The best hikes near Fairplay Colorado
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The 15 Best Hikes Near Fairplay Colorado

It should be no surprise that Colorado is a hiking mecca, drawing people from all over the country and the world to its hiking trails, alpine lakes, mountain towns, and outdoor havens.  For me, Colorado is one of my favorite places to hike, but it is also a double edged sword.  I’ve scoured the “best of” lists for best trails and best mountain towns in Colorado, but they are always swarming with visitors.  The idea of that perfect small, humble, under-rated mountain town, where you can spend a weekend or a week hiking secret trails, is struggling to exist anymore.  That is, until I discovered a place in Colorado that is still holding on to these roots.  Providing visitors with small town appeal, rustic surroundings, a down to earth vibe, and plenty of outdoor activities and stellar hikes, that are hidden from the spotlight of surrounding areas like Breckenridge, Aspen, Vail, and Colorado Springs.  If you are looking for a true mountain town escape, with plenty of near empty trails to immerse yourself in, come visit Fairplay, Colorado!  And while you are there, get to know it the best way, with your own two feet, by exploring the best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado!

 

Best hikes near Fairplay Colorado

Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used!  Enjoy this guide to the best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado!

 

 

The 15 Best Hikes Near Fairplay, Colorado

 

This list of the best hikes near Fairplay, CO, has something for every type of hiker and every hiking ability.  There are various distances, difficulty ratings, and highlights along each trail.  The best thing is this ENTIRE list of trails are all less than a 30 minute drive from Fairplay!  Don’t you hate it when you read a list that claims “nearby”, and it turns out that it takes 2 hours to drive there!  You have better things to do with your time than drive, so take advantage of all these awesome hikes near Fairplay, Colorado, that are actually NEAR Fairplay!

 

The best hikes near Fairplay Colorado
Get ready for the 15 best hikes near Fairplay Colorado!

 

 

Map of the 15 Best Hikes Near Fairplay, Colorado

 

All of these trails are less than a 30 minute drive from Fairplay, Colorado!

 

Map of the 15 best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado

 

 

#1: The Limber Grove Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Limber Grove Trail:

 

Length: 3.5 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 564 feet

The Limber Grove Trail
Limber Grove Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 1.5 – 2 hours

Pet Policy: Leashed pets welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The Limber Grove Trail is aptly named, as the highlight here is the old grove of gnarly, twisted, limber pines, stretching like ancient fingers towards the sky.  The Limber Grove Trail is a moderate hike, with enough distance to get your heart pumping, and enough variations to keep things interesting.  You will have to traverse some horizontal rock fields, but there are no vertical rock fields to have to ascend. This is not what you would consider a “destination” hike, as the turnaround spot is a campground.  The highlight is definitely the ancient groves of trees scattered among the rock field, so take your time enjoying this part of the hike!

 

Besides the ancient trees and rock field, the other highlight of this trail reinforces the theme of this list – the best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado are hidden gems that are far less crowded than near neighboring mountain towns!  Case in point, I have personally hiked the Limber Grove Trail, on a Saturday, in July.  There was plenty of parking, and hardly anyone else on the trail the entire time!

 

The Limber Grove Trail
Where the path turns rocky on the Limber Grove Trail

 

The Limber Grove Trail
Ancient trees on the Limber Grove Trail

 

The Limber Grove Trail

 

 

#2: Mount Sherman

 

Quick Facts on the Mount Sherman Trail:

 

Length: 5 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Difficult

Elevation Gain: 2,027 feet

Mount Sherman Trail
The Mount Sherman Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 2.5 – 3 hours

Pet Policy: Leashed pets welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

It wouldn’t be Colorado if there weren’t some 14’ers to climb!  And you have several great options right outside your front door in Fairplay!

 

There are several options for getting to the trailhead of Mount Sherman (also referred to as Four Mile Creek Trailhead), but the recommended and most common way is via Four Mile Creek Road, as seen in the image below.  The road in can be rough in spots, and a 4 wheel drive  vehicle with high clearance is recommended.  

