On January 1, 2022, Joshua Berman greeted the new year with a herniated disk. But when a doctor told the then 48-year-old writer that he might avoid surgery by pairing a steroid injection with intensive physical therapy—especially a lot of walking—Berman had to laugh. For the past month, he’d been mulling over an offer from publisher Moon Travel Guides. The assignment? Hike hundreds of miles while cataloging Colorado’s best trails. Berman accepted the gig from his hospital bed and hoped it wasn’t a huge mistake: His back was an open question, and he was also raising three kids, penning an outdoors column for the Denver Post, and teaching Spanish at the Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder. The added responsibility felt daunting.

Berman started in March 2022 with Hogback Ridge Trail, a short 2.8-mile loop just north of Boulder. By summer, he felt ready to go vertical. “My physical therapist was probably not thinking I should do the eight-mile loop to the summit of Greyrock Mountain, so maybe I pushed it a little bit,” he says of the 2,421-foot ascent, “but hiking really worked. I never re-injured my back.”

The byproduct of Berman’s rehabilitation, Moon Colorado Hiking: Best Hikes Plus Beer, Bites and Campgrounds Nearby, will be published on April 30 and catalogs 75 trails by difficulty and region. Berman not only trekked every route, but he also captured authentic après-hiking experiences by asking locals where they relaxed after leaving the trail. Moreover, he discovered that his physical therapist’s advice that “motion is lotion” didn’t only apply to his back. Researching the book proved he could spend more time outdoors than he’d thought, and hiking proved to be a great way to bond with his kids. Now, two years after his injury, Berman’s dad bod has melted away, and more important, he no longer allows excuses to keep him off the trail.

Après Hike

Good pints, delectable comfort food, and scenic campsites can be as hard to find as first-rate trails, so we had Berman dish on his favorites.

Beer: The Nugget Mountain Bar near Durango opened in 2018, but its shabby chic ski decor isn’t a put-on—the cabin was built in 1969. There, Berman chased a hike on nearby Cascade Creek Trail with a hazy IPA from Ska Brewing.

Bites: While Berman was scouting trails around Fort Collins, a friend turned him on to a well-kept local secret: Consuelo’s Express. The drive-thru’s green-chile-soaked breakfast burritos are the perfect fuel for a sunrise trek.

Camping: With cliff-top views, a slew of nearby trails, and plenty of piñon pines for ambience, the Saddlehorn Campground inside Colorado National Monument tops Berman’s list of Colorado bivouacs.