green meadow looking west to evergreen trees and mountains at ute valley park in colorado springs

Ute Valley Park Loop in Colorado Springs

Ute Valley Park offers an easy 3-mile loop hike in the heart of northern Colorado Springs with views to snow-capped Pikes Peak. The trails make for a quick break from the city to trail run or walk the dog. Get the trail details, map, and driving directions in our full trail profile.

Trail Snapshot: Ute Valley Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ute Valley Park

From Denver, take Interstate 25 South to Colorado Springs, exiting on exit 149 and taking a right onto East Woodman Road. East Woodman will turn into Rockrimmon Road. Next, take a right onto Vindicator Drive. The entrance to Ute Valley Park will be up on your left, just after you pass the Middle School. There is a portable toilet at the trailhead and parking for about 20 vehicles.

view of storm clouds over pikes peak at ute valley park in colorado springs

The Hike: Ute Valley Park

Ute Valley Park is nestled in the subdivisions of Colorado Springs, North of the city center providing residents with a quick escape from town for an after work trail run, mountain bike, and place to walk the dog. There are about 20 different unnamed trail segments, but for our purposes, we will look at a 3 mile loop and a shorter 2.5 mile option.

From the trailhead, take the trail that heads south out of the lot and hike west towards the bluffs. This approach will take us on a counterclockwise loop hike of the trails. Alternatively, you can hike it counterclockwise by reversing this description. Ignore the other trails at the juncture and keep and heading south, the trail will gradually rise to gain the low ridge of Popes Bluff. Along this stretch you'll soak in the sunshine and views out to Pikes Peak.

start of rocky trail with conifer trees at ute valley park in colorado springs

This stretch of trail is the longest and goes for about a mile to an overlook at the southwest end of Ute Valley Park. You'll pass through one trail intersection before you come to that overlook point. However, if you want to cut off 1/2 a mile and make this a 2.5 mile loop, take a left at that juncture for a more rugged trail that cuts over to the east side of the park and reconnects with this loop. Though in the city, you'll be taking in the aromatics of ponderosa pine and the same juniper trees that are found along the trails in Garden of the Gods.

Continuing with our 3-mile loop description, at the overlook, you have a couple options, but we'll go straight through on the trail that wraps around the most southern end of Ute Valley. See the Ute Valley Park Trail Map for detail.

After about 0.4 of a mile, the trail will begin turning North, traveling along the eastern edge of the park. You'll encounter about 5-6 trail junctures along this stretch. At each juncture, continue on the easternmost trail (keep bearing to the right, or hike straight through). You'll cross over a footbridge and after approximately another another 1/2 mile will be back at the parking lot.

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Tips & Resources for Hiking Ute Valley Park


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

castle rock incline challenge hill at base of steps looking up the 200 steps toward the top

Incline at Castle Rock

The Incline at Castle Rock is a 0.6 mile loop that begins with a 200 step climb up the Challenge Hill to the top of a promontory. From the top, a trail winds down the side of the mesa for 1/2 a mile back to the bottom. It makes for a great workout in the outdoors, and is about 30 minutes south of the center of Denver. Explore the full Castle Rock Incline hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you get active and enjoy the beauty of Colorado

Trail Snapshot: Incline at Castle Rock

Parking & Trailhead Information for Incline at Castle Rock

Take interstate 25 south from Denver to the town of Castle Rock, exiting at Wilcox/Wolfensberger exit, taking a right onto Wolfensberger. At the roundabout, go around and take the left-hand exit (3rd option on the roundabout) onto West Plum Creek Parkway. Go 0.7 mile on West Plum Creek Parkway and the Phillip S. Miller Park entrance will be on the right. After entering the park, go left to the area behind the MAC facility and the parking area for the incline will be at the base of the incline.

The Hike: Incline at Castle Rock

Officially, these 200 steps are called The Challenge Hill, but the locals call it "the incline," and rightly so, because it's inspired by the Manitou Incline near Colorado Springs. Because it's just 5 minutes down the road, we've turned this into a regular family workout. It's a perfect place to get in some exercise and take in amazing sunsets over the Colorado Front Range.

castle rock challenge hill hikers climbing the 200 steps to the top

The first segment of the Castle Rock Incline is a 1/10th of a mile climb up 200 steps with close to 200' of elevation gain. This will kick your butt, especially if you take the steps back down. We prefer to run down the 1/2 mile loop trail, usually doing the loop a couple times. We've categorized this as a moderate trail because it has under 500' of total elevation gain and is only 0.6 miles, but many will find it difficult because of the grade of the ascent.

photo of map of the challenge hill loop at castle rock phillip s miller park

At the top of the Challenge Hill, you can take in views to the north and west of Longs Peak and Devil's Head. There's a wood bench if you want to rest or use it for stretching your legs after the climb. If you decide to descend via the steps be aware that the late afternoon sun can make it very difficult to see the steps.

child looking west at sunset at the top of the castle rock incline

A Zipline platform stands at the peak of this promontory. It's fun to watch zipliners fly through the air across the park. The Zipline tours are operated by Castle Rock Zipline Tours. But don't keep your eyes on the sky because the trail down has a lot of loose gravel and the trail demands your attention.

castle rock challenge hill at top of promontory zipline platform at dusk

The trail wraps around the mesa back to the West facing side. Snow and ice can take a while to melt free from the trail, especially in shaded spots. You can check on the trail conditions using the Castle Rock Trail Conditions Map online.

castle rock challenge hill trail looking south at sunset to pikes peak

On the back side of the hill, you'll find panoramic views of Pikes Peak and the broad rolling country to the South of Castle Rock. This segment starts out rock then gives way to a gravel trail.

trail runners running loop trail at castle rock incllat sunset

Trail Etiquette at the Castle Rock Incline

  • The trail is popular with trail runners, so be aware of approaching runners and keep right to allow them to pass.
  • Dogs are prohibited on the challenge hill, because--well, you can imagine why.
  • Keep to the right on steps and in single file, especially when others are trying to pass or are coming the opposite direction.
  • Let others know when you intend to pass them.
  • Descent via the steps is not discourage by the park signage because it's easier to get injured.
  • Hours are Dawn to Dusk

castle rock challenge hill as sunset looking east

From the photo above, you can get a feel for the scale of the Challenge Hill. Much of the lower trail is in scrub oaks, and this next part may seem a bit overly cautious, but after reading a ton mountain lions, I always keep my kids close. As a local ranger told me, "On the Front Range, where there are deer, there are mountain lions." And a kid running fast through an area like this can incite the instincts of a lion. That I know of, we've not had any attacks in this area, but this is just a protocol our family follows on any hike or run--kids and adults always stay together.

playground and workout stations at the phillip s miller park in castle rock colorado

Speaking of the kids, the Phillip Miller park complex recently added (2019) a workout playground that looks like something out of Ninja Warrior competitions. After running the loop a couple times, we spend some time with the kids catching our breath and stretching at the playground.

man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Incline at Castle Rock

  • Check out Trail Conditions: Before going, check the trail conditions at the Challenge Hill at the Castle Rock Trail Conditions page.
  • Pace Yourself: On the ascent, start with a sustainable pace. It gets way more steep and challenging at step 140.
  • Trail Map: Incline at Castle Rock
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Since I'm a local, I've got two absolute favorite spots for after the hike. The first is CRAVE Burgers. We love the Love Stinks Burger and the Not Yo Mamma's Burger (on the hidden menu) Crave Burgers in Castle Rock. The second is Manna, a a restaurant in the local hospital. But this is by no means hospital food! It's locally sourced food at great prices. Manna in Castle Rock


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

agnes vaille falls waterfall splashing over rock cliffs into creek below on hike near buena vista colorado

Agnes Vaille Falls Hike

Agnes Vaille falls is viewed on this 1 mile, easy, loop hike just south of Buena Vista, Colorado. Take in snow-capped Mt. Princeton and the white Chalk Cliffs of the canyon on what makes for a great family hike in the Arkansas River valley of Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Agnes Vaille Falls

Parking & Trailhead Information for Agnes Vaille Falls

From Denver, take HWY 285 South for 124 Miles to Nathrop, Colorado. Take Chalk Creek Drive/CO-162 West for 8.7 miles into Chalk Creek Canyon. On this 8.7 mile segment, you'll Pass the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort, then the Mt. Princeton USFS Campground. Just after the campground, the Cascade Creek Trailhead will be on the right, directly across from the Chalk Lake Campground. This whole segment of road, going up to St. Elmo has several camping options. Parking is limited at the Cascade Creek trailhead to about 12 vehicles. It's easy to miss the trailhead, so be sure to slow down and keep an eye out after you pass the Mt. Princeton Campground. The trail starts at the "Agnes Vaille" sign.

The Hike: Agnes Vaille Falls

The trail to Agnes Vaille Falls used to be a 1.2 mile out-and-back trip. Now, the upper segment is closed, so hikers are directed to take the approximately 1-mile loop hike on the Cascade Creek trail that still offers a view of the waterfall. Why did the upper trail to Agnes Vaille close? Sadly, in 2013, while on a family hike, a rockslide broke loose, tumbled down the canyon below the falls and killed 5 members of the hiking party. Plans are underway to rebuild the out-and-back trail, but no dates are posted for when it will be reopened. Follow the USFS regulations in this area as posted on the signage. The closed area of the trail may still be unstable and should not be hiked.

The Cascade Creek Loop creek still makes for a great family hike and offers views to the waterfall, and Mt. Princeton. The Chalk Cliffs surround the loop and look like something out of a storybook. In the fall, the aspen trees and cottonwoods glow with golden hues along the top bend of the loop. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep can be spotted along the rock above the trail.

Be sure to stop and read the USFS interpretive signs describing the history of the area, and the historical figures of of Agnes Vaille and Chief Antero for whom the waterfall and nearby 14er mountain, Mt. Antero, are named.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Agnes Vaille Falls

  • Waterfall Peak: The best time of year to see Agnes Vaille falls will be in the early summer months of May and June, when the snowmelt is at it's highest volume. Some years, if we have a heavy snowpack or late snows, flows can still be high into July.
  • Unstable Rock: While the areas is repaired and trail rerouted, this entire area is known for its unstable rock. Just a good look at the chalk cliffs gives you an idea of the geologic variety and instability of the area. Large boulders can shift and rocks accidentally knocked loose can injure hikers below. So, stay the trail, be alert, and follow the USFS regulations.
  • Hike, Camp, and Soak: Because there is camping nearby, more hiking, and amazing hot springs, make a weekend visit fo the area to take in the sights and relax. Drive up further on Cascade Creek road to take in Alpine Lake and the Colorado ghost town of St. Elmo.
  • Trail Map: Agnes Vaille Falls
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Brad Patterson for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike at Agnes Vaille Falls.
  • After the Hike: Soak at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort

waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

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
    • 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
    [unordered_list style="tick"]

    • This comes recommended by our friend Kristen over at 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
    Regular Price: $189.00
    Sale Price: $129.99 until 11.20.17

    [unordered_list style="tick"]

    • 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

    [unordered_list style="tick"]

    • Another solid recommendation from our friend Kristen over at (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.
    [unordered_list style="tick"]

    • 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

    [unordered_list style="tick"]

    • 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
    [unordered_list style="tick"]

    • REI Staff Pick
    • 21.5 sqft vestibule area
    • 2 person
    • 3 Season
    • 3lbs 5oz

    What Reviewers Think:

    • View the online setup video on 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

    Hikes With Shade Near Denver

    Most hikes near Denver are very exposed to the sun. In fact, less than 10% of the hikes on our site offer any real significant escape from the sun. This leaves you with just a couple options: 1) Hike early in the morning to escape the heat, or 2) Try out out some of the hikes from this list below.

    All of these hikes offer a considerable amount of shade, but none of them keep you entirely out of the sun. So be sure to still wear your sunscreen! All of these shady hikes are within 90 minutes of Denver. Explore the individual trail profiles to get a sense of difficulty level and distance. We'll keep adding to this set as we find more hikes near Denver that offer a significant amount of shade.

    aaron johnson author of dayhikes near denver with daughter in backpack flyfishing on bear creek at Lair o the Bear Park near morrison colorado

    Bear Creek Trail at Lair o’ the Bear Park

    Lair o' the Bear is, in our family's opinion, the best family hike near Denver. First, the drive into the canyon on Bear Creek road is beautiful. Once at the park you'll find great hiking trail options, the cool water of bear creek, great parking, and some good picnic spots. There are open areas as well as shade. Our one ...
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    frozen brainard lake with snowcapped mountains in background on hike along waldrop trail to cmc cabin