 

Mount Sherman is definitely a bonus to hiking near Fairplay, Colorado, as it is heralded as one of the easiest 14’ers in the state.  Along the way, you will pass multiple old abandoned mines (as this area is brimming with mining history), a small pond, the saddle between Mount Sherman and neighbor Mount Sheridan (next on this list) and traverse above treeline to the alpine summit!

 

While Mount Sherman is a great option to consider for challenging hiking near Fairplay, as well as a great option for those specifically searching for an easier, introductory 14’er due to its short distance, lower elevation gain, and non technical terrain, it still manages to be fairly uncrowded, compared to other nearby, easy 14’ers, like the highest point in Colorado at Mount Elbert, located in nearby Leadville. 

 

#3: Mount Sheridan

 

Quick Facts on the Mount Sheridan Trail:

 

Length: 4.6 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Difficult

Elevation Gain: 1,794 feet

The Mount Sheridan Trail
Mount Sheridan Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 2.5 – 3 hours

Pet Policy: Pets welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

Mount Sheridan shares many similarities with its sibling Mount Sherman.  It shares the same trailhead at Four Mile Creek Road.  It is almost identical in roundtrip length, with just slightly less elevation gain than Mount Sherman.  It also passes old mining sites along the way to the summit.  And you are likely to see far fewer crowds along this trail than other popular mountain hikes.

 

The main difference between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan is that Mount Sherman is a 14’er, while Mount Sheridan is not, coming in just under at 13,748 feet in elevation.  If the title of 14’er doesn’t matter to you, then Mount Sheridan may be appealing as it is slightly shorter and easier than Mount Sherman.  

 

As a note, it is possible to hike both Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan at the same time, for a longer, more challenging day hike near Fairplay, Colorado!

 

#4: The Decilibron:

 

Quick Facts on the Decilibron Trail:

 

Length: 7 miles roundtrip loop

Rating: Difficult

Elevation Gain: 3,136 feet

The Decilibron Trail Elevation Chart
The Decilibron Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 4 – 6 hours

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The Decilibron Trail is not so much a singular trail, as it is a hiking challenge involving several mountain summits.  It should be reserved for experienced and prepared hikers.  The Decilibron Trail is the one place in Colorado where you can summit 4 separate 14’er peaks in one day, on one loop trail:

 

  • Mount Democrat
  • Mount Cameron
  • Mount Lincoln
  • Mount Bross

 

The Decilibron Trail
The Decilibron Trail via AllTrails

 

The road in to the trailhead is rough, and may require some hikers to park early and walk a little extra in.  The recommended route starts at the Kite Lake Trailhead, then proceeds up the Mount Democrat and Mount Cameron saddle, passing old mining operations along the way.  The rocky summit of Mount Democrat is the 1st of 4 on this trail.  

 

Mount Cameron is up next.  Head back down the saddle you came in on to reach Mount Democrat, then proceed up Mount Cameron.  Mount Cameron has a wide, flat summit, so be ready for strong winds here, before heading for summit #3, Mount Lincoln.  

 

It is a short distance between the summits of Mount Cameron and Mount Lincoln, approximately 10 – 15 minutes, along the way which you will pass more old mining evidence.  

 

Mount Lincoln is more rugged than Mount Cameron, with some minor, Class 1 scrambling involved in order to reach the summit.  From the summit of Mount Lincoln, you can even see Quandary Peak, another one of the best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado, and later on in this list!

 

Head back down to the saddle towards Mount Cameron after the summit of Mount Lincoln. Next is the saddle between Mount Cameron and Mount Bross.  

 

Mount Bross is the 4th and last summit to scale on the Decilibron Trail, but at this time, it is not open to hiking, as it is located on private property.  Take the bypass trail below the summit of Mount Bross, and snag this 4th peak at a later time when it is hopefully reopened to the public.

