Mile High Mood
Four Amazing Day Hikes Near Denver
First off, can we all agree that Colorado is the holy land of the United States? Not only does it have some of the best nature around, I feel like people in Colorado are just…
I live in Houston, Texas where everything is hot, humid, and flat. You basically can’t get around without a car, and there’s not much to do outdoors, unless you’re really into the idea of an eternal sauna. Don’t get me wrong, Houston is awesome, and there are so many AMAZING things about this city. We are home to the biggest medical center in the WORLD! We have some of the best food around, and last but not least, we just hosted the Superbowl?!!. When it’s gloomy and 40 degrees outside, I still miss the 102 degree summers with 90% humidity. We have an amazing ballet, symphony, university (Go Coogs!), and so much more.
But it was still nice to get away for four days to a place where being outside is literally better than being indoors. I flew into Denver, CO in early November of 2016. I thought that I would arrive to cold weather and snow. It is Colorado after all. But I arrived to sunshine, blue skies, and a high of 60. I really lucked out that weekend, as winter had decided to come later that year. I went with the intention of hiking as much as my average-fitness-level body could handle. Most of my time was spent in Denver and Boulder (my favorite city).
During my four days, I went on four very popular (and beautiful) hikes in the Denver/Boulder/Estes Park area. If you’re planning on flying into DEN, and you only have a few days to explore, I highly recommend all of these hikes!
This was a hike I went on with my cousin, who is currently a sophomore at the University of Denver. We drove out Chatauqua Park, where the trailhead was located. I think the whole loop was a little less than 3 miles. The Flatirons were fun! It was a good warm-up for the rest of the weekend, and it was also pretty crowded, which made for a safe (and exciting) hike. There were groups of college students carrying boomboxes in their backpacks, and that got everyone pretty hyped up. I also saw so many couples with their dogs and it made me miss Randy. I can’t wait until we’re living together with our Husky and German Shepherd, Pork Chop and Sir Loin. 😛
The next day, I drove out to Rocky Mountain National Park in the Estes Park area. The first hike of the day was the famous Emerald Lake Trail. Even though it’s a popular trail, I started off early in the morning, so I was able to miss the traffic. This one actually encompasses three lakes: Nymph, Dream, and finally, Emerald Lake at the end of the trail.
It’s an out and back trail, so you head back the way you came. As the elevation was quite a bit higher, this was also the first snow I saw in Colorado. Emerald Lake literally took my breath away. I stood at the end of the trail, and looked out at the half-frozen lake with Hallet Peak in the back drop and I was so mesmerized that I forgot to breathe for a moment.
I decided to do this one AFTER the Emerald Lake Trail.
This one is a 7 mile killer. I will admit that I wasn’t adequately prepared for this hike, but I learned a lot and next time I go to Colorado, I’m determined to finish it. My naïve self decided that I could do Twin Sisters without a backpack, one 20-oz bottle of water, no food, and no headlight. WRONG. Especially as I started at around 1:30 in the afternoon. This one was long and it just wouldn’t stop going up! I remember at one point, I started counting my steps so that I wouldn’t take too many breaks. I would make myself take at least 100 steps before I allowed myself a 30-second rest. Sunset was also creeping up on me, and more than anything, I was scared that I wouldn’t make it back down before it got dark. At around 1.5 miles in, I realized that part of the trail had been hit by a landslide. At this point I was literally climbing up the side of the mountain, with the help of my arms so that I wouldn’t fall backwards and tumble to my death. After some research on the interwebs, learned that the landslide had destroyed several switchbacks (which explains my straight-up-the-mountain approach). I didn’t make it to the top. I gave myself a “deadline” of 3:30pm to make it to the peak so that I could get back to my car before dark. I didn’t want to be stuck on a trail in the dark. So when 3:30 hit, I turned around. It was the smart thing to do, and next time I go, I WILL finish.
The drive back to Boulder that night was nothing short of magical. It was a full moon and that night just so happened to be a super moon that hung low and lit up the mountain peaks. (I later found out that’s the closest the moon has been to earth since 1948). That drive was one of the best drives I’ve ever taken. What are the chances that I decided to visit Colorado on the weekend with the best weather AND a super moon. Sometimes, you just gotta believe in fate and the all powerful hand of God.
This was the last hike of the trip, before I drove back to Denver and caught my plane back to Houston. The person I was couchsurfing with offered to take me on this hike. He explained it to me as “short and easy.” He was obviously lying, because I was struggling hardcore. I think my body had had its share of physical activity for the weekend, and it couldn’t handle much more. Seeing Royal Arch was so worth it though. We sat up there under the arch, looking over Boulder, talking about life, music (he was a pianist too!), and our purpose on this earth. He shared with me the intimate details of his life – the good and the bad. He shared his beliefs, his goals, his passions… And I did the same. We just sat up there soaking in the sunlight, enjoying the cool breeze, and drinking lime water. These are the moments that make the struggle worth it.
Not just in hiking, but in LIFE. The view from the top and the people we share that view with is WORTH the struggle.
And one thing is for sure: