view across st marys lake near denver to snowcapped mountains and glacier

November Hikes

Where are the best places to hike near Denver in November?

November hiking on the Front Range of Colorado can be cold and snowy or 70 degrees and sunny. It can feel like the continuation of Fall or the depths of winter. And so much depend on where you want to hike. Travel an hour West into the mountains, and it's like you've been transported into a different country--because you have. So, you can see the answer to "Where do I hike this weekend?" in November depends a lot on location and the weather forecast.

Because of this, I think in terms of hike purpose: A) Just Enjoying the Outdoors or B) Adventure. If your goal is to hike alongside a friend and enjoy the beauty of Colorado, or get the dog out for a long walk, then you're probably staying within about 45 minutes of Denver. If you're looking for some adventure, you're driving further and stepping into a whole different and sometimes higher risk landscape. In the rest of this post, I'll recommend a series of trails in both categories.

Just Enjoying the Outdoors

In November, there are three go-to places I'd recommend hiking that are closer in to the Denver metro area and have a lot of options.

  • Hikes in Staunton State Park:

  • Less than an hour from Denver, this newest of our State Parks has miles upon miles of sunny trails. If you want sun and a great hike with your dog, Staunton is a great go-to. The Staunton Ranch Trail runs right through the middle of the park through ponderosa pines and with great views of Staunton Rocks to the North. Our kids loved hiking the loop hike to Davis Ponds. And for those of you looking for a longer more demanding hike, check out our hike profile for Elk Falls overlook. A CO State Parks pass is required. See the hike profiles above for details.

    morning light on flatirons mountains near boulder taken from ncar on bear canyon loop hike
    Flatirons at the entrance of Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado

  • Hikes in Chautauqua Park in Boulder:

  • I love hiking Chautauqua Park because it's right down in the city of Boulder and the park provides access to all kinds of hiking options. Like Staunton, dogs are allowed in most areas of the park. You can grab good coffee or lunch after an early morning hike, or enjoy a sunset at places like Realization Point. My favorite is the hike up to the alcove behind the First and Second Flatiron. The trail to Royal Arch is a local favorite. If you are looking for something less demanding, consider Shanahan Ridge or the Enchanted Mesa Loop. There are a labyrinth of trails, so you can always just grab a map and explore. Remember, the sun goes down early and fast behind the mountains, so plan out your return. When hiking during these winter months, I always pack the 10 Essentials, my down coat, and have my headlamp in the top of my pack. Sign up for our Trail Dispatch email and get a download of our recommended packing list, trail meals ideas, and more hike recommendations.

  • St. Mary's Glacier Trail:

  • St. Mary's Glacier is a favorite destination year round. The photo at the top of this post is of St. Mary's Lake and you can see the glacier, complete with ski trail marks, on the glacier just above the lake. It's just a 1.7 mile round-trip hike, but don't let the short distance deceive you. You're back in the high country of Colorado and weather conditions can change super fast. So, be prepared. Get to the trailhead early on the weekends, and by early, I mean before 7AM, and have cash for the parking fee. See our St. Mary's Glacier trail profile for more details.

    meadows and ponderosa pine along mesa trail in the south mesa area of the flatirons south of boulder colorado with the flatirons in the background
    Along the Mesa Trail South of Boulder, Colorado

  • Just South of Boulder:

  • I love the Marshal Mesa area on the South end of the Flatirons. The Marshall Mesa trail runs along the base of the flatirons below Bear Peak and offers some beautiful scenery without the demand of steep grades. The parking area is along the same road that leads into Eldorado Canyon, which is another wonderful place to visit this time of year. The trails in the Canyon because of the topography are going to have snow and mud patches, so bring your trekking poles or pack some traction devices for your backpack. See our Eldorado Canyon hikes page for several trails to explore.

    The Walker Ranch Loop, or just the top end of it at Eldorado Falls, is a great option for hiking with the dog and friends. The loop is longer and more demanding, but a wonderful way to spend the day with a companion just talking and taking in the beauty of Colorado. North from the Marshall Mesa Traihead along 93 is the Flatirons Vista Trailhead. We have profiled a 1.9-mile and 3.3 mile set of loop hikes that give you the grand views of the Flatirons on these broad rolling meadows of this area North of Denver.

    A CO State Parks pass is required for Eldorado Canyon and there are access fees at the Marshall Mesa and Flatirons Vista Trailheads. See the hike profiles above for details.

More Adventurous Hikes

If you are looking for a more demanding workout and possibly some peak-top views or destination hikes, then here are a few trails I'd recommend for this time of year. Before taking off into the woods though, be sure to review our 10 Winter Hiking tips. Safety and smarts are always important--they are critical during these Winter months however because of the cold and the unpredictable weather.

views from carpenter peak in roxborough state park colorado granti boulders evergreen trees on mountains and blue skies with cirrus clouds moderate hike near denver
View from the peak of Carpenter Peak

  • Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park:

    This is a great 6.2 mile, out-and-back trail South of Littleton, Colorado. I like this trail because you get views to the West of the Front Range, and you get to look down on the beauty of Roxborough State Park and it's gigantic fins of red rock. The only drawback is that dogs are not allowed in the park.

  • Windy Peak in Golden Gate Canyon State Park:

  • You can bring your dog on this one. The hike up to Windy Peak is a 6.4 mile loop hike to views out to the snow-capped peaks in the West. There are lot of other hike options in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, so check out our trails page for the park for more ideas.

    Hiker on summit of bear peak near boulder colorado
    Hiker at the top of Bear Peak

  • South Boulder and Bear Peaks:

  • These two hikes are more demanding and can be made into a 9-mile loop hike where you bag both peaks on the same hike. Bear Peak has a little knife edge that requires a few moments of hand-over-hand, and the summit of South Boulder Peak requires a bit of scrambling, but most of the hike is moderate. Bring plenty of water as you'll need it.

    ouzel falls waterfall in background with cascades in foreground in rocky mountain national park
    Ouzel Falls in the Wild Basin of RMNP

  • Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • This shoulder season can be a perfect time to visit RMNP because the crowds have subsided. Be ready for muddy trails and snow, but on those sunny warm weekends, the Wild Basin and Bear Lake areas will be quiet escapes from the city. I'd recommend giving the RMNP ranger offices a call to get a feel for the weather or checking out the RMNP Trail Conditions page Traction devices and trekking poles will make your hike in these winter conditions way more enjoyable. I'd recommend checking Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls in the Wild Basin area. The trailhead changes in winter months for the Wild Basin, so be sure to add the additional mileage to your hike because you'll be starting from the Winter Trailhead. In the Bear Lake and Moraine Park area, I'd recommend Fern Falls, an easier hike to Alberta Falls or Emerald Lake, and the more demanding hike up to The Loch.

boulder falls waterfall near boulder colorado pouring through canyon into creek below with grey rock cliffs

Waterfall Hikes in November

The best time of year to explore the waterfalls near Denver is during the early Summer months of May, June, and July. However, the waterfalls wills surge over sheets of ice during those warm days following a good snow. It's going to be pretty hit or miss, but if you are looking for a waterfall hike near Denver during these early winter months, I'd recommend a few.

  • Boulder Falls:

  • Right off of the road, so really no hike at all. This is a great year-round waterfall just 50 minutes North of Denver. Pictured above.

  • Elk Falls:

  • A longer hike in Staunton State Park to the tallest waterfall near Denver.

  • Alberta Falls:

  • A short 1.6 mile hike from Bear lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Healthy Easy Camping Meals

The most difficult part of going camping is the packing. And the most difficult part of packing for the camping trip is meal planning. Below, you'll find a meal-plan for a 3-Day camping trip, that is healthy and easy. It includes with tips on how to prepare your meals along with a few recipes. It's dairy-free, gluten-free, and avoids added sugar.