 

There are a few things to note about the Decilibron Trail.  As mentioned before, this involves 4 separate 14’er peaks.  It is a very strenuous challenge not to be taken lightly.  The trail is fully exposed and above treeline, so there is plenty of sun exposure and wind to deal with.  Also, this trail is on private property, and you should only hike the trail with permission from the owners, who will require you to sign a waiver in advance.  At the time of publication, Mount Bross is closed to hikers, so make sure to use the bypass trail, and do not hike Mount Bross.

 

Mount Democrat on the Decilibron Trail
Mount Democrat on the Decilibron Trail

 

#5: Pennsylvania Mountain Southeast Ridge Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Pennsylvania Mountain Southeast Ridge Trail:

 

Length: 4.7 miles roundtrip out and back 

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,492 feet

The Pennsylvania Mountain Trail Elevation Chart
Pennsylvania Mountain Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 2.5 – 3 hours 

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

In a landscape dominated by 14’ers, Pennsylvania Mountain is a great choice for those that still want the higher elevation, uphill challenge of an easier 13’er.  It’s low on scrambling and technicality as well.  

 

Note that the trail splits fairly soon after the start of the hike.  Keep left to continue on the Pennsylvania Mountain Trail (right takes you onto the Pika Trail).  There are also several false summits along the trail, so don’t turn around too early!

 

#6: Quandary Peak Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Quandary Peak Trail:

 

Length: 6.3 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Difficult 

Elevation Gain: 3,333 feet

Quandary Peak Trail Elevation Chart
Quandary Peak Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 3.5 – 4 hours

Pet Policy: Leashed pets welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

Quandary Peak is a more popular 14’er in the area, more so than others on this list like Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan. For this reason, during the summer months a reservation to park is required, and there are even shuttles to accommodate busier times.  

 

Quandary Peak is a more popular 14’er because it is easy enough to be a good introductory 14’er to hike, and the views are outstanding!  The trail starts off in thick forest for the initial mile, before emerging above treeline to soak in all the sweeping views.  The trail here is exposed and rocky, but as previously mentioned, is not technical and does not require scrambling, just a slower pace and intentional foot placement.  

 

Quandary Peak Trail
The Quandary Peak Trail

 

#7: Wheeler Lake Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Wheeler Lake Trail:

 

Length: 6.9 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,246 feet

Wheeler Lake Trail Elevation Chart
Wheeler Lake Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 3.5 – 5 hours

Pet Policy: Leashed pets welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The Wheeler Lake Trail is a great example of a “destination” hike, as this out and back trail’s “turnaround” point is the serene Wheeler Lake.  The trailhead starts just past Montgomery Reservoir, then proceeds over portions of challenging climbs, some rocky terrain, and several water crossings, until you reach Wheeler Lake and its small, humble, waterfall.  Once at Wheeler Lake, you will also be treated to surrounding views of several towering mountain peaks!  This is a great break or snack spot to enjoy the views.  

 

Note that the Wheeler Lake Trail is a shared, multiuse path with 4WD vehicles and ATV’s.  

 

#8: Hoosier Pass Loop Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Hoosier Pass Loop Trail:

 

Length: 2.8 miles roundtrip loop

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 688 feet

Hoosier Pass Loop Trail
Hoosier Pass Loop Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 1.5 – 2 hours

Pet Policy: Leashed pets welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The Hoosier Pass Loop Trail combines all the best things about mountain hiking in Colorado, while being one of the shorter options for hikes near Fairplay, Colorado.  It still contains the challenge of almost 700 feet of elevation gain in under 3 miles.  

 

The Hoosier Pass Loop Trail is a steady and consistent climb up to the midway point, then a steady, consistent downhill back to the trailhead.  It is straightforward and non technical, which makes it appealing to many hikers, combined with its short length and moderate rating.  The trailhead is also located right off of Highway 9, making it very accessible for all vehicles.  It also contains some old mine remains just off the trail. 

