Can I Take Kids Hiking?

Are you hoping to get out this spring and enjoy nature with your little ones? If so, you may be wondering if taking kids hiking around Colorado Springs is safe. The answer is that there are plenty of ways to get your children outdoors and on the trail. With proper planning and packing, you can be sure to have a safe and enjoyable time hiking with kids.

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The Best Trails for Taking Kids Hiking

The first thing to do when planning a hike with kids is to find a suitable trail. First, opt for less strenuous hikes without too much vertical gain as steep hikes can be fall hazards for kids. Next, depending on your preference, you may pick a place that allows dogs and horseback riding. Or you might decide it would be safer to do a pedestrian-only trail, so you don’t have to worry about mountain bikers or e-bikes.

In terms of exact mileage or difficulty rating, you can start easy and work your way up. There are plenty of excellent short hikes near Colorado Springs. When your kids are young and just starting out, you want to make hiking fun and achievable. As an avid hiker, you may have mountains you want to conquer or a mile count you want to meet. But when hiking with children, it is important to let go of these expectations and focus on cultivating an engaging and enjoyable experience.

Setting Alternate Goals and Expectations

Instead, you may choose a hike based on something you know your kids like, such as a waterfall or a popular bird watching spot. You can also make a game of the kids counting mushrooms or picking wildflowers. These alternate goals give the family something to look forward to that is not based on mileage or elevation gain.

Finally, a good rule of thumb for hiking with little kids is that the trip will take at least double what it otherwise would. Your kids may need to rest, want to go off and explore, or even decide to turn around early. Loop trails are a good idea for kids as they have a clear end point and unique views the entire way. You may also find a park that has branching trails from the same starting place. This is a good way to add to your hike on the fly, depending on how the kids are feeling.

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What to Pack when Hiking with Kids

Once you have picked out where to go and when, you will need to pack. Here are some key tips on what to pack for a day hike that will ensure you have a safe and fun time. First, in order to stay safe on the trail, you should always bring a first aid kit, matches, a flashlight, and an emergency shelter like a tarp and rope. Next, keep comfortable on the trail with essentials like sunscreen, rain jackets, and cold-weather gear. If the weather sours, your kids will surely want to turn around and get back to the car, and the right gear will keep them happy on the way.

If you are taking a short hike with little ones, you may not think navigation is necessary. Maybe you know the route, or maybe there are other people around. However, kids like to go off and explore, and your phone might not work deep in the forest. Bringing a physical form of navigation like a map can be a lifesaver when you lose track of your original trail.

Don’t Forget the Snacks 

One of the most important things to pack for hiking with kids is extra food. Parents always know to carry snacks wherever they go, and the trail is no exception. Even though you may not get hungry on the route, snacks are essential for young kids. You can use a treat as a reward for reaching a trail checkpoint or as fuel when the mood and energy start to falter. Be sure to pack plenty of water, enough to last the whole day, and encourage your kids to hydrate on water breaks.

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How to Hike with Kids

In terms of the actual experience of hiking with your children, be sure to check out the guide on how to hike with kids. This has great ideas for how to keep kids engaged on the trail, everything from imaginative games and goals to responsibilities and rewards. One essential tip is to plan a fun stop on the way home. A detour for ice cream is the perfect way to ensure they remember the trip pleasantly, no matter what happens with the weather or the hike. You can narrow down your search for the perfect hiking trail this way by planning to incorporate a nearby toy store or candy shop visit afterwards.

Education and Interaction on the Trail

The most important thing you can do is keep your mind and imagination open. Remembering to view the world as brand new will allow you to experience the wonder and beauty of nature as your kids do. If you or the little ones are interested in birds or trees or mushrooms, you can bring along a guidebook and plan some time for identification. Having educational resources on hand and teaching kids about the world around them will surely improve everyone’s experience.

Another great way to ensure an interactive hike is to check out the Junior Ranger programs offered at most state and national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, and other popular spots have programming for kids that is often free of charge. You can also visit your local library to get a free Junior Ranger Nature Pack. These booklets for kids ages 7-13 have educational materials to be used at events throughout the year. Participating parks include Garden of the Gods, Stratton Open Space, Red Rock Canyon, and more.

Final Thoughts

Making hiking a family activity is a great way to bond and get everyone exercising. If you are just getting started and looking for extra help, Broadmoor’s three-hour guided hiking tour is available to kids of all ages. You can get tips from a local professional guide and see how they keep the little ones engaged and motivated on the trail. 

How to Keep Your Feet Warm While Hiking

If you are hoping to hit the trails this winter, you will need to know how to keep your feet warm while hiking. With treacherous temperatures and feet of snowfall not uncommon in the area, warm boots and warm socks are essential pieces of hiking gear here in Colorado. 


We’ve got some of the best fall hikes near Colorado Springs, so let’s dive into the proper gear for your feet and tips for keeping warm so you can get out there and enjoy.

