. On top of this deadly soup, the space race created fuel for the Apollo space mission.

By the time the 80s rolled around, Denver’s Stapleton airport and a disgusting dirt pile of tainted soil called out for solutions. Leaders came together, moved the airport, and got the old Army base declared a Superfund site. At the same time, bald eagles appeared. With legislative maneuvering and citizen support, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge appeared.

Hike or Drive to See Bison

And now, you can view the bison on this wonderful urban resource, just a few miles off i-70 just north of the old Stapleton airport tower. The bison’s range behind fences. In a car, you can drive along a designated route within the range and get very close to the bison. Yet, you must stay in your car. If you decide to walk, you can get close, but a fence will always be between you and the bison.

Let’s be honest, right up front. Bison aren’t friendly. They don’t want your company. They weigh almost a ton. So, no, you won’t actually be hiking with them. You’ll more be walking near them, in view of them, or within range. If you don't see them walking the Legacy Trail, hop back in your car and drive the Wildlife Drive Trail.

Get Up Early or Go Late

The best time to view the bison is early in the morning or later in the afternoon. But it’s really a guessing game at best. The bison roam the Refuge throughout the day, and there are many days you can’t see them from the trails or the public viewing areas. None the less, here’s how you can walk right next to them if they're out.

The Trail Route

Park at the Refuge’s Visitor Center. Inside, you can see a life-sized bison and learn the history of the Refuge. When you’re ready, head out on the Legacy Trail, which leaves from the back side  of the Visitor Center. At the head of the trail is a ferret exhibit that you won’t want to pass up. Then head northeasterly along the trail to Lake Mary.

The trail is mostly pebble rock. Rollers and strollers can enjoy it on dry days. You’ll walk through medium-high prairie grass along rolling knolls. About halfway to Mary Lake, which is about a ½ mile, you’ll encounter some swales on both sides of the trail where lovely Cottonwood and Oak trees grow. Keep your eyes peeled, as you’ll have a high chance to see mule deer and maybe even some white-tailed deer.

Shortly after you pass the swales and before you cross Havana, look to the north. If you’re going to see any bison by foot, here’s your best chance. Often, small parts of the herd will hang out just north of the swales and west of the road. You’ll be close enough to take pictures where they look like bison and less where they look like little brown dots out in a field of grass.

While you’re near Mary Lake, cross over Havana and enjoy a walk around Mary or go a bit further to Lake Ladora. There’s a great loop trail of about 2 miles to take you around the lakes. When you’re ready, head back west along the Legacy trail to the Visitor Center,completing a four-mile out-and-back walk.

By the way, Colorado natives and long-time locals call the area the "Arsenal" while new-comers tend to call it the "Refuge."

Traveling to Denver International Airport?

If you have 2-3 extra hours before checking in for you flight, stopping by the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is a great last stop on the way to the airport. If you're driving from downtown Denver to the airport, take I70 to the Central Park Blvd. Go north about a mile when the street turns into Prairie Parkway. Take a right on Gateway Road into the park. When you finish your visit, leave the park, turn left on Prairie Parkway to Central Park Blvd. Turn left on 56th Ave to Pena Blvd. Turn left on Peña to the airport.

Or, if you are taking public transit, purchase a ticket on the A train for the airport. Take A train to Central Park Station. From there, you can take Bus 62. The bus will let you off on Prairie Parkway, and then you'll have about a 1/2 mile walk. It might be better to Lyft to the Visitor's Center from Central Park Station. When you're finished, either Bus 62 back to Central Park Station or Lyft to the 61st and Peña A Train station. Take the train to the airport. You will not need to purchase another ticket. Your airport ticket is good all day and for multiple rides. It's good on the bus, too, if you decide to take that route.

If you go to the Refuge, post your pictures and tag them with #DenverByFoot. I'd love to see them!

~See you on the trail

Chris
PS If you'd like more great hiking suggestions nearby in Denver, get my book Best Urban Hikes: Denver.


