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    News — Helpful Information

    Hidden Ski Areas of Colorado

    Hidden Ski Areas of Colorado

    ski sun snowboard Colorado adventure


    Can you believe it? The 2016-2017 ski season has already begun. We've barely said goodbye to summer. Some of us still have tan lines!

    With Arapahoe Basin opening on October 21, you could already have several days of trail riding under your belt. Perhaps you are excited for the season but not for the crowds? If that's the case, give these small ski areas a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.

    Lake City Ski Hill

    Ride the oldest lift in Colorado! You're not an adventure enthusiast if this doesn't at least peak your interest. Visit this four run ski area for a unique experience. At $20 per adult lift ticket and $10 per child, it's a cheap little adventure.

    Howelsen Hill Ski Area

    If you find yourself in Steamboat, change it up and visit Howelsen just across the way. Howelsen is Colorado's oldest continuously operated ski area, since 1915, and has the largest and most complete natural ski jumping complex in North America. With four lifts and 26 trails, you'll be able to keep yourself riding while everyone else waits in the Steamboat lift lines.

    woman snowboarding Colorado adventure

    Ski Granby Ranch

    Are you looking for a family friendly ski area easily accessible from Denver? This ski area is THE beginners mountain. Not familiar with the ski area? Perhaps you'll remember it as Sol Vista or if you're really old (like this writer) Silver Creek. This cute little jem has had a face-lift and night skiing has been added!

    Lee's Ski Hill

    Have you ever used a rope-tow lift? In Ouray Colorado, you can do a little skiing and then visit the charming downtown. Or you can visit the Ouray Hot Springs Pool to warm up. Here you can do it all in one day!

    downhill ski woman Colorado snowboarding skiing

    Silverton Mountain

    If you are an expert rider and need a challenge with your little ski area experience, Silverton Mountain is for you. It is Colorado's highest and steepest ski mountain. With un-groomed expert terrain, you'll want to make sure your health insurance is up-to-date, but who cares! With 400 inches of average snowfall, the white fluffy pow-pow will ease your controlled fall down the mountain.

     

    There are many small little ski areas to choose from. If these spots don't peak your interest, there are a few more to try. Hop over to Colorado.com for more information.

    Hiking in 8 Easy Steps

    Hiking in 8 Easy Steps

    As the summer winds down, kids go back to school, and the heat of summer looses its cling to the air, you may think you've missed your chance to start hiking. Not true! Some of the best hiking can be in the late summer and fall. Kick-start your hiking dreams with these eight easy steps.

    Woman Hiking Colorado Backpacking mountains trailing tips


    1) The Right Shoes

    The styles of hiking boots available are all over the board. From traditional high top hiking boots to ultralight toe shoes, one could become frustrated and confused on this hiking topic alone. Unless you are a well-seasoned hiker who knows their needs and trails intimately, use these tips to help you select the right shoe for you.

    Know your size. When hiking is your aim, the correct size matters. During a hike your feet will slide from front to back. While some movement is good, too much will leave you with cramped arches and blisters. Get your feet measured at a local store, and wear the socks you intend to use during a hike when trying on shoes or boots. For optimal room and fit, use the rule of thumb. There should be a thumb’s width between the tip of the longest toe in your foot and the end of the shoe.

    Pick the right materials. If you plan to hike in multiple climates, you may end up with multiple boots. Hard leather boots and other water proof materials are good for colder and wetter environments. Softer, breathable materials are best for dry hotter hikes. For something middle of the road, go with a boot that has the two types of materials combined. These will allow some airflow and waterproofing to an extent. Don’t cross streams in these though, you’ll have a soggy socks. 

    Don’t neglect your soles. The stiffness of a sole, or midsole, is directly related to the weight you carry and your terrain. Toe shoes offer little protection from roots and rocks. While stiffer boots (some with steal plates) allow you to traverse rough trails with more weight, like a backpack for camping. For day hikes on well maintained tails, go with a ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) material. This material is lighter and cushier and comes in varying degrees of densities for support. 