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Gear Necessities for Staying Warm on a Hike

Sock Strategy for Cold-Weather Hiking

In order to keep your feet happy and warm on a hike, you need to wear multiple layers and consider all factors. The first and most important way to keep your feet warm is to keep them dry. Therefore, a moisture-wicking base layer needs to be the first thing you put on your feet. These thin moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet dry no matter how sweaty they get. 

The second layer is insulation. You can wear thick wool socks, which come in different weights (lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight) depending on how cold you are anticipating temperatures will go. If you own insulated hiking boots, these can be worn with just a thinner lightweight wool sock. 

When you are purchasing insulating socks for hiking, there are a few things to keep in mind. In terms of comfort, you want to find socks that fit a little looser. This will help them fit well over your moisture-wicking layer and make sure that your feet are not being squeezed at all. In terms of value, investing in quality socks will definitely make your life easier in the long run. Wool socks tend to be expensive, but they are the best option here as cotton holds moisture and does not insulate as well for the same thickness. 

The Best Boots for Cold-Weather Hiking

The final layer is the boot, and its main job is protection. A good hiking boot protects you from all sorts of injuries, rolling an ankle, stepping on something sharp, and hopefully, preventing frostbite. As noted, insulated hiking boots are a great option for folks who often hike in colder weather or find themselves standing around a lot while on a hike. 

Another must for Colorado hikers is waterproof hiking boots. Many people do not like their boots to be waterproof because it limits breathability. However, if you are hiking in winter or changing elevation substantially, there is a good chance you will come across snow. There is nothing worse than getting your boots wet, from rainy weather or a water crossing, when you are on a hike. If your feet do not have time to dry, you will be risking frostbite, blisters, and surely general discomfort. Even having snow land on your boot can be dangerous, as your body heat will melt it and allow the water to seep in through the tongue. On a very cold day, you could watch your boots freeze up, thus ending your hike.

You may wonder how to fit multiple pairs of thick socks in your hiking boots. When hiking in cold weather, you need to size up on boots. This will allow room for the socks without compressing your feet. You should aim to be able to wiggle your toes in the boots. If you do go for insulated hiking boots, the sizing will understandably vary as well, so it is helpful to go to a physical store to figure out what size will work for you. 

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Feet Warm While Hiking

Be Prepared: Watch the Weather

Before you head out on your cold-weather hike, be sure to check the weather and trail conditions. It is easy to learn how to check trail conditions for hiking safety, and it will save you a disappointing and potentially dangerous hike. 

What to Pack to Keep Your Feet Warm

In addition to the warm socks and warm hiking boots already discussed, there are a few specific items that should go in your daypack for your feet. It is always a good practice to have a first aid kit, a blister kit, and in winter weather, chemical warmers for your hands and feet. These will allow you to warm back up in an emergency. You could also consider getting thermal insoles to redirect your body heat back up if you do not have insulated boots. Finally, you should always pack an extra pair of socks: you never know when you will need them, and at the very least, putting on clean socks at the end of the day will be a great reward for your hard work.

Don’t Put Your Boots On Too Early


It is always good to have a second pair of shoes, in case of emergency and for comfort in the car or at the campsite. When you are getting ready for your hike, changing into your boots should be one of the last things you do. This way, your feet will not get sweaty in those waterproof boots before you even get going. 

Don’t Lace Your Hiking Boots Too Tight

The reason that it is so important to have enough wiggle room in your shoes, literally, is because compressing your feet can lead to frostbite. When you are cold, the blood vessels closest to the skin and out in your limbs constrict in order to keep your core at the proper temperature. If you were to tie your shoes too tight, you are only further cutting off blood flow. This will make your feet feel colder sooner, and it can worsen symptoms of frostbite. 

Keep Your Core Warm

This feels obvious, but because your body prioritizes core temperature, your feet will be the first to get cold if you aren’t dressed warmly enough. Therefore, one of the best ways to ensure your feet stay warm while hiking is to make sure the rest of you stays warm, too.  

Get Your Feet off the Ground

The cold, hard ground is going to be one of the coldest places you can step. Even in the snow, the reflection of the sun’s rays makes the ground slightly warmer. When you take a water break or rest on your hike, try to stand on a rock or a tree trunk instead of the ground below. You will find the ground saps the heat from your idle feet faster than anything else.

Always Be Willing to Turn Around

One of the best winter hiking tips (that I believe is applicable year-round) is to always be willing to turn around. If you feel yourself getting too cold, if the trail conditions have changed, or if the weather is taking a turn for the worse, you should head back. The risk of frostbite or other injuries is not worth it.

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How to Warm Your Feet Back Up After Hiking

Get Dry

As keeping your feet dry is one of the most important tips for staying warm, it should be obvious that drying your feet off would be the first step for warming back up if your feet do get cold while hiking. Let your feet air dry for twenty minutes before putting warm socks on. This will make sure your skin is thoroughly dry to prevent blisters. This is especially true if you got your feet wet from something more than sweat, say wading through a river or hiking in a rainstorm.

