Tips for Hiking in Colorado
By Steve Gillman
The first time I went hiking in Colorado was over thirteen
years ago. Now I've lived here for more than five years. My long
backpacking trips are mostly behind me now, but I still get out
there to hike regularly. Here are some tips for hiking in Colorado,
based on my experience. Following those you'll find some links
to true stories from my adventures around the state.
If you are hiking during summer at lower elevations, like
the desert areas to the east of the Rockies, you can get away
with almost anything for clothes. I prefer jeans because of all
the prickly pear cactus and cholla. When heat is an issue, it
is good to have a light cotton t-shirt, which can be dunked in
any water you find for extra cooling.
Many hikers like the protection of hiking boots when in the
high desert areas. They might save your ankles from prickly plants,
and maybe even stop a rattlesnake bite. But I walk carefully,
and have only seen one rattler in the five years I've lived here.
I wear running shoes everywhere I go. I used thin nylon dress
socks with them, and I can go all day without a blister as a
result. I also like scrambling around on the rocks and cliffs
a bit, which is not as easy with hiking boots.
Now, if you are headed into the mountains, or going out in
early spring or late autumn, you have to be prepared for almost
any kind of weather. I have been snowed on many times in July
and August when hiking above timberline. I've seen calm air turn
into hurricane-force winds. Thunderstorms are also a regular
afternoon event in the summer at high altitude.
So, if you are going more than a mile from the car, you need
rain gear and a warm top layer (sweater or jacket), even if it
is warm when you start. A light hat and a dry pair of socks are
good things to have as well.
It is always wise to have more than enough water with you,
although this is more important when hiking at lower elevations
where natural sources can be few and far between. I prefer to
carry two plastic pop bottles rather than the heavier canteens
or bladders. I also bring water purification tablets with me,
even on a day hike.
In fact, I usually bring my survival/first aid kit along even
when I'm out for just an hour or two. It weighs just a few ounces,
and takes little space in a day pack. In this way I am prepared
in case something happens and I have to spend a night out there.
One thing that can be a life saver if you twist an ankle or
have a bad fall, is a cell phone. In many places you will not
get a signal, but if you are hiking with a friend or two, someone
can take the phone to the top of the nearest hill for better
reception. Leave the phone off unless you need it, to conserve
Hiking in Colorado - Locations and Stories
Here are some other pages about hiking in Colorado. They have
my own stories from various times and places.
Gear Testing and Getting Lost
- I meant to climb Mount Aetna in the Sawatch Range, but somehow
ended up on top of Mount Lost (seriously).
in the Colorado Mountains - We were on Silver Heels Mountain
on the last day of winter--in grassy meadows, wearing running
Scrambling - Those are my feet
in the photo, hanging out over the summit of Mount Bushnell in
the northern Sangre de Christo Mountains.
The Mountain Goat and I -
He licked my hand, as you'll see in the photo. This page is about
a hike to the top of Mount Shavano in the Sawatch Range.
Lightweight Hiking Story
- Four feet of snow stopped me from reaching the summit of Crestone
Peak, but I camped at about 11,500 feet near the South Colony
Hiking: - It rained for seven days straight as I backpacked
in the Weminuche Wilderness Area of the San Juan Mountains--a
great test for my tarp and other light gear.
The Long Distance Day
Hike - My experience in the Sangre de Christo Mountains,
on a long day hike.