Feature

Colorado’s Best Trails

We laced up our boots, threw on our packs, and found the very finest hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking trails in the Centennial State.

August 2010

Day Hikes

  1. The Summer White House at Mount Falcon Park
    Indian Hills
    Don't get too excited—you won't spot President Barack Obama and the first fam at Mt. Falcon Park, as businessman John Brisben Walker's early 20th century plan to build a summer retreat for the presidents ran out of money. Today, only a lily-white marble cornerstone and a crumbling foundation remain. But the pull-out-the-camera views of Denver's skyline and Red Rocks' monoliths still make the trip worthwhile. The route up to the ruins is meandering, making it ideal for the dog and the kids; take the Castle Trail up from the west parking lot, and you'll pass ruins of Walker's home near the midway point (the structure burned down in a 1918 fire) en route to Walker's Dream Trail, a quick 0.3-mile side trail that leads to the remnants of the would-be Summer White House. —Natasha Gardner
  2. American Lake Trail
    Aspen
    A little more than 10 miles from Aspen, this classic trail is a primer on Colorado hiking. Alpine meadows? Check. Pine forests? Absolutely. Take-your-breath-away mountain vistas? Of course. A pristine, crystal-clear alpine lake? For sure. The first mile and a half is a calf-busting climb up, up, up, with too many switchbacks to count, but the rest of the trek is a steady, moderate incline. Lather on the sunscreen, though, because at one moment you'll be trotting along, shaded by tree branches, and the next, you'll be scrambling along a boulder field in the blazing hot sun. In true Colorado fashion, make sure to wear layers: The snow-fed, emerald-colored lake is at 11,365 feet, meaning your snack break will get a bit nippy when your heart rate slows down. But then again, the view is so ethereal that your pulse may keep racing. ­—NG
  3. WWII Bomber Crash Site
    Pingree Park
    Around 10:45 p.m. October 18, 1943, a B-17 from Lowry Air Force Base crashed just below the timberline of Stormy Peaks Mountain, starting a forest fire in the northeastern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park. It took two days to haul the eight bodies out of the isolated location, but whole chunks of the bomber, including the tail, landing gear, and engines were left behind. Getting to the rusted remains today is a little easier. Hike along the Stormy Peaks Trailhead for 0.7 miles to the Twin Lakes Trail; from there, stroll past the west side of the reservoir to a burned forest area and a fork in the path (about 0.8 miles). Take the left junction for 0.4 miles to a Comanche Peak Wilderness Area sign. March uphill for 0.5 miles until you come to a wooden sluice box. Turn left and hike for 0.1 miles, over a creek and into a clearing, to find a southern trail—there should be a stone cairn to mark the way. Walk another 0.3 miles, and you'll come across a large boulder field to explore; pieces of the plane are scattered all over the area. —NG
  4. Mills Lake
    Rocky Mountain National Park
    The 5.6-mile out-and-back hike to Mills Lake is one of the most popular treks in Rocky Mountain National Park, but if you tackle it early on a mid-week day, you won't have a problem with large crowds. And the scenery's worth it: Within steps of the parking lot, you're smack dab in an aspen grove, and before you've walked a mile, you'll find a riverbank with views of Alberta Falls, a gushing fire hydrant of a waterfall. From there, the trail twists away, winds back through the now sparse woods, and gets steeper. Stop frequently and turn around: At your back is a stunning panorama of Rocky Mountain National Park's deep green hills and jagged snow-speckled peaks. The last mile of the trail flattens out briefly before a few short, steep hills end at the northern tip of Mills Lake. Walk around the east side of the lake to find Rocky Mountain National Park at its best: a sun-sparkling alpine lake beneath Longs Peak and a bluebird sky. ­—Chris Outcalt

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