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5 Beautiful Hikes I did in Colorado

If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed that I recently fell in love with hiking, and visited Colorado where I went on several hikes. What you probably don’t know though, is that my love for hiking all started a few months ago, when I caught up with an old “friend” who told me he thought I was too much of a “princess” to hike in the wilderness… I had a major “..hold my beer” moment, and knew what was about to happen. I should probably thank this guy, because he didn’t know that he’d unlocked a whole new world for me that day. He had no idea that I literally wait for people to say these things to me. That I make hobbies out of proving people wrong; that I treat it like a sport, and that with those words – I instantly became fascinated by an activity that I’d never been interested in before.

However – I have a bad habit of being overconfident when it comes to learning new things, so while I was ready to hike every hill and mountain near me at that point – I didn’t actually know the first thing about hiking. I severely underestimated the preparation it takes to do it successfully, and when I asked my cousins to take me hiking the following week after my “friend” made his comment – I showed up to a six mile hike with a swell bottle full of bourbon (instead of water or gatorade), because I wanted to keep things interesting in case I got bored.

Needless to say, I was wrong in every way… the trail was not as leisurely as I thought it would be, and I ended up drinking the rest of my cousin’s electrolyte water by the time we headed back at the half way point. What started off as a mission to be able to flip the bird at anyone who didn’t think I could hike, ended with the discovery of something I didn’t expect to truly enjoy and love so much. I didn’t know that the outskirts of McLean and Langley were the entrances to a world that was opposite of the malls and mansions that surrounded it. I love the water.. the sound of it running, or seeing a large body of it; I love animals and I love flowers. I didn’t expect to find an abundance of all those things in hiking, and didn’t expect to feel addicted to the sense of wonder it left in me.

So when I visited Colorado for a work trip last week – I woke up early to hike before work, stayed out to hike after work, stayed the weekend so I could hike through it as much as I could, because I loved everything about wandering through a world I never took a good look at until now.

Colorado is an abyss of of parks and trails to hike in every direction. It’s full of beauty, and I feel like you can’t really go wrong with any hike you pick out, but if you want to know about the ones I did – below are the five hikes I picked to do in Colorado, along with some tips (so you don’t make the mistakes I did) on what to expect and how to prepare before you decide to go.


{ The steep hike up to Hanging Lake }
{ Hanging Lake }
{ Spouting Rock }
{ Trespassing behind the waterfall… don’t follow my lead 😉 }

1) Hanging Lake & Spouting Rock

Distance: 3mi (there and back)
Elevation gain: 1200+ ft
City: Glenwood Springs, CO

This was the hike I was most excited about. I followed the Hanging Lake’s hashtag on instagram for weeks leading up to my trip, and could not wait to see it in person. Throughout the hike, you’ll come across beautiful waterfalls, creeks to collect water, and when you get to the top – you get to see both the hanging lake and spouting rock (a flight of stairs further). That said – this hike was also the one I was most annoyed with, because I had no idea that it was going to be an endless incline of steep stairs. If you don’t know what to expect (like I did), then it can seem pretty miserable… especially if you do something stupid like sprint up the stairs in hopes of finding a flat area.. only to find that it’s just stairs (like I did).

My advice here would be to: Show up early (the parking lot gets packed around 7-8am, so I got there around 5:30); don’t sleep on the trekking poles if you have them, leave your flip flops at home, bring lots of water, and mentally prepare yourself to climb a ton of stairs… 🙂

[More details]

{ Sunrise at the Flatirons }

2) Flatirons Vista Trail

Distance: 3.5 mi (loop)
Elevation gain: 285 ft
City: Boulder, CO

This is one of the many beautiful trails at the Flatirons. I arrived at this trail around 5AM to watch the sun light up the mountain and colorful fields. I will never forget watching the sunrise from the flower field, feeling the sun slowly warm my body and my face as it rose higher and higher into the sky. This was the only flat hike I did while I was in CO, and would recommend it to families with infants or toddlers. Not much advice here since this was the easiest hike I did in Colorado. A few people recommended that I stop by the table mountain park across the street, so you may want to consider checking that out if you have time.