Three Great Denver Hikes with Kids

Three Great Hikes to Do in Denver with Kids

Sometimes all you want to do is get outside and go for a hike. But loading up the kids, the snacks, the gear, and then the drive.

Ugh the drive.

To get to the trailhead...all of this can suck the wind out of your sails. So why drive an hour to a trailhead when there are many great hikes right here in Denver for you and the kids. Granted, these hikes might not have steep climbs and rocky trails, but they do have great outdoor spaces, trees, and nature. And you don't have to drive forever!

Here are three great hikes in Denver to do with kids.

1. Star K Ranch Loops

Fresh air and fun loops await you at Star K Ranch.

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Aurora, abutting Denver, is the delectable and fun Star K Ranch. Within it is the Morrison Nature Center. Together, this location is the perfect place for a local getaway for family outings. Start in the Nature Center and touch and feel your way through the flora and fauna of the park. Learn about the elk, deer, and foxes that live in the park and their flying friends that soar overhead. Then head out on the trails. The best way to enjoy the park is to do the loop that leaves the Nature Center, heads to Sand Creek, follows Sand Creek, and then returns to the Nature Center. You can do short little one-mile loops or make them as big as three miles. For an even bigger adventure, do the 5-mile Norfolk Glen Loop.

Trailhead: 16002 E Smith Rd, Aurora, CO
Restrooms: Yes
Bring: Water, snacks, sunscreen.
Dogs: Allowed on leashes. Please scoop poop.
Grab a bite: CoraFaye's Cafe, 16251 E Colfax Ave Ste 210, Aurora, CO (get the coconut creek cheesecake!)

2. Ruby Hill to Grant Frontier Park

Conduct an outdoor concert at Grant Frontier Park.

Ready for a bit of fun, urban hiking, and nature play? Start at Ruby Hill Park. Depending on the age of your kids, pick the right playground for them to warm up and get started practicing their outdoor voices. Then tie their shoes and urban hike by going west on Florida Ave. Cross over the train tracks and S Platte River Drive, then loop down to the Platte River Trail to go south along the river. Follow on the trail to the south for just about a mile and you'll reach the super fun Grant Frontier Village Park. Here kids can practice their gold mining, play outdoor musical theater, and hunt for crawdads in the oxbow through the park. They can even drive a wagon! When you're ready, follow your footsteps back to Ruby Hill Park for just over 2 miles of walking and thousands of steps of playing.

Trailhead: 1200 W Florida Ave, Denver, CO
Restrooms: Yes at Ruby Hill
Bring: Water, snacks, sunscreen.
Dogs: Allowed on leashes. Please scoop poop.
Grab a bite: GB Fish and Chips, 1311 S Broadway, Denver, CO (get the clam chowder!)

3. Bible Park Loop

Hike a nice 2.5 mile loop at Bible Park then catch a frog!

A large shady park in southeast Denver is a fun place to go owl spotting and geocaching. You can park in the center of the park and then work your way out to its perimeter where you can hike a horseshoe shape around the edge of the park along the High Line Canal Trail. In the middle of the park are ball fields, tennis courts, exercise gyms and playgrounds with a sandbox. Along the trail is a luscious canopy of cottonwoods where you can spot squirrels, owls, and hawks along with possum, raccoon and fox tracks, if not the animals themselves! Starting in the center of the park and hiking the horseshoe will clock about 2.5 miles.

Trailhead: 6802 E Yale Ave, Denver, CO
Restrooms: Yes
Bring: Water, snacks, sunscreen.
Dogs: Allowed on leashes. Please scoop poop.
Grab a bite: La Fagota, 5670 E Evans Ave, Denver, CO (get the taquitos de camaron and an horchata!)

Where are you hiking with your kids in Denver? Send me a note, post below, and tag your photos with #denverbyfoot so I can see your fun time!

See you on the trail,

~Chris

PS For more ideas of where to hike in Denver, get my book Best Urban Hikes: Denver.


