If you’ve ever felt like trying something new, there is nothing better than an outdoor adventure for adding excitement to your life. I have enjoyed hiking and white water rafting for years, and nothing has been more rewarding.
The Colorado 14ers, mountains over 14,000 feet tall, are perfect for hiking. There are over 50 of these peaks in the state, with trail difficulties to suit any taste.
Any of the Class 1 or Class 2 climbs would be fine for beginners. If you’re just starting out, I recommend Gray’s Peak. The trails there are easy to follow, ranging from 6.5 to 10 miles, and take you up to about 3000 feet. I usually allow an hour for each 1000 feet of elevation, so you could do two trails in a day, if you planned ahead.
Class 3 trails will require some scrambling up steep slopes, while a Class 4 may require climbing with ropes. Class 5 requires technical climbing gear. If you are travelling alone, or if you are hiking a more difficult trail, be sure to tell a friend or relative where you are going, and when you expect to return.
If you aren’t into snow, wait until late June to hike. Earlier in the year, there will still be some snow on the trails.
http://www.14ers.com/ is the resource I use for researching the trails. They sort the peaks by difficulty and elevation, and offer a guide for each route. Once you choose a hike, study the route guide, and scan the forums for information on that route before you go. The website shows you an elevation map with the trail drawn out. I usually print out the route, and I carry a map of the area. A GPS positioner is not a must on most trails, but you can download the routes, and they are really nice to have.
The trails are generally easy to follow and well maintained, and there are usually other hikers out. If you would like a more isolated adventure, the peaks in the farther end of the range are less populated.
The most important thing is to wear sturdy boots with good ankle support. You don’t want to try this in sandals. Yuck. Break in your shoes before taking them on a long hike. I hate blisters so much, I wear two pair of socks, and I even take an extra pair. If your socks get wet, you will be glad you did. Get hiking socks. Cotton is awful when your feet get sweaty.
Bring a snug-fitting backpack and a hip belt. I use 25-liter Burton pack.
Camelbak hydration systems are great on the trail. There is a little hose by your mouth you can sip from. I have a 100-ounce one, and I take an extra refill. When I used to take bottles, I would end up dehydrated because I didn’t want to stop to get water out of my pack. Talk about lazy.
Carry a light-weight rain jacket. I have a Froggs jacket, made of polypropylene. Forget cotton, and those cheap plastic ponchos.
I hate sunburn. I put on Neutrogena SPF 50 before I go, and I take the little 1.4 oz. bottle with me.
Thin gloves – not a must, but it can get chilly in the trails. A hood on your jacket, or hat, isn’t a bad idea either. The temperature is cool as you go up, then warmer as you descend. Wear layers of clothes that you can remove as needed.
For snacks, I pack the nut and berry energy mixes, sesame seed and granola bars, beef jerky, and nuts. Candy bars don’t work for me, and I try to avoid them. Sugar ends up making me tired later.
I also carry sunglasses, ChapStick, a lighter, a pocketknife, nylon string, a camera, lightweight binoculars, a small LED flashlight, a collapsible hiking pole, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. I put iodine tablets for water in my first aid kit. I carry the kit because I worry about snakes, but the only one I have seen looked like a corn snake.
Plan to start early, around 6:00 am. You may want to time your hikes, so you are not above the tree line when storms form. They tend to develop in the afternoon, between 1:00 and 4:00 pm. You don’t want to be the tallest thing around you on the summit during a lightning storm.
Make your way up the trail using a slow, consistent pace. At the top, some climbs have a log book you can sign.
Trail etiquette is pretty simple. Try not to scrape or damage the plant life around the trail. If you are hiking downhill, step to the side for an uphill hiker. If you need to use the restroom, cover it up, well off the trail.
Most importantly, boast of your climbs to your friends.
I hope this short guide helps, and I hope to see you on the summit!