3 Great Denver Hikes for Music Lovers

Three Great Denver Walks for Music Lovers

Denver draws some of the best musicians in the industry. It's been happening for almost a hundred years. From the first performance of Ave Maria at Red Rocks to the giant Garth Brooks show at Mile High Stadium, Denver attracts musicians and music lovers alike.

Yet even though Denver brings musicians here, it has also provided the background for great musicians to rise out of its neighborhoods and onto the stage.

Take the neighborhoods of Whittier, Five Points and Baker. Home to music halls and dance beats, these neighborhoods have held musical court long before Mile High Stadium and the Pepsi Center played tunes.

Here are three great urban hikes in Denver that musicians and music lovers will like.

Whittier Neighborhood

In the Whittier neighborhood, you'll find the George C Morrison Park. It's a linear park along Martin Luther King, Jr, Blvd which connects you to other wonderful parks that feature portions of Denver's African-American history.

Violinist and musician, George Morison, Sr, impacted the jazz scene in Five Points while living in Whittier. He grew up in Boulder, graduated from the Columbia Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and performed with  Cuthbert Byrd, Desdamona and Leo Davis, Hattie McDaniel, Eugene Montgomery, Theodore Morris, Jimmy Lunceford, and Andy Kirk.

Morrison also gave back to the community through free music lessons to the kids at Whittier Elementary, Cole Junior High, and Manual High Schools. When walking in the neighborhood, you might want to pass by where he lived at 2558 Gilpin Street.  This home became a gathering spot for many famous musicians, including Count Bassie, Jelly Roll Morton, Nat King Cole and other celebrated musicians.

If you've worked up an appetite walking through Whittier, stop in at the Whittier Cafe and get a Denver Egg Burger.

Whittier Walking Map (click for interaction)

From Whittier, head over to Five Points.

Five Points

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Five Points is a giant neighborhood that includes Curtis Park Ballpark and RiNo, which aren't "technically" neighborhoods according to the City of Denver. But for a music lover, the center of Five Points is the place to uncover.

At the Five Points intersection, where you can catch the light rail going downtown, the beat of the neighborhood is itching to drum again. The Rossonian, once the heartbeat of Five Points and filled with be-bopping jazz and energetic sounds that attracted some of the best jazz musicians of the '20-60's, sits across from a wonderful mural telling Five Points' story and the musical impact the "Harlem of the West" made on the industry.

The City of Denver has a love-hate relationship with Five Points, that, over time, has morphed it into an interesting eclectic set of homes filled with the rich and the poor living right next to each other. On one street you'll find Neal Cassady's father's barber shop across the street from what was once the Snowden, his boyhood home, that has been replaced by million-dollar town homes. Across from it you'll find a refuge for homeless women which is diagonal from an actors' studio. You can also read many excerpts about the music scene and the area from Denver lover, Jack Kerouac's, On the Road, or native son, Neal Cassady's, First Third.

Sandwiched on blocks full of residences, you'll find fabulous places to eat. The Curtis Park Deli has the best smoked trout sandwich I've ever eaten, and around the corner is the restored Curtis Park Creamery, a long-standing, dine-out only, Mexican cafe serving up the neighborhood's best tamales.

Five Points Walking Map (click for interaction)

After Five Points, head to Red Rocks.

Red Rocks

Set between the famous Ship Rock and Creation Rock, the Red Rocks Amphitheater has welcomed stair-climbing, live-performance music lovers to its 6,450 feet of elevation since 1941. Infamous performances include the Beatles, U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, the Eagles, Santana, Willie Nelson, Journey, Grateful Dead, Tears for Fears, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Sting, Stevie Nicks, B. B. King, Nora Jones, Duran Duran, and DeVotchKa, among others.

Of course, you can climb the amphitheater or hike the 1.5-mile loop through the seven rock formations, and you can visit two stop-worthy music showcases in the park. The first is the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in the Trading Post, which tells musical performance history with an emphasis on John Denver. Or, you can climb to the top of the amphitheater and enjoy the Red Rocks Visitor Center which houses great artifacts and stories of the famous performances of this infamous outdoor theater.