[More details]

{ Mount Sanitas flower fields }

{ Mount Sanitas side trail }

{ Mount Sanitas Trail }

3) Mount Sanitas & Sanitas Valley Loop

Distance: 3.2 mi (loop)
Elevation gain: 1256 ft
City: Boulder, CO

This was the very first hike I did when I arrived in Colorado. I hadn’t even dropped off my luggage at the hotel yet when I jumped out of my car and on to this trail, ready to wing it without water.

Huge mistake.

This trail is a loop, so you can either go in the direction that begins with a flat valley, or begin with the direction that leads you up a steep mile of stairs. I was way overconfident (surprise) and didn’t think of the elevation I hadn’t properly adjusted to yet… So I decided to take the stairs.

I regretted it about seven minutes into the hike, but was too proud to turn back. I became super embarrassed when I watched locals run up the stairs past me, little children hop along with their parents trailing leisurely behind them. I’m also pretty sure I got lapped by one guy, and know for sure that another did the entire hike barefoot.

My first hike in Colorado pretty much owned me.

My advice here would be to: Take the stairs if you’re looking for a work out, start with the valley if you’re looking for a leisurely walk, venture out into the fields to see the wildflowers and gorgeous views above the city, and beware of rattlesnakes, because I definitely ran into one by a bush.

[More details]

{ Eldorado Canyon }

{ Eldorado Canyon }

{ Eldorado Canyon }

4) Eldorado Canyon

Distance: 6.2 mi (loop)
Elevation gain: 1945 ft
City: Eldorado Springs, CO

This was the trail that three different Denverites told me I had to see before I go. It was a little out of my way, so I didn’t have much time to spend while I was there for a lunch break, but from the glimpse of what I saw in 20 minutes – this hike looks gorgeous. I climbed down a wall to take these pictures on a boulder near the water, and just sat there listening to the water for a few minutes before I left. This hike is not only known for its views, but also for its wildlife and wildflowers.  I’d definitely come back here to hike if I ever visited Colorado again, and I’m sad my $8 day pass didn’t go to much use.

[More details]

{ White River National Forest | Cross Creek Trail Entrance }

{ Surprise Lake at Dawn }

{ Surprise Lake at Sunrise }

{ Surprise Lake Trail }

{ White River National Forest | Cross Creek Trail Entrance }

5) Surprise Lake

Distance: 5.8 mi (there and bacj)
Elevation gain: 1489 ft
City: Heeney, CO

This is where I did my overnighter. I’ll write about this more in a later post, but in short – this was my favorite hike out of the five. The entrance alone is full of gorgeous views of the mountain, white river, flower fields, hundreds of happy cows, and the trail begins with beautiful white trees and dozens of flowers that bend forward to greet you from all directions. There were so many moments when I just wanted to stop and try to bottle up some the views (which I’m glad I did, because I lost 90% of my photos from this trip), because every few yards of this trail offered something new to see.. a pond of white lillies, a hill with a view of the mountains, or a hidden creek behind a wall of trees. The lake at the top of the hike reflected views of the alpines that sat above the trees, and had even more to explore, but again – I’ll save all of that for another post. 🙂

My advice here would be to bring a lot of bug spray (my arms and legs were mauled by mosquitoes.. I’m still itching as I’m writing this), bring lots of water and maybe some nuum (this saved the day when I got to the top, ran around and became dehydrated), be prepared to climb over some logs, bring trekking poles to help you through the creeks, mud and over some massive logs. Wear waterproof boots! I saw a few guys with bloody toes from wearing sandals, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. On top of this –  the snow is still melting and creates puddles you don’t want to have to put your flip flops through. Wear sturdy shoes..

[More details]

Again – there are so many other trails you can do that are equally (if not more) beautiful. I highly recommend downloading the AllTrails app for ideas on what to see while you’re out there… It’ll help you find what you’re looking for, depending on how far you want to hike, where you want to hike, and what you want to see (wildflowers, a lake, wildlife, rivers, etc.). Happy Hiking 🙂

xx, Jennie

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