The very best hiking, camping, paddling, fishing, climbing, mountain biking, and road cycling within two hours of Denver.
Still Learning Doudy Draw Eldorado Springs Drive While the Chautauqua trails in Boulder are quintessential Colorado hikes, we’re less than amped about the weekend crowds—college kids, ultramarathoners, stroller-pushing moms—that flock there. For a less-traveled route, hit Doudy Draw, an open space trail just south of Boulder along Eldorado Springs Drive. The 4.4-mile round-trip route is an ambling trek through the foothills, complete with red rocks, wild chokecherry and plum trees, and, you guessed it, killer views. If you’re feeling ambitious, the trail hooks up with several other paths (we like the woodsy Spring Brook Loop Trail) that can turn your stroll into a workout. 303-441-3440, osmp.org
Cool Down: When you’ve worked up a sweat, head to nearby Eldorado Springs Resort for a dip in the historic, artesian spring–fed pool that dates back to 1905. The parent company, Eldorado Artesian Springs Inc., bottles some of the tastiest water in the state. 303-499-9640, eldoradosprings.com
Seeking a Challenge Colorado Trail Begins at Waterton Canyon Someday, we’ll hike all 483 miles of the Colorado Trail, which winds from Waterton Canyon to Durango. Much of the trail skirts along the Continental Divide above tree line and offers views of where you’re going—and where you’ve been. Assuming a 500-mile backpacking trip isn’t on your summer itinerary, take on a manageable piece of the route by tackling the first segment (16.8 miles, one way). The path follows a Denver Water road for about six miles along the South Platte River to Strontia Springs Dam. After that, the wilderness takes over. Plan to do the route over two days—camping spots aplenty crop up along the way (check out the sites near Lenny’s Rest, about 8.5 miles in). thecoloradotrail.com
Team Up: Like any outdoor pursuit in the remote and rugged wilderness, it’s wise not to hike even one segment of the trail by yourself. Sign up for one of Colorado Mountain Expeditions’ treks to tackle it with others. The group’s multiday hike covers several segments (averaging 10 to 15 miles a day)—meals, showers, and posthike foot-care clinics included. 970-759-8737, coloradotrailhiking.com
Best-Kept Secret Devil’s Head National Recreation Trail Pike National Forest Finding a trail to impress out-of-towners is sometimes harder than it seems: You’ll find one with aspen stands but obscured views, or great vistas surrounded by drooping beetle-kill pines, or spectacular scenery with a summit that’s unmanageable for sea-level visitors. We want it all, which is why we return summer after summer to the Devil’s Head National Recreation Trail. Not as well traveled as certain other sights (like Garden of the Gods), this 2.8-mile round-trip hike gently rises about 1,000 feet through aspens, evergreens, and granite boulders before it reaches the base of a small fire tower. The tower offers blown-open views of the plains, the foothills, the city, and the Continental Divide. Climb to the top (143 steps) to chat up the forest rangers for your geography and history fix, and add your John Hancock to the “guest book” which lists the names of everyone who’s made the trek before you. 303-275-5610, fs.fed.us
Stay Hydrated: Retire your outdated Nalgene in favor of Boulder-based Eco Vessel’s filtration water bottle, the Aqua Vessel, which filters water as you drink. Fill up in any stream and sip through the straw for a drink free of giardia, sediment, toxins, pathogens, and metals. The company donates a portion of its proceeds to the nonprofit Water For People, which brings clean drinking water to impoverished areas across the world. 1-800-969-2962, ecovessel.com
ASK THE EXPERT Jan Monnier Membership services, Colorado Mountain Club
Q: Everyone tells me to stay hydrated while I hike, but how much water do I really need to lug around on a four-mile hike?
A: Two liters would be a reasonable amount, but the right amount depends on the weather and the person. Q: I want to avoid crowds on the trail. What’s the best time to hit a trailhead?
A: During the summer, thunderstorms are so common in the afternoon that it’s best to avoid hiking then. But hiking in the morning doesn’t guarantee clear trails. It only avoids lightning.