Four calf-burning, lung-busting, heart-pumping hikes and the summer brews that make them worthwhile.
A hiker can burn upward of 400 calories* an hour trekking through the Front Range—which means that your early-morning wake-up call and grueling five-mile hike have left you with a free afternoon and nearly 1,000 calories to replenish. Don't let them go to waste. Pair these four local hiking workouts with stops at some of the area's breweries—and a couple of pints of beer—for some (mostly) guilt-free imbibing.
*Based on average weight and height of a 35-year-old who hikes at a rate of two miles per hour.
The Hike Lion Gulch Trail to Homestead Meadows
You'll gain 1,300 feet on the Lion Gulch Trail, but the ascent is broken up with gentle switchbacks, including 10 stream crossings. Eventually, you will emerge from the thick canopy of pine and spruce trees into a grass meadow. When the trail forks, head right and follow signs to the Sarah Walker homestead and the Meadow Loop-Sawmill Trail. You'll pass the ruins of several homesteads on your tour before the loop dumps you back on the main trail. Return the way you came. (Near Lyons: Take U.S. Highway 36 through Lyons and continue for 13 miles. The trailhead is at a gravel parking lot on the left.)
The Effort 8.3 miles = 1,648 (men) and 1,303 (women) approximate calories burned
The Reward Oskar Blues mastered big beers long ago, but this summer OB debuts the lighter Mama's Little Yella Pils. It's hands-down the best pilsner we've ever had. Buy a pint at the Lyons' headquarters—you've earned it. Calories: 160 per 12 ounces. 303 Main St., Lyons; 303-823-6685
The Hike Horsetooth Mountain Park
You'll need a map to navigate the messy trails toward what locals call simply "the Tooth." Climb up Horsetooth Falls Trail—at the top of the hill, you'll have panoramic views of Fort Collins. Past a wooden footbridge and a short series of steps, you'll come to an intersection with views of the waterfalls. After you've snapped your pictures, turn onto the Spring Creek Trail, which you'll follow until you reach the Soderburg Trail. Turn left onto Soderburg, and then right at the sign for Horsetooth Rock, hiking past ponderosa pines and pink granite. Descend, following signs for hikers to avoid becoming road kill for the mountain bikers. (Near Fort Collins: Take I-25 north to the Fort Collins/Harmony Road exit. Travel west on Harmony Road around the south end of Horsetooth Reservoir, and look for the Horsetooth Mountain Park lot.)
The Effort 7.2 miles = 1,429 (men) and 1,130 (women) approximate calories burned
The Reward Odell Brewing Company makes some of the finest beers in Colorado—and has the best tasting room and patio to boot. Grab a pint of Easy Street Wheat. Calories: 151 per 12 ounces. 800 E. Lincoln Ave., Fort Collins; 970-498-9070
The Hike Button Rock Preserve
This loop starts as a gradual climb up a service road and past the Longmont Reservoir. You'll pass some granite slabs, which are popular with rock climbers, along the way. After 1.2 miles, turn left onto the Sleepy Lion Trail and up the aptly named Deadman Gulch. Continue climbing to the Ralph Price Reservoir, where you'll connect with another service road, and then begin descending toward the spillway. Even though this is a nature preserve, the trail is often packed during the hatch with fly-fishermen heading to the St. Vrain. (Near Longmont: Take U.S. Highway 36 to County Road 80. Turn left and drive 2.8 miles to trailhead.)
The Effort 5.9 miles = 1,171 (men) and 926 (women) approximate calories burned
The Reward Swing over to the tasting room at Left Hand Brewing Company in Longmont. We recommend the Haystack Wheat ale: summery, medium-bodied, and delicious. Calories: 167 per 12 ounces 1265 Boston Ave., Longmont; 303-772-0258
The Hike Golden Gate State Park Loop
From the parking lot, take the Burro Trail up, but turn left on the Mountain Lion Trail. Most of the first three miles are all uphill, so you'll earn the ensuing quick descent through pine forests and across log bridges over Deer Creek. At the bottom of the hill, you'll meet back up with Burro Trail, which leads back to your car. (Near Golden: Take U.S. Highway 6 to Highway 93. Drive north 1.4 miles before turning left on Golden Gate Canyon Road. Travel 12.3 miles to the visitor center and pick up a day pass. On Ralston Road, turn right and continue 1.9 miles to the Bridge Creek trailhead.)
The Effort 8.2 miles = 1,171 (men) and 926 (women) approximate calories burned
The Reward After a long hike, you need a substantial brew. The Evolution IPA at Golden City Brewery—the "second largest brewery in Golden"—will hit the spot. Calories: Unknown—GCB doesn't measure caloric content. Enjoy. 920 12th St., Golden; 303-279-8092