    Brainard Lake CMC Cabin Hike

    The CMC Cabin at Brainard Lake makes for a perfect winter snowshoe, a challenging ski in, or an easy Summer hike from the Gateway Trailhead. It's a 3-mile route in to the cabin to take in views of the beauty of Brainard Lake and surrounding snow-capped Rocky Mountains. This trail profile looks at two different 6-mile round-trip routes: a winter ...
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    buffalo creek waterfall at wellington lake slide waterfall cascading over granite slab on hike near denver

    Buffalo Creek Falls at Wellington Lake

    This waterfall isn't even on the map, and it's become my favorite waterfall hike near Denver. In fact, this is the only post that I'm tempted to keep to myself, because not only is there great hiking, but Wellington Lake may be the best camping spot within 90 minutes of Denver. There is a hitch though: it's a privately held ...
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    calypso cascades rocky mountain national park header

    Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Calypso Cascades is an easy 3.6 mile hike to one of several waterfall destinations along this section of trail. This waterfall in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park is gets its name from the purple Calypso Orchids that bloom along the banks of Cony Creek. Explore the full Calypso Cascades hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, ...
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    two women sitting on rock along clear creek trail in golden colorado with bridge in background and green trees

    Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

    Want a hike to please everyone?The Clear Creek Trail in Golden, Colorado is it! It's got shade, the kids can bring their bikes, and you can finish your hike with a stroll around downtown. We might get some flack for calling this a hike, because it runs through the business district of Golden, CO.But you can wear the soles of ...
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    copeland falls rocky mountain national park header

    Copeland Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Copeland Falls is just one of the many waterfalls hikers will encounter in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, you can't miss Copeland Falls as it is the first waterfall along the main trail--just a short hike from the trailhead. Explore the full Copeland Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more ...
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    snow and evergreen trees on mountainside against blue clouded sky with Devils Thumb rock formation and lake

    Devils Thumb Lake

    Devils Thumb Lake is located in Indian Peaks Wilderness north of Boulder Colorado and can be accessed via a 6.5-mile (one-way) steep and challenging hike. Wildflowers, alpine meadows, small waterfalls, and cascades all beckon those who have the stamina to explore these heights in the Front Range near Denver. Explore the full Devils Thumb Lake hike profile below for trail ...
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    view to pikes peak from eagle view outlook at reynolds park near conifer colorado

    Eagles View Hike in Reynolds Park

    The Eagles View Loop hike in Reynolds Park is a 4-mile, moderate, loop trail to a scenic outlook. The trail ascends through meadows and ponderosa pine forest to views of Pikes Peak and the sawtooth spires and peaks of the Rampart Range. Explore the full Reynolds Park Eagle View Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more ...
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    cascade waterfall leaping over granite boulders eldorado falls in walker ranch hike near boulder colorado

    Eldorado Cascades at Walker Ranch

    Eldorado Cascades is tucked back in Walker Ranch near Boulder, Colorado. It's an easy to moderate 1.25 mile hike from the Ethel Harrold Trailhead down to where South Boulder Creek winds through the park and crashes over the boulders blocking its path. Explore the full trail profile below for all the details: tips, trail map, and driving directions to the ...
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    pikes peak in distance from fox run park with evergreen trees in foreground

    Fallen Timbers Loop Hike at Fox Run Park

    The Fallen Timbers Loop is an easy, 2-mile hike near Colorado Springs with great views of Pikes Peak. It makes for a great family hike because of the shade of the ponderosa pines and the nearby playground at this hike in Fox Run Regional Park. Explore the full hike profile for trail map, driving directions, and tips. Trail Snapshot: Fallen ...
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    fern falls rocky mountain national park header

    Fern Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Fern Falls tumbles down through the forest casting a fine mist across the trail. It's a perfect place to stop, cool off, and take in the sights and sounds of the falls before hiking on to Fern Lake. Explore the full Fern Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details and tips you need ...
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    Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    A hike up to Fern Lake begins at the Fern Lake Trailhead on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the Fern Lake Trail, hikers pass through Arch Rocks, over a bridge at The Pool, and by three cascade waterfalls. Near the, you'll gain spectacular views of The Gable, Knobtop Mountain, Notchtop Mountain, and Little Matterhorn from its ...
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    Fish Creek Falls Near Steamboat Colorado

    A 284 foot waterfall! Need we say more. Fish Creek Falls is a 1/4 mile hike located just outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado--about 3.5 hours from Denver. The Fish Creek Falls Overlook trail is handicap accessible, and a second trail takes hikers down to the base of the falls. Explore the full Fish Creek Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many the details you need to enjoy this adventure near Steamboat, Colorado.