To enjoy your day fully, begin your day with the Trading Post Trail, stop in at the Trading Post to grab a snack and see the Hall of Fame, then climb the amphitheater to the Visitors Center. Return to your car and head to Morrison; grab a bite at The Cow Eatery and get the Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese.

Red Rocks Walking Map (click for interaction)

Do you have a walk to add to the best places for musicians to walk in Denver? Post about it and tag it with #denverbyfoot so I can see!

See you on the trail,


High Line Canal Segment 10 eatwalklearn

How to Hike the High Line Canal Trail

How to Hike the High Line Canal Trail

Snaking through Denver and its surrounding suburbs, the High Line Canal and its Trail capture the beauty, the energy, and the expanse of Denver's Front Range. For 71 miles, this Trail moves walkers, hikers, bikers, rollers and strollers through urban, rural, agricultural and suburban views along its soft and hard surfaces. You'll see plains, mountains, creeks, lakes, deer, possum, prairie dogs, elk, coyotes, foxes, hawks, birds, asparagus, plums, apples, choke cherries, pines, elms and hundreds of cottonwoods.

But how do you hike all 71 miles of this mostly flat trail when there's no camping allowed, restrooms are sparse, parking is odd, and signage can be challenging?

You break it into 14 segments, averaging 5 miles a piece and ranging from 4-8.

14 Segments Make Hiking the Trail Easy

I've done all the hard work for you by breaking the Trail into 14 segments. Each segment has a map and parking locations. You can either buddy up with someone and put cars at both ends, Lyft or Uber yourself to one of the ends, or walk the segment round-trip if you're wanting to do a bit more distance.

You can walk the High Line Canal Trail in either direction. I prefer to walk it from the northern end near the airport to the southern end in Waterton Canyon. By walking it in a southerly fashion, you'll almost always have Front Range views in front of you. The trail gets shadier and more picturesque the closer you get to Waterton Canyon.

Some folks like to walk the High Line Canal Trail from its southern end in Waterton to its northern end near the airport because they want to walk in the direction in which the Canal flows. Either way you walk it though, it's an intimate experience that allows you to enjoy Denver and its environs from a pedestrian point of view.

One step at a time.

What You Need to Hike the High Line Canal Trail

To walk the High Line Canal Trail, you just need a good pair of walking shoes or sandals. Boots aren't necessary. Sandals such as Keen would be fine, although I do encourage a closed-toe sandal to bar against pebbles and goat heads. In the winter, you might want to wear ice cleats, but this is a rare requirement.

For water, carry at least two liters. Water is hard to find along the Trail. I prefer a bladder, but bottles are absolutely efficient. Be sure to throw in a snack or two.

On your hat, make sure you've got a good hat for either sun or warmth. You can walk the Trail year round. The Trail runs through 11 jurisdictions and all are excellent at clearing and maintaining the Trail in all weather.

In your pack, you might optionally want to throw in a pair of gloves, sunscreen, the ten essentials, and maybe even a pair of binoculars. Watch this video of what's in my urban hiking pack.

Read Before You Hike the High Line Canal Trail

Prior to walking the Canal or during your 71-mile trek, there are a few books that will enhance your experience.

The Thunder Tree by Robert Michael Pyle

The Best Urban Hikes: Denver by Chris Englert

Ditch in Time by Patricia Limerick

The High Line Canal Conservancy's Trail Guide (Coming Fall 2019)

Also, follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for images and updates about the Trail.

Complete All 71 Miles

Hiking the High Line is a special event that few Denverites have done. Over the last three years, we've kept track of all the "High Liners" who've completed all 71 miles. It's fewer than 200 people. Those who walk it under the High Line Canal Conservancy and Walk2Connect partnership have received a celebrated "71" token from the Conservancy. Walk2Connect leads the walk twice a year.

Links to the 14 Segments

To see the details for each segment, including trailhead, trailend, parking info and highlights, take a look at the info at High Line Canal Trail. You'll be able to find everything you need. Additionally, there are a few posts and videos you might enjoy to get yourself ready for this trek.

As you're walking the trail, be sure to post your pictures so I can see them. Use the hashtag #denverbyfoot and #71miles. I'd love to see your story of how you enjoyed the High Line Canal Trail!

See you on the trail


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

PS If you'd like more great hiking suggestions nearby 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

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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!