3-Day Healthy Easy Camping Meal Plan

Dinner #1

  • Protein: Tri-Tip
  • Veggie: Guacamole, Snap Peas, Baby Carrots, Sliced Peppers
  • Carbs: Tortilla Chips

Dinner #2

  • Protein: Ground Turkey Sausage
  • Veggies: Snap Peas, Baby Carrots, Sliced Peppers
  • Carbs:Sweet Potato Fries

Dinner #3

  • Protein: Hot Dogs
  • Carbs: Baked Potatoes or Haystack Fries or see recipe below for roasted potato fries
  • Veggies: Snap Peas, Baby Carrots, Sliced Peppers

Breakfasts

  • Protein: Bacon/Sausage, and Eggs
  • Carbs: Gluten-Free Pancakes (Pamela's Pancake Mix)
  • Fruit: Blueberries and Apples

Lunch and Snacks

  • PBJ
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Beef Jerky
  • Apples and Oranges
  • Blueberries
  • BBQ Chips
  • Homemade Granola

apples oranges avacados easy camping meals

Other

  • Coconut Oil: we pack this in a small tupperware-type container
  • Lime Juice or Lime Oil
  • Coffee: if you are using a french press, I recommend packing a press-worth (ours is about 8 tablespoons) in a snack-sized Ziploc so that you don't have to measure it out every morning.
  • Popcorn
  • Coconut Milk, cocoa with monkfruit for hot-chocolate

Recipes

Easy Sausage Recipe

Our kids LOVE this sausage, so much so that I have to refrain from cooking it up too often. It's crazy simple, too. Just cook up the turkey or pork in the skillet with the seasoning set below. I then put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. One pound feeds the four of us and makes for a great easy dinner. If we have leftovers, I'll cook it up with eggs in the morning. With precooked meats, I'm not as concerned about something going bad. Of course, it can still happen, but I reduce the risk and concern when it's all cooked up at home before camping.

  • Ground Turkey or Pork
  • 1 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of Sage
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Thyme
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Fennel (the best part)

Sweet Potato and Red Potato Fries

This is by far the fastest and easiest way to cook potatoes when camping. Cut sweet potatoes, red, or russet potatoes into 1/2 inch squares, put them in a large ziploc bag or bowel and coat them with a few tablespoons of avacado or olive oil. Spread them out on a foil-lined baking pan and roast them up at about 400 degrees in the oven for about 40-50 minutes. I usually cook them for 30 minutes, then take them out and give them a turn and cook them for another 10 to 20 minutes, keeping an eye on them to see when they look done. I then set them out too cool, put them in freezer bags, and put them in the freezer. When camping, no oil is needed; just dump the potatoes in the skillet and heat them up!

sweet potato fries on backing sheet easy camping meals

Homemade Granola

I don't buy granola because 95% of it has incredibly high sugar content, and it's stupid expensive. It's like granola makers take all this healthy stuff and drench it in added sugar. I'm a recovering sugar addict an get sugar-induced headaches, so I make my own granola. Plus, it's super easy and pretty inexpensive.

Start with oats and any crushed nuts. I like to take roasted cashews and almonds and throw them in a food processor on pulse just to break them up. Add in any seeks like pumpkin or sesame seeds and put them all together in a bowl. Mix in some melted coconut oil, about 1/8th of a cup for each cup of rolled oats. Now, you can adjust your sugar level to your liking by adding maple syrup or honey. Mix it up, then spread it all out on a parchment-lined baking pan. Cook at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, giving it a stir at about 10 minutes in. Take it out and cool. Then you can mix in dried fruit like cranberries, and other items you don't really want to bake, like shredded coconut to the granola.

Homemade Chocolate Sea Salt Bars

I love Kind Bar's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar. And I love that it only has 6 grams of sugar. A few years back, I found a copycat recipe at The Yummy Life. Friends and family are always asking for the recipe. They have a bit more sugar via the rice syrup than I can have this month, but they are still worth mentioning. You can get the recipes at The Yummy Life - Homemade Kind Bars.

Dairy Free, Sugar Free Hot Chocolate

This is a super-easy hot chocolate that's really rich. Adjust the sweetener and cocoa powder to your liking. Tip: don't forget to pack a whisk in with your camping gear. I've never remembered to bring one and it's really difficult to keep the cocoa from clumping without one.

  • 1 Can of Coconut Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of MonkFruit
  • 3 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder
  • A Few Camp Cooking Tips

  • Get a small plastic container for all your cooking utensils, like spatula, knives, foil, etc.
  • Pack the blue shop towels. These go a lot further than normal paper towels and are great for cleaning up.
  • Freeze as much as you can to preserve things longer, and to save space in your cooler by not having to use so much ice.
  • We pack all our dry ingredients in a short rubbermaid container. If fact, we put most of our camping gear in stackable rubbermaid containers when we go car camping.
  • Use the slider type of Ziploc bags. This is a game-changer when your hands are cold and your groggy and you don't want to get your hands oily and messy while cooking.

backpackers in colorado mountains with tent

Hiking Gear Gift Guide

If you are looking for Christmas gifts for the the hiker, backpacker, and camper in your life, here’s a great place to start. We’ve read through reviews, checked some sales, and found 45 of our favorite gifts in several different price ranges, starting at $15.

Gifts under $15

Smartwool PhD Lightweight Hiking Socks & Heathered Hiker Socks


PhD Regular Price: $20.95
PhD Sale Price: $13.73 until 11.20.17 or when they run outstool

Heathered Hiker Regular Price: $22.95
Heathered Hiker Price: $15.73 until 11.20.17 or when they run out

Two classic hiking socks made by smartwool and both on sale until 11.20.17

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  • Both great for dayhiking
  • They are Smartwool! Need we say more?

What Reviewers Think:

  • “These are my go-to socks for trail running” (PhD)
  • Great cushioning! (both socks)
  • “The most comfortable socks I’ve ever owned (PhD)

Snow Peak Titanium Spork

Regular Price: $9.95

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  • Combo lightweight titanium spoon and fork, so no need to carry two utensils
  • No metallic taste and will not rust

What Reviewer’s Think:

  • Durable, lightweight, and extremely easy to clean
  • Some find it to be a little short

REI Co-op Nalgene Bottle - 32 fl. Oz.


Regular Price: $10.95

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  • The classic water bottle everyone needs
  • Doesn’t Leak
  • Dishwasher safe and BPA-free
  • Great for both warm and cold beverages

What Reviewers Think:

  • Easy to clean
  • Holds up to all kinds of wear and tear
  • Doesn't taste like you are drinking from plastic
  • Lasts forever!

CamelBak Insulated Water Bottle - 21 fl. Oz.


Regular Price: $13
Sale Price: $5.73 until 11.20.17

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  • The classic waterbottle everyone needs
  • Doesn’t Leak
  • Dishwasher safe and BPA-free
  • Greate for both warm and cold beverages
  • Double-wall insulation = keeps cold stuff cold and hot stuff hot
  • No plasticy taste; free of BPA, BPS and BPF
  • Not leaky, easy to squeeze for best flow.
  • Easy to fill and clean

What Reviewers Think:

  • No leaks, no drips and easy to clean

Ruffwear Quencher Collapsible Dog Bowl


Regular Price: $14.95
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  • Folds up so you can jam it into your pack
  • You can throw it in the washing machine to get it clean

What Reviewers Think:

  • Lightweight, compact, portable, durable
  • Collapses well and doesn't leak
  • If you have a high-energy dog, they can bump the bowl easily and cause it to collapse

Schrade First Responder Clip Knife


Regular Price: $14.95
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  • Blade Length 3.25 inches
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Closed Length 4.94 inches

What Reviewers Think:

  • Lightweight, compact, portable, durable
  • Collapses well and doesn't leak
  • If you have a high-energy dog, they can bump the bowl easily and cause it to collapse
  • Great knife to keep in the car or a backpack
  • Has seatbelt cutter and glass breaker
  • Rubberized handle has a great look and feel

Gifts $16 to $50

LifeStraw Water Filter


Regular Price: $19.95
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  • No more pumping your water out of the creek. Use the LifeStraw to sip water straight from a stream or lake.
  • 2 oz. so this thing adds almost nothing to your pack
  • Good for up to 264 gallons of filtering
  • Includes a removable lanyard, because you want to hike around with this cool plastic necklace

What Reviewers Think:

  • Isn't hard to drink out of once the flow gets going
  • Very compact and lightweight
  • You can drink directly from the water source
  • There were some complaints that didn’t work the first or second time

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp


Regular Price: $19.95
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  • This is one of your 10 essentials and from a reliable company that has been making headlamps for years!
  • I’ve had the previous version of this for years and love it!
  • Great for having around the house when the lights go out or you’re working on the car
  • 3 brightness levels
  • 5 year Petzl guarantee

What Reviewers Think:

  • Bright light with 3 level settings
  • Lightweight, small and comfortable to wear
  • Easy to control the light strength with a touch

YETI Rambler Lowball Vacuum Tumbler - 10 fl. Oz.