    2) Warm Up with Dynamic Stretches

    Begin using dynamic stretches over static before a hike. Dynamic stretches are movement based and do not require you to hold a position. This type of stretch wakes up your muscles and prepares them for the different types of movements during a hike. Unlike static stretches, dynamic ones will not create the too elastic and less powerful feeling hikers sometimes experience. 

    To start, try 10 minutes of alternating knee lifts, squat to runners lunge, high kicks, and torso twists. Have fun with it! The point is to energize your body and prepare. Making it fun will put a smile on your face and put you in the right mood for the challenge ahead.

    3) The Perfect Pants

    There are a wealth of sport pants, capris, and shorts to choose from. Form fitting leggings such as the Rajak H Capri are perfect for hiking for three reasons. 

    First, the fabric generally used for this style wicks away sweat and regulates temperature. With the advancement of man-made fabrics and the introduction of alternatives such as bamboo, you can choose what works best for you. However, Polyester is the primary material for most leggings. 

    Second, the options for length allow you to choose full-length, mid-calf, or above the knee. Which length you choose will depend on the temperature outside and your comfort. Some experience hot calves easily, while others will want full-length year round for sun protection.

    Third, when hiking your thighs slide back and forth across each other. The form fitting nature of leggings create a barrier between your thighs to help protect against heat rash and irritation.

    Red Rocks Colorado hiking training stairs


     



    4) Use the Stairs

    Many advice columns will tell you to use the stair stepper when training. Seems straight forward enough. However, using a stair stepper leaves out a big part of hiking, going downhill.

    When hiking downhill you use the same muscles as uphill, but in a different combination. The downhill movements and gravity place more stress on your knees and the tissues used as stabilizers to control your decent. According to a study published on pub-med.gov, the compressive forces endured by the knees during downhill walking were three to four times greater when compared to level walking. This is when illiotibial band pain is more likely to flare up (see #6 for more on illiotibial band pain). To prepare for the downhill, focus on two strategies. 

    Rather than spending hours on a stair stepper, find a set of stairs. Places such as Red Rocks Amphitheater are perfect for this. Taking the stairs both ways will allow you to reap double the rewards. Training this way will allow your body to learn these smaller muscle movements and build endurance. After a long hike up, your body is tried. Training for the downhill return will reduce the chance of injury.

    To further reduce your chance of injury while hiking downhill, keep some simple tactics in mind. Never lock your knees, walk at a steady, slow pace, and keep the knees flexed. Use a zig-zag pattern when possible and avoid going straight downhill. 

    5) Layer Baby

    You’ve got your shoes and pants, what about tops? Layering is the key. Start with a base layer such as the Maliha Tank, and add a top layer like the Profitability B Jacket. You want to look for three factors when combining your layers. First, does the top and bottom layer fit well together leaving room for movement and airflow? Second, does the combination allow you to create multiple “settings” for comfort? For example, if you are cold, you can zip up and use the hood. If you are warm, you’ll want to unzip the top layer to allow for increased airflow. Third, does the top layer provide some protection against the weather? When hiking in the mountains, the weather can change quickly. Be prepared for sudden showers by using a top layer that has some water proofing, or add water proofing with a spray on product.

    Layering hiking clothes Aspen and Pine tops jackets

    6) Static Stretches 

    Your quadriceps are the workhorse of hiking. Located on the front of the thigh and dived into four distinct portions, they can become overworked and tire easily without proper care. Before, during, and after each hike, make sure that you stretch your quadriceps.

    During a hike, your illiotibial band can become tired and sore at the knee. Also known as the IT Band, it is a length of tissue on the outside of your thigh that extends from the pelvis over the hip to the top of the tibia just below the knee. The pain you may feel on the outside of your knee after a long or strenuous hike could be due to this tissue rubbing against the outer knuckle of your knee and becoming inflamed. A 15-minute rest, off your feet, and a quadriceps stretch can help loosen your IT Band and reduce pain. If the pain returns soon after a break or does not subside after you are home, take steps to address this injury immediately. Turn back on your hike and move very slow on the return trip. Use the palm of your hand to rub the illiotibial band to loosen it up and schedule an appointment with a doctor. This type of injury can become chronic if not addressed swiftly.

