Easy-access hikes in Colorado

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of February 28-March 6, 1996
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Easy-access hikes in Colorado
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Easy-access hikes in Colorado
Q: I'm planning a one-week solo this summer/spring to Colorado. I want to fly in and then get to the trailhead with a minimum of hassle (and no messing with rental cars). I'm no longer into hitchhiking. So, where would you go and how would you get there if you had a week to kill and plane tickets to CO?
Wayne Martin
Fort Worth, TX
[email protected]
Longs Peak towers over the road to Rocky Mountain National Park
A: Going car-less in Colorado means you're going to be limited to places you can get to by bus or private shuttle. Probably the most obvious choice for someone in your situation would be Rocky Mountain National Park, an easy, two-hour bus ride north of Denver along I-25, near Estes Park. With over 300 miles of trail, you'll easily be able to lose yourself in the backcountry for a week.

The ominously named Never Summer Range, in the park's western reaches, is a great introduction to the park. Start at the Green Mountain Trailhead--just off the south branch of Highway 34--and hike in 7.5 miles through lodgepole pine forest and moose country to the Haynach Lakes, tucked under the Continental Divide at 11,000 feet. From there, it's a short three-quarter-mile trek to the summit of 12,216-foot Nakai Peak. Be sure to bring your fishing rod and camera. The monster trout are matched only by the spectacular alpine scenery.

If you don't mind rubbing elbows with the throngs of hikers who make the one-day, 15-mile round-trip assault on Longs Peak, consider making this 10- to 15-hour scramble to the summit along the well-worn East Longs Peak and Keyhole Route trails. Get an early, preferably pre-dawn, start and be prepared to do an about-face if the afternoon sky turns stormy; the Keyhole Route is generally free from snow from mid-July to October-- otherwise you'll need technical climbing skills and equipment if you plan on summiting. You'll need to pick up a free backcountry permit at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center before heading into the bush. Call park headquarters at 970-586-2371 or the backcountry office at 970-586-4459 for more information, consult the section on Rocky Mountain National Park in "Our National Parks" in our June 1992 issue.

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