A Guide for Hiking in Colorado - 3 Tips for Colorado Hiking in 2021
There’s something special about Colorado. From its wide-open spaces to its towering mountain peaks, Colorado truly is a beautiful place. It’s no wonder that so many people flock to Colorado every year to enjoy the beauty that it has to offer!
But one thing that many people underestimate is how much planning they should do before coming to the Centennial State. When hiking in the mountains, you need to make serious considerations to the clothing and shoes that you intend to hike in before you hit one of Colorado’s many trails. So how do you make sure that you’re properly prepared to thoroughly enjoy your trip to Colorado? Be sure to follow these steps!
1. Bring pants that are made out of polyester or nylon. Don’t wear jeans while hiking!
2. Wear hiking footwear that have plenty of traction and support.
3. Pick out a trail that is right for you and your hiking partners!
By doing those 3 things, you will definitely set yourself up for having an excellent time hiking in Colorado. To learn more, keep reading!
1. Advice on hiking pants.
When you go hiking in the mountains, the weather is subject to change in an instant! There is a saying among people who live in Colorado that goes something like “if you don’t like the weather right now, wait 5 minutes.” This is because of how high-altitude environments can make it difficult to predict the weather.
For that reason, it’s very important that you bring the proper clothing so that you can be comfortable and safe throughout your hike.
Polyester and nylon fabrics are fantastic for hiking in when you visit Colorado, because they allow you to hike knowing that if the weather were to turn, you will be much safer than if you were wearing pants that were made out of cotton, such as denim jeans.
Denim jeans are great for wearing when the weather is cool and there isn’t much chance of precipitation, but they can be dangerous to hike in when you’re in Colorado. The reason why is that jeans are made out of cotton. If you don’t remember anything else from this guide, please remember this: cotton kills.
That may sound extreme, but it’s an important reminder that when the weather turns in Colorado from a bright and sunny day to a torrential down-pour, if you’re caught outside wearing jeans, you might be putting yourself at risk for hypothermia.
Hypothermia can set in when temperatures dip below 50°F. Now that isn’t very cold, but if you’re wet and the temperatures get low, your body will end up losing heat much quicker than if you were dry. Temperatures tend to dip when afternoon thunderstorms drench the mountains, so wearing jeans while hiking in Colorado can prove to be quite dangerous indeed!
Polyester and nylon are both hydrophobic, which means that they repel water rather than absorb it like cotton fabric does. They are also really good at wicking away moister from your body, which will help you keep nice and cool as you cruise Colorado’s hiking trails!
2. What footwear is best for Colorado?
Boots and hiking shoes are a very personal choice. There are tons of options to choose from when deciding what kind of footwear to bring! How do you decide what is best? Well, there are a lot of considerations to make when deciding on the best hiking footwear. A lot of Colorado locals have several pairs of hiking footwear to meet the challenges of the particular trail they are going to hike! Be sure to consider the following before you visit Colorado.
1. Boots or shoes
The type of footwear that you want to wear really depends on the trail that you plan on hiking. Are you going to be gaining a lot of elevation? Will you be on steep, uneven surfaces? Are you hiking on a relatively smooth trail? Can you expect there to be snow on trail (yes, even in June and July there is still snow up in the high country!)? All of these questions need to be considered when deciding upon what you should bring for footwear!
Boots are awesome at providing a ton of extra protection for the bottom of your feet while also providing more support for your ankles. This can be really nice to have when you are planning a hike where you expect to do a little bit of rock scrambling to get to the end of the trail!
There are also many more boots that are waterproof, which can help keep your feet dry, especially when you are hiking through snow fields!
The main downside to boots is that they can be pretty heavy. This might make hiking up higher elevations and over longer distances more tiring.
Hiking shoes are a popular alternative to hiking boots. People who like to wear hiking shoes often enjoy the lighter profile of the shoe, which allows them to go farther and faster while using less energy than those who wear boots. If the weather is going to be stable and you’re not worried about scrambling over large boulder fields to get to the end of your hike, hiking shoes might be the best option for you.
In both cases, be sure that you try on your hiking footwear and walk around in them for a little while before going hiking. You’ll want to be sure your footwear is comfortable and broken in before you hit the trail to make sure that you limit the chance of developing blisters!
2. Should I bring waterproof hiking footwear?
Waterproof hiking footwear might be necessary if you’re planning on going hiking in the high country. Snowfields can still blanket higher elevations, even going into the summer, which might make you decide to bring waterproof boots to keep your feet dry.
Take a look at a map of the area you plan on hiking in before embarking. If you notice that the elevation of the trail you hope to hike is above 10,000’, it is likely that you’ll encounter snow. If you intend to hike below that, you might not need waterproof footwear.
3. What to wear inside of your footwear.
After you have decided upon the best footwear for your hike, it’s also important to bring along the right socks. Remember that saying on cotton from earlier? It still applies here! The best socks that you can bring for hiking are made out of a fabric called Merino wool.
Wool socks in the summer? Yes! Merino wool is light weight, breathable, and they retain their warmth when they get wet. They will wick away moister from your feet, which will help them from developing blisters!
Cotton socks, even when you don’t get them wet by hiking through snow or water, can absorb the sweat from your feet as you hike, which can cause your feet to soften and result in torn blisters should you develop a hot spot or two while hiking. That can be painful at best and dangerous at worst, because torn blisters can lead to infections if not treated properly.
Remember, if you don’t take anything else away after reading this guide, be sure to remember that cotton kills when hiking in Colorado!
3. Where can I hike in Colorado for the best views?
Now that you have thoroughly prepared yourself for your hike by selecting the best pants and footwear, it’s time to decide on where to go! Colorado has thousands of miles of hiking trails to choose from. Out of all of those, be sure to make time to hike these two trails on your next trip to Colorado!
1. Crystal City Road
Location: 45 minutes south of Carbondale, CO
Distance: 9 miles round trip
Dogs: Yes, must be leashed
Best Feature: The Crystal Mill
Crystal City Road leads hikers to one of the most photographed locations in Colorado, the Crystal Mill. Built long ago during the early pioneer days of Colorado, the mill sits on the Crystal River right by an amazing waterfall.
Be sure to go early in the morning, as this hike is very popular and the parking lot at the trailhead can fill up quickly! You’ll also want to bring plenty of water as you’ll gain just under 1,400’ in elevation on this out and back hike.
2. Hanging Lake Trail
Location: Glenwood Springs, CO
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Best Feature: Hanging Lake
This is a classic Colorado hike. Hanging Lake is one of the most iconic sights in Colorado and is a must do trail for hikers. You’ll climb just over 1,100’ to the top of the trail for your chance to view Hanging Lake.
Those that make it to the top of the hike are rewarded with an amazing sight! Waterfalls cascade into a pool of emerald green water, which spills over into Dead Horse Creek and descend down to the Colorado River below. Be sure your camera is charged to capture some awesome pictures of this natural wonder!
If you’re interested in hiking to Hanging Lake, be sure to book a permit through Glenwood Springs. Due to the popularity of the hike and out of an abundance of caution, permits are used to limit the amount of people that visit it each day. Plan your hike in advance to ensure that you get your permit for the day you plan to hike to Hanging Lake!