    Trail Snapshot: Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs

    Parking & Trailhead Information for Fish Creek Falls

    The trailhead for the waterfall is about three miles outside of the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Stop at the pay station to purchase the day use fee. There are two parking areas: one will be on your left driving in, and the larger lot--which is closer to the trailhead--at the end of the road.

    The Hike: Fish Creek Falls

    Fish Creek Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls in Colorado, perfect for families with small children who are not yet able to hike longer distances. It's also wheelchair accessible via the Falls Overlook Trail. There are three different options detailed below.

    1. Fish Creek Falls Overlook Hike:

      This 1/4 mile (one-way) hike leads to the Falls overlook. The trail is paved and handicap accessible. The most direct access to the overlook trail is from the northeast end of the larger parking area, near the interpretive signs and the small shelter.

    2. Fish Creek Falls Hike:

      This second option is also a 1/4 mile (one-way) and leads to the bridge at the base of the falls. The trail is gravel and dirt--not paved like the overlook trail. This trail begins at the far east end of the same parking lot.

    3. 1 Mile Loop:

      Both the overlook and the Fish Creek Falls hikes can be combined to form a kind of 1 mile loop by hiking first to the overlook, then returning through the shaded picnic area to the Fish Creek trail below. After hiking to the bridge, return the way you came.

    Tips & Resources for Hiking Fish Creek Falls

    • Bring a Picnic Lunch: The picnic area at Fish Creek Falls is one of the best in the State of Colorado. It's extensive and the trees provide a ton of shade.
    • Springtime is Best: The waterfall roars with the late Spring meltwater.
    • In Winter: The trails to the falls are open year round. You may need snowshoes when the snow gets thick.
    • Explore More: There is another waterfall. A short, but demanding, 2.2 mile (one-way) hike to Upper Fish Creek falls follows the trail beyond the bridge and another 1,100+ feet above the trailhead.
    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • After the Hike: Creekside Cafe in Steamboat Springs
    • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Greg Hamilton for sharing the photograph of this hike.


    Map & Driving Directions

    Click for Driving Directions

    waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado

    solitude lake rocky mountain national park header

    Solitude Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Solitude Lake is an alpine lake situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. Solitude is aptly named, as it is hidden from the main trail system, situated high above Glacier Gorge in the shadow of Thatchtop and Arrowhead Peak. Because the hike to Solitude and its twin sister, Shelf Lake, require travel on unmaintained trails, it is best suited for more experienced hikers who are familiar with Rocky Mountain National Park and who are have honed their land navigation skills. Full details can be found in the trail profile for Shelf Lake. Explore the full Solitude Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the tips and resources for this hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Trail Snapshot: Solitude Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Solitude Lake is located about a quarter mile beyond Shelf Lake. Between the Shelf and Solitude are an unusual set of cascades, Shelf Lake Falls. Above the falls, you'll find a beautiful array of alpine wildflowers and breathtaking views of Longs Peak, Keyboard of the Winds, and the broad valley of Glacier Gorge. The hike up to Solitude take hikers past Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, and Shelf Creek Falls.

    creek flowing bluebells at mouth of solitude lake

    A final reminder: This hike is not on maintained trails, is a long hike, and demanding. Hikers should be familiar with RMNP and developed the skills needed for backcountry travel. A more detailed trail profile for locating the trail and a brief description of its course and hazards are can be found on the Shelf Lake hike profile page. If you are looking for a demanding hike on maintained trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, we would recommend exploring trail profiles for Sky Pond and Black Lake.

    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 Solitude Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park


    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

    Cornet Falls Near Telluride Colorado

    Cornet Falls in Telluride, Colorado, is an 80 foot waterfall and requires a short 1/4 mile hike to experience. The hike begins in town and affords views down into this beautiful Colorado mountain town. Explore the full Cornet Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this hike in Telluride, CO.