It can be hard to let your feet dry out properly if it is cold outside. You can dry them off with a towel and then cover them loosely in a blanket or sit inside your tent. This will give them a little space to dry off without getting too cold in the process. 

Go Slow

One thing people often do is try to warm up too quickly. It is tempting to jump in a hot bath when you are cold, but if your toes are cold to the bone, it is not a good idea to try to warm up too quickly. If you’ve done it before, you know it is very painful. The transition from very cold to even tepid can be painful and actually harmful to your vascular system, sending cold blood to the heart.

Rather than shock your system with a quick transition, you can reacclimate to the warmth slowly. If you are camping and building a fire, take a seat far away and get closer as you warm up. Let your feet tell you if you get too close too fast. If you want to warm up with water, make sure you start with colder water and warm it up slowly with your feet.

Skin-to-Skin Contact

The best way to warm up cold feet is with skin-to-skin contact. Use your hands or thighs (sitting cross-legged) to warm your ankles and feet. If your skin is truly frozen, you should not massage or rub it as you can break the skin, but just hold it there to let heat transfer. Or, even better, if there is someone with you who can help, warm breath and skin-to-skin contact with someone else’s warmer body areas like the torso, thighs, and armpits are quick ways to safely warm skin.

If you are looking for some fun and rewarding hiking destinations this season, check out our Guided Hikes near Colorado Springs. You will get expert advice from a certified guide and plenty more real-world experience hiking in the great outdoors in colder weather. 

How to Check Trail Conditions for Hiking in Colorado

Because our state can have such extreme and diverse weather, it is essential to do some research before you go hiking in Colorado. You should always be aware of weather, trail conditions, and wildlife before you leave for a hike, in part so you can pack accordingly.


There are so many stunning hiking options around the state. If you don’t know where to go, be sure to check out our Colorado Springs trail guide. Once you have a hike in mind, this article provides all the best resources for where to check Colorado trail conditions in order to be properly prepared for your hike.

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Trail Condition Resources

All Trails

This amazing community-driven resource has everything you need to ensure a great day on the trail. It is personally one of my favorites on this list because it makes it easy to find variations of trails. This is particularly helpful if you are looking for a shorter mileage or less strenuous option. You can search for accessible trails (for wheelchairs, strollers, etc), parks that allow dogs, mountain biking trails and more. Listed information about trails includes mileage, elevation, reviews, difficulty level, parking information, and pictures.

This is a great resource for figuring out the proper trail for what you want out of the hike as well as staying informed along the way. As you hike, the app shows waypoints and elevation changes and tracks your metrics. You can review the hike, save your favorites, and share helpful tips with others. The app is particularly helpful for popular trails that other users are commenting on regularly. You can read recent reviews for relevant updates on the Colorado trail conditions and also check the weather and UV index for the day.

National Park Service

If you are looking to hike a trail within a national park, you can check the National Park Service’s website for everything you need. They list trail closures, conditions, and other important safety notices regarding wildlife and weather. Trail availability can change rapidly, whether from a storm, maintenance work, or high risk of fire. It is helpful to check the park’s website for updates day-of. This way, you can plan your hike and route around any closures or potentially dangerous areas.

One other especially important factor when visiting national parks is parking and permits. Depending on the time of year, parking can fill up fast. Once you know what hiking trail you want to explore, you can find trailheads and the closest parking lots. Grab the necessary permits or parking lot reservations in order to save time on the drive-in and help your day go smoothly.

Colorado Trail Explorer

Similar to All Trails, Colorado Trail Explorer is a comprehensive resource for exploring the outdoors in Colorado. You can find routes for hiking, horseback riding, skiing, ATV riding and more. Their filtering function also includes so much more than just dog-friendly and wheelchair-accessible options. You can search for special interests like geology or mining or things you’d like to see like wildflowers or waterfalls. 

Once you’ve identified a trail, the website pulls in Google Maps for directions and Weather.gov for forecasts. My favorite feature, though, is the custom ability to see the different sections of the hike. Rather than simply listing the mileage and elevation change, you can look at it step-by-step and see how each leg of the hike will test you. They even have a measure tool that allows you to check out a custom length of the trail. This is very useful if the different sections they list are not specific enough for you. From grade to elevation to mileage, you will get a good sense of the trail’s difficulty before you even get out of the car. 

The crowdsourced trip reports allow you to get updates on trail conditions, crowding, bathroom availability, and insect presence. Once you get the app and download the trail for offline access, you can keep notes on your experiences and track your progress in real-time. There are also fun challenges like identifying wildflowers and noting scenic lookouts to keep you engaged with all the beauty of Colorado’s trails. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, this resource is a fun and informative way to stay updated on Colorado trail conditions and track all your progress hiking around the state.

Colorado Trail Foundation

The 567-mile Colorado Trail between Denver and Durango is an accomplishment of massive proportions. Efforts to build the trail started in 1974 and took over ten years. It is a unique adventure that travels through six wilderness areas, eight mountain ranges, five major river systems, and some of the best views the Rockies have to offer. All up, the trail climbs nearly 90,000 vertical feet, but you don’t have to do it all at once. The trail is divided into 28 segments plus an additional 5-segment, 80-mile trail variation called Collegiate West.

