Late Season Hikes in Colorado

27 September 2012

September is almost over and the hiking season is coming to an end quickly. However, with a few warm weekends ahead and the hiking boots still not packed away, here are three great hikes to do in Colorado.

#1 Hanging Lake

If you’re living in Colorado and haven’t heard or done this hike yet, you’re missing out. Not only is this one of the prettiest hikes in Colorado, it’s also one of the most popular. A simple two-mile out and back hike, it is not as simple as it sounds. The hike scales the side of Glenwood Canyon, increasing over 1000 feet in elevation as you go. But once you reach the top you are rewarded with not only a magnificent view of Glenwood Canyon, but a pristine lake perched at the edge of a cliff.

With this being one of the most popular hikes in the state, and with it being accessible almost year round, the later into the autumn and winter you wait, the more isolated and quiet the lake will be. After the first snows of the year, studded shoes or yak-traks are a must, but the trail is still hikeable. Last year I headed up the Monday after Thanksgiving and had the lake to myself for almost a half-hour.

#2 Bergen Peak

Nestled in my home town of Evergreen, Colorado, this climb is also available year-round with many of the same restrictions as Hanging Lake. This 10 mile out and back trip takes you from the wide open Elk Meadow at the base to the top of this 9,708 foot mountain with views of many Front Range peaks including Mount Evans and the Indian Peaks.

While this peak is nothing spectacular, and on par with Bear Mountain in Boulder, I chose it because not only did I grow up hiking it often (Evergreen High School soccer tryouts used to involve running up this peak), but because it’s much less crowded during the off-season than many trails on the Front Range. However, due to finishing at a decent elevation, spikes will be needed after any snow, and snowshoes will be needed after any larger storms.

#3 Mount Audubon

One of my favourite peaks to climb is looked over by many mountaineers simply because it’s a shorter hike that only finishes at 13,223 feet (below that magic 14,000 foot number). Personally, I think this one of the best nearby, high elevation hikes you can do. A quick 8 miles out and back, you gain 2,715 feet over the accent that starts out deep in an alpine forest before spending most of the time well above tree-line. Once reaching the summit, you are treated to unobscured views of the rest of the Indian Peaks range, along with the Never Summer Range and Rocky Mountain National Park to the north.

This hike becomes inaccessible after the first major snowfall at the trailhead at Brainard Lake (located at 10,508 feet), so don’t hold out too long to do this hike. However, those that brave the cold summit temperatures and winds in early October will be treated to a very quiet hike. A last scramble up the rock field near the summit can be a challenge with or without ice and snow, so be prepared with gloves and possibly spikes. Also, don’t forget that camera.

Photos of Mount Audubond and Hanging Lake by Andrew Murray. Bergen Peak courtsey of Jeff Montgomery.

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