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If you’re an outdoorsman, Colorado is the ultimate adventure. With extreme mountains at high altitudes, alpine lakes, pine trees, and the most beautiful natural landscapes in the United States, backpacking and hiking in Colorado should be on any nature-lover’s bucket list. So pack your bags, head out West, and find your trail. To help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a list of the best backpacking destinations in Colorado.
1. Weminuche Wilderness, Durango
The Weminuche Wilderness is the largest wilderness in the state of Colorado, and if the size of it isn’t enough to convince you to go, the absolutely stunning beauty should do the trick. Weminuche’s Needle Mountains stand tall in the background overlooking the green trails that wind their way through the trees. The area sits in southern Colorado, near the city of Durango, making it a good starting point for your backpacking trip through the state. The Needle Mountains have three peaks rising above 14,000 feet: Sunlight, Eolus, and Windom, while other spots have lower peaks for great hikes, such as the Highland Mary Lakes loop hike and the Continental Divide Trail. The best time to visit Weminuche is from July to September as temperatures begin to cool.
2. Snowmass Wilderness, Aspen
You know the name Snowmass from your ski adventures, but have you thought about what your backpacking trip here could be? The picturesque wilderness area, home to the Maroon Bells and the shimmering Snowmass Lake, is most easily accessible from Aspen, Colorado, in the northwestern portion of the state. The area is so immense, it’s hard to see all of it, but if you’ve got a few days, there are plenty of day hikes to see different parts of the land. The West Maroon pass to Schofield Park starts at the Maroon Lake trailhead and heads up to the West Maroon Pass Trail, giving you spectacular views. The Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop is another popular hike in the area, giving you a four-day adventure all around the park. If you’re planning your trip, you can’t miss out on the changing leaves in the fall.
3. Rocky Mountain National Park, Fort Collins
Right outside Fort Collins, Colorado, the Rocky Mountain National Park, is a must-visit stop on your Colorado backpacking trip. With over 400 square miles of wilderness to be explored, high peaks to be climbed, and alpine lakes to be admired, the park is a national treasure. There are countless hikes through the park, from beginner level through to tough trails, both long and short, high and low, for the best experience in the Rockies. Choose between lake trails, like Bear Lake or Cub Lake, waterfall trails, such as Alberta Falls and Ouzel Falls, and the more advanced summit hikes, including Deer Mountain, Twin Sisters Peak, and Flattop Mountain. Rocky Mountain National Park is best to visit in the summer or fall for preferred weather conditions.
4. Lost Creek Wilderness Loop, Denver
The Lost Creek Wilderness Loop, just outside of Colorado’s bustling Denver, offers a 27-mile loop trail through one of the state’s most beautiful sights. The loop begins at Lost Park trailhead and heads along the Lost Creek. Follow the trail signs through the creekside paths as you wind your way through the mountains. The trail goes through Goose Creek Trail, Refrigerator Gulch and campsites, Brookside-McCurdy Trail and the popular rock climbing spots, before heading back down toward the Lost Park Trailhead at the beginning of the route. The trail can last for several days, so be sure to bring adequate supplies with you before you head off.
5. Eagles Nest Wilderness, Vail
Another popular ski destination in the winter becomes a hiking and backpacking destination in the summer and fall. Eagles Nest Wilderness, outside Vail, Colorado, features stunning landscapes with snow-capped mountains of the Gore Range in front of glass-like lakes and green pine trees. The popular Eaglesmere Loop trail is a great way to get to know the wilderness area. The hike takes you past the Eaglesmere Lakes, Surprise Lake, Upper Cataract Lake, and more. The full loop extends for about 14 miles round-trip and is breathtakingly pretty in the fall months.
6. Blue Lakes Trail, Telluride
The trail best suited to those looking for gorgeous views without all the difficulties of some of the other treks in the state. Blue Lakes Trail, outside Telluride, just north of Durango, takes you on an 8.6-mile adventure around the San Juan Wilderness, shining blue lakes, and towering rocky mountains. The days are easy and the hikes are pleasant, while at night, there are plenty of great campsites for you and your fellow travelers to unwind. If you’re up for a challenge, Conejos Peak, located in the middle of the park, is a 13,000-foot peak whose climb gives you a great workout with a breathtaking summit.