Regular Price: $20
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  • I’ve had the larger version of this for a few years and it’s amazing how long it keeps my coffee piping hot.
  • Double-wall vacuum insulation
  • No Sweat™ design won't leave a ring on your coffee table
  • No metallic taste

What Reviewers Think:

  • Retains the heat and the lid is great for 'spill-proof' protection

REI Co-op Trail Stool


Regular Price: $22.50
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  • Light enough you can pack it in for short hikes
  • Capacity: 200 lbs
  • Weight: 1lb 2oz
  • Size: 15 x 13 x 13 inches

What Reviewers Think:

  • Sturdy and stable
  • Small and light, can be attached easily to the outside of a pack
  • Few complained of its “limited life” (but maybe they were throwing it around--those legs are aluminum you know!)

Smartwool The Lid Hat


Regular Price: $30
Sale Price: $20.99 until 11.20.17

I picked up this hat at REI back in March of 2017 for hiking a stretch of the Appalachian Trail in southern Tennessee. Since the, it’s become by go-to winter hat. It’s kept its tight fit despite me sleeping in it and it taking a lot of wear from being in the top of my pack. It was difficult droppign $30 on a hat, but I can say wholeheartedly that it was worth it.
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  • 50% Merino Wool = Warm
  • 50% Acrylic = Snug fit
  • Great Colors: Charcoal Grey and Steel Blue

What Reviewers Think:

  • Can wear it all day indoors and outdoors
  • A bit itchy on forehead area
  • Great in low temps with high winds

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Hiker Medical Kit


Regular Price: $25
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  • Great for dayhikes and up to a 2-day adventure
  • Injury-specific organization
  • See-through pockets
  • 14 precut, shaped moleskin pieces for blister
  • Wilderness medicine guide
  • One of the 10 Essentials for every dayhiker

What Reviewers Think:

  • Well organized, and has extra room for additional storage (better tweezers, cold medicine, essential oils, water purification tablets, etc.)
  • YETI Rambler Mug - 14 fl. Oz.


    Regular Price: $25

    YETI does it again, adding another level of cool (and hot) to this mug-style rambler. This might just become your go-to camp cup.
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    • Double-wall vacuum-insulation maintains even temperature to your beverage.
    • Stainless steel + DuraCoat® finish means this thing can take a beating
    • It’s got a handle; what more can we say?
    • Dishwasher safe

    What Reviewers Think:

    • The mug's rugged construction and sheer usefulness make it perfect for camping, fishing, or just chillin' at home
    • Welded handle is a good size and features rounded-off edges
    • Built pretty tough, but not immune to scratches

    Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow


    Regular Price: $19.95 - $34.95

    I wish I had this pillow on my last multi-day backpacking trip.
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    • Great on the plane, in the car, and in the tent.
    • Smushes down to a 1/5th of its full size
    • 4 Sizes available
    • Machine washable

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Very soft, squishy, and comfortable
    • Outer material is also soft and comfortable against your face
    • Lightweight and compresses well
    • Can take a very long time to air dry if it gets wet while camping

    YETI Rambler Vacuum Bottle - 18 fl oz


    Regular Price: $30

    The YETI Rambler is probably in my Top 5 of favorite gear that I’ve acquired in the last couple years. I use it every morning to prepare and shake up my bulletproof coffee. It keeps my coffee piping hot on the mornings that I leave it in my cold truck while I work out at the gym. It takes a beating, and you can put a bunch of cool stickers on it.
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    • Comes in a bunch of colors
    • 18 fl oz, 3 x 9.25 inches
    • Stainless Steel

    What Reviewers Think:

    • “My full time car water/coffee bottle.”
    • Ice lasted for 4 days!

    Coal Yukon Brim Beanie


    Regular Price: $38

    I’ll admit that I don’t yet own any Coal products. Everyone who does seems to have a much higher cool-factor though. They make some of the best trucker hats out there. This thing combines the coal cool-factor with cable-knit and a brim. What more could you want?!
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    • Interior fleece headband
    • Wool knit keeps you warm without being itchy or uncomfortable

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Holds up well and stays warm even through significant freezing rain
    • The inner lining can cause the beanie to shift on your head

    Petzl Actik Headlamp


    Regular Price: $44.95

    Ready to upgrade your headlamp? The Petzl Actik is our recommendation.
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    • 300 lumens!!!
    • Several light modes with wide and mixed beam.
    • Great for reading at night
    • That cool red light function for hiking at night
    • Comes with batteries (it’s always nice when they do that)
    • 5 year Petzl guarantee

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Very bright and you can really see when it is dark
    • Button can be a bit hard to press when you are wearing gloves, but it prevents it from accidentally getting turned on when in your pack

    SOG PowerAccess Multitool


    Regular Price: $49.95
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    • Closed Length: 4.1 inches
    • Stainless Steel
    • Patented Gear-drive pliers
    • Weight 5.9 oz.
    • 18 different components

    What Reviewers Think:

    • The pliers are strong!
    • They love the magnetic hex bit holder feature
    • The smaller size makes this really useful and portable

    Gifts $51 to $100

    Osprey Jet 18 Pack - Kids'


    Regular Price: $60
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    • Made for kids to be comfortable
    • Mesh waistbelt and external pocket
    • Side compression straps

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Built-in whistle, comfortable, easy to load, good suspension, highly adjustable, large capacity, lightweight, Osprey Pack Guarantee

    Patagonia Belgrano Pants


    Regular Price: $99
    Sale Price: $68.73 until 11.20.17

    My 10yr old hiking pants are getting pretty worn and these look like a great option. Plus, they are Patagonia!
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    • Water repellent and dries quickly
    • Gusseted crotch allows full range of motion for scrambling
    • Solid stitching
    • Rear pocket has a secure zip closure and key loop
    • Looks like a 2017 closeout, so check several sites for best price

    What Reviewers Think:

    • One reviewer noted that pine sap washed right off his pair of Belgranos

    BearVault BV500 Food Container


    Regular Price: $79.95

    I’ve owned this product from BearVault since 2004 and love it. It’s a must-have if you plan to do any overnights in Rocky Mountain National Park, as bear canisters are now required in the RMNP backcountry. There are two things I love about this thing: 1) no more trying to hang bear bags, and 2) it doubles as a great camp stool.
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    • The obvious: Bears aint eatin’ your food
    • Translucent: You can see your food and get to it easily
    • It’s Legit: BearVault model has approval from both the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group and Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Clear, you can see what is inside
    • Can be hard to twist open if you don’t have strong arms and a strong grip (I put a bit of coconut oil on the threads to help this).

    Nikon Aculon W10 10 x 21 Waterproof Binoculars


    Regular Price: $88
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    • 7.6 oz
    • 3.4 x 4.3 inches
    • Of course, you don’t want to drop these, but they are rubber coated and waterproof down to 3.5 ft.
    • I want these for Christmas :)

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Fits nicely in a pants cargo pocket

    REI Co-op Traverse Trekking Poles


    Regular Price: $99.95
    Sale Price: $74.89 until 11.20.17

    I’m always on a personal mission to find a solid pair of trekking poles under $90. Look no further! Well, they are under $90 when REI has them on sale like this, and they are a tested product.
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    • Aluminum with cork grips
    • 1lb 4oz (pretty light even compared with top-of-the-line poles
    • External lever lock: this is my preferred mechanism for trekking poles. I’ve had 3 pairs of different poles and it’s way more reliable.

