Why we love it: We often miss out on the full glories of the night sky because we live in an urban center. Night hiking fixes that.
When to go: At night, of course. Bring a friend and a flashlight to be safe, but on a full moon (the next one is August 1), you’ll have enough light to see your shadow on the trail. Set off about 30 minutes before sunset.
We spend most of our time hiking, biking, and playing during the day, which means that we miss out on some of Colorado's best scenery: the night sky. After reading "Star Light, Star Bright " in the July issue, I was inspired to hit the trail a little later than usual to escape the metro area's light pollution and see the starry sky.
The two-mile Hayden Trail at William Hayden Park on Green Mountain in Lakewood seemed ideal for a newbie night hiker because it was close to the city and gently sloping. I set off alone (although, you should take a friend to be safer) about 30 minutes before sunset. This gave me—and my feet—time to acclimate to the growing darkness and trail conditions.
In truth, the darkness was a bit disquieting. I couldn't rely on my eyes to tell me when to step around a rock, so my other senses started to pick up the slack. I wasn't moving as confidently as I do in the day, but I started to acclimate. That’s when I came face-to-face with a deer. I didn’t even notice him until we were feet apart. I yelled, and the deer sped off into the night. What else could be out there? I started to panic, so I decided to sing my best rendition of a song by the Lumineers ’ to announce my presence to any other suspicious animals.
When I reached the trail’s peak, I had a full view of the metro's lights. But I was up high enough that I could also see the stars more clearly. I traced a few constellations in the night sky, took in a breath of the cool night air, and started my descent—with more confidence than I had at the trailhead.
Getting there: Head west on Route 6 towards Lakewood. Take the Simms Street exit and continue onto Union Boulevard. Drive about one mile, then take a right onto West Alameda Parkway. Continue for about two miles and arrive at the Utah Trailhead (on your right).
—Image  courtesy of Shutterstock