If you are looking to hike any part of the Colorado Trail, the guidebook is strongly recommended. It includes mile-by-mile trail descriptions, driving directions and access points, mileage and elevation stats, and even information on towns to resupply if you do the whole trail at once. The website is also a great resource for information on packing, finding natural water sources along the trail, and preparing for the high elevation. There is a lot of research and preparation necessary before hitting the Colorado Trail. However, with the help of the Foundation, it has been completed in full by nearly 5,000 people.

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How to Interpret Trail Conditions

It is not enough to just check on trail conditions and make sure the trail is still open. There can be some crucial information in these updates that will help you pack well and be properly prepared for your day. If there is a trail closure, you can check out All Trails or Colorado Trail Explorer to find variations or nearby trails with similar stats.

Common information about trail conditions can include obstacles and downed trees, muddy or snowy sections, and standing water. In the case of wet trails, you will want to wear waterproof hiking boots (or boot liners). Additionally, pack extra socks, and read up on some tips for hiking in mud. If you know you will encounter obstacles on your hike, hiking poles can be helpful for extra stability, and gloves will protect your hands from rough tree bark or scrapes from branches.

Other conditions may include loose soil, exposed tree roots, or damage from a mudslide or flash flood. These conditions tell you to be cautious and watch where you step. Wearing your best hiking boots with good grip will help you overcome a damaged trail.

Other Resources to Check

In addition to looking for updates on trail conditions, there are a few other things to research in order to be fully prepared for a hike. First, checking the weather reports for the day will help you pack and dress properly. You should also know about weather changes when hiking to a higher elevation or hiking between different climatic zones.

Next, be sure to check the park or county’s website for guidance on permits and parking. Some parks may require permits for backcountry hiking, in order to limit hikers and protect the landscape. Many places especially around Colorado Springs have limited parking lots and use reserved tickets to control overcrowding. Be sure to look into these aspects of your day hike as well so you do not show up unprepared and miss out on your adventure.

No matter where you go, it is always important to be aware of Leave No Trace guidelines in order to be a good steward of the land. There are plenty of resources available to learn about how best to pack out trash and get rid of waste so you can protect the trails for future generations.

Finally, I like to prepare for hikes by checking information on local wildlife and the flora of the area. I find this information heightens the experience because I am able to identify and appreciate the nature around me more. It can also be important to be aware of wildlife near hiking areas. For example, if bears have been spotted from the trail, make sure you are aware of bear safety tips and don’t go on the hike during their peak hours. You can prepare by learning what wildlife you might encounter and reading up on how to watch wildlife safely

Final Thoughts

Colorado has some of the best hiking in the country. It includes over 5,600 miles of hiking trails according to Colorado Trail Explorer. No matter what type of view or how strenuous a hike you are looking for, you can surely find an exciting and awe-inspiring hiking trail near you. If you are just getting started on your hiking journey, consider going on a Guided Hiking tour in order to become familiar with best practices and helpful techniques while on the trail. Hiking with experienced friends or a professional is the best way to start hiking and get comfortable with packing and preparing for a hike in Colorado.

Tips for Hiking in Rain

Are you headed out for a hike and worried about the weather? It’s important to always be prepared for any conditions, so we’ve got some tips for hiking in rain. First, make sure you know how to pack for a day hike in general, and then we’ll discuss specific gear for hiking in rain and other considerations for staying safe and dry.

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Do Your Research

First things first, always check weather reports before you head out. There is a difference between a drizzle and a thunderstorm, both in terms of comfort and safety. If there are severe weather warnings or if your hike includes a potential flashflood area like a canyon, consider postponing your trip. Either way, be sure to tell a friend about your planned whereabouts in case the weather becomes hazardous. Lastly, pack the ten essentials to be prepared for every situation.

Pack a Hot Drink

When packing for a day hike, you should always bring plenty of water and snacks. When packing for a rainy day hike, you may want to add a nice warm beverage to the mix. You can prepare a thermos ahead of time and leave it in the car for when you finish the hike. If you are backpacking for a couple of days, drink mixes like hot cocoa can be a real treat to warm you up. 

Wear the Right Rain Gear

As is best practice for every hiking trip, you should wear moisture-wicking inner layers. Dry-fit shirts and wool socks will keep you dry even when you sweat or get caught in the rain. These proper layers insulate body heat, help prevent blisters, and can be the difference between a safe rainy hike and a dangerous wet one. 

Rain Jacket

For outer layers, a waterproof rain jacket is a must. Something light that fits in a day pack is a smart choice to avoid bulk in good weather. The most important thing to note is the distinction between water-resistant and waterproof materials. A water-resistant jacket might stay dry if you spill your drink or walk through a sprinkler. However, it is not suitable for hiking in the rain. After a while, the material gets bogged down with water and can become extremely uncomfortable. To avoid being cold, wet, and miserable, a certified waterproof raincoat is an absolute necessity.