    What Reviewers Think:

    • The lever lock can have a slipping issue. The solution is easy, just tighten it up with a screwdriver.

    Patagonia Better Sweater Quarter-Zip Pullover - Men's


    Regular Price: $99
    Sale Price: $68.99
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    • Sweater-knit exterior and warm fleece interior
    • The cuffs are awesome
    • It’s got that cool vertical zipping pocket

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Warm and comfortable
    • Stylish, can be worn anywhere
    • Sizing maybe a little smaller
    • Tight around the neck when fully zipped

    Patagonia Better Sweater Quarter-Zip Pullover - Women’s


    Regular Price: $99
    Sale Price: $68.99
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    • Sweater-knit exterior and warm fleece interior
    • The cuffs are awesome
    • It’s got that cool vertical zipping pocket

    What Reviewers Think:

    • These run small so you might want to read through reviews to get a feel for sizing, or go into an REI store to try them on

    REI Co-op Down Vest - Men’s


    Regular Price: $38.83 - 79.50

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    • 650 Down Fill
    • Water-Repellent
    • My wife got me last year’s version of this and I love it. It keeps my core warm whether I’m on a hike or just driving in to work on a cold day

    What Reviewers Think:

    • With a flannel or sweatshirt, it’s comfortable down to 35-40 degrees
    • Great on the bike ride to work in 40 degree weather

    REI Co-op Down Vest - Women’s


    Regular Price: $79.50
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    • 650 Down Fill
    • Water-Repellant
    • Perfectly packable

    What Reviewers Think:

    • “It's fitted and doesn't make me feel like the Michelin man.”
    • Lightweight and not too puffy

    North Face Tech Glacier Pullover - Women’s


    Regular Price: $55
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    • Quick-dry Fleece
    • 200 Weight for active pursuits

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Keeps you warm without overheating
    • “Air-dry and it will last forever”
    • Extremely versatile

    Gifts over $100

    MSR Talus TR-3 Trekking Poles


    Regular Price: $159.95
    Sale Price: $119.73 until 11.20.17
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    • Aluminum
    • 1lb 6oz

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Locking mechanism can be a bit clumsy but is great once you get used to it
    • Worked well for tent supports

    Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System


    Regular Price: $134.95 - $139.95
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    • Simmers great with a newly designed valve control
    • A must-have for any backpacker
    • Features revolutionary new valve technology and a new cooking-cup size
    • Rubber handle makes it easy to go from cooking to eating
    • Push-button piezo igniter
    • Average boil time is 4min 30sec
    • Weight 14 oz
    • Capacity 1 liter (it’s the compact version)

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Safest stove for beginners and younger users
    • Boils water faster than advertised
    • Compact and light
    • Super quick, super easy, extremely efficient
    • Very secure feeling of handles

    MSR WhisperLite Universal Backpacking Stove


    Regular Price: $139.95
    Sale Price: $103.99 until 11.20.17
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    • This comes recommended by our friend Kristen over at Bearfoottheory.com
    • You can use white gas with the MSR pump bottle or an isobutane canister
    • I’ve personally used the older whisperlite for about 20 years and it’s been a reliable stove. Now that it’s universal, makes it that much better.
    • If you are planning to hike out of the country, this is the one you want because it runs on a variety of approved fuels.
    • Boils 1 liter of water in only 3 min. 30 sec.
    • Great simmering when using isobutane
    • Also includes a fuel pump, windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, instructions and storage sack

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Great pot support for large pots
    • Grooved stamped stainless steel legs
    • Ability to use Isobutane
    • Really fast boil times
    • Ability to adjust the flame and control the fuel consumption, plus the ability to use mixed fuel canisters or white fuel
    • Be aware that the burner blades have sharp enough edges though that can cut into a tent or through something else inside the pack or the pack itself. Duct Tape can fix that :)

    REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Pack - Men's


    Regular Price: $139
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    • Great daypack for hiking or traveling
    • Carry-on Sized (but check with airline first)
    • Laptop compartment (just in case you can get wireless out in the backcountry)
    • Great ventilation along back
    • 2 exterior pockets (a priority for any daypack)
    • 2 waterbottle pockets
    • Trekking-pole attachments tuck out of the way when not in use

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Built-in rain cover that is stored in the bottom of the pack
    • Comfortable and transports heavy loads well
    • Plenty of pockets and compartments for electronics, clothes, etc.

    REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Pack - Women's


    Regular Price: $139
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    • This comes recommended by our friend Kristen over at Bearfoottheory.com and that girl knows her gear!
    • It’s basically the same pack as the men’s version above, except it’s customized to be a better fit for women

    Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Men’s


    Regular Price: $199.00
    Sale Price: $138.99 until 11.20.17

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    • 60g Primaloft
    • Water-repellent; 98% of its insulating ability even when wet

    What Reviewers Think:

    • “Perfect for 25-50 degree weather”
    • Because it’s fitted, it can be a bit snug around the waist, depending on your build
    • Great alternative to a “puffy”

    REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Jacket - Women’s

    http://www.avantlink.com/click.php?tt=cl&mi=10248&pw=143483&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.rei.com%2Fproduct%2F109451%2Frei-co-op-magma-850-down-jacket-womens
    Regular Price: $189.00
    Sale Price: $129.99 until 11.20.17

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    • 850 Fill Goose Down
    • Rip-stop shell material
    • Elastic cuffs
    • Form-fitted

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Perfect for mild winter days
    • Silky soft
    • “I also like the subtle drawstrings on the inside which can be tensioned to seal out errant drafts”

    The North Face Shellista II Mid Winter Boots - Women's


    Regular Price: $140

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    • Another solid recommendation from our friend Kristen over at Bearfoottheory.com (I’m a guy, so I’m going to let the ladies make the women’s book recommendations).
    • Warm and waterproof nubuck leather
    • Stylish mid-calf lace-ups
    • Durable Winter Grip rubber outsoles with IcePick temperature-sensitive lugs

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Comfortable, Durable, stylish, Well made
    • Toes can get cold in the rubber front
    • Difficult Entry/Exit
    • Not recommended for snowshoeing

    Keen Targhee II - Our Go-To Hiking Boot


    Regular Price: $134.95 Men’s
    Regular Price: $134.95 - Women’s

    The Keen Targhee has been around for years and from talking with boot sales at REI and reading reviews, this may be the best boot out there for day hikes and shorter overnight trips.
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    • Incredible Keen grip soles
    • Waterproof and Breathable
    • They tend to run ½ size small, so order up ½ size
    • Short break-in time when compared with other boots

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Great for beginner hikers
    • “If I could marry these hiking boots, I would!”

    Patagonia Storm Racer Rain Jacket - Men's


    Regular Price: $249

    Now we are getting into performance gear! This is Patagonia’s go-to waterproof jacket for hiking, running, and biking.
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    • Super lightweight nylon ripstop shell has a comfortable inside
    • Chest pocket turns into stuff sack
    • Hood store away in back and is easily adjusted
    • Reflective logos on left chest and center back at neck

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Light, soft to the touch
    • Waterproof and breathable
    • Can also be worn against bare skin without feeling like wrapped in cellophane (that’s rare for a rain jacket!)

    Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy


    Regular Price: $245.00
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    • I’ve owned an older version of this Bivy for years and it’s been worth every penny. Spring through Fall, I usually take this instead of a tent.
    • Sleeping pad attachment system keeps you from rolling onto the cold ground
    • I get claustrophobic in small spaces, so the zipper system is really helpful in this regard
    • This thing now has ethically sourced down in it!

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Keep the flap open a bit to let moisture escape
    • There is enough room to read a book in here!

