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Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby mts4602 » Mon May 09, 2011 6:37 am

Coming to CO 4th of July week for the first time. Flying into Denver. I'd like to spend a day or less in Denver, maybe a day in Boulder, but other than that my plan is wide open. What would you do with a week? Anything I shouldn't miss? I'm willing to drive anywhere in the state if it's worth it. I'm up for anything other than class 5 or a snow climb, but a 14 should be in there somewhere.

Thanks!

Matt
Matt

Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby gonzalj » Mon May 09, 2011 6:53 am

I would say that you should try to go to the sawatch or san juan range. The San Juans are more scenic, but the sawatch is pretty impressive in it's own right. Some of the san juans can get difficult (especially the ones around Telluride & Silverton), but some of the ones around Lake City (Uncompahgre, Handies, Sunshine/Redcloud & San Luis) are good ones to do and that part of the state is georgeous. Also, in the sawatch, you can pretty much take your choice as all the standard routes are class 2, but my personal favorite would be Huron and also at that time of the year, there's a decent chance you'll be able to see wildflowers. In addition to that, you can also look into staying at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and be close to Buena Vista and go rafting if you would like and also be able to enjoy those hot springs (especially if you do a 14er). The crowds should be pretty crazy that 4th of July weekend, but if you spend your 1st 2 days in Denver & Boulder (for a little acclimation) and then move your way up to the mountains, I think that we be a good way to do it.

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby Cruiser » Mon May 09, 2011 6:58 am

Will you have camping gear or do you need to stay at hotels? If you're camping then you need to go down to the Buena Vista area to the Chaffee County 390 trail system. There's plenty of awesome dispersed camping and several good 14ers that you can do without ever having to go back to the paved road.

If you are going to be staying in hotels then you have lots of options as well. Maybe run down to Buena Vista or Salida and hit some of the Collegiate Peaks. Or go to the Aspen area and try your hand at the Elks. Or drive down to Ouray and run around the Alpine Loop checking off peaks in the southern San Juans. Your choices are endless at this point since it sounds like you are pretty much open to anything.
Where ever you are... There you are.

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby peter303 » Mon May 09, 2011 7:58 am

A lot of the interesting sites are accessible by car.

I would like to recommend Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is a big zoo in July. The classic park drive is Trail Ridge Road which above the treeline. If you want to hike there, I recommend Chasm Lake from the Long Peaks trailhead. It not in the main part of the park and is less crowded. Longs Peak will still be ice-equipment technical at that time of year and shouldnt be attempted. The road to the trailhead from Estes Park is bit tricky. Its NOT one of the main roads leaving that city but an easy-to-miss turnoff.

Another interesting area is Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak. You can drive up to the top which both kind of fun and scary. I think by the summer it should be mostly paved. If you want to hike, a fairly moderate first 14er hike is to drive up to Devil's Playground and walk the five miles and thousand feet from there. The trail weaves in and out of he road and the rangers yell at you if you walk on the road. The final part of the hike is rocky talus which is different from trail hiking but typical of 14er summits. You can spend a couple days at Colorado Springs seeing everything. There are colorful rock formations called The Garden of the Gods. Athletes will be training for the 2012 Olympics at the high altitude training camp in springs. you can tour part of that. The Air Force Academy in a forest north of the city is worth seeing.

Mt Evans is fairly close to Denver. Thats another place where you can drive almost all the way to the top. Or you can stop at a lake four miles from the summit and hike a rocky ridge the rest of the way.

A good full 14er hiker is Mt Quandry, a few miles south of Breckenridge. It as the full range of mountain terrain: forest, tundra, and summit rock. And its kind to rental cars, only a mile up a dirt road.

And speaking of rental cars, you have to decide between the gas cheap sedans or guzzling SUVs. Half of the 14er trailheads are inaccessible or very difficult for sedans, but that leaves the other half perfectly fine for a first Colorado visit. Besides the peks mentioned above, Bierstadt (from the south), Yale, and Elbert are sedan-friendly.
Grays & Torreys and Princeton have nasty roads.

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby Jim Davies » Mon May 09, 2011 12:48 pm

peter303 wrote:Another interesting area is Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak.

There's a big golf tournament at the Broadmoor starting July 4th (US Women's Open), so it might not be the best week to come here. Unless you like golf, of course.

If it were me (and if I were staying in motels), I'd probably set up a base in Buena Vista and make day-trips from there. You can easily hit the Mosquitos, Sawatch, and even go over to Aspen and back.
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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby mts4602 » Mon May 09, 2011 1:55 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. Looks like I've got a lot of options.