    Trail Snapshot: Cornet Falls Near Telluride, Colorado

    Parking & Trailhead Information for Cornet Falls

    The hike to Cornet Falls begins at the the Jud Weibe Trailhead in Telluride, Colorado. There is no designated parking area for this trailhead, so hikers will need to find acceptable parking along the streets or at public parking in town.

    Tips & Resources for Hiking Cornet Falls Colorado

    The hike from the Jud Weibe Trailhead to Cornet Falls is only a 1/4 mile. The trail makes its way through a lot of loose and slippery rock before it opens out to a backdrop of vermillion cliffs with 80 foot Cornet Falls jetting over the side. Stay to the right side of the creek for the proper trail leading to the waterfall.

    • Wear Good Footwear: Because of the loose rock and slippery surfaces, be sure to wear a durable pair of shoes or boots that will give you good traction for this hike. Need a new pair of boots? Then be sure to check out our boot review of 3 recommended hiking boots.
    • Explore More: For a longer adventure, hikers can stay on the Jud Wiebe trail and complete the 3 mile loop that features expansive views into the town of Telluride and ovf Bridal Veil Falls in the distance.
    • Trail Map for Telluride Area: Trail Map Link
    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • After the Hike: Between the Covers Bookstore & Espresso Bar
    • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Dan Wilnai for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Cornet Falls.


    Map & Driving Directions

    Click for Driving Directions

    waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado

    Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.

    cascade waterfall leaping over granite boulders eldorado falls in walker ranch hike near boulder colorado

    Eldorado Cascades at Walker Ranch

    Eldorado Cascades is tucked back in Walker Ranch near Boulder, Colorado. It's an easy to moderate 1.25 mile hike from the Ethel Harrold Trailhead down to where South Boulder Creek winds through the park and crashes over the boulders blocking its path. Explore the full trail profile below for all the details: tips, trail map, and driving directions to the trailhead.

    Trail Snapshot: Eldorado Cascades at Walker Ranch

    Eldorado Cascades can be reached from several different trailheads that tie into the Walker Ranch Loop system. However, the shortest and probably easiest access is by starting at the Ethel Harrold Trailhead. See the directions driving directions links on this page, and be sure to make note of your last couples turns because cell phone services are spotty.

    The drive up to the trailhead on Flagstaff Road is a beautiful one, but do be aware of the many hikers, climbers, and cyclists along the road. After Flagstaff road, the two roads that lead to the trailhead, Pika, then Bison, are improved dirt roads. These were recently graded when we visited (early April) and were fine to drive. However, 4-wheel drive is probably necessary during the winter months or after early Spring rains or snowfall. The trailhead parking area has a pit toilet and information board. If you are interested in birdwatching, you'll find a Birds of Walker Ranch Chechlist at the board.


    The Hike to Eldorado Cascades

    The hike begins with expansive views of Walker Ranch and out towards Eldorado Canyon State Park (pictured above). The air was full of the scent of juniper trees, and we found abundant Elk sign in the meadows near the trailhead. The trail winds down to a intermittent stream that was gushing with the early Spring snowmelt. A bridge buried in snow leads across the creek, then the trail skirts the hillside for most of the hike, gradually working its way down to a junction with the Walker Ranch Loop Trail. At the junction, the trail to Boulder Creek and Eldorado Cascades is to the right and takes hikers further downhill to a bridge that crosses South Boulder Creek.


    The sound of water is almost always within earshot, and the chirps of a variety of birds fill the air. Shortly before the bridge, hikers may notice a "To Eldorado Canyon" sign and trail on the left side of the Walker Ranch Trail. This leads to Eldorado Canyon State Park, about 3.5 miles away, but does not lead to the cascades. The cascades can be found almost immediately after crossing the bridge that spans South Boulder Creek. Here the trail becomes a series of uneven rock stairs that lead to the top of the cascades (pictured above is view from the top).


    "Eldorado Falls" seems to be a local and unofficial name given to this set of cascades. The trail map simply marks them as "falls." On the back side of the cascades, South Boulder Creek seems to disappear under massive boulders that block its path. Here the water slips under the rock then shoots out on the other side in a series of small cascades. The water pools, then pours over another lower cascades (pictured above) before returning to calmer waters.