    REI Co-op Alpen Pod 17 Sleeping Bag - Mens


    Regular Price: $159 to $169
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    • Rated to 17 degrees lower limit and 28 degrees comfort limit
    • 550 Down/Synthetic Blend
    • Short, Regular, and Long sizes
    • 3lb 1oz to 3lb 7oz

    What Reviewers Think:

    • “It isn't as claustrophobic as my other sleeping bags”
    • Was comfortable at 20 degrees overnight
    • Worked great on cold nights during a 2-week backpacking trip

    REI Co-op Joule 21 Sleeping Bag - Women's

    Regular Price: $299 to $319
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    • REI Staff Pick
    • Rated to 9 degrees lower limit and 21 degrees comfort limit
    • 700-fill down
    • Regular, Long, and Wide sizes available
    • 2lb 5oz to 2lb 10oz

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Zipper pull is amazing, making it easy to get in and out
    • Didn’t feel claustrophobic
    • Not waterproof but insanely water-repellent!

    Osprey Aether 70 Pack - Men’s


    Regular Price: $290
    Sale Price: $216.73 until 11.20.17
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    • Great for multi-day, extended backpacking trips
    • Custom hip-belt molding is available at most REI stores
    • Great stability and weight transfer features
    • Top lid can be removed and converted into a lumbar pack; great for summits and short side-trail adventures
    • Trekking pole attachment, side gear straps, ice axe tool loops, cord loop attachment slots and removable sleeping pad straps accommodate a variety of alpine gear
    • Hydration-compatible with reservoir sleeve and dual drink tube exit ports)

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Good padding and lots of ways to adjust the straps
    • Historically, Osprey packs are better for those with normal or small torsos
    • Comfortable all day long and can carry a decent load

    Osprey Ariel 75 Pack - Women’s


    Regular Price: $310
    Sale Price: $231.73 until 11.20.17
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    • Women’s version of the Aether (above)

    What Reviewers Think:

    • Sizing runs a bit large
    • Great mold and body fit
    • Stretchy side pockets are a bit too deep for water bottles
    • Great for first-time backpacker

    Kelty TrailLogic TN2 Tent

    Regular Price: $249.95

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    • REI’s Highest Reviewed Backpacking Tent
    • 2 person
    • 3 Season
    • 4lbs 13oz


    What Reviewers Think:

    • Easy to set up
    • The aluminum poles are way more durable than fiberglass ones
    • “I feel the extra weight is justified with the comfort, durability, ease of pitch, and design features this tent packs.”

    REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent


    Regular Price: $349.00
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    • REI Staff Pick
    • 21.5 sqft vestibule area
    • 2 person
    • 3 Season
    • 3lbs 5oz

    What Reviewers Think:

    • View the online setup video on REI.com before setting it up for the first time
    • Performed well in a torrential downpour
    • Roomy, even for a 6’ 2” guy

    * All product links in this guide are affiliate links. That means that I get a % commission for every sale (at no additional cost to you). It’s a great way to support our family business. All links are to REI, a company that we are glad to support. I’ve been a REI co-op member for close to 20 years! Prices are subject to change. All product photos courtesy of REI.com


    10 winter hiking tips fog valley candle sky header

    10 Winter Hiking Tips

    Do you know how to prepare for a winter hike in Denver? The seasons change and November to April is Colorado's transformation into a winter wonderland. The season begins even earlier and concludes much later up in the mountains. These months bring the cold, but there are some real benefits to getting outside: fewer people on the trails, the snow-laden landscapes, and the softened sounds surrounding you. Hikers should always set out well-prepared for the elements. Check out our 10 Winter Hiking Tips below, and download our Free Hiking Guide to help you prepare and pack smart for your dayhikes near Denver.

    Featured Image: Fog in the Valley, Candle in the Sky - Courtesy of Zach Dischner

    10 winter hiking tips hallett peak dream lake

    Hallett Peak from Dream Lake - Courtesy of Justin Mier

    • Plan ahead.

    • While the prospect of a spontaneous adventure sounds exciting, solid planning is crucial when hiking--particularly in the winter season. Winter is enjoyable but it will likely make your hikes more challenging than usual, so it's best to anticipate obstacles and plan accordingly. This post will walk you through several key planning components. The first and most important is to always leave your itinerary with a friend or family member. This should include your trailhead, planned route, and a range of time when they should expect you to be home or to give them a call.

    • Check the weather--and expect it to change.

    • Winter hikers should check forecasts before proceeding out into the cold. Winter storms can crop up unexpectedly, so I always advise dayhikers to prepare for the worst: pack an emergency blanket or shelter, always have a down coat to keep your core warm, and if you are going deeper into the mountains, pack in a down sleeping bag. Hopefully, you'll never get caught overnight in such weather, but it's wise to be ready for it. Winter in the mountains is a completely different reality compared to winter along the front range near Denver. It might be 60 degrees in February at Red Rocks park, but blizzard-like conditions in the high-country. Many hikers new to Colorado may not realize that a lot of snow can fall as late as June up in the higher elevations--and even in late September in the Fall. So, make no assumptions, and be sure to do your homework. If you are looking for hikes with less volatile winter conditions, check out our top 7 Winter Hikes Near Denver. With the exception of Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, you'll find this set of hikes a better match to the Denver forecasts.

    • Check ahead for road and trail closures

    • Bad road conditions, trail damage and blockage, and slippery ice are common in the winter season. The weight of snow and moisture is taking down many of the trees killed by the pine beetle, blocking paths and confusing trails. If the trail your is marked by blazes (blue or white square markings on trees), then you'll find it easier to keep to the trail. There are also a lot of seasonal road closures in Colorado, so be sure to check the Colorado Dept. of Transportation site before you head out. It can be difficult to find accurate information on many trailheads, especially those further up in the mountains, but it's worth spending some time checking online when you plan your hike.

      10 winter hiking tips mountain reflection

      Mountain Reflection - Courtesy of Larry Lamsa

    • Bring a map and a compass.

    • Or a GPS device, since we are on the modern times after all. Snow could mean unmarked trails and that's a simple recipe for a lost hiker. Even though you've already planned this trip, it's always a good idea to bring these along in case finding your way becomes a concern. And it probably goes without saying, but be sure you know how to use them, too ;)

    • Wear winter clothing in layers.

    • Like an onion, stuff yourself in layers of thick clothing for these cold times to avoid hypothermia. The key is to stay warm and dry at all times. Take note to avoid cotton because its insulation is virtually worthless if it gets wet. Hiking in layers helps you to avoid producing too much sweat, which can accelerate a person into hypothermia. Maintain the balance between warm clothing and being warmed up by the movement you make along the way.

    • Always Pack the 10 Essentials.

    • This goes for any hike any time of the year. What are the 10 Essentials:

      • Hydration: plenty of water. The dry winter weather often means you need more than you might expect.
      • Navigation: map, compass, gps
      • Insulation: appropriate clothing for the conditions
      • Fire: lighters (better than matches)
      • First Aid Kit
      • Illumination: headlamp or flashlight
      • Emergency Shelter
      • Nutrition: enough and extra food
      • Repair Kit and Tools: knife, multi-tool, para-cord to replace broken boot laces, etc.
      • Sun Protection: sunscreen and sunglasses

      10 winter hiking tips sunrise frozen dream lake

      Sunrise over Frozen Dream Lake - Courtesy of Justin Mier

    • Use Traction Devices and Trekking Poles

    • Walking through snow tends to be quite difficult. Trekking poles aid you in your balance and help you to judge the depth of the snow. Just as important are traction devices like YakTrax. These slip over your boots and give you extra grip on the snow and ice. In the Spring in Colorado we have many days where snow is melting, then freezing over the trail at night. This can make for long treacherous stretches of slick and frozen trail. You can order both trekking poles and traction devices from REI.

    • Prepare hot beverages.

    • To prevent dehydration and keep your body energized, bring water in a thermos which you can boil to prepare some drinks to warm you up. Bring the necessary tools or utensils to boil it and then make either a coffee, tea, or a chocolate drink. This warm treat could certainly help in battling the cold and provide you some calories to refuel you up along the way. We've recently acquired a set of Yeti thermal ramblers which keep liquids hot for hours! These things are amazing, and though they are a bit pricey, they are worth every penny.

    • Hike with a Friend.

    • Do not go alone. As much as possible, hike with others during the winter months.

    • Don't forget the return trip.