    7) At the drop of a hat

    Hats have come in and out of style, but for hiking they are a must. This particular bit of advice is less to do with hiking itself and more about skin protection. A good long hike could expose your skin to hours of direct and indirect sunlight. You shouldn’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect you. Sweat washes away your shield faster than you think. Choose a hat that has a brim providing coverage for your face and chest. A ball cap will do, but a wide brim sun hat is best. In addition, the panama or classic fedora will achieve some of the same coverage. Keep that young, perfect skin looking beautiful longer by taking simple precautions. Grab a hat as you fly out the door to your next outdoor adventure, hiking or not.

    8) Ready. Set. Go! 

    You can Google “how to train for hiking” or “how to start hiking” and you’ll find tons of information and training tips. However, hiking is about the simplistic enjoyment of nature and the slow pace of personal fitness. The best way to train for any activity is to do that activity. If you want to start hiking, get out there. Put on your clothes, stretch, and start slow. Forget about mileage or pace. Start with an easy walk around the lake, or in your neighborhood. Don’t push it and enjoy yourself. If you pay attention to your body and the trail, you’ll know when to turn around and head back. Allow yourself to become absorbed in the beauty of nature, and before you know it you will have covered miles of terrain.

    Disclaimer: The advice in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. Before beginning any new activity or exercise make sure to consult a physician.

    woman hiking sunset sky adventure

    Hidden Camping Gem — Dinosaur National Monument, Echo Park

    Hidden Camping Gem — Dinosaur National Monument, Echo Park

    Dinosaur National Monument Colorado Sunset Road to Echo Park

    Deep in the center of Dinosaur National Monument lies a hidden gem of natural beauty. Positioned on the Colorado side of the park where the Yampa and Green River join in deep magnificent canyons, I found the most amazing campground I’ve ever visited. Located 6.5 hours from Denver and 5.3 hours from Salt Lake City, Echo Park Campground should be on every camper’s bucket list. I visited in early June. Chosen on a whim as we drove from Denver, I had no idea what wonders we would see in the next 24 hours.

    This part of the state is sparsely populated, and this side of the park sees fewer visitors due to the campground's location deep within the park. Getting to this area by car entails a two-hour drive from Dinosaur, Colorado. First, a long two-lane paved road takes you from the park’s East entrance 25 miles, over prairie full of deer and grazing cows, to a right turn onto a very steep and winding red dirt road. When I say steep, I mean steep. There are vehicle restrictions posted on the entrance to the road. I would be hesitant to take this road if the conditions were not dry.

    Dinosaur National Monument Petroglyphs Echo Park Camping

    This is the point when the awe inspiring beauty of the park comes alive. Drawing you further and further down through deep canyons with high walls, you feel as if perhaps you’ve taken the wrong turn and that you’ll drive right off a cliff. With the multitude of views and sights around, you may if you don’t pay attention to the road. Take time to explore the road and see the different things along the way. An old homestead, petroglyphs, caves, and crumbling log and sod cabins left by generations of private owners of the land, remain for your viewing pleasure. 

    Dinosaur National Monument Echo Park Campground Camping

    After 11 more miles you will arrive at Echo Park Campground. This scenic and wondrous place is surrounded by high rock cliffs that glow in the light of sunrise and sunset. It’s easy to see how this area was the home of the Fremont people, Native American Indians. The campground consists of 22 camping sites along the Green River, just West of the intersection of the Green and Yampa River. It is also a popular way point for river rafters as there is a boat ramp just up the road.

     Factoid:
    Due to the proximity to the river and some low flood pools, take lots of bug spray. You’ll need it!

     After one night in this place, I was lamenting our tight schedule. I could have stayed here for days — resting in the sun, playing in the water, and exploring the many cracks and crevasse of the amazing rock walls. I will be back one day; I can promise you that.

