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As the weather continues to warm (goodbye winter, you were great), we look forward to days spent on the trails. Hiking season is near and we’re ready for it. To satisfy our excitement, we talked to Dave Levy, a prolific hiker and publisher of ProTrails.com, a hub for all things hiking. Here, six hikes he can’t stop thinking about.
- Length: 26.8 miles round trip
- Near: Aspen
- Why You Need to Hike It: Bragging Rights. You’ll trek over four passes deep in the Elk Mountains and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Ultra runners can bag this in a day, if you’re looking for an added challenge.
- From the Expert: “This hike captures the best of Aspen in a single route,” Levy says. You’ll get airy alpine views and see the striated colors—especially purples and reds—that make the area’s geology so unforgettable.
- Length: 13.55 miles one-way
- Near: Frisco and Vail
- Why You Need to Hike It: If you think the best route between Frisco and Vail is I-70, you must park your car and try this hike (pictured above), which gets you away from the noise and bustle, into alpine meadows, and over two passes (Eccles and Red Buffalo).
- From the Expert: Try this as a one-way hike by setting up a car shuttle at each trailhead (both are near the interstate). “The stretch between the passes is just spectacular,” Levy says. “Some of the best wildflowers can be found there.”
- Length: 8.8 miles roundtrip
- Near: Minturn
- Why You Need to Hike It: Colorado trails are known for pretty landscapes, but few get labeled “gorgeous.” This is one such hike, which loops together two popular trails in a doable 8.8-mile trek with lakes, passes, and forests.
- From the Expert: This setting is so picturesque that Levy suggests slowing down and camping. “I think once you get out there it will be hard to go home that day,” Levy says. “You’ll wonder, ‘Why didn’t I camp?’ There is just no reason to go home.”
- Length: 9.6 miles roundtrip
- Near: Estes Park
- Why You Need to Hike It: Many maps don’t even list this summit trek in Rocky Mountain National Park, meaning that it’s under-traveled. Surprisingly, the trail is easy to follow (it gets a little less so near the top) and there is a high likelihood that you’ll spy wildlife along the way.
- From the Expert: “There are so many places in the park that are amazing; who am I to pick?” Levy says. “But Mt. Ida is really special to me….You get amazing views of the Never Summer range and of the spine of the park, the Continental Divide. There are not too many places that give you that double perspective.”
- Length: 12.3 miles roundtrip
- Near: Granby
- Why You Need to Hike It: This hike is not for a beginner. It’s tough and features a steep drop into the aptly named Hell Canyon. But if you make it to the lake, you’ll forget how difficult the trail was and appreciate standing in an area that is truly wild.
- From the Expert: “This is probably the nicest spot in the Indian Peaks Wilderness that you’ve never heard about,” Levy says. “It’s just one of those places that somehow doesn’t get on people’s lists.” Spend some time exploring the area around the lake; you’ll have earned some R&R after that trek.
- Length: 14.75 miles roundtrip
- Near: Nederland
- Why You Need to Hike It: This hike is easy to tackle for Front Rangers who want to feel like they got away from it all. The loop uses the High Lonseome Trail to connect the King Lake and Devils Thumb Lake trails for a path that passes through two drainages, over tundra, and past lakes.
- From the Expert: “If you’re a local, you know these trails,” Levy says. “But this is a new way to approach them.” Bonus: There are plenty of camping spots along the way.
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