Why we love it: We are always looking for a good reason to drive up to Lyons for an afternoon beer on the patio at Oskar Blues brewery. This hike, just 13 miles past the tiny hamlet, is our go-to excuse.
When to go: Around 10 a.m., so you can hit up the brewery on the way back to Denver.
Even if I hiked every weekend, I doubt I'd be able to traverse all of Colorado's trails. (But I'll keep trying.) Still, there are a few paths that lure me back for repeat hikes, like this 8.3-mile hike near Lyons. Your calves will get a workout on the 1,300-foot ascent, but gentle switchbacks and 10 stream crossings will give you—and your heart—a break.
The path passes through sandy patches, rocky outcrops, and shaded areas, before finally opening up in a meadow full of tall grasses, wildflowers, and remnants of homesteaders' dwellings. Most of the area was settled during the Homestead Act, when the government gave 160 acres for a small fee to people willing to work and live in uninhabited parts of the country. You'll find five different settlements in the area, including the abode of Sarah Walker. Each week, she'd walk three miles to U.S. 36 and hitchhike her way into Lyons to sell eggs. (Just when my calves start screaming, I try to picture what her life was like.)
Getting there: Drive north on U.S. 36 through Lyons. Continue driving for 13 miles. You'll find a parking lot for the trailhead on the left.