     Dinosaur National Monument Echo Park Campground Camping

    28 Trails, 500 Miles - A Colorado Hikers Challenge

    28 Trails, 500 Miles - A Colorado Hikers Challenge

     Kenosha Pass View of South Park Colorado

    Before you die, you must complete the Colorado Trail. Spanning 500 miles and 28 segments this trail traverses the Rocky Mountains from Denver to Durango. Reaching altitude gains of 5,196 ft., this trail embodies the spirit and beauty of Colorado. If you are a Colorado loving, freeze dried food eating hiker – this is your challenge. Completing the Colorado Trail should be on your bucket list.

    Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you complete this challenge in one long, arduous trip. This trail is best tackled in segments. I started in June of 2015. It was early for such high altitude. The majority of the trail looked like winter was merely taking a siesta. I chose to begin my Colorado Trail Challenge at Kenosha Pass West, segment 6. With friends, dogs, and a husband along we set out for a cool early season backpacking overnight-er.

    Factoid:
    On July 14, 2016, Gudy Gaskill, commonly known as the mother of the Colorado Trail, died at age 89. She spent more than three decades nurturing the trail from idea to reality. As executive director of the Colorado Trail Foundation, she negotiated with a variety of Forest Service district rangers, sketching routes along old mining paths, scraping up donations and cajoling the support of a host of bureaucrats. Read full Denver Post article.

    Kenosha Pass, Colorado Trail - Section 6, Park County, Colorado

    Location: North of Jefferson, Colorado
    Distance: 32.9 miles (We only did 4.2 miles)
    Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
    Point of Interest: View of South Park

    My fitness was that of a greenhorn, I struggled from the first step up the trail. My stubborn nature beat back at the doubt caused by my pounding heart. A few more pack free hikes around Green Mountain would have been a good idea before this trip.

    This section of the Colorado Trail climbs up to a ridge that looks down and across South Park. You can see the city of Jefferson not too far off and the Mosquito Range, which holds Mount Lincoln at an elevation of 14,286 ft. Only a little more than 15 miles west, as the crow flies, is Breckenridge, Colo.

    Hiking Colorado Trail South Park County San Isabel National Forest

    After a mile of climbing up, you begin a gentle downhill hike as the trail skirts the edge of the mountains and stays within San Isabel National Forest (be careful not to stray on to the private property of the ranch below). The sky is vast here. The treed landscape opens up to sagebrush fields and grassy meadows. Even in the brown hangover of winter's brutality, the beauty of this place is calming.  

    Colorado Trail Marker signGetting lost would be difficult here. If you do find yourself worried that you may be on a game trail, look for the markers of the Colorado Trial.  These little mountain shaped white and green tags are fixed to trees, posts, and signs guiding you along all 500 miles of the trail system. Usually, when one trail intersects the Colorado Trail, this marker will be there to let you know which path to take.

    After several stops to look at the map, and many promises to my companions that we had "only half a mile more" till our campsite, we arrived at our pad for the night. Located approximately 4.2 miles from the trail head, the clearing has been occupied many times before. It had room for several tents and an established fire pit. We made camp, ate dinner, drank a little booze, and hit the hay before the sun set. I find that happens a lot when I'm backpacking. The essentials become that much more important and the distractions of daily life (TV, Internet) don't matter.

    Every year approximately 150 people complete the 500 miles of Colorado Trail. Some taking mere months, some taking several season. When will you join the list of those who've completed the trail? 

    Colorado Trail Hiking Resources

    To start planning your Colorado Trail Challenge, use these resources.

    The Colorado Trail Foundation

    The Colorado Trail on Google Earth

    South Platte Ranger District

    19316 Goddard Ranch Court
    Morrison, CO 80465
    303-275-5610

    The Colorado Trail Guidebook, 9th Edition

    This book covers the entire Colorado Trail, all 567 miles between Denver and Durango, including Segments 1-28 plus CW01-CW05. This is the first edition that covers both the CT Collegiate East and CT Collegiate West. It helps you plan your CT excursions, can guide you on the trail, and is particularly well-suited to have either in an automobile or at home. It is your official resource for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding and bicycling The Colorado Trail. Buy through The Colorado Trail Foundation

    All photos used in this post are credited to Derek Perry. Thanks for being my husband, backpacking buddy, and photographer.

