Colorado Backpacking is magnificent scenery that can be found almost anywhere in the state, from Denver freeways to grocery store parking lots. But some argue that the true Rocky Mountain experience is hidden in hard-to-reach spots between the peaks.
Colorado State Park Ranger Amy Hoppes said if it’s the serenity of nature you’re after, backpacking is the way to go. “There is something in being away from everyone, being there alone with your team and nature.”
But visiting the least explored places in the state can be tricky, challenging, and intimidating for newbies. If you can even figure out where to go. There are thousands of trails in Colorado to choose from, with a wide range of lengths, levels of difficulty, advantages, and challenges. Set yourself up for success in the Colorado backcountry with these beginner backpacking tips.
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Choose a Colorado package
The correct equipment is a must, starting with the package. Talk to the experts at REI or your local outdoor store for advice on finding the right pack, style, and size. Try various brands and styles before making an investment.
Colorado Backpacking can be expensive, but you don’t have to lose a fortune to get the right one. After comparing packages at the store, purchase a used one from one of the state’s many outdoor enthusiasts looking to unload their gear. You can find used hiking gear at consignment sports stores, an online marketplace (like Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace), or even yard sales.
New is not always better. Convenience is key regardless of the age, use, or price of the package. Sometimes a used package can fit better because it has been broken. Make sure it is in good condition, with working straps, and without holes.
“Your backpack is your first line of defense, so you want it to fit and be comfortable,” said Hoppes. “The age, the brand, and the price of the package don’t matter. Just make sure you find a decent package for yourself.
In addition to the backpack, consider the size and weight of larger items, such as a pillow to sleep and a sack of sleep, to maximize available storage space and lighten the load.
Plan to wear the same clothes for a couple of days. Cut back on unnecessary clothing to make room for essentials, like rain gear to combat afternoon showers, and dress in layers to stay warm as temperatures drop in higher elevations.
If you’re climbing at altitude, pack plenty of water and electrolyte-laden snacks to combat altitude sickness.
Be logical with what you bring, but don’t forget to leave room for a gift. A can of beer, a chocolate bar, or a deck of cards won’t take up much space and will be great rewards when you stop by for the night.
Colorado is full of surprises, from breathtaking views to unexpected weather. Limit unwanted surprises and build confidence before your next backpacking trip with a trial or two. Go hiking with your backpack.
Day hikes are a great way to get your feet under you, test your gear, and get comfortable before you’re too deep in the desert to backtrack.
Find a trail in the mountains or a leisurely walk in the park for a test run. The Deer Creek Canyon Loop in Jefferson County is an easy 2.7-mile hike for a long two-hour test of your gear. Take your time. Spend the day making adjustments to your backpack and gear to find the most comfortable fit.
Don’t turn around at the first sign of bad weather. Put on your rain gear or some extra layers and trudge on. It is good practice for real business. Of course, be smart. Especially if you are walking at higher elevations where lightning could be a hazard.
Also Read To Know: How to choose a backpack for your child?
Select your location
Colorado’s extensive trail systems offer endless destinations for backpacking, from beginners to expert-level trails. State and national parks are a great place to start your backpacking adventure, where park rangers offer detailed advice on the difficulty of trails, water sources, and camping spots that can help you determine the best route.
Take a look at the trails in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, about 14 miles northwest of Golden. Easy, moderate, and difficult trails throughout the park lead to designated camping spots that must be reserved and paid for at the visitor center in advance.
The Horseshoe Trail takes hikers a moderate 1.8 miles to an outback retreat large enough to fit in a backpacking tent, offering three-sided protection from unexpected weather.
Several trails near Bailey, about 45 miles southwest of Denver, offer less traveled trails with free and scattered camping along the way.
Don’t be intimidated
Backpacking is for everyone, Hoppes said. Don’t let the conquests of other outdoor enthusiasts put you off. Whether you choose a package or your travel location, stay focused on what works for you.
Hoppes recommends that you bring an experienced friend to help guide you through any obstacles along the way. And don’t forget to take it all in. “There is something about that self-reliance, living off what you bring with you that gives you a sense of accomplishment,” Hoppes said. That’s the best part.