I've been tossing the idea around about trying to leave a day earlier and driving myself there to save money because a plane ticket+car rental+gas is adding up to be quite a lot. Plus, since I'm only 24 I get the added $25 a day surcharge on any car rental :D Right now it's over $500 for a week with an economy car. I can't even consider the prices for the SUVs. I have an all wheel drive Honda CRV. Would something like that be sufficient for some of the tougher roads or would I need an all out Jeep or high clearance vehicle?
Matt

Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby gonzalj » Mon May 09, 2011 2:04 pm

An AWD Honda CRV, could make it up some of those roads, but definitely not all of them. From what I've heard, you would need a jeep for the princeton & antero 4wd roads. The 4wd road from winfield (up to winfield it is easy 2wd dirt road) to the huron trailhead could probably be done with a CRV, but you would definitely need to take it slow and you could make it up to the Grays & Torreys trailhead from I-70. Like it was mentioned earlier, Quandary down by Breck would be no problem at all. As far as the roads to the trails by Lake City in the San Juans, the 4wd nellie creek road to uncompahgre is pretty nasty and I don't see a CRV handling that one, but down to American Basin for Handies shouldn't be a problem. Anyway, all depends where you end up going, but if you go to Buena Vista and stay around the collegiates, then your CRV could handle the road to the trailheads for Belford, Oxford, Missouri, Huron and Elbert.

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby peter303 » Mon May 09, 2011 2:05 pm

Jim Davies wrote:
peter303 wrote:Another interesting area is Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak.

There's a big golf tournament at the Broadmoor starting July 4th (US Women's Open), so it might not be the best week to come here. Unless you like golf, of course.

If it were me (and if I were staying in motels), I'd probably set up a base in Buena Vista and make day-trips from there. You can easily hit the Mosquitos, Sawatch, and even go over to Aspen and back.

I'd still hold out for Colorado Springs visits for all the interesting things you can do there.
First, Springs is an hour from southern Denver, so it can be a day trip. But that hour is important if you are trying to summit Pikes Peak as early as possible during thunderstorm season. If you going to hike from Devils Playground you are going to want to be at the hgihway gate opening at 7AM so you can begin hiking by 8AM. Or if you hike the longer Craigs trailhead, getting there by 6AM in July.

Second, there plenty of discount hotels like Super 8 near exit 243 that will get you to the Pike's Peak highway in 20 minutes. These probably wont ovelap the Broadmoor set, which competes with Aspen for the swankiest hotel in the Rockies. This hotel are is few minutes drive from the Olympic Center and Garden of the Gods.

I did forget to mention the Pikes Peak Ascent Stock Car Race which occurs around this time. I dont know the 2011 date. Our college alumni club would climb Pikes from Craigs on race day and watch the race after descending.

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby rickinco123 » Mon May 09, 2011 2:26 pm

I am going to throw a vote in for Sherman from the Fairplay side. It has gentle hiking and along with mountain vistas and wildflowers you will also get to see some old mine ruins which I think is an indelible part of the Colorado image.

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby Fairlight » Mon May 09, 2011 3:19 pm

Make sure you make the pilgrimage to REI in downtown Denver. Cool old building. Elbert in Leadville is the highest peak in Colorado and one of the easiest hikes. I was there on the cheap last summer and drove down in a tiny rented Hyundai. Did fine though it was making some sad sounds on 70 going up and over the passes on the way there. Bumpy getting to the Half Moon trailhead too, but heck, it's a rental!

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby Mountainspirit » Mon May 09, 2011 4:05 pm

Just my $.02, but once you're done with the Denver/Boulder thing, drive west. While those areas have some wonderful sights, there's really no need to hang out in Front Range/foothills areas when the mountains are calling. As already mentioned, Quandary is a nice one near Breckenridge. So much hiking/climbing is available from Buena Vista (practically have your pick of the Sawatch - Huron will afford some amazing views). But, if you're also sight seeing, check out the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen (these ought to be climbed by very experienced climbers - not me yet :D ). They are the most photographed peaks in the state, so you would definitely not be alone, but the Elk range has wonderful hiking, HUGE views, and very crappy rock to climb upon. For mountains even more grand, get out to the San Juan's (Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, Lake City). Handies is known for offering some of the best views in the state, while also providing an amazing array of wildflowers (though you might be just a tad bit early for the height of the season - nevertheless, WELL worth it!). Getting out to the San Juan's could put you near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (if you choose that route). Another wonderful National Park is Mesa Verde - down near Durango. RMNP is truly amazing, but as some one already mentioned, it will be insane the week you are visiting.
Let us all know what you're consisdering.
Have fun with your planning.
Scott
"I sang out from a mountain top, out to the valley down below
Because my cup doth overflow
With the beauty of the days gone by." - Van Morrison

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Re: Suggestions - 1 Week in Colorado

Postby kaiman » Mon May 09, 2011 6:43 pm

Mountainspirit wrote:But, if you're also sight seeing, check out the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen (these ought to be climbed by very experienced climbers - not me yet :D ). They are the most photographed peaks in the state, so you would definitely not be alone, but the Elk range has wonderful hiking, HUGE views, and very crappy rock to climb upon. For mountains even more grand, get out to the San Juan's (Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, Lake City). Handies is known for offering some of the best views in the state, while also providing an amazing array of wildflowers (though you might be just a tad bit early for the height of the season - nevertheless, WELL worth it!).
Scott


I like Mountainspirits advice - head for the Elks, San Juans, and Mesa Verde as quickly as possible to see three of the best/most interesting areas in the state.
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