Finding a hike can be an intimidating process, I’ve been hiking for years and still get a little nervous when trying out a new route or area. I’ve found a few things make it easier when it comes to finding a trail that’s going to work for you and your skill level.
My favorite App to find a new hike is AllTrails, where you can search by city, park or the trail itself. I usually start with a general area I want to explore, then browse from there.
Here are a few important things to consider when picking a hike:
Don’t try to tackle too much too soon. If you’re new to hiking, starting with trails that are less than 2 miles is perfect for beginners. If I’m working my way up to a long hike then each week I’ll do a hike that adds about a mile from my last one. Being in shape for hiking is very different from being “in shape” in the gym. I’ve brought big muscly men with six packs that could barely make it on a three-mile trail – take it easy on yourself and start small! Also make sure you’re paying attention to if the distance is round trip or just one direction on the out & back trails.
My biggest advice when it comes to finding hikes is to look at the elevation gain which is the total amount of elevation you will climb on the hike. Essentially, how steep will it be? For me, this has a bigger impact on my hike than the actual mileage. Less than a couple hundred feet in elevation gain and it’s essentially a nice leisurely walk. Also, keep an eye on the mileage vs elevation gain. 700 ft in elevation gain may not sound too difficult, but if it’s in less than a mile you’re for sure going to have some steep parts.
I always, always read the comments on the trail before heading out. It’s important for a couple of reasons: first because you can see the latest trail conditions which is especially helpful in the transition seasons. Has it been muddy? Icy? It helps you figure out what shoes to wear, how to dress, etc. The comments will also let you know if there’s something about the trail that may trip you up or if it’s difficult to follow.
This is also typically where you’ll learn more about the terrain, how rocky or shady it may be along the trail.
Time of Year
Hiking in Colorado varies drastically by the season and time of year, but also by the latest weather patterns. During the winter if you’re looking to avoid the snow, stick to hikes in the foothills. Spring can be incredibly muddy or still snowy depending on the snowpack and how fast it’s warming up. In the summer it’s almost a guarantee you’ll run into an early afternoon thunderstorm so plan your timing accordingly. Fall is one of my favorite times to hike in this beautiful state, especially once the Aspens start to pop! I’ll be glued to the comments to find out which trails have the brightest colors or which are past peak.
Often on AllTrails you can get an idea from how busy a hike is by how many reviews it has and by the comments. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds head out early, arriving by sunrise will generally ensure you a parking spot and less people. However, if you’re a new hiker you may like the comfort of knowing there are plenty of people to ask for help if you run into a problem or fork in the trail.