A Non-Native’s Guide to Colorado’s Summer Playground

Name: Evan Piche, Class of 2018

Hometown: Northampton, MA

Undergrad: Colorado State University

Fun Fact: I once thought I met Danny DeVito in an airport men’s room.

evanheadshot

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, there is a fair chance that you are either (a) my mother, or (b) a member of the incoming Class of 2019. Welcome, and since both parties will be visiting Colorado this summer, I’d like to help get you acquainted with some of the best trails Colorado has to offer. Denver is not, strictly speaking, a mountain town in the same sense as Telluride, Steamboat Springs, and Crested Butte are. We’re kind of out on the plains, straddling two worlds—but that doesn’t mean you’ll be short on options for running, hiking, or biking. We Denverites are fortunate enough to enjoy a wealth of those opportunities for after-school outdoor recreation, and when you have a long weekend and are up for a few hours in the car, the options for adventure are limitless.

With that, I’d like to offer my favorite hiking/trail running and mountain biking destinations in the Denver-metro area and beyond. From backcountry escapes to a quick after-class workout, you’re sure to find something to do this summer. (And, while I was not specifically asked to include this, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not use this opportunity to act as your ambassador to the world of Denver’s breakfast burritos.)

Hiking/Trail Running

School day: when you only have an hour or two after class, these are the places to check out! (15- 20 minutes away)

  • Matthews/Winters – Red Rocks Loop
    • A rolling, rocky 5-7 mile loop with fantastic views of the foothills west of Denver and the world-famous and aptly named Red Rocks Amphitheater.Mathew_Winters

trailrunproject.com/…/matthewswinters-red-rocks-loop

  • Falcon
    • Hands down the best climb in the Denver area, this trail winds its way up four steep technical miles to the summit of Mount Falcon. From here, either retrace your steps to the parking lot nearly 2,000 feet below or continue on to explore a vast trail network.Mt_Falcon.jpg

trailrunproject.com/…/mount-falcon-east-loop

  • Green Mountain, Lakewood
    • A mostly gentle 5-8 mile single track loop featuring the Front Range’s best sunrise and sunset views.Green_Mtn

trailrunproject.com/…/green-mountain-trail

Weekend: about a 90-minute drive from Denver

  • Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park
    • A classic RMNP hike; after meandering around the base of Long’s Peak, the trail turns vertical and ends with a fun scramble to Sky Pond amid boulder fields and some of the Park’s most impressive glaciers.Sky_Pond_RMNP

trailrunproject.com/…ail/7002175/sky-pond

Long Weekend: 3-5 hours from Denver

  • West Maroon Pass, Aspen to Crested Butte
    • This is considered a rite of passage among Colorado hikers and trail runners. While the towns of Crested Butte and Aspen are separated by one hundred miles of highway, this challenging, backcountry trail connects them so that “only” 10 miles sit between them. Pack a bathing suit (or not) for a dip in Conundrum Hot Springs if you plan to do this trip properly.

cascadedesigns.com/…/hiking-west-maroon-pass-from-aspen-to-crested-butte

Mountain Biking

School day:

  • Lair O’ the Bear 
    • Swoopy, flowing lines, grinding climbs, open meadows, and a breathtaking view of Mount Evans—all less than 30 minutes from Denver. After riding, grab a burger or brew in one of Morrison’s quaint eateries.Lair_of_the_bear

mtbproject.com/trail/703097

  • White Ranch 
    • This is a gem of a park and located only a few miles north of Golden; it offers trails that rival anything in Boulder (after all, you can see the iconic Flatirons from the parking lot) with a fraction of the traffic.White_Ranch

mtbproject.com/trail/632917

  • Apex Mountain Park, Enchanted Forest Trail 
    • Apex is one of Denver’s most well-utilized mountain bike trail networks, and with good reason. The Enchanted Forest descent is not to be missed. Be sure to check the link provided for alternate direction riding restrictions on odd/even days before you go. Bonus: these trails are a blast to ride in the snow after the fat bikers, skiers, and snowshoers do all the dirty work of packing down the snow.Apex_EnchantedF_Forest

mtbproject.com/trail/616137

Weekend:

  • Blue Sky to Indian Summer
    • Regardless of whether you mountain bike or hike (or climb, or paddle, or just enjoy beer), a trip to Fort Collins is always enjoyable. Fort Fun is home to one of the Front Range’s finest fast, flowing mountain bike trails. While options abound for long climbs up to the summit of Horsetooth Mountain Park, the Blue Sky Trail sticks to the lowlands, traversing a spectacular cliff line with scenery reminiscent of your favorite Western movie. Also, New Belgium brewery is not to be missed.

mtbproject.com/…/blue-sky-to-indian-summer

Long Weekend:

  • 401 Trail, Crested Butte, CO
    • Come spring and early summer, the wildflowers on this ultra-classic trail grow to be chest-high. Imagine ripping down 14 miles of high country singletrack, with views of snowcapped mountains disappearing and reappearing as you dive into and out of fields of wildflowers so high and dense as to obscure your line of sight. Be sure to grab tacos at Teocalli Tamale once back in town.401_Trail_CB

mtbproject.com/trail/338027

  • Slickrock Trail, Moab Utah
    • Quite possibly the most famous mountain bike trail in the world—and for good reason. Slickrock offers an other-worldly experience: an ocean of red sandstone surrounds you, with views of the Colorado River far below in the canyon. In the distance, the snowcapped La Sal Mountains dwarf the landscape and offer a stunning contrast to the red, pink, and orange hues of the desert. For après ride fun, check out the Moab Brewery, located right in the center of town—it’s an oasis of alcohol and burgers in an otherwise remarkably dry state.Slickrock

mtbproject.com/trail/158941

Burritos

The breakfast burrito was invented in the kitchen of Tia Sophia’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1975. Since that historic day, it has been possible to eat a burrito for all 3 (or more) meals of the day, a feat now commonly referred to as a “hat trick.” Like most of Denver, the breakfast burrito is not native to Colorado, but found in our city a welcoming home. I am unsure of whether or not Colorado has an “official” state food, but I would nominate the breakfast burrito for that honor.

With the help of acclaimed writer and Denver resident Brendan Leonard, I have assembled the definitive guide to Denver’s Best Breakfast Burritos:

  • Grand Prize: El Taco de Mexico on Santa Fe
  • First Runner Up: Bocaza on 17th Ave.
  • Second Runner Up: Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs
  • Honorable Mention: Illegal Pete’s
  • People’s Choice: Campfire Burritos (food truck)

    author
    Evan is an avid biker, trail runner and climber.  We hope you enjoyed his pictures and guide to an adventurous CO summer!

 

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