 

#9: Crystal Lake Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Crystal Lake Trail:

 

Length: 8.4 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Difficult 

Elevation Gain: 2,568 feet

Crystal Lake Trail Elevation Chart
Crystal Lake Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 4 – 6 hours

Pet Policy: pets are welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The Crystal Lake Trail has two “destination” points, the Lower Crystal Lake and Upper Crystal Lake, situated in the heart of the White River National Forest.  You will pass Lower Crystal Lake first, and Upper Crystal Lake is the halfway point or “turnaround” point on this out and back trail.  Reaching Upper Crystal Lake is somewhat rockier and more exposed than reaching Lower Crystal Lake, but it is non-technical and does not involve any scrambling.  Just a steady, consistent, moderate climb up.

 

The Crystal Lake Trail via AllTrails
The Crystal Lake Trail via AllTrails

 

The Crystal Lake Trail is over 8 miles long in roundtrip distance, so it is a decent day hike in its entirety, but the nice thing is you can turn around at Lower Crystal Lake if you want to shorten the hike, and not sacrifice on views, getting to enjoy Lower Crystal Lake.  

 

Also on the Crystal Lake Trail is Francie’s Cabin, a summit hut resting just above 11,000 feet, not far from the trailhead.  This summit hut was built in 1994, can house up to 20 guests, and is reservable in the summer and winter months.  

 

This is a very popular trail as far as best hikes near Fairplay go, with limited parking that fills up quickly during peak times.  

 

Note that Lower Crystal Lake is accessible via the 4WD road that you can drive in on.  Meaning that the trail is actually a 4WD road up til Lower Crystal Lake.  After that, it becomes just a hiking trail to Upper Crystal Lake. If you do not have a 4WD vehicle, or don’t wish to drive in, simply park at the trailhead and hike in to Lower and Upper Crystal Lakes.  

 

To start this hike, arrive and park at the Spruce Creek Trailhead.  Make sure to take the Crystal Lake Trail, as there are multiple trailheads in this area, including the Spruce Creek Trail, which proceeds south from the parking area.  

 

#10: Blue Lakes Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Blue Lakes Trail:

 

Length: 1 mile roundtrip out and back

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 108 feet

Blue Lakes Trail Elevation Chart
Blue Lakes Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 30 minutes

Pet Policy: leashed pets welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The Blue Lakes Trail is one of the best effort to reward ratios on this list of best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado, skewing heavily in your favor towards the rewarding views!  This is also one of the top easy, short hikes that are perfect for children of all ages, as well as groups of hikers with various abilities, and leashed pets.  Full of never ending shoreline views of Blue Lake, nestled in this mountainous valley, there is not a bad view from any angle along this trail.  Also, don’t miss the waterfall, which you can hike right up to and sit next to!

 

Blue Lakes Trail via AllTrails
Plenty of shoreline views on the Blue Lakes Trail map via AllTrails

 

The road leading in to the Blue Lakes Trail is rough, but is doable for most 2WD.  There are two parking areas, an upper and lower lot, but due to its popularity and mass appeal, the Blue Lakes Trail fills up very quickly, especially during peak times. 

 

The Blue Lakes Trail is one of the best hikes near Fairplay Colorado
The Blue Lakes Trail is one of the best hikes near Fairplay for children and pets!

 

The Blue Lakes Trail near Fairplay Colorado
The Blue Lakes Trail near Fairplay Colorado

 

The best hikes near Fairplay Colorado
Don’t miss the waterfall on the Blue Lakes Trail!

 

#11: McCullough Gulch Trail

 

Quick Facts on the McCullough Gulch Trail:

 

Length: 6.4 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Difficult

Elevation Gain: 1,607 feet

McCullough Gulch Trail Elevation Chart
McCullough Gulch Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 3 – 5 hours

Pet Policy: pets are welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The McCullough Gulch Trail is another popular trail, just north of the Blue Lakes Trail.  Along its path, there are several beautiful bodies of water, including the White Falls waterfall, steam crossings, and small alpine lakes like Blue Reservoir, bordered by towering mountain peaks, including nearby neighbor Quandary Peak in the background!

