We laced up our boots, threw on our packs, and found the very finest hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking trails in the Centennial State.
- Continental Divide Trail
Copper Mountain to Bakerville
This 67-mile segment of the CDT is close to Denver, explores the high, lonesome wilds between Copper Mountain and Bakerville, and has an easy car shuttle option: drop a vehicle at the Bakerville exit (221), then continue 26 miles west on I-70 to Copper Mountain for the trailhead. Day one starts with a gradual climb through conifers, then spans the talus fields of the Tenmile Range before dipping below tree line at Miners Creek (a good campsite). The next day, you'll traverse wooded hillsides above the Swan River (look for Keystone off to your left). On the third day, you'll cross CO Route 9 before climbing back up to tree line with vistas across the Tenmile Range. Day four explodes into the mountain-goat-dotted alpine zone. Next, ford Peru Creek (which can be knee-high or deeper) before hopping across the Continental Divide, where you're treated to the best views of Summit County. Finally, scale 14,270-foot Grays Peak for imperial panoramas over two watersheds. If you have extra energy, tackle Torreys; if not, follow Stevens Gulch down to Bakerville and your car. Rest. —KB
- Four Pass Loop
Elk Mountain range
On a recent summer day, more than half the people on the 26-mile loop through Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness were ultramarathoners, speeding round the mountain in a single day. Which prompts an important question: What is wrong with these people? The Four Pass Loop's tree-lined tarns, stupendous fourteener views, and acres of waving wildflowers—not to mention superb campsites—deserve a slower pace. As the name suggests, the hike crests a quartet of cols over 12,400 feet, which means stiff climbs and wobble-kneed descents. You can walk the loop either way, but it's easier to start clockwise, beginning with the 5-mile grade along West Maroon Trail, northeast of the Maroon Bells fourteeners. Pitch your tent near tree line and wander uphill before sunset to admire the kelly green slopes and white snowfields of the upper basin, like the fairways and traps of God's own links. A quick climb in the morning brings you to West Maroon Pass. Head west along 13,233-foot Belleview Mountain onto pass number two, Frigid Air, which has a striking view of the backside of the Bells. Elk or mountain goats may cross the trail as you descend into Fravert Basin; find a campsite just past King Falls. Start early for the climb over Trail Rider Pass; on the other side is beautiful Snowmass Lake, at the foot of Hagerman Peak and Snowmass Mountain. Trail's end lies beyond one more saddle: Buckskin Pass, high above Lost Remuda Basin, which just might be the greenest cirque in the state. Drop steeply toward Crater Lake to close the loop and celebrate your tortoise-paced marathon. —Dougald MacDonald