    If you are on an out-and-back winter hike, always remember that when you reach the primary destination, you've just completed half of the trip. While the return trip may not be as difficult, it's still wise to remember that you need to consider your energy and resources on your way back. Also consider that the sun sets both earlier in the winter months, and it gets dark quickly when the sun disappears behind the mountains.

    We hope these tips aid you as you prepare for your winter adventures. Enjoy exploring the winter landscapes of Colorado.


    pear lake rocky mountain national park header

    Pear Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Pear Lake is a great destination for solitude, fishing, and mountain views. It's a 6.5 mile, demanding hike through some of the best wildflower country in Rocky Mountain National Park. After passing Finch Lake, the trail makes its way to the higher, Pear Lake where Copeland Mountain appears to shoot straight from its shores into the sky. Explore the full Pear Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Trail Snapshot: Pear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Parking & Trailhead Information for Pear Lake

    The hike to Pear Lake begins at the the Finch Lake Trailhead, located approximately 1/5th of a mile east of the larger Wild Basin Trailhead near Allenspark, Colorado. Because there is very limited parking at the Finch Lake Trailhead, most hikers will need to park at the Wild Basin Trailhead and add the 1000' feet of trail between the Wild Basin Trailhead and the Finch Lake Trailhead to their journey. There is an alternative approach via the Allenspark Trailhead. However, the route described in this trail profile will be from the Finch Lake Trailhead nearest to the Wild Basin Trailhead.

    The Hike: Pear Lake Trail in RMNP

    The hike up to Pear Lake is a steady climb through a forest of pine, aspen, spruce, and meadows laden with wildflowers. It's a demanding hike from the outset, coursing up a set of switchbacks to gain the ridge of a lateral moraine. After this initial east bearing segment, the trail turns back to the west begins a gentle descent through one of Rocky Mountain National Park's most stunning displays of wildflowers. Near the bottom of the moraine, near Fox Creek, the trail encounters its first junction. The the trail to the right/west leads towards both Finch and Pear lakes (the left/east trail leads to the Allenspark Trailhead). Climbing higher, the trail will pass an overlook with views of the distant mountain peaks of Pagoda, Meeker, and Chief's Head, as well as views of the greater Wild Basin area.

    The next trail junction--at approx. 2.5 miles--has been named "Confusion Junction" because of its power to confound hikers. Pause and study the trail signage in order to choose the correct trail. The correct way is the trail labeled "Pear Lake" and/or "Finch Lake."

    After approximately 1/4 mile, the trail passes through a burn area from the 1978 fire, which has made a good recovery and is now riddled with summer wildflowers. Continuing to work uphill, the trail makes several stream crossings before a descent to Finch lake, which begins at 3.8 miles. Then, at approximately 4.25 miles, the trail makes a hard right-turn. This part of the trail is often obscured by snow as late as as midsummer and early as the first signs of autumn.

    At Finch Lake the trail wraps around the eastern edge, then the northern shore of the lake. The next segment of trail, from Finch Lake to Pear Lake is approximately 2 miles. These are steep and demanding. Winter snows last into the early months of summer. July brings an incredible display of wildflowers in both the forest and meadows, and the abundance of moisture and vegetation makes this broad valley a great place for viewing wildlife.

    pear lake rocky mountain national park pear creek

    The Rushing Stream of Pear Creek

    At approximately 6 miles, the trail will cross pear creek. The forest then gives way to rock and eventually to Pear Lake. Pear Lake is enclosed by a ring of rock and mountain. The rugged rock and cliffs of Copeland Mountain come down to meet the northwestern shores. In the early hours of morning, the images Copeland Mountain and Ouzel peak can be seen mirrored in the lake.

    Pear Lake is a great place to fish and is catch and release only. A fishing license is required and State and Park fishing regulations apply. There are two campsites near Pear Lake: Pear Creek (just below the lake), and Pear Lake Campsite. These backcountry camping sites can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. Because this is such an extensive hike (13 miles roundtrip), camping may be a good option if you want to fish or explore the surrounding area.

    Further exploration can be made of the Cony Creek drainage where a series of paternoster lakes lead up to the highest lake, Cony Lake. This area does not have maintained trails and requires hikers to have well-developed backcountry land navigation skills.

    elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

    Tips & Resources for Hiking to Pear Lake in RMNP

    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Fuel Your Body: It's a long and very demanding hike, so be sure to bring plenty of water and food for the trip.
    • Get there early: Parking lot might get full even early in the morning.
    • You’re in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, dispose of your food responsibly, and don’t food or anything else with a strong scent in your vehicle.
    • Trekking Poles: For most hikes in RMNP, especially if you are traveling on unmaintained trails, we recommend using Trekking Poles. They take a lot of weight off the knees and help in navigating uneven terrain.
    • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Shea Oliver for sharing such amazing photographs of this hike to Pear Lake in RMNP.
    • After the Hike: Rock Creek Tavern & Pizzeria

    Weather

    Map & Driving Directions


    Click for Driving Directions

    ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park


    lawn lake rocky mountain national park header

    Lawn Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    The hike to Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park follows the course of the Roaring River for 6.2 miles to a stunning high mountain lake with great fishing. This demanding hike takes adventurers into the heart of the Mummy Range, a lesser visited region of RMNP. Explore the full Lawn Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Trail Snapshot: Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Parking & Trailhead Information for Lawn Lake

    The hike to Lawn Lake begins at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. Several other destinations in this lesser visited section of RMNP known as the Mummy Range, can be accessed from the Lawn Lake Trailhead, including Ypsilon Lake, Ypsilon Falls, Chipmunk Lake, and the Spectacle Lakes. The parking area is located on Old Fall River Road, just north of the intersection of Old Fall River Road and Highway 34.

    The Hike: Lawn Lake Trail in RMNP

    The hike begins on a 1.4 mile stretch of the Lawn Lake trail before the intersection with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. This initial segment climbs a series of switchbacks. While it may be tempting to cut the switchbacks, they are there for a couple important purposes: to control erosion and to preserve your energy. Because this area of the park has been severely damaged by floods, it’s all the more important to stay the trail.

    At approximately 1.4 miles, the Lawn Lake Trail meets with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. See the full trail profiles for Ypsilon Lake and Ypsilon Falls for exploring these destinations. At the junction, the way to the Lake passes by this junction, continuing straight/North on the Lawn Lake Trail
    Here, the trail comes quite close to the gorge that overlooks Roariing River. There are areas of unstable terrain and hikers should take caution and stay away from the precarious edges of the gorge.

    The trail begins a demanding climb up a series of switchbacks then returns to follow river. Three backcountry camping sites are located in this stretch, just after the confluence of Roaring River and Ypsilon Creek: Ypsilon Creek, Cutbank, and Golden Banner. At 5.6 miles, the Lawn Lake Trail meets up with the Black Canyon Trail. Here, the way to the Lake is left/North, and should be clearly marked by a sign at the junction. The Lake is about 1/2 a mile further up the trail.

    There is another backcountry camping site at the Lake. This site and the others along the Lawn Lake trail can be reserved through the RMNP Backcountry Offices. Greenback Cutthroat trout are plenty in the Lake, so this makes for a great fly fishing destination in Rocky Mountain National Park. A fishing license is required and State and Park fishing regulations apply.

    elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

    Tips & Resources for Hiking to Lawn Lake in RMNP

    • Explore More: Crystal Lake is just about 1.5 mi further. You may opt to continue if you have energy to spare.
    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
    • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Camping Site, and provides topo information.
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Chad Bowman for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Lawn Lake in RMNP.
    • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

    Weather

    Map & Driving Directions


    Click for Driving Directions

    ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park


    ouzel lake rocky mountain national park header

    Ouzel Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Ouzel Lake is nestled in an expansive valley in the Wild Basin, and is one of the better fishing destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a moderate, 4.9 mile, creekside hike that passes several beautiful cascade waterfalls, including one of our favorites, Ouzel Falls. Combine the hike to Ouzel Lake with an overnight, and a journey to the shores Bluebird Lake. Explore the full Ouzel Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Trail Snapshot: Ouzel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Parking & Trailhead Information for Ouzel Lake

    The southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park boasts one of the loveliest portions in the park known as the Wild Basin. The Wild Basin Trailhead is located just 15 minutes outside of Allenspark, Colorado along Highway 115. There is a ranger station at at the Wild Basin Trailhead with toilets and drinking water available.