5 Great Denver Hikes without a Car

Five Great Denver Hikes without a Car

You might see bison on the First Creek at DEN trail!

The mountains are calling; but you can't get there. No worries. Great hikes within Denver just wait for you to jump on them and enjoy the mountains from afar. Here are 5 super hikes in Denver you can access via transit with directions to getting to the trail heads. (You can also get there by car!)

1. First Creek at DEN Open Space

first creek eatwalklearn
The First Creek is a refreshing sight!

This amazing trail at the corner of 56th Ave and Peña goes two directions. When you approach the trailhead, you can go east on a concrete path for two miles and then return for a total of 4 miles. You'll meander along First Creek, under the A Train, and out to the edge of Aurora. Watch for owls, coyotes, and prairie dogs. Or, if you go west, you'll go into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. The dirt trail starts along the First Creek and then veers north to the bison overlook. Watch for bison, deer, hawks and eagles for 4 miles roundtrip. If you do both sides, both ways, you'll hike 8 miles. For a trail report, see this article.

Get there: Bus 45 is your ticket to ride. You can pick it up for the Central Park Station. Take it to 53rd and Kittredge stop. From there, you'll have about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead. Head east on E 53rd toward Kittredge. Turn left on Memphis St. Turn right on E 56th Ave. Turn left on Buckley Rd. into the parking lot where you'll see signs telling you the story off the prairie dogs. Continue north on Buckley Rd for 1/3 mile to get to the trailhead to go east or just a bit further to get to the trailhead that goes west. Be sure to bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are no facilities here.

2. The Norfolk Glen Loop

The Norfolk Glen Loop in Aurora combines the best of the outdoors with the ease of two great trails, the Sand Creek Greenway and the High Line Canal Trail. At five miles, which you can shorten to just over three, this hike starts at the Star K Ranch Morrison Nature Center off Smith Road (16002 E. Smith Road, Aurora 80011). You walk through wonderful open space filled with deer, elk, coyotes and prairie dogs. You'll cross the Sand Creek onto the High Line Canal Trail, and walk for a couple of miles with the Canal on your right and open space full of hawks and eagles on your left. After navigating the Triple Creek Trailhead, you'll head back along the Sand Creek and its Greenway on soft surface trail. When you arrive back to the Nature Center, be sure to go inside to use the restrooms and enjoy the interpretive history about Mr Stark. For the kids, they can touch some animal furs, too! See a map of the walk here: Norfolk Glen Loop. This walk is also in The Best Urban Hikes: Denver.

Get there: Bus 37 is your ticket to ride. You can pick it up from the Peoria A Train Station. Take it to the 32nd Ave and Chambers stop. From there, you have about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead within Star K Ranch. Head west on 32nd Ave to Chambers. Turn left on Chambers Rd. Turn left on E Smith Rd. Turn right on Laredo St. Follow the signs to the Morrison Nature Center. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are restroom facilities here. If you have time, be sure to enter the Morrison Nature Center and check out the animal and natural history displays.

3. The Confluence Loop

5280 loop 5280loop urbanhikingden
Connecting with the Platte is a rich opportunity.

A great hike for locals wanting to show off Denver, this hike starts at REI at Confluence Park. You'll walk along the Platte River toward Mile High Stadium, cross the million-dollar bridge, then enjoy the swoosh of Elitch's roller coasters. Pass the City of Denver's Centennial Garden, then you'll take a right and amble along Cherry Creek. Here, you can see where Denver and Auraria were founded while enjoying some great urban art. The walk continues along the Platte River to Denver's Skatepark, which is continually ranked in the top 10 free skate parks in the world. When you're finished, walk the Millennial Bridge back to Union Station for lunch. For a map of the walk, click The Confluence Loop.

Get there: A great place to start this hike is from the REI Flagship store where you can gear up and snack up. To get to REI, Union Station is your ticket to ride. From there, you have about a 15-minute walk. Out of Union Station, go southwest on Wynkoop St toward 16th St Mall. Turn right on 15th St. After crossing the Platte River, spy a sidewalk to take a left to the Platte River Trail. You'll walk along the river next to the rear of REI. The trailhead starts at the Starbucks at REI.

