The Advanced Guide to Colorado
Some of our favorite challenging outings in the heart of Colorado’s high country
The possibilities for adventure in Colorado are endless, from scenic excursions to downright heart-pounding missions. To help us pick some of the best options, we spoke with Brooke Goudy, a Denver-based co-leader of Black Girls Do Bike, VIDA mountain-bike ambassador, and all-around outdoor athlete, who helped us select some of the best advanced biking, hiking, and rafting adventures in a few prime areas in central Colorado, just a few hours west of Denver.
Buena Vista and Monarch
Shuttle the Epic Monarch Crest
If you’re a mountain biker with a pulse, you’ve heard of the Monarch Crest Trail. For the uninitiated, it’s an iconic 35-mile point-to-point ride (arrange a shuttle up through one of the many operators in Salida) that plunges nearly 6,000 feet from Monarch Pass to nearby Poncha Springs. “It’s an epic trail that has a little bit of everything that Colorado has to offer,” says Brooke Goudy, co-leader of Black Girls Do Bike and a VIDA mountain-bike ambassador. “There’s definitely some climbing, but at the top it’s so beautiful. And it’s so quiet back there.” After your ride, drink an All Mountain Amber and chow down on the Soul Burger on the patio at Soulcraft in Salida while staring up at the mountains you just traversed.
Get a Taste of the Colorado Trail
Colorado’s own thru-hike spans 485 miles from Denver to Durango, traverses eight mountain ranges, and has a staggering 90,000 feet of elevation gain along the way. But you don’t need to tackle the whole thing to experience its glory: spend a week backpacking the scenic Collegiate West segment, an 83-mile section from Twin Lakes to Monarch Pass beneath the towering Collegiate Peaks. It’s challenging and remote and largely above treeline, so summertime hikers will have to contend with afternoon thunderstorms. The route starts with a 3,000-foot climb up to Hope Pass at 12,600 feet, which is the iconic high point of the Leadville 100 race and provides a beautiful vista.
Get Rowdy on the Arkansas River
More of a river person? Raft The Numbers, a bodacious stretch of the Arkansas, with Browns Canyon Rafting. Located just north of Buena Vista, this half-day trip will get you more steep drops than you can count and a whopping eight Class IV-plus rapids. If you’re in for a full day, get ready for heart-pumping action and 13 miles of continuous Class IV-plus whitewater. This section of river is known for being exciting and wild and is best for experienced rafters.
Pro Tip: If you end up camping in the area, be sure to wash yourself, your dog, and whatever else needs cleaning at least 200 feet from waterways, and use biodegradable soap. A bubble bath is no treat for fish.
Eagle and Minturn
Hike the Missouri Lakes Trail
This tranquil yet challenging nine-mile route winds through the stunning Holy Cross Wilderness (home to some 90 lakes and four fourteeners), and the awe-inspiring views start right away. Hikers can expect 2,300 feet of elevation gain, lush meadows, waterfalls, streams, and fields of colorful wildflowers. Steep, jagged peaks rise directly from the lake. If you have time, set up camp for the night in the pristine alpine basin and enjoy the views of the Sawatch Range for a little while longer.
Pro Tip: If you are planning on camping, be sure to check the fire regulations before you head out. And, remember: when putting out a fire, water it until you can handle the embers—and never let a fire burn unattended.
Rip Some Singletrack in Eagle
The family-friendly recreation haven of Eagle, just downvalley from Vail and Minturn, is a mountain biker’s dream with over 100 miles of singletrack. Here you can pedal through myriad landscapes—from high desert to aspen groves to evergreen forests—often all in a single ride. The trails, open from April 15 to December 15, include routes designed for riders of all ability levels. Hit the Hardscrabble Trails Tour for a 19-mile ride from town that hits all the classics. Ascend 3,000-feet on mellow trails and save the steeper, more technical trails for pure fun on the way down. Head straight for a post-ride beer at Bonfire Brewing, the local favorite, and sample one of its specialty brews.
Pro Tip: When you’re whizzing down Eagle’s swoopy trails, don’t bliss out completely. Remember to be considerate when passing others on the trails, and yield to uphill hikers and bikers—they need the momentum.
Colorado is a four-season destination offering unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine and 28 renowned ski areas and resorts. The state’s breathtaking scenic landscape boasts natural hot springs, the headwaters of seven major rivers, many peaceful lakes and reservoirs, 12 national parks and monuments, 26 scenic and historic byways and 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet. For more information, visit Colorado.com/Summer.