Weekend Backpacker: Denver

Mile-High Overnight Escapes
  |  Gorp.com

For mountain hiking, what could be a more natural choice than Colorado? With the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop to the mile-high city, Denver is the perfect jumping-off point for a weekend wilderness adventure.

All the action is to the west, where the flatlands of the city rise into terrain more hilly and rugged. Finally you reach the snowcapped mountain peaks with their vibrant meadows, raging waterfalls, turbulent creeks, and gently rolling streams teeming with trout. Because of its great range in elevation (Denver sits at 5,600 feet; 54 of the state's mountains top 14,000 feet), Colorado provides excellent opportunities to explore diverse climates in a short period of time. Hikers can climb high early in the day to reach the above-treeline splendors before the typical thunderstorms roll in, then loll about and rest in gentle lower-elevation meadows after the work is over. In between, you'll find forests and flowers.

One warning: Many of the following hikes take place at elevations of more than 10,000 feet. If you're not used to the altitude, you may feel out of breath, headachy, or nauseated. It's normal to feel a little out of breath, but if you feel ill, don't go any higher, and if necessary descend. Most people can acclimate to the elevations if they give themselves enough time (see High Country Safety for more information).

Here's a look at some of the weekend wilderness opportunities that you can experience within a three-hour drive from Denver

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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