 

If you are looking for an ideal turnaround point, many hikers choose Blue Reservoir, after enjoying the views of White Falls and the Reservoir, but turning around before hitting the majority of the rockier sections of trail, which involve some minor rock scrambling.

 

The McCullough Gulch Trail via AllTrails
The McCullough Gulch Trail via AllTrails

 

McCullough Gulch is not the most difficult climb elevation gain wise, but there are some steeper portions through rockier trail.  

 

During the summer months, note that a reservation is required by the county to park at the trailhead, and shuttles are also available for use.  

 

#12: The Beaver Creek Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Beaver Creek Trail:

 

Length: 1.7 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 324 feet

The Beaver Creek Trail Elevation Chart
Beaver Creek Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 45 minutes – 1.5 hours

Pet Policy: leashed pets are welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

The Beaver Creek Trail is perfect for families and those looking for a short trail that is forested and shady, with a little side of water features!  The Beaver Creek Trail does have some moderate, steady climbing on the way to its halfway point, but it is doable for most ages and abilities.  

 

The Beaver Creek hike near Fairplay Colorado
The Beaver Creek Trail near Fairplay Colorado is forested and shady!

 

The Beaver Creek Trail near Fairplay Colorado
Discoveries along the Beaver Creek Trail

 

The Beaver Creek Trail near Fairplay Colorado
The halfway point on the Beaver Creek Trail

 

The Beaver Creek Trail gets its name from the “marshy” creeks and ponds at the midpoint, a perfect home for beavers.  Most of the trail, however, is in sunlight dappled forest and towering trees.  One interesting feature on this trail are the tree trunk “teepees” that have been constructed along the path, which are a favorite for children to explore.  

 

#13: Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Trail:

 

Length: 6.1 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,548 feet

Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Trail Elevation Chart
Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 2.5 – 4 hours

Pet Policy: pets are welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

This trail is a favorite for its grand views, cabin ruins, and abandoned mines.  The cabin ruins are where some of the most beautiful views of the gulch are, and for many, this is a popular turnaround spot for a shortened hike. It is a steady climb up, but moderate and not super steep.  The remains of the Gold Crest mine are located at the top, along with views of neighboring peaks and alpine lakes.

 

The trailhead and parking area are located right off of State Highway 91.  

 

Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Trail via AllTrails
Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Trail via AllTrails

 

#14: Mayflower Lake and Mohawk Lake Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Mayflower Lake and Mohawk Lake Trail:

 

Length: 7.9 miles roundtrip out and back

Rating: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 1,922 feet

Mayflower Lake and Mohawk Lake Trail Elevation Chart
Mayflower Lake and Mohawk Lake Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 4 – 6 hours

Pet Policy: pets are welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

This trail packs a lot in just under 8 miles!  There are meadows, ponds, bridges, stream crossings, rocky portions, Continental Waterfall, and multiple lakes, including Mayflower Lake, Lower Mohawk Lake, and Mohawk Lake.  Depending on the season, you may be treated to a blanket of wildflowers, and even resident mountain goats!

 

At just around 2,000 feet in elevation gain in just under 4 miles to the halfway point at the top, that averages out to a moderate but steady amount of climbing, around 500 feet of gain per mile average.  

 

Like the Crystal Lake Trail above, the trailhead for the Mayflower and Mohawk Lake Trail starts at the Spruce Creek Trailhead.  

 

Mayflower Lake and Mohawk Lake Trail via AllTrails
Mayflower Lake and Mohawk Lake Trail via AllTrails

 

#15: The Pika Trail

 

Quick Facts on the Pika Trail:

 

Length: 1.2 miles roundtrip loop

Rating: Easy

Elevation Gain: 259 feet

Pika Trail Elevation Chart
Pika Trail Elevation Chart

 

Estimated Time to Complete: 30 – 45 minutes

Pet Policy: leashed pets are welcome

Best Time of Year to Hike: late spring – early fall

 

Pikas on the Pika Trail near Fairplay Colorado
Cute pikas!

