Colorado & Utah hiking

I attended Explore DDD in Denver again this year, after enjoying the conference and Denver itself so much last year.

This year I took a couple of days off work before the conference, and planned a road trip to do some hiking in the area. I made it to one of the parks near Boulder, five national parks in the area, and a quick hike near Colorado Springs on the way back to Denver.

It was a fun week of hiking (89 km) and driving (2,261 km), with a little planning required:

Boulder Open Space

First up was Chautauqua Park in Boulder, CO. A couple of colleagues based in Denver/Boulder recommended hiking here, and I’m glad I listened.

The route below is a combination of the Royal Arch Trail, First and Second Flatiron Loop and the Green Mountain Loop.

The hike had amazing views of the Flatirons & Royal Arch:

Rocky Mountain National Park

I visited the Rocky Mountains National Park last year, but as you can see from the earlier post linked above, the weather was a little different this time.

I was lucky enough to drive past a fairly huge elk chilling very close to the road.

Most of the hiking I did was in the Bear Lake area, on the Emerald Lake and Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge trails.

The mountain lakes & aspens were spectacular:

There was a very friendly marmot up near Sky Pond, though he was probably just looking for food:

Arches National Park

Sunday saw me driving from Boulder to Arches National Park in Utah, through Grand Valley.

The Devils Garden trail was amazing, with the 88 meter Landscape Arch a highlight.

Canyonlands National Park

Next up was Canyonlands National Park. I stayed near La Sal on Sunday night, which made the Needles section of the park a better option than heading back north to Island in the Sky.

The Chesler Park Loop was one of the highlights of the whole trip. The landscape looks other-wordly at times, and it was a lightly trafficked trail.

Mesa Verde National Park

After staying in Cortez on Monday night, I visited Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is best known for the cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans.

I managed to get in early and score a ticket to a guided tour of Cliff Palace, a dwelling built around year 1200.

Other than the Cliff Palace tour, the only hike I did here was Petroglyph Point, which passes a large petroglyph panel. The carvings were likely made around the same time as the cliff dwellings were built.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The final national park I visited was Great Sand Dunes. This was a rushed visit, but I wanted to make a stop in the park to see the contrast of sand dunes and mountains. In my mind dunes belong in deserts or at the coast, not at 8,200 feet elevation in the foothills of mountains.