The Colorado Mountain Club tells its members to bring the “10 Essentials” on every day hike. Do you have all 10?
1. At least 2 quarts of water
2. Lunch, plus extra food
3. Rain/wind parka and pants
4. Extra layers of clothing
5. Waterproof matches and lighter, plus firestarter
7. Sunscreen/lip balm
8. Pocket knife
9. First aid supplies
Living in Boulder, you’re spoiled with a bazillion great trails right in town.
But within an hour-and-a-half of Boulder, high trails that head to alpine tarns and tundra are calling — especially on hot summer days.
Early summer was unusual on the Front Range in 2011. Excess late-season snows kept creeks raging and trails above 10,000 feet snow-covered into July. But now, your nearby high-country trails are in prime condition for a weekend hike or run.
Get out of town. Just a little. There are many to choose from, but here’s a start to your hiking ticklist for Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks.
1 Chasm Lake
4.2 miles (one way); Rocky Mountain National Park
At the end of the trail to Chasm Lake, you crest a rise on the moraine and the 1,000-foot sheer face of the Diamond on Longs Peak reflects in the waters before you.
The hike starts with a couple-mile cruise through the woods above the Longs Peak Ranger Station. Just above treeline, the Diamond comes into view as you wind through a rocky basin to a saddle. The trail skirts Peacock Pool on the way to the grassy area (look for columbines) around a ranger patrol cabin.
From there, it’s a short scramble up the moraine following cairns to the lake.
Dogs are not allowed in the national park.
Trailhead: Longs Peak Trailhead. From Colo. 7 north of Meeker Park, turn west on Longs Peak Road, following signs for the trailhead and ranger station.
2 Isabelle Glacier
4.2 miles (one way); Indian Peaks Wilderness
Whatever you do on this hike, don’t be deterred by the final steep push to the glacier. You might be tempted to stop at the final tiny tarn before the climb — it’s a beautiful spot in its own right. But you’d miss out on the stunning glacial cirque above.
Take the forested Long Lake Trail past the eponymous lake. Continue to Lake Isabelle, where Navajo and Apache peaks rise to the west. Trees give way to scrub as you continue to the 0.4-mile rocky climb to the glacier.
Dogs are allowed.
Trailhead: Long Lake Trailhead. Just northeast of Ward, turn west onto Brainard Lake Road. Pass through fee station for the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and continue around the lake to Long Lake parking. Due to construction (and congestion) in summer 2011, you might have to hike further than usual from your car to the trailhead.
3 South Arapaho Peak
3.5 miles (one way); Indian Peaks Wilderness
Just when you think the views can’t get any better on this hike, you stumble upon the best one yet — over the edge of South Arapaho, where the glacier sweeps between this peak and the next to the north, and a craggy ridge connects the summits.
From the trailhead, cruise uphill through forest, wildflowers and waterfalls. The forest thins as you approach the Fourth of July Mine; hang a right to head up Arapaho Pass Trail. Lose treeline, then branch north up the saddle to a scramble to the summit.
Extra points: Airy class-III climbing will bring you along the ridge to North Arapaho Peak.
Dogs are allowed.
Trailhead: Fourth of July Trailhead. From the town of Eldora, continue west on dirt road until it ends at trailhead and campground.
4 Sky Pond
4.9 miles (one way); Rocky Mountain National Park
Even if you don’t make it all the way to Sky Pond, this hike won’t disappoint. But it’s likely that carrots along the way, like Loch Vale, then the fun scramble (perhaps through some water) below Lake of Glass, will keep you going to the end.
From the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (it’s also possible to start at Bear Lake, but it’s a little longer), head toward Alberta Falls. The traffic will drop off a bit past here, and even more people stop on the breezy shores of the Loch.
Skirt the Loch to the north; rock towers overhead as you go, ending with the crumbling Cathedral Spires above the rocky edge of Sky Pond.
Dogs are not allowed in the park.
Trailhead: Glacier Gorge. In Rocky Mountain National Park (fee at entry), take Bear Lake Road nearly to its end to reach Glacier Gorge Trailhead. If the lot is full, use Rocky’s shuttle to this trailhead and Bear Lake.
5 Heart Lake
4 miles (one way); James Peak Wilderness
Seeking solitude? Heart Lake sees less traffic than some of its friends to the north.
The hike through the mossy, forested valley along the upper reaches of South Boulder Creek. The trail eventually gives way to open views of the Continental Divide. Stop for lunch at the broad lake — with even broader views of the Divide — or continue up Rogers Pass to see onto the other side.
Dogs are allowed.
Trailhead: East Portal Trailhead. From Rollinsville, take East Portal Road west to its end, at the mouth of the tunnel.