    In the winter (October-May), Hwy 115 may not be plowed to the trailhead, and hikers will need to park their vehicles at a winter parking lot for Wild Basin hikes. Be aware that hikes from the winter parking lot add on another 3 miles of hiking (one-way). There are other small parking areas, like the Finch Lake Trailhead, that may be accessible and allow hikers to park closer to the Wild Basin Trailhead. It's important to know that Hwy 115, though titled a "highway", is a maintained dirt road, which means that it can be used by 2WD vehicles. However, after heavy rains and other severe weather, its quality may degrade until it is repaired. 4WD may be needed when snow is on the ground.

    The Hike: Ouzel Lake Trail in RMNP

    It's 4.9 miles one-way to Ouzel Lake. The trail begins at the Wild Basin Trailhead, and takes hikers through the central area of the Wild Basin, past three cascade waterfalls: Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls.

    The first waterfall, Copeland Falls, is just 0.4 mile into the hike on this first, easy segment of trail. For details on accessing both the lower and upper leaps of Copeland Falls, check out our full trail profile for Copeland Falls.

    The path follows North Saint Vrain Creek until it encounters a first trail junction. The trail to the right leads past a series of backcountry campsites. These are reservable through the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness offices and make for a great place to stay for longer adventures into the Wild Basin area. The left-hand trail is the correct way towards the Bluebird Lake trail system and Ouzel Lake.

    Having taken the left-hand trail, hikers cross a large log bridge spanning North St. Vrain Creek. Pause when you hear the sounds of an unnamed cascade that can be viewed from the bridge area. Soon after the bridge, the trail meets with a second trail junction at Calypso Cascades. Taking the right-hand trail, the cascades (named after the purple orchids that grow along the creek) come into view. The path crosses a second bridge at 1.8 miles, then things begin to get more challenging, as the trail weaves through a set of switchbacks to Ouzel Falls at 2.7 miles.

    ouzel falls rocky mountain national park header
    Ouzel Falls on a Wet Spring Day - Courtesy of Chris Heald

    After about 0.4 mile past Ouzel Falls, the trail comes to a junction with the Bluebird Lake trail, 3.1 miles into the hike. The way to Ouzel Lake takes the Bluebird Trail (left). This final 1.8 segment of the hike to Ouzel Lake gains a ridgeline and becomes more demanding. It's a desolate segment of trail, charred by a fire in 1978. However, wildflowers make their way up through the barren landscape, and the surrounding mountain peaks come into full view due to the few trees left by the burn.

    At 4.5 miles, there is a marked trail spur that leads to Ouzel Lake, bending its way around a small pond to Ouzel's northwestern shore. At the lake, you'll find more trees and a lot of marshland--and marsh = mosquitos, so be sure to bring repellant. If you are looking to try some deet-free repellant, we have had some great luck with a lemon-ecualyptus repellant made by repel. The fishing up at Ouzel Lake is great! Of course, a Colorado State fishing license is required.

    Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ouzel Lake in RMNP

    • Camp + Hike + Fish: Reserve one of the two backcountry camping sites along the Bluebird Trail to spend some time fishing Ouzel Lake and exploring the other destinations along the trail: Bluebird Lake, a waterfall between them, Lark Pond, and Pipit Lake. Contact the RMNP Wilderness Offices to reserve a site.
    • Summer Thunderstorms: If you see clouds with dark undersides building in the west, this means that thunderstorms are likely--a typical occurrence on most summer days. Begin hikes early to avoid storms and consider turning back if weather looks threatening.
    • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
    • You're in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, and dispose of your food responsibly.
    • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Food Storage: There are food storage lockers available at the Wild Basin, Finch Lake, and Sandbeach Lake Trailheads. These are required for visitors staying overnight. Backcountry campers are required to use bear resistant food containers.
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Ed Ogle for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ouzel Lake in RMNP.
    • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe

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    7 Hikes Near Denver for Your Fourth of July Weekend

    7 Hikes Near Denver for Your Fourth of July Weekend


    Are you looking forward to hike this Fourth of July Weekend? Getting up into the mountains near Denver is a great way to cool off during the Fourth of July weekend. Colorado's wildflowers are in their glory and the mountain streams are still gushing with melt-water alongside the trails. But you probably don't want to break the bank paying for fuel; and if you are like us, you've got some events to attend close to home. So, we've come up with 7 great hikes that are close to Denver, and hopefully (we can't make promises) won't be too crowed on the holiday weekend. Be sure to download our Free Hiking Guide to help you prepare and pack smart for your dayhikes.

    • Ample Parking: The 4th of July Weekend means some of the highest traffic on the trails in Colorado. School is out, and it's the height of vacation season. So, while I'd rather direct you first to some wonderful features like waterfalls and peak-top views, getting a parking space is probably priority number one this weekend.
    • Enjoyable with Friends & Family: On holiday weekends we are often out hiking with friends and family. I tried to put together a set of hikes that are not too difficult and open up spaces for conversation as we all hike along the trail together.
    • Close to Denver: This set of hikes are all within 90 minutes of Denver, Colorado--and most are within 60 minutes of downtown. If you want to explore hikes that are further from town, check out our Hikes Worth the Drive page.

    Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    • Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    • Distance: 2.5-mile Loop
      Drive Time from Denver: 1 Hour
      Difficulty: Easy
      The Raccoon Loop in Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a new family favorite. It features lots of shade, and easy to moderate trail difficulty, and incredible mountain views of the Indians Peaks. Parking at Panorama Point is limited, but this hike can also be started from the Reverend's Ridge Campground parking area, which offers a lot more parking (though this weekend will be pretty busy up there). As with all these hikes, go early to avoid the heat of midday and find a good place to park. If you are looking for more loop hikes near Denver, check out our our page with a few other nearby loops.

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      Eldorado Falls Hike at Walker Ranch

    • Eldorado Falls Hike at Walker Ranch

    • Distance: 2.5 miles Round Trip
      Drive Time from Denver: 1 Hour
      Difficulty: Moderate
      Eldorado Falls is a small cascade waterfall found along a stretch of the larger Walker Ranch Loop. It's a 2.5 mile round-trip hike from the nearest parking area, but the Walker Ranch loop can be accessed from several other trailheads. We are including it in this post because this trailhead sees less traffic, and there are other trailhead options down the road. Do be courteous to the folks who live in this residential area by not parking along the narrow dirt road. They would great appreciate it. After 8am, the drive over the Flatirons necessary to get to this trailhead will likely have some congestion because Flagstaff road has so many hikers crossing it and folks driving slow to take in the sites. You can check the google map/driving directions on our full trail profile to see traffic and drive times. For a full list of Waterfall hikes, you can explore our many pages of Waterfall Hikes Near Denver page.

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      Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

    • Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

    • Distance: 1.8 miles Round Trip
      Drive Time from Denver: 30 Minutes
      Difficulty: Easy
      The Clear Creek trail in Golden offers a great opportunity for families with strollers and groups to hike alongside one another. There are little "beach" areas where kids can play in the shallow water, and watch the tubers and kayakers going by. With water levels high and currents swift this time of year, be cautious around the water's edge. At the time of this writing (7/2016) the City of Golden has certain restrictions posted for tubers because of the high water levels. See our Clear Creek hike profile page for full details, including directions to several parking areas. It's not your classic backcountry hike, but it's a great weekend adventure. For more hikes near Golden, Colorado, check out our Hikes Near Golden page.

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      Ouzel Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    • Ouzel Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    • Distance: 5.4 miles Round Trip
      Drive Time from Denver: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
      Difficulty: Moderate
      Though Ouzel Falls is only 40-feet high, it may be one of the most beautiful in Rocky Mountain National. On this 5.4 mile round-trip hike, hikers will take in several waterfalls as they hike along the course of North St. Vrain Creek. We are including a couple trails, Ouzel Falls and the next hike, which are located in Rocky Mountain National Park in this set just because they are so gorgeous this time of year. But, these are probably not good options if you arrive after 7:30 AM. From May through mid-August, we recommend always getting there early. Buy a park pass online before you go. For our full set of over 50 hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, explore our Rocky Mountain National Park Trails pages.

