A year's worth of ideas for what you should do when 5 o'clock on Friday (finally) arrives.
Camp under the stars—way under—on the floor of the Black Canyon.
The tallest sheer cliffs in Colorado tower above the Gunnison River and shimmer with the setting sun at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The 53-mile-long gorge is worth a trip for profound scenic value alone, never mind the endless adventures it offers. There's camping to be had on both the north and south rims, but the most secluded sites are at the East Portal on the canyon floor, just steps from the river and excellent fishing. The 15-site wooded area lies at the bottom of a winding, steep road with a 16 percent grade. The turnoff is just past the park entrance station on Highway 347, and the tricky drive down is worth it.
The vistas are spectacular along the rim trails, which offer jutting overlooks of the frothy river below. For the more adventurous, try an inner-canyon hike such as the Gunnison Route, a plunging, mile-long descent that begins at the South Rim Visitor Center and includes an 80-foot, hand-over-hand scramble along a chain halfway down. You'll work up an appetite and fall into your sleeping bag that night—if you can tear your gaze away from the endless blanket of stars above the canyon walls. www.nps.gov/blca
Be There With (Maroon) Bells On
Trek from Aspen to Crested Butte during festival season.
For an archetypal Colorado hike, take the West Maroon Pass Trail from Aspen to Crested Butte during wildflower season (July through August). Allow five to eight hours to cover the 11-mile trail, which starts at Maroon Lake on the Aspen side and ends at Schofield, a former mining encampment just outside Crested Butte. The cardio kicks in early as you climb steadily upward, crossing rivers and rock fields, but the astounding views of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area are more than worth it.
Carry a change of clothes in your pack and stay a night or two in the Butte before looping back to Aspen. Call Dolly's Mountain Shuttle to prearrange pickup at the Schofield trailhead, and the driver can take you to your lodging of choice—try the Ruby of Crested Butte for a cozy B&B stay in the heart of town. Time your weekend with Crested Butte's Wildflower Festival (July 12-18) to get your fill of CB's summer festivities before hitting the return trail. www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com/hiking-info; www.dollysmountainshuttle.vpweb.com; www.therubyofcrestedbutte.com