I love hiking early in Colorado.
Acres of majestic soaring mountains, vast grassy plains, hundreds of wildlife species, over 300 days of sunshine a year, and hundreds of trails equals extraordinary experiences outdoors.
For me, hiking is not about getting from point A to point B. It’s my church. An outdoor heaven where I journey to seek my spiritual self through connection with nature. A place to get away from the all and leave my worries behind for a few hours.
That is until I hit hoards of hikers.
All of a sudden my peaceful heaven turns into a circus of shouting people scaring away the wildlife, trampled wildflowers, and bags of dog shit on the side of the trail. Sounds more like hell than heaven, doesn’t it?
And that is just one of my reasons for hiking early in Colorado. Here’s the rest.
My Five Reasons for Getting On and Off the Trails Early in Colorado
Fortunately, hiking early in Colorado isn’t a thing. Many Colorado hikers aren’t early birds, most preferring to start around 9 or 10 am. Not me! I’m on the trail no later than 6. So by the time the rest of the hiking population is just thinking of getting started, I’ve already had a peaceful morning communing with myself and nature. Sounds so much more beautiful, doesn’t it?
For the best hiking, setting the alarm clock is a must.
I love hiking at my own pace. Plodding along behind several hundred people is just not my cup of tea. I like my peaceful time on the trail before others disturb the wildlife and I’m a photographer. Nature photography around other people and their dogs is so hard. Plus, the lighting is better in the morning!
So, getting up early is a must! I get my communion with myself and enjoy the fantastic Colorado mornings without the many hikers who will follow my footsteps later in the day.
Trailhead parking can be an issue in Colorado, especially in popular locations. So, rather than spend an hour circling the lot in the hopes someone will leave, arriving early allows me to grab a spot with no issue.
So, leave the parking stalking to those who didn’t set the alarm (or walk or bike).
If you’re a wildlife lover like me, one of the joys of hiking early in Colorado is seeing wildlife. Deer, birds, small creatures, elk, buffalo, moose, coyote, big cats, and bear are just a few of the possibilities that you might see. But only if, you hike early!
Hiking early not only ups my chances of seeing the wild critters but of getting photographs of them as well. Later in the day, the majority have fled the scene because of too many noisy humans invading their space. OR have gone to bed. Most wildlife finds cool locations to bed down during the day.
I’m one of those people who love the sun, but the sun doesn’t like me. I have a couple of things working against me when it comes to being out in the sun: #1; I’m a redhead and #2, I’ve already been diagnosed with melanoma (too many years of working in the sun). With those two factors in play, I prefer hiking before 10 am because the Colorado sun not only burns intensely hot later in the day but also being at a high altitude brings on the sunburns faster even if you’ve slathered on buckets of sunscreen.
I prefer coming off the trails no later than 10 am. Partly because it’s getting hot (and loaded with people) but also the sunlight has changed to a nasty glare and sunburns become a reality, even with sunscreen.
Except in the winter, Colorado afternoons often feature thunderstorms and wind, especially in the mountains. Getting wet is the least of your worries if caught on the trail in a storm. Lighting and hail are extremely common and dangerous to unprotected hikers. So hiking early in Colorado gets you off the trails before the rain and wind start.
While not every day produces a storm, the risks are real and hiking early helps avoid the situation entirely.
So why not avoid the hassle? Get out and enjoy Colorado’s fantastic scenery early in the day. The benefits far outweigh the reasons for not setting the alarm clock. Plus, you can always take a nap!
Here’s one last tip for you.
My other trick for avoiding the masses is to hike on weekdays instead of weekends because everybody and their mother likes to walk on the weekends. But the weekdays are for people like me. What can I say? Being a freelancer does have its benefits and so does hiking early in Colorado.