Rain Pants and Proper Footwear

Waterproof pants and hiking shoes are the two other essential pieces to stay dry on a rainy day. Waterproof boots are my go-to even on clear days. If I happen to step in a puddle or hop a small stream, my feet stay dry. The one downside with waterproof shoes is that they are not breathable. If rain does get in, it will be extremely hard to get them dry, and you will find yourself walking in puddles the rest of the day. The main concern with wet feet is blisters. When skin gets wet, it is more susceptible to breaking and forming blisters. This is why waterproof pants and shoes (that don’t have a gap at the ankle) are the best way to keep dry.

Two other helpful pieces of gear are a towel and an extra pair of socks. You may choose to leave these in the car to dry off when you return. Having a towel for wet hair and drying off wet skin is really helpful, and there is nothing as comforting as putting on warm, dry socks after a wet hike.

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Waterproof Your Gear

Next, unless your day pack is truly waterproof, you will want to make sure the stuff inside is well protected. Your phone, cash, food, and other personal items can be kept dry by putting them in dry bags or plastic baggies. A waterproof phone case will help make sure you always have access to navigation tools and emergency services.

If you are backpacking for a couple of days, rather than just on a day hike, you will especially want to ensure your sleeping bag, clothes, and toilet paper do not get wet. One great way to keep all your gear dry at once is with garbage bags. Rather than put each item individually in small plastic bags, you can line your entire pack with a garbage bag and then pack everything like normal. As long as you secure the bag shut and get the water off before you open it, you should be able to keep your important belongings free from the rain. 

Know Safety Protocols

There are a few important rules to keep in mind for hiking in dangerous weather conditions. First, assume everything will be slippery. Rocks, wooden steps, mossy tree roots: everything is easy to slip on when wet. Be sure to keep your eyes on the trail and tread carefully.

If you find yourself caught in a thunderstorm, seek shelter, head to lower elevation, avoid the tallest trees, and avoid open meadows. If you are with a group, you should spread out to reduce the number of injuries in the event that there is a lightening strike.

Finally, if you were planning on crossing a stream on your hike, remember that it will be larger in the rain. You should always have an established path with branches or rocks to hold onto for safety. Added water means added current, so be extra careful not to get your feet swept out from under you. Check the National Park Serivce advice for river crossings for more information.

Dry Out After a Wet Hike

If you head home after your day of hiking in the rain, you can throw your clothes right in the wash. If you’re out for a couple of days, hang everything to dry. Put your hiking shoes in the sun or near a fire (not too close!). It is easy for mold to develop in gear that does not dry properly, so dry out your boots to extend their life. 

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Consider a Guided Hike

One great way to avoid the hassle and confusion of preparing for hiking in the rain is to book a guided hike. You can learn so much from professional hiking guides on how to prepare and navigate a rainy hike, and you’ll also benefit from someone bringing along those essential first aid supplies.

If you are feeling dispirited that the rain ruined your hiking trip, know that it is very possible to have a great time in any weather. With a little preparation and the right gear for hiking in rain, you can ensure a comfortable experience with Mother Nature’s wetter side. Be sure to check out the Colorado Springs trail guide to find your next great adventure, and enjoy your time outdoors! 

Is It Safe to Hike Alone?

We’ve all been there – maybe you’re new in town or have found yourself with an empty weekend and have no one to explore with, or perhaps your schedule just can’t line up with your friends’. But regardless of the reason, this may beg the question, is it safe to hike alone? The answer is yes! Being solo certainly does not need to end your adventure before it begins.

If you are someone with an unusual work schedule, who travels often, or are looking to get outside on your own schedule, hiking alone can be a freeing experience if you do it safely.

Like most new endeavors, hiking alone can seem intimidating; however, with the proper preparation and knowledge, hiking solo is safe and empowering. To help you mitigate and control the potential safety risks, see the below tips to keep you safe while getting started on your solo journey!

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1: Start Small

While hiking alone is often depicted through the stories of lengthy endeavors or epic circumstances, hiking alone can be what you make it! Your first hike (and any hikes after that) does not have to be far, extreme, or to unknown places. 

To get used to hiking alone, picking a trail close to home, one you’ve been on before, or one you have walked with a friend first can be helpful. You may also want to consider going on a guided hike in a new area to get a feel for the terrain and to learn a few things from your experienced guide.

Once you’re comfortable, consider hiking on a new to you, well-established,  and populated trail. Some popular trails have maps at intersections (but always bring your own!), and there is often comfort in seeing others around. From here, the possibilities to increase your adventure and push your comfort zone are endless.

2: Know Your Trail

One of the most important aspects of hiking alone is researching your route. The depth of this research may vary depending on the types and lengths of trails you choose. No matter the trail, be sure to note the general direction you will be traveling, the length of the route, possible exits, turnaround options, the type of terrain you’ll encounter, and important features or landmarks such as rivers, intersecting trails, and more. 