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      Four Lakes and Waterfall Loop Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    • Four Lakes and Waterfall Loop Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    • Distance: 6.4-mile Loop
      Drive Time from Denver: 2 Hours
      Difficulty: Moderate
      This second hike in Rocky Mountain National takes hikers along some well-traveled trails on a 6.4 mile loop to visit four sub-alpine lakes and Alberta Falls. For more hike options in RMNP, be sure to check out our Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and Lake Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park pages.

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      Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park

    • Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park

    • Distance: 1.4-mile Loop
      Drive Time from Denver: 30 Minutes
      Difficulty: Easy
      I recommend the Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks more than any other hike in the Denver Area. I have three reasons: The hike is beautiful, it's short, and it's super close to Denver. There is more than just the trail to explore. Be sure to take in the amphitheater and the cave just north of the amphitheater. You'll find the cave info on another trail profile for the Red Rocks Trail below. This is a great hike for families with kids and the perfect hike for family who are visiting for the holiday weekend. There are a lot of hikes near Denver featuring red rock formations--more than you might guess--so, check out our Hikes with Red Rock Formations page for a selection of several more trail options.

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      Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park

    • Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park

    Distance: 6.6 miles Round Trip
    Drive Time from Denver: 40 Minutes
    Difficulty: Easy
    A sunrise or sunset hike up at Centennial Cone may be your best shot at some solitude. Rolling green mountainsides, herds of elk and deer, and views to the distant mountains all are great reasons to make the 45 minute drive to this Jefferson County Park. If you are looking for more hikes with Mountain Range views near Denver, explore our Mountain Range View Hikes page.

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    Map of 7 Fourth of July Weekend Hikes Near Denver



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    Sandbeach Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Sandbeach Lake features great fishing and a beach! The lake got its name from its sandy shore that resembles that of a beach--making it one of best camping spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a 4.5 mile moderate hike that climbs Copeland Moraine and crosses two creeks before arriving at this beautiful subalpine lake. With several reservable campsites along the way, Sandbeach Lake makes for a great initial multi-day backpacking trip for young families. Explore the full Sandbeach Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Trail Snapshot: Sandbeach Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Parking & Trailhead Information for Sandbeach Lake

    The Sandbeach Lake Trailhead is located off of County Road 84 near, just about 1/2 mile west from its junction with Highway 7. See the driving directions link above for the detailed route. The trailhead is across the street from the Wild Basin Lodge and Event Center. The trailhead has toilet facilities and parking capacity of about 25 cars (includes gravel side-lot).

    The Hike: Sandbeach Lake Trail in RMNP

    The 4.5 mile hike (one-way) to Sandbeach Lake first heads north out of the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead, then begins a moderate climb to gain the ridge of the Copeland Moraine. The trail then follows the ridgeline west until it crosses Campers Creek at 2.3 miles. Here, the trail makes a short, but sharp, bend to the the south before continuing west/northwest. At 3.3 miles, the trail crosses a second creek, Hunters Creek, then makes a steady climb to the northern shores of Sandbeach Lake.

    Campsites Along the Sandbeach Lake Trail

    There are several backcountry campsites along the Sandbeach Lake Trail, making the hike up to Sandbeach Lake, a great opportunity for young families and first-time backpackers who want to do their first multi-day trip. Camping permits must be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices. A basic itinerary would be to drive into the park's Wilderness Office in the late morning, grab lunch, then hike to one of the campsites listed below. For a two-night trip, families could elect to camp at one of the earlier campsites: Hole in the Wall or Campers Creek. Then, day two would be a short hike up to Sandbeach Lake, a perfect place for a second night under an expanse of stars. Day three would consist of a 4.5 mile hike out to the trailhead. Be sure to call ahead to the Wilderness Office to book your sites.

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    Tips & Resources for Hiking to Sandbeach Lake in RMNP

    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Backcountry Camping Sites, and provides topo information, too.
    • Get there early: Parking is limited. Arrive early to secure a parking spot at the trailhead.
    • You’re in Bear Country: Black Bears live in the Wild Basin area and are active on the months of April through November. Be aware, dispose of your food responsibly, and don’t food or anything else with a strong scent in your vehicle.
    • Trail Map for Wild Basin Area: Trail Map Link
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Reese Lloyd for sharing such great photos of this hike to Sandbeach Lake in RMNP.
    • After the Hike: Meadow Mountain Cafe in Allenspark, Colorado

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    Ypsilon Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    The hike to Ypsilon Lake is a 9-mile round-trip journey along a heavily forested trail in the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. Ypsilon Lake sits in a wooded basin along the eastern slopes of Ypsilon Mountain and Mount Chiquita. On this hike, you'll enjoy views of rugged mountains and Roaring River, a waterfall, and the two lakes found at the end of the trail. Explore the full Ypsilon Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Trail Snapshot: Ypsilon Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Parking & Trailhead Information for Ypsilon Lake

    The hike to Ypsilon Lake begins at the Lawn Lake Trailhead. Several other destinations in this lesser visited section of RMNP known as the Mummy Range, can be accessed from the Lawn Lake Trailhead, including Ypsilon Falls, Lawn Lake, Chipmunk Lake, and the Spectacle Lakes. The parking area is located on Old Fall River Road, just north of the intersection of Old Fall River Road and Highway 34.

    The Hike: Ypsilon Lake Trail in RMNP

    The hike begins on a 1.4 mile stretch of the Lawn Lake trail before the intersection with the Ypsilon Lake Trail. This initial segment climbs a series of switchbacks. While it may be tempting to cut the switchbacks, they are there for a couple important purposes: to control erosion and to preserve your energy. Because this area of the park has been severely damaged by floods, it's all the more important to stay the trail. There are areas of unstable terrain.

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    Ypsilon Lake Trail - Courtesy of Marco Becerra

    At 1.4 mile, the Ypsilon Lake trail junction will emerge on the left-hand side of the Lawn Lake trail. Here, the trail crosses the Roaring River--but the bridge has been washed out by a flood in the Spring of 2013. At the time of writing this trail profile (June 2016) the bridge has not been replaced. However, the river can be crossed at low water. It's easy to underestimate the hydraulic force of a river, so exercise care in crossing. If you're planning to hike to Ypsilon Lake, it's important to have a back plan, just in case you run into high water levels at the ford. Typically, the water levels are low, but both snowmelt and heavy rains can change levels quickly.

    Approximately 0.5 mile after crossing the Roaring River (@ 2 miles), the trail begins a sustained climb along the ridge of a moraine. This longest segment of the hike leads through thick timber, then crests at 3.8 miles before descending to Chipmunk Lake @ 4.0 miles. The mountain peak reflections in Chipmunk Lake make this worth stopping for a photo.

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    Chipmunk Lake in RMNP - Courtesy of Brendan Bombaci.

    There is a backcountry camping area with two individual sites just past Chimpmunk Lake at 10,640'. Camping permits can be obtained through the RMNP Wilderness offices. The trail from Chipmunk Lake to Ypsilon lake is just 0.5 mile, arriving at Ypsilon's western shore. Hikers who pause to listen may hear the sounds of Ypsilon Falls. This segmented and tiered cascade can be accessed by crossing a small footbridge, then hiking toward the sounds of the falls along Ypsilon's northwestern shore.

    The return hike follows the same route back to the Lawn Lake trailhead, making this a 9-mile, round-trip journey.

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    Tips & Resources for Hiking to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP

    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Bridge Out: Due to the damage caused by a flood in September 2013, the bridge over Roaring River is missing. Cross only during low water, and see the RMNP flood closures page for updates.
    • Get there early: Parking may be somewhat limited as with many hikes in RMNP area and can get full even early in the morning.
    • Recommended Trail Map: We recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map which indicates the location of the Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Camping Site, and provides topo information.
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Roger Dellinger for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Ypsilon Lake in RMNP.
    • After the Hike: Mountain Home Café

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