    The hike back is mostly uphill, but it's only about a +500' of elevation gain. The park is open in the winter; however, the trail from the Ethel Harrold trailhead down to the Walker Ranch Loop might become difficult to discern after a blanket of snow. So, the ideal times are Spring through Fall.

    girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

    Tips & Resources for Hiking to Eldorado Cascades

    • Come Prepared in Spring and Winter: Because the trail is mostly in shade of ponderosa pines, the snow and ice can settle in during both winter and spring. Therefore, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail (I wish I had brought mine).
    • Exercise Caution Around the cascades: The area around Eldorado Cascades is rocky and uneven. The cascades are also difficult to photograph because of how it's tucked back into the canyon. For this reason, exercise caution along the slippery rock and near the waters of South Boulder Creek.
    • Trail Map for Walker Ranch: Trail Map Link
    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee in Boulder


    Map & Driving Directions

    Click for Driving Directions

    waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado

    Looking for waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.

    South Rim Loop Trail at Roxborough State Park

    The South Rim Loop Trail at Roxborough State Park is a moderate hike that leads to breathtaking views of the red rock formations that make this Colorado State Park famous. It's a perfect hike for a weekend afternoon, or a great choice for visiting family and friends. We also put this on our list for great hikes to take if you want to acclimatize before hiking into higher altitudes deeper in the mountains. Read further to explore the trail details, tips, and to get the trail map for this adventure in Roxborough State Park.

    Roxborough State Park is like the Garden of the God's of Denver. Nestled against the foothills south Littleton, Colorado, it makes for a quiet escape from the sounds of the city. The South Rim Trail provides some of the best vantage points for photography of the Fountain and Morrison formations, the same rock that forms sister parks, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, and Red Rocks Park in Morrison.

    Trail Snapshot: South Rim Loop Trail at Roxborough State Park

    Parking and Trailhead Information

    The last two miles of access road into Roxborough State Park are a maintained dirt road, but it can get washboarded and can be tough on the car. Still, it's not a long drive in. Undulating green hills can be seen to the west where deer and antelope graze. Roxborough can fill up during it's busiest hours on the weekend. If that's the case, you can wait until enough vehicles exit the park then drive in. My guess is that the peak times are around 10AM-2PM. If the line looks long, you can always turn around and head over to Waterton Canyon or to South Valley Park--both are great options.

    The South Rim trail begins just west of the visitor center and makes its way through tunnels of scrub oak. This first trail segment takes you to several different destinations: the Willow Creek Loop, Carpenter Peak, and Elk Valley.

    The trail will eventually come to a small meadow with a lone cottonwood tree. Here the trail forks and the trail to the lef leads to the rest of the South Rim Trail. It crosses a small brook via a footbridge and into an area that our kids kept calling the "magical forest." The way the light plays in Roxborough State Park is enchanting. I think it has something to do with how the hogback formations and the red rocks filter the light coming into the valley.


    About 1 mile into the hike, the trail begins to climb. We've rated this trail as moderate because the climb may be challenging for those not acclimated to the altitude or who are not in great shape. The great news is that there are benches placed at regular intervals along the trail. A couple of these bench sites offer incredible overlooks into the park and are ideal points for photographing fountain valley. Most of the benches offer shade in bowers under fir and scrub oak trees.

    The South Rim Trail makes its way over the top of a bright and orange cliff band that dominates the southern end of the park for most of the hike. At the highest point, a very short spur trail affords hikers views to the east, and another viewpoint on the descent offers views to the north, all the way into the city of Denver.

    Be mindful of the loose gravel as the trail descends back into the valley. Back on the valley floor, the trail will fork again. To the left (west) will take hikers onto the Willow Creek trail, adding approximately 1/2 mile onto the loop back to the visitor center, making it a 3.5 mile hike. Or you can continue North for approximately 1/2 mile back the the parking area.



    baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

    Tips & Resources for Hiking the South Rim Loop in Roxborough

    • Loop Hiking Direction: This description of the South Rim Loop is hiked as counter-clockwise. Just reverse the description for hiking the trail to hike the loop clockwise.
    • Hiking in Winter: If you plan to hike the South Rim Trail in the winter, it is advised that you have traction devices like YakTrax because much of the trail will be in shadow, and ice will likely form on the trail.
    • Trail Map for Roxborough State Park: Trail Map Link
    • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • After the Hike: Waterton Tavern in Roxborough


    Map & Driving Directions

    Click for Driving Directions

    above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge colorado hike finder