Part of knowing your trail is also knowing what you may encounter. This may include wildlife, flora and fauna, exposure, closures, and more. When it comes to wildlife, be sure to inform yourself about the various animals and how to respond if you encounter them. For example, hiking in areas with Grizzy Bears usually means you will need to carry bear spray and know how to use it. Some areas may also have seasonal closures due to conditions, wildlife breeding/nesting patterns, or areas to avoid to due to damage or erosion. No matter the reason, check online, at state park offices, or wherever is needed to get the information you need to prepare for what’s ahead.

3: Carry a Navigation Tool

Some trails have maps for users at the trailhead entrance; some have occasional maps throughout the trail system. However, many trails have no markers or directions for where you are or where the trail goes. Consider using a paper map with a compass, a GPS device, or other technology to navigate as needed. 


There are many tools available online and via phone applications to help with navigation. Some common resources include Gaia GPS, All Trails, or Hiking Project. If you like gadgets, many smartwatches now offer GPS maps and safety features that allow you to retrace your steps to your starting location. Other options (especially for hikers who venture into more remote territory) worth exploring are handheld GPS devices, satellite phones, and other safety gadgets such as the ones offered by Garmin.

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4: Tell Someone Where You’re Going

Sometimes in life, things don’t go as planned, no matter how much you prepare. Therefore, it is imperative that you tell a close, trusted, and available friend or family member about your plan. Be sure to tell them which trail you will be on, the intended direction and length of travel, as well as the approximate time you should return home and contact them. 

The goal, of course, is that this is a backup and never needed. It may seem simple; however, this easy step in planning may just be the one thing that saves your life or gets you the help you need if the unexpected happens.

5: Carry The 10 Essentials

The 10 essentials are made up of various emergency and first aid items. They include navigation items (discussed above), sun protection, insulation and clothing layers, illumination, first aid supplies, fire-starting equipment, repair kit and tools, food/nutrition, hydration, and emergency shelter. 

These are items that, if you need them, you do not want to be caught without them! These items make all the difference when it comes to the safety of hiking alone. Hiking has potential risks, but many of these risks can be mitigated and prepared for with the above items. The degree to which you carry some of these items may vary based on a number of factors specific to your hike, so again, do your research.

6: Know The Weather 

When you are outside, mother nature is in control. Be sure to look up the weather patterns for the area you are hiking. Of course, be sure to look at the weather forecast for the day you plan to hike, but also consider the weather patterns of the previous days to get a better picture of the trail conditions. For example, a week’s worth of rain before your trip may mean muddy conditions and partially flooded trails.

Additionally, mountains can have unique weather patterns such as afternoon storms in the summer, snow, changes in cloud cover, or wind. Therefore, the weather can vary dramatically at different elevations, and it may be challenging to get an accurate forecast. For example, if you are going up to hike at elevation, the forecast and weather patterns may be different up high than from a town or city below. If you plan to hike in the winter or at elevation where there can be winter conditions, be sure to check out Broadmoor’s tips for safely hiking in the winter

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7: Know Your Limits 

 Everyone has different abilities. This spectrum of capabilities can vary from outdoor knowledge, fitness, weather, or time limits. You may want to ask yourself: what am I hoping to get out of this hike? Have I done a comparable hike before? Is this within my knowledge or fitness abilities? Is this within my risk tolerance (distance, technical difficulty, conditions, exposure/ hights)?

A fun aspect of hiking for many people is pushing your own limits. But remember, doing this a little bit at a time is okay. Don’t overwhelm yourself or put yourself at risk by getting too far out of your limits. Trust what feels right to you both before and during your hike, and make sure to listen to your body. Make hiking alone an activity you can return to, love, and enjoy. 

So, is it safe to hike alone? Yes. And by keeping the tips above in mind, hiking alone can be a safe activity and may just open up a whole new world of possibilities.

Colorado Springs Trail Guide – Best Hiking Trails in Colorado Springs

The city and area surrounding Colorado Springs have gorgeous scenery and ample ways to enjoy the great outdoors, perhaps one of the best parts of Colorful Colorado. Whether you are looking for a quick walk or a long, tiring trek, there are plenty of hiking trails in Colorado Springs at every difficulty level. And for those just getting started, be sure to check out our guided hiking tours.

If you are looking for the absolute best trails in Colorado Springs, we have an in-depth review of our top 5 favorite hikes near Colorado Springs. You’ll also see them on this list along with many other excellent options for hikers of all abilities. This list is organized roughly by difficulty level, as determined based on reviews from fellow hikers, length, and elevation gain. So if you are wondering where to hike in Colorado Springs, look no further. 