     

    Amazing Rewards - Grand County Colorado Hiking

    Amazing Rewards - Grand County Colorado Hiking

    After a while, the Front Range hikes that are within an easy 30-minute drive of Downtown Denver will become crowded and the temperatures will reach heights that make us think of a backyard pools rather than a hike. Skip the Front Range and drive a little bit deeper into the Rockies to find the less trafficked trails with cooler temps. Take a hiking tour of Grand County, Colorado.

    I’ve spent a lot of time up in Grand County, specifically around and in-between Granby and Grand Lake. After 45 minutes on I-70 west from Denver, take the exit to Highway 40. This will take you up and over Berthoud Pass and the first town you hit will be Winter Park. Many will stop there and call it good, but I encourage you to drive on just a little further to explore an area of Colorado that doesn’t see as many visitors and hides hiking gems for all skill levels.

    YMCA of the Rockies: Snow Mountain Ranch, Waterfall Trail

     Location: West of Tabernash, Colorado
    Distance: 3 miles round-trip
    Difficulty: Easy
    Point of Interest: Waterfall

    YMCA of the Roackies Snow Mountain Ranch Waterfall TrailAs you head past Winter Park on Hyw 40, through Frasier, and on past Tabernash, you’ll come across the YMCA of the Rockies, Snow Mountain Ranch. This is private land, however the trail system is open to the public. An easy three-mile round-trip hike leads you to a beautiful hidden waterfall. This trail has been my go-to for testing out my hiking and my guests' hiking ability at altitude. Almost anyone should be able to complete this trail. In addition, it is not on many maps, so you’re assured lower traffic.

    At the trail head there is a small parking and picnic area. Last I was there, a small stream that runs the trail and length of the parking lot had overflowed, spilling into the grass with crisp spring snow melt. Follow that stream along the trail to see and ponder several beaver dams. In years past, I’ve seen lots of evidence of the beaver activity. If you stay long enough and quite enough, perhaps you can see one of these civil engineers of the natural world.

    Continuing on up the path, along the stream, you navigate a couple primitive bridges, and pass a memorial bench that offers a great place to catch your breath and look around. However, if you are feeling good, power through that rest stop and push for the waterfall. It’s not too much further. Suddenly, you’ll round a corner and be presented with high rock walls on either side and a beautiful 20 ft waterfall. Relax, take it in, maybe go up to the top. (Watch for preservation signs. Take the right route.) This trail is perfect for a quick afternoon hike, a hike with diverse skill ranges, or just for the fun of it. 

    Monarch Lake, Grand County, Colorado

    Location: Northeast of Granby, Colorado
    Distance: 4.1 mile loop
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Point of Interest: Monarch Lake, Steam Donkey

    Past Granby, north on Highway 34, at the southern edge of Lake Granby is County Highway 6. Follow this road 10 miles to Monarch Lake. This lake is a trail head for longer, more challenging hikes in Arapahoe National Forest and Indian Peaks Wilderness. However, the Monarch Lake Loop is a great trail with multiple actives available.

    Monarch Lake Steam DonkeyMy favorite part of this trail is at the very beginning. There is a cute little ranger station setup to help visitors to this area. Every day the rangers set out several humming bird feeders, and those little birds swarm! Just hanging out at the ranger station bench can give you an experience to remember. Dozens of these beautiful creature’s buzz, dive, and swoop through the air. It’s almost a choreographed show for you to enjoy.

    A mile and a half down the southern part of the loop will take you to an old steam donkey. Left over from a logging operation at the turn of the 19th Century, the steam engine, nicknamed steam donkey, was used to drag logs down the mountainside by cable to the lake and logging operations below. 

     

     

     Factoid:
    The town of Monarch is located under Lake Granby. It was constructed in 1904 by the Rocky Mountain Lumber Co. to house its workers at the company's sawmill and box factory. The town was abandoned after a fire in 1908.

    While Monarch Lake is man-made, as is its neighbor Lake Granby, the setting is beautiful and serene. Use the loop for a moderate 4.1 mile trail, or use it as a jumping off point for our next suggested destination hike, Strawberry Lake.