 

The Pika Trail is a short, easier, day hike that can suit the needs of a wider range of hikers, including those with children or various hiking abilities.  Located in the pine forest of Pike National Forest, the Pika Trailhead is minutes northwest of the town of Fairplay, Colorado.  It is a well maintained and easy to follow trail, named for the abundance of pika that thrive along the trail. There is some exposure near the top, but the views are fantastic!

 

Note that the road in to the trailhead is rough in some places.

 

 

Tips for the Best Hikes Near Fairplay, Colorado

 

In order to have the most enjoyable, safe, and responsible trek on these best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado, follow these straightforward hiking tips!

 

  • Check the Weather (Especially on Mountain Summit Trails)

When you are hiking at higher elevation on or near mountain summits, which includes most of the trails on this list of the best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado, it is critical to check the forecast ahead of your hike, specifically the forecast for the mountain itself.  For example, if you are planning to hike Mount Sherman, and you check the weather for the nearest town, Fairplay, you are going to get a completely different forecast for the town itself, located at the base of the mountain, than what is actually occuring on Mount Sherman itself, at 14,000 + feet.  Weather patterns can be drastically different between the base and the summit.  My preferred way to check mountain weather is at mountain-forecast.com

 

  • Start Early

This is good advice for two main reasons.  Hiking trails across Colorado can get busy, especially during peak times in the summer (although the best hikes near Fairplay are far less busy than other areas).  Arriving early and starting your hike early means more solitude and a chance to enjoy more of the trail to yourself.  Secondly, if you start early, you will hopefully finish early, avoiding potential afternoon storms, and allowing yourself plenty of extra bubble time to complete your hike for unforseen circumstances that may pop up along the way. 

 

By the way, it is also important to qualify what exactly counts as “early” in Colorado mountain terms.  8 or 9 am may be early for some people, but when it comes to hiking Colorado mountain trails, “early” means more like 6 am!

 

  • Descend Summits by Noon

This is to avoid getting caught in afternoon storms, fully exposed on a summit.

 

  • Have the Right Gear

Anytime you venture into the wilderness, make sure to bring the proper gear, and that includes all 10 hiking essentials.  These best hikes near Fairplay, Colorado, are no exception!  A few basics to start with include:

 

FOOTWEAR – no flip flops please!  Go with a trusted and reliable hiking boot, or cushioned trail runners.  Which you prefer is up to you, and may depend on what type of trail you are hiking.  Personally, I like my Vasque Breeze GTX III waterproof hiking boots for uphill, challenging trails that may have portions of rock or loose scree fields, where I can benefit from the added support and stability of a traditional hiking boots.  They are also waterproof, for trails with stream crossings for example.  For easier, less rocky trails, I love my Hoka One One Speedgoat trail runners, which are ultra cushioned with unbeatable traction.  

 

DAYPACK – you should always hike with a daypack that can carry all of your hiking essentials, including plenty of hiking snacks and enough water.  I prefer daypacks that are water bladder compatible, like my Osprey Daylite daypack and my Camelbak Helena daypack.  

 

WATER– even though Colorado’s climate doesn’t scream hot, you still need to hydrate consistently any time you are engaging in a physical exertion.  I prefer the convenience and on the go hydration abilities of water bladders, and my favorite is the Platypus 3 liter hydration bladder.  This model always carries enough water for all my day hikes, plus the wide mouth makes filling, emptying, cleaning, and drying simple!

 

TREKKING POLES – they’re not for everyone, or for every trail, but they can come in super handy for many hikers on steep trails in particular, and can help save your knees.  My go to trekking poles are these Black Diamonds, which have cork handles that help to prevent the type of slippage that rubber or plastic handled poles can experience from sweaty palms!