Easy Hikes

Memorial Park Prospect Lake Loop Trail

Parking: 280 S Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80910 (Tons of parking available in the park along Memorial Dr)

Elevation Gain: 26 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 1.3 miles

Highlights:

  • Paved loop, very accessible for wheelchairs, strollers, etc.
  • Great views of mountains and scenic lake
  • Beach area and playground

Palmer Park Cheyenne and Grandview Trail Loop

Parking: Palmer Park Trail Cave Outlook, 3120 N Chelton Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80909

Elevation Gain: 183 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 1.8 miles

Highlights:

  • So much to see here including a botanical reserve, horse stables, canyons, ravines, bluffs, and more
  • Tons of wildlife: Palmer Park is popular among birdwatchers

Stratton Open Space The Chutes, Laveta, and Chamberlain Trail Loop

Parking: North Cheyenne Cañon Park & Stratton Open Space Trailhead, N Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (on the right, just past the Starsmore Visitors Center)

Elevation Gain: 705 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 3.8 miles miles

Highlights:

  • Most popular hiking trail in Stratton Open Space
  • Excellent wildflowers and wildlife
  • Beautiful views of the Gold Camp Reservoirs

Garden of the Gods The Palmer, Buckskin-Charley, Niobrara, and Bretag Trail Loop

Parking: 3105 Gateway Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80904

Elevation Gain: 449 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Highlights:

  • Gorgeous views of the National Natural Landmark that is Garden of the Gods
  • Combines four popular trails around the park
  • Access to horseback riding, rock climbing, and biking trails
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

Ute Valley Park Ute Valley Park Trail

Parking: Ute Valley Trail Head, Ute Vly Trl, Colorado Springs, CO 80919

Elevation Gain: 488 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.3 miles

Highlights: 

  • Excellent views of Pikes Peak
  • Plenty of side trails to explore
Photo by Bailey Galindo on Unsplash

Moderate Hikes

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Mount Buckhorn Peak

Parking: Upper Gold Camp parking lot, 4415 Gold Camp Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Elevation Gain: 859 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 3.9 miles

Highlights:

  • Beautiful views along the way 
  • Boulders to climb at the summit (the tallest offers panoramic views)
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Seven Bridges Trail

Parking: Seven Bridges Trailhead, N Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (right before Helen Hunt Falls)

Elevation Gain: 912 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 3.5 miles

Highlights:

  • Very popular trail due to its history and uniqueness
  • Meanders alongside a creek and crosses over via seven charming bridges
  • Close to Helen Hunt Falls and Silver Cascade Falls

Pike National Forest The Crags Trail

Parking: Crags/Devil’s Playground Trailhead, 615 Teller Co Rd 62, Divide, CO 80814

Elevation Gain: 820 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.8 miles

Highlights:

  • Awesome views of unique geological features
  • Well marked trail
  • Challenging, but a good introduction for beginner hikers
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Mount Muscoco Trail

Parking: Mount Cutler and Muscoco Trailhead, N Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (on the left, 1.5 miles past Starsmore Visitors Center)

Elevation Gain: 1,292 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Highlights:

  • Includes a fun scramble at the summit
  • Outstanding views of the surrounding mountains
  • Well marked and well maintained
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

North Slope Recreation Area North Catamount Reservoir Trail

Parking: Pikes Peak Toll Rd, Woodland Park, CO 80863 (just past the Crystal Reservoir Visitors Center)

Elevation Gain: 262 feet 

Round Trip Mileage: 2.7 miles

Highlights:

  • Short but steep (15% grade around the 1.5-mile marker), so you’ll get a good workout
  • Beautiful views of meadows and wildflowers along the way
Photo by Jonathan Chaves on Unsplash

Hard Hikes

Red Rock Canyon Open Space Sand Canyon, Mesa, Greenlee, Red Rock Canyon Loop

Parking: 3550 W High St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904

Elevation Gain: 882 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 5.4 miles

Highlights:

  • Varied terrain and interesting geology
  • Lots of sun as shade is limited
  • Good views without too difficult an elevation gain

Pike National Forest The Incline Trail

Parking: Barr Trailhead, 98 Hydro St, Manitou Springs, CO 80829

Elevation Gain: 1,978 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Highlights:

  • The most popular trail in the Pike National Forest
  • All the elevation is in the first mile – at the hardest point, it’s an extremely challenging 61% grade!

North Slope Recreation Area Limber Pine, Mule Deer, Mackinaw, and Ridge Trails Loop

Parking: Catamount Recreation Area, 3168 Co Rd 28, Woodland Park, CO 80863

Elevation Gain: 1,036 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 8.4 miles

Highlights:

  • Challenging trek around the North Catamount Reservoir with a bunch of elevation changes
  • At times follows the water, and at other times, you’ll be in the forest

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Columbine Trail

Parking: Starsmore Discovery Center, 2120 S Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Elevation Gain: 1,607 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 7.6 miles

Highlights:

  • Great views of the surrounding mountains
  • Plenty of wildlife (don’t forget to check out the Starsmore Discovery Center at the trailhead
  • Gradually inclining slope, no huge scrambles
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

Pike National Forest The DeCaLiBron: Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross Trail

Parking: Kite Lake Trailhead, Co Rd 8, Alma, CO 80420

Elevation Gain: 3,136 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 7.0 miles

Highlights:

  • Ability to summit three 14-ers, the highest being Mount Lincoln at 14,295’ (Note that Mount Bross is private property and illegal to summit)
  • Real right of passage for serious Colorado hikers

Final Thoughts

Before you hit one of these awesome hiking trails in Colorado Springs, be sure that you are well prepared for your trip. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and other essentials that we cover in how to pack for a day hike. Happy trails!