    Strawberry Lake, Grand County Colorado

     Location: Northeast of Granby, Colorado
    Distance: 3.1 miles round-trip
    Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
    Point of Interest: Strawberry Lake

    Strawberry Lake Grand County ColoradoIn my opinion, Strawberry Lake is the crown jewel of hidden hiking in Grand County. The trail head is difficult to find from Grand County Highway 6. You have to keep a keen eye out for the lightly traveled, and unmarked starting point. Look for a slightly wide point 7.6 miles after turning off of Hwy 34. Online research indicated that the GPS coordinates for the parking area is 40º 7.53' North and 105º 46.56' West, although I have not tested them.

    Be prepared for a path that climbs quickly and steeply from its hidden trailhead. My first time on this trail was after a vacation at sea-level, and I was unprepared for the steep climb. However, it was worth the effort. The lake can also be accessed from High Lonesome Trail at Monarch Lake. This part of the trail may be unmaintained, I suggest speaking with a Ranger before taking this alternate route.

    Along the way up the trail, you will cross Strawberry Creek several times. The creek and the lake gets its name from the mineral deposits in the area. These mineral deposits create a reddish hue to the water. It reminds me of tea, brewing in the warm sunlight. Although, don’t drink it. Be prepared and bring plenty of your own water.

    Once on top of the ridge line, the trail becomes gentle and guides you into Strawberry Bench. This area includes Strawberry Lake and beautiful high mountain meadows. The Forest Service has setup informational signs and a walking bridge for you to access the lake. Take care to mind the signs and walk-ways. This is a delicate eco system that can be damaged easily by too much foot traffic.

    With an amazing view of Arapaho Peak and a perfect place to sit at the very end of the floating bridge, I spent several hours there in the sun. Sketching what I saw in front of me, I found this place is peaceful and quite.

    Adams Falls, Grand Lake, Colorado

    Location: East of Grand Lake, Colorado
    Distance: 0.9 miles round-trip
    Difficulty: Easy
    Point of Interest: Adams Falls

    Adams Falls Rock Mountain National ParkRounding out your tour of Grand County is Adams Falls. This short hike enters into the southwestern area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Following the East Inlet Trail, you’ll come across crystal clear ponds and the Adams Falls Trail, which is a semi-loop that reconnects with the East Inlet Trail in less than two-tenths of a mile. Turn right at this Adams Falls junction and walk the short distance to an overlook of Adams Falls, a very impressive waterfall that drops roughly 55 feet in a series of steps through a narrow rock gorge.

    The Park Service has built a retaining wall to keep people safe, but my Mother-in-Law told me a story about a trip to this location in 1983 when there were no walls and rails. The children climbed out to the edge of the rocks to peer down at the powerful rushing water.

    If you’d like a longer hike, turn right at the fork when the Adams Falls Trail meets back up with the East Inlet trail. This will take you up to a series of five lakes surrounded by meadows. Be careful though! This area is prime moose territory. On more than one occasion when I’ve visited this trail, hikers coming down from that area have warned of a moose.

    TIP: Do not bring your dog to this trail. The trail and falls are within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. Dogs are not allowed on trains within the park. Besides, you don't want to run into a moose with Fido barking. That could be bad news!

     

     

     Factoid:
    The falls and nearby Mt. Adams, are named after an early settler to Grand Lake named Jay E. Adams. Mr. Adams arrived in the area in the late 1800s. Prior to receiving its current name the waterfall was known as Ousel Falls.

    Grand County Hiking Resources

    While these four areas are my regular hiking haunts when hanging out with friends and family in Grand County, there are plenty of other trails and places to explore. Here are a couple of the resources I use.

    Hiking Grand County, Colorado
    By Debora Carr and Lou Ladrigan

    The updated edition of Hiking Grand County, Colorado is a comprehensive backcountry guide to Grand County's trail system and includes color photos and topo maps. Buy through REI.

    Sulphur Ranger District, Forest Service Office

    9 Ten Mile Drive, Granby, CO 80446
    970-887-4100

    Stop into this Forest Service Office and speak with the local rangers. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly. They even provide free maps of the different areas, roads, and trails for you to explore.