4. The Sand Creek Greenway

9Creeks Loop Sand Creek

For a little bit different adventure, walk the Sand Creek Greenway between the Central Park Station and the Dahlia Street Trailhead. You'll wander along the Sand Creek, under two major interstates, past a waterfall, and along a quiet greenway where you won't ever hear or see I270 right next to you. It's a good contemplative walk or even a place to catch some invertebrates in the water. Be sure to bring binoculars to spy the bird life in the reeds and along the creek bank for this 4-mile wilderness hike in the city.

Get there: The A Train is your ticket to ride. Take it to the Central Park Station. From there you have about a 5-minute walk to the trailhead. Walk east along the sidewalk that parallels the train tracks. You'll cross the old Smith Road bridge that is closed to car traffic. At the east end of the bridge, follow the footpath down the bank. When you reach the concrete tail at the bottom of the footpath, you'll be on the Sand Creek Greenway. The trailhead starts here and immediately goes north, then west, under the train tracks. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are no facilities here. There is a restroom about halfway at the Commerce City Wetland Park. At the Dahlia St. trailhead, you can catch bus 40 which is a 4-minute walk to the Eurdora St and 56t St Station.

5. Sloan's Lake Loop

If you're needing a bit of a water view with a mountain backdrop, do a 3-mile lap around Sloan's Lake. This active trail filled with skaters, striders, walkers, and families provides plenty off places to rest in the shade on benches. Gardens and art dot the loop. You might even catch an outdoor exercise class or a dragon boat race!

Get there: Bus 28 is your ticket to ride. From the station, you'll have about a 6-minute walk. Take the bus to the W 26th Ave and Vrain St station. Head west on W 26th toward Winona Ct. Turn left onto W Byron Pl. and follow to the lake. Walk in either direction around the lake to make a loop. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are plenty of restrooms around the lake. You may also want to venture into the neighborhood and enjoy this walk.

For more hikes in Denver you can do without a car, check out over 20 of them in my book The Best Urban Hikes: Denver. You'll find complete maps and directions for enjoying these urban treasures. Or, if you'd like to get an intensive city experience and enjoy wildlife of the human kind, get my book Walking Denver's Neighborhoods, where you'll find 78 3-mile loops within Denver's neighborhoods.


Train to Hike 14er in Denver

Train to Hike 14er in Denver

You can hike in Denver to get ready for a 14er in the Rocky Mountains.

As summer approaches, you might be thinking you'll climb a 14er this year along Denver's front range and beautiful Rocky Mountains. Most folks wait until the weather warms and the snow melts before heading into the high country to climb a mountain taller than 14,000 feet. But you don't need to wait until July to start your training. You can start training for your 14ers right in the middle of Denver.

Train in Denver to Hike a 14er

Here's how to train to hike a 14er, starting in Denver and working your way up the mountains. This is the plan I did to hike my first 14er. It started in Denver's neighborhoods walking flat, short walks and eventually I worked my way up to high altitude hiking. It didn't happen overnight and it did begin with my acknowledgment that I had to get fit and train with friends in order to top my first 14er. And, it wasn't just these hikes. They were the goals I maintained and accomplished while also continuing to hike and walk in Denver throughout the weekdays and weekends.

Distance, Elevation Gain and Altitude

Sometimes you'll get really close, but can't finish due to weather!

Climbing 14ers takes many skills and much training. 14ers aren't easy despite the fact that many people do them every year. This post is about getting you ready for

  • the distance,
  • the elevation gain, and
  • the altitude.

You can tackle these three challenges by starting in Denver. In this plan, you'll continue your training along the front range, working your way up in altitude from Denver's 5280 feet to 14000 feet gradually. As you get fit, you'll hike your way up to 9000, then 10000, then 11000, then 12000, then 13000 and finally topping at 14000 feet.