Where to See Wildflowers in Colorado Springs

Surrounding the cities of the Colorado foothills are mountain vistas erupting from long stretches of prairie. The sight in itself is astonishing, but it gets even better in the spring. When wildflowers come out to bloom and show their colors after a long winter tucked away, the mountains light up with a vibrance unseen since the year prior. 

Of course, it’s one of the best times of the year to get outside. This list of wildflower hikes in Colorado Springs is a start towards a longer journey of finding every last petal of every last flower and taking in its beauty. And the best part is that you don’t have to look far when seeking out where to see wildflowers in Colorado Springs. With a camera and identification book in hand, it’s time to set out on the trails and see what’s out there.

Garden of the Gods Park

Come springtime, Garden of the Gods has shoots of color popping up in every direction you look. It’s one of the best places to go throughout the entire year, so of course, it makes the list of where to see wildflowers in Colorado Springs. 

This region is perfect for day hiking in Colorado. There are guided walks throughout the day, and you can book hiking tours that will allow you to get a full experience and understanding of flora and fauna along the way. 

The Palmer, Buckskin-Charley, Niobrara, and Bretag Trail loop is an easy four-mile loop throughout the park where you can tour several of the park’s most outstanding features. If you want to get out for some outstanding sights but only have a couple of hours, this is one of the best picks.

Indian paintbrush covers the landscape here along with multiple varieties of wildflowers – such as Colorado blue columbine and bluebells – making it a diverse color scape that can impress anyone who passes through.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Located right on the limits of Colorado Springs, Red Rock Canyon Open Space offers another quick getaway to see some of the most spectacular wildflowers the area has to offer. It’s an easy place to get to and has miles of trails to offer. 

Any combination of the various trails can make a great loop to explore and see a variety of different sights like beautiful rock faces to climb and open fields that just recently lost their snow. You may spot some Arrowleaf balsamroot or Rocky Mountain bee plant amongst the Indian paintbrush and other delicate flowers.

Photo by Kevin Bree on Unsplash

North Cheyenne Cañon Park

Here’s another gem that sits so close to the city but makes you feel like you’ve driven hours to find wilderness. The North Cheyenne Cañon Park is a short ten-minute drive from the heart of Colorado Springs and has wildflowers aplenty to offer anyone who comes looking. 

This park is full of granite cliffs and waterfalls, providing a luscious environment for flowers to grow and thrive. The park is 1,000-feet deep in the granite canyon, following the creek the entire way. The water draws an array of birds and wildlife that makes this park unique. 

The Daniels Pass Trail system is a newer part of the park where you can go deep into the woods and find flowers that have stayed hidden for many years without trails to blaze the way. The Mount Muscoco and the Mount Cutler trails are also great options for getting a higher vantage point and seeing the landscape from a new perspective.

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak may define the area surrounding Colorado Springs. It was what gold miners looked to when they first made their way west, and today it’s one of the most popular 14ers climbed in the state. Pikes Peak is an easy way to get up high and see wildflowers for miles on end as well as right in front of you on the trail. 

The Elk Park trail will take you along open meadows and a beautiful creek that provides an ample environment for wildflowers of all different types. As you move up the mountain, the flora changes with elevation, which can give you the chance to see an even wider variety of flowers on a single trail. 

Here you’ll find Columbia monkshood, Indian paintbrush, orange Agoseris, mountain bluebells, arctic yellow violet, darkthroat shooting star, and the list goes on. Be sure to bring a wildflower identification guide in order to find as many as possible because this is the spot to tick off a lot of boxes in the hunt to discover them all. 

This is likely the only trail where you’ll find a good amount of snow alongside the wildflowers. It can provide a stark contrast that is unlike many other regions in the area and draws visitors from all around.

Photo by Alexis Gethin on Unsplash

Ute Valley Park

Mere minutes north of downtown Colorado Springs is Ute Valley Park. This hidden gem is surrounded by humanity but can still make you feel as if you’ve left the city. All along the trails of this 538-acre park, you can find a blast of color from the many wildflowers in the area. 

Within the park, you’ll likely see some Mariposa lily blooms, prickly pear cacti, and faerie trumpets that are common in the area. While this park might not offer massive mountains to climb, it’s a fantastic representation of what the area is truly like – all within the city limits.

Best Spring Activities in Colorado Springs

In the Spring, the entire state begins to thaw, which opens up a wide variety of new activities. As things start to warm up and life begins to thrive in the new weather, more and more people travel to the area as spring is undoubtedly the best time to visit Colorado Springs

The