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Hike RMNP’s Hague Valley

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More than three million people visit Rocky Mountain National Park every year. And the park’s heaviest visitation days are right around… now. So if you want to enjoy the best of Estes this weekend, we suggest you avoid the usual spots. 

Our weekend pick is the 15-mile out-and-back Hague Valley Trail, which tours the alpine valley of the same name. Chances are good that you’ll have the 450-acre valley more or less to yourself – save a few birds, marmots and elk.

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Celebrate Elktober in Estes

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Colorado’s best Oktoberfests

Oktoberfest is what you make it. And all too oftentowns choose to make it the same tired combo of oom pah music, big pretzels, and antique car shows (why?).

But Colorado does have three truly great Oktoberfests: mountain town events that bring together great beer (in great quantities), authentic food, and quirky events. So throw on your lederhosen or drindl, fill your stein, and Prost!


Vail: Sept. 5-7, Sept. 12-14

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Vail’s base area is about as Bavarian as it gets (in Colorado, anyway) so it’s not surprise that the resort town is the only one in the state to do Oktoberfest twice. The festivities in Lionshead went down last weekend, but they’re doing it all over again this weekend in the Vail Village.

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Colorado’s best fall hikes

We live in a beautiful state. And it’s about to get a heckuva lot more beautiful. Autumn’s changing colors are among the state’s best spectacles – and like most things in Colorado, they’re best experienced in the backcountry.

So when the crisp air comes, consider one of our favorite autumn hikes below.


 Hessie Trailhead to Lost Lake

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This easy 1.4-mile out-and-back trail is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. With a rolling valley chock full of aspens, it’s an especially eye-popping excursion in the fall. The trail ends at the alpine Lost Lake, ringed by snow-capped peaks.

If you go: Mid-September is prime time for Aspen viewing at Lost Lake. You’ll want to bring a windbreaker (even on clear days). Leashed dogs are allowed.

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Colorado’s funkiest fall events

Colorado is a weird place.

Seriously – the state’s roster of unorthodox diversions knows no bounds, from one of the nation’s largest zombie crawls along 16th Street Mall to an annual festival for a frozen dead guy in Nederland.

And that’s just the beginning. So break out your finest flannel top, coffin-mobile and gorilla suit, and embrace the Centennial State’s weirdness this fall.

Man of the Cliff – Sept 27-28

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Lumberjacks-in-waiting, this one’s for you. With events like archery, wood chopping and caber tossing, the two-day Man of the Cliff competition is an ode to all things uber-manly.

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The Colorado Selfie Adventure

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Taking selfies in the great outdoors is tacky (and sometimes even deadly). But we’ve all done it. Those profile pictures don’t take themselves, after all.

And now – for maybe the first time – there’s a good reason to mug for the smartphone. Our friends at the Denver Beer Co. are hosting an outdoor adventure selfie scavenger hunt across the state, and the prize is free beer for a year.

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Cyclo-cross… WTF is it, exactly?

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Let’s be honest: Come late summer, the thought of spending hours and hours in a bike saddle isn’t quite as enticing as it was in April. Even die-hard cyclists need a break from the… um… grind.

Enter the weird world of Cyclo-cross (also called “CX” or “cross”): a sort of obstacle race/cycling hybrid sport that pits racers against logs, grassy hills, mud pits and fellow cyclists – during 45 minutes of lung-searing competition.

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Explore Brown’s Canyon

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We get excited about public lands. And in Colorado, the biggest public lands story right now is that of Brown’s Canyon, which is well on its way to becoming the state’s next national monument and wilderness area. 

The southern Colorado canyon has long been considered one of the state’s best rafting and kayaking destinations, but the proposed 22,000-acre monument provides plenty of room for hikers, backpackers and car campers.

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Our 4 favorite Colorado waterfalls

With 81 official waterfalls, Colorado is the 11th most waterfall-abundant state in the U.S. (Oregon tops the list with 226). So there’s no shortage of waterfall hikes to choose from in the Centennial State. Here are four of our favorites.

Fish Creek Falls – Steamboat

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This 280-foot behemoth is one of the most jaw-dropping waterfalls in Colorado, and it’s just a quarter of a mile from the nearest trailhead. For hikers seeking a more of a challenge, a 2.5-mile intermediate out-and-back trail continues to the smaller Upper Fish Creek Falls.

If you go: Parking at the trailhead costs $5 per day. Dogs are welcome. After the trip, we recommend a beer and burger at Sunpie’s Bistro in Steamboat.

Getting there: From Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs, go north on 3rd Street and then take a right on Fish Creek Falls Road. It’s four miles to the trailhead parking lot.

Judd Falls – Crested Butte

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This easy out-and-back trail is about half a mile to the falls, and another five miles to Copper Lake (a beautiful turquoise lake with mountain views). When you get to the falls, walk down to the right and take a seat on the engraved bench to enjoy the sights and sounds of the waterfall.

If you go: There is no entrance or parking fee, but be sure to fill out a permit if you take the trail to Copper Lake: it helps the rangers keep track of how many people are using the trail.

Getting there:
 From Crested Butte, take Highway 135 north until it becomes Gothic Rd. Follow the road past the ghost town of Gothic and follow the signs for Judd Falls; it’s about 0.3 miles from Gothic to the trailhead.

Photo courtesy Go Hike CO 

St. Mary’s Falls – Colorado Springs

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With many smaller waterfalls along the way, this intermediate out-and-back trail offers plenty of opportunities to get your feet wet and enjoy the lush green summer foliage. A 1.6-mile trek takes you to the main waterfall, featuring a breathtaking view of water cascading 250 feet down a solid granite wall.

If you go: There are no entrance or parking fees for St. Mary’s Falls, and dogs are allowed. After your hike, check out the Ivywild School in south Colorado Springs.

Getting there: From Colorado Springs, take W. Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard to Old Stage Road, which turns into Gold Camp Road. Follow Gold Camp Road past Helen Hunt Falls until it dead ends at a locked gate: the trailhead is 1.2 miles past the gate, to the left of an abandoned tunnel blocked off by a fence.

Bridal Veil Falls – Glenwood Springs

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Suspended on the edge of a limestone cliff, the 1.5-acre Hanging Lake, fed by Bridal Veil Falls, is a hidden oasis of crystal-clear water and lush hanging gardens. This intermediate out-and-back trail is 1.2 miles one way, but it’s a steep, rocky climb to reach the falls. Most of the trail is shaded and runs parallel to Dead Horse Creek.

If you go: Arrive before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to avoid the crowd. There are no parking or entrance fees. Swimming, fishing, and dogs are not allowed. Wash the adventure down with a beer at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company.

Getting there: Go 22 miles west of Eagle on I-70, to the Grizzly Creek exit in Glenwood Canyon. After exiting, get back on the highway going eastbound to the Hanging Lake exit. The trail is 1/4-mile east of the rest area on the left just before the bridge.

This issue of Bootprints provided by Molly McCowan

 

Castlewood Canyon’s hiking challenge

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We don’t hike for the trophies. In part, that’s because hiking is a non-competitive activity that provides its own. But also, if we’re honest, it’s because nobody has been giving out trophies for walking trails.

Until now. Through December 2015, southern Colorado’s Castlewood Canyon State Park is offering a commemorative coin to anyone who logs 100 miles hiking, running, snowshoeing or skiing in the park.

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