Start in Denver's Neighborhoods with Distance

Start building distance by hiking in Denver's neighborhoods.

Let's start with the distance first. Generally, you'll travel 6-10 miles in trail distance when climbing a 14er. Of course each one varies. You can start your distance training in Denver by starting in its neighborhoods and on its trails.

If you are fresh out, just starting to walk, you might want to start with the 1-mile Radius Walking Challenge and begin adding a bit of walking into your life everyday. When you're ready to tackle three miles at a time, pick one of Denver's 78 neighborhoods and go out for an amble. My three favorite neighborhoods to walk in Denver are Stapleton, Auraria, and Five Points. Each has interesting architecture or stories to keep you entertained; be sure to click on the links to find maps and narration for where to walk in those neighborhoods. If those three don't suit you, here are 75 more Denver neighborhoods.

From Denver's Neighborhoods to its Trails

You might see bison on the First Creek at DEN trail!

Once you feel comfortable with 3-5 miles within the neighborhoods, head out to Denver's regional trail system. Within Denver, there are at least seven trails and hundreds of great hikes that incorporate those trails. A great beginner hike to tackle is the First Creek at DEN trail. If you go east on the trail, you'll be on concrete. If you go west, you'll be on dirt trail. As you get ready for your 14er, you'll want to start doing dirt trails. Be sure to go west on First Creek at DEN Trail.

Adding in Distance in Denver

Don't let snow keep you from hiking. Denver cleans it trails quickly!

Within Denver, you can expand your distance easily on the 9 Creeks Loop, the High Line Canal Trail, or the Sand Creek Greenway. These trails are generally flat, have wide paths, and are easy to follow. You might want to try segment 3 on the 9 Creeks Loop, segment 10 on the High Line Canal, or Segment 3 on the Sand Creek Greenway.

Once you've gotten a good 6-8 miles of distance down and you're adjusted to Denver's altitude, work your way up into the front range trails. The Bear Creek trail starts to gain some altitude. You can pick it up off the South Platte River Trail, and as you go walk westerly up the trail, you'll start working into the 6000-7500 feet elevation zones.

Adding in Elevation Gain within the Denver Area

The overlook from Mt Carbon will keep you motivated!

Another slightly higher hike with some elevation gain is the Mt Carbon Loop at Bear Creek Lake in Lakewood. This 6-mile hike takes on 515 of elevation gain up Mt Carbon while you overlook downtown Denver. It's a great local hike which you can find in the award-winning book, Best Urban Hikes: Denver.

Before heading up into the higher elevations, you'll want to tackle a few more local front range hikes. North Table Mountain is always a good one as well, and you'll want to add in the Lichen Trail for a bit more elevation gain. I describe the Lichen Loop hike in my book, Best Urban Hikes: Denver. You'll start at around 5800 feet and work your way up to about 6400 by way of a very steep start; after the initial climb, the hike is relatively flat with some undulating ups and downs.

Finding Elevation Gain in Evergreen and Roxborough

Stairs are a big part of your 14er training.

Now that you've got some elevation gain and some distance under your belt, you'll want to take on Carpenters Peak in Roxborough State Park. Similar in difficulty and elevation to North Table Mountain, this 6.2-mile hike adds some steeper ups and downs. From Carpenters Peak, you can continue on to Waterton Canyon for a healthy 13 miles roundtrip (with some car logistics added in.)

Next up in your ongoing climb up in elevation, you'll want to tackle the Panorama Point Trail in Corwina Park near Evergreen. This short 2.5 trail has a steep climb up to about 7200 feet. It's a good trail for you to get your climbing lungs working in anticipation of trying longer trails at higher altitude.

Topping Out at 9000 Feet

A good hike in the 8000-9000 feet elevation zone is in Staunton State Park. A gorgeous park that also provides wonderful ADA-compliant trails and gear, you can find excellent training hikes. One is the Mason Creek Trail in Staunton State Park. As you climb, altitude makes the hiking more difficult. Be sure you bring extra water and extra food, and take shorter hikes as you adjust to the higher elevations. This 4.5-mile trail starts at 8100 feet and climbs to 9440 feet. It's a good starter hike for higher elevations and gets your ready for Mt Bergen.

Reaching 10000 Feet

You will eventually end up above the tree line!

The next great hike you can do in late spring/early summer as you get ready for your 14er, is the Mt Bergen hike. You'll start in JeffCo's lovely Elk Meadow Park and then climb through Denver Mountain Park's Mt Bergen. This 8.8-mile hike will get you 2100 feet of elevation gain and top you out at 9700 feet.

Kenosha Pass Is Not Just for Fall Color

To avoid crowds, get there early, go on the weekday, and avoid the fall color swarm.

If you're progressing along and feel comfortable with 10000 feet, you'll want to continue your progression up in elevation and deeper into the Rocky Mountains. By this point, 8 miles in the higher elevations should be accessible for you. For your 10000-11000 feet hike, take on the amazing Kenosha Pass. Many folks visit Kenosha during the fall color viewing season, but it's a great place to visit in last spring/early summer. Check your snow reports, then head out to Kenosha and jump onto the Colorado Trail. Hike the distance you feel comfortable with; the trail goes from Waterton Canyon to Durango.

By this time, you should feel sure-footed on rocky and dirt trails. You've purchased yourself a good pair of hiking boots, you're carrying your water in a bladder, you maybe have a favorite hat, and you know what trail snacks to pack. You may have even invested in a good set of hiking poles. Next up in your training for a 14er is to take on your next elevation zone.

Hell's Hole Awaits You

Getting above tree line is an entirely new experience.

Now that you're hovering around 10000 feet, and the weather has melted much of the snow, you can move deeper into the front range and tackle some the higher hikes. For 11000 feet, definitely do one of my favorite hikes, Hell's Hole near Idaho Springs. For 4 miles, you'll steadily climb up to a bristlecone pine forest and the backside of Mt Evans. Then you'll turn around and go back for another 4 miles.

When Hiking Becomes Real

Bring plenty of gear, water and food when you climb 14ers.

My favorite hike in the 12000-13000 feet zone is Mt Audubon. By this time, you'll have gotten used to hiking above the timberline at around 11000 feet. Be sure to check the weather for wind; as you get into these taller mountains, conditions can change drastically and wind can blow greater than 50 mph. If you don't have the right gear, right food, right people, and right attitude, don't go. But if you are ready and prepared, take on Mt Audubon for your 13000 check mark.

At this point, you are probably also hiking other areas during the week or the weekend. You are comfortable with putting down 8-10 miles, you're acclimated to high altitudes, and you've got a crew and a set of gear that you trust and can rely on in bad conditions. When you feel you're ready, which is more than just hiking the recommendations here, pick a 14er. Which one?

And Now, a 14er

Along the front range, you have many choices of 14ers.

There are many posts about hiking 14ers and which ones are the easiest and best to start with first. You might try Mt Bierstadt, Grays and Torreys, Sherman, Quandary, or Massive. But please, don't let Denver's adrenaline and media tease you.

Hiking 14ers is hard.

Although "everyone does it," they shouldn't. Many rescues happen every season and people die every year because they weren't prepared either with fitness, mental aptitude, or gear. Please be sure you're ready on all of these dimensions. Also, don't rush. Sometimes you'll get so close to the top and can't finish because of conditions. I've been blown off many mountain tops and haven't reached the last few hundred feet because of wind!

But most importantly, be safe and have fun.

And as a side note: I can tell you one thing. Driving to Mt Evans and then climbing the last 1/4 mile to its 14265 feet doesn't count as topping a 14er!

Have fun, stay safe, laugh, and do a great training plan for climbing a 14er this season. Will you post some pics and tag them #denverbyfoot? Thanks!

See you on the trail!
~Chris