 

THE RIGHT LAYERSAVOID COTTON when hiking!  Opt for quick drying, breathable, and moisture wicking fabrics like fleece or merino wool.  In colder temperatures, proper layering is key.  For example, start with a merino wool baselayer, and if necessary, a merino wool midlayer.  In the coldest temperatures, you will want to add an insulating outer layer, but for most summer hikes in Colorado, a lightweight outer shell will do.  The best fully waterproof, windproof, and ultra-lightweight outer shell is the Outdoor Research Helium II jacket, which weighs only several ounces, and compresses down to the size of a fist, making it super easy to pack and carry!  An outer layer like this can come in super handy in an environment where afternoon storms and showers can sneak up on you unexpectedly.  I’ve been caught in a handful of these types of situations myself, and I can attest that a fully waterproof outer layer is a lifesaver that can prevent you from getting fully drenched as you are hustling back to the trailhead!

 

Finally, don’t forget to take care of your extremities, with a good pair of hiking socks like these Darn Tough favorites, and a head covering like this Smartwool beanie or a reversible Buff!

 

Download a COMPLETE Day Hiking Gear CHECKLIST here!

 

  • Check the Red Tape

Some hikes require reservations to park (like Quandary Peak).  Some trailhead parking fills up quicker.  Some trailheads require 4WD vehicles and/or high clearance vehicles to reach.  Some trails or parts of trails may be closed (like the Mount Boss summit on the Decilibron Trail).  

 

  • Acclimate Properly for High Altitude Hikes

If you don’t live in Colorado or at higher altitudes, you may need to acclimate for several days at higher altitude, before taking on a day hike at higher altitudes.  If at any point you start to experience symptoms of altitude sickness on any trails, turn back immediately and descend.   

 

  • Know Your Limits

If you are planning for a more challenging hike, like a 14’er, make sure that you know your limits, and don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Train properly ahead of time, and have some experience with longer distances and possible uphill, more challenging trails that involve significant elevation gain.  

 

  • Avoid Storms

Afternoon storms are common in the summer months in Colorado.  Turn back if you encounter darkening skies, ominous clouds, lightning, thunder, or rain!

 

  • Bring Plenty of Water and Hiking Snacks

While Colorado is not known for blazing hot temperatures, the strength of the sun at higher altitude is still strong, and it is imperative to hydrate consistently during your hikes.  Always bring plenty of water, as well as good hiking snacks that are full of energy, to help fuel your hike.  

 

You can download your own Hiking Snacks Checklist HERE!

 

  • Let Someone Know Your Plans

In a worst case scenario, it can help to expedite rescue if someone knows your intended plans.  This includes the trail you plan to hike, when you plan to leave, how many are in your group, and when you plan to finish.  One helpful way to be ready to go with this information is to fill out a Hiking Safety Contact Form before your hike, and then leave it in the console or glove compartment of your vehicle.

 

  • Research Your Trail and Get Familiar

I remember very clearly that Mother’s Day weekend hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  By the end of May, this west Texas park sees some pretty hot daytime temperatures, so any uphill, challenging, and exposed trails you are one require careful planning and intention.  Much like the strenuous Tejas Trail to Hunter Peak I was descending from after an overnight backpacking trip, when I passed two gentleman starting their ascent around noon.  They stopped me to ask several questions, and it was abundantly clear they did not know the name of the trail they were on, they did not know the length, and they did not know it was difficult.  They were dressed in slacks and casual shoes, with a single water bottle in hand each.  After providing them answers, I gently suggested that due to the difficulty of the exposed trail, and the warming temperatures, that they not go too much further.

 

Don’t be these guys.  It is situations like this that can put you in real danger.  Know your trail ahead of time, and have a plan in place.  And most importantly, be prepared for the trail you are on by being familiar with it ahead of time.  An app like AllTrails can be very helpful in getting to know the details of your trail.  You can also utilize a helpful Hiking Itinerary Planner to help organize your thoughts, get to know the details of your trail, share the trail with others, and help make a plan for your hike.

 

 

And there you have it, the 15 best hikes near Fairplay Colorado, plus all the tips you need to know to get the most out of your time on the trails!

 

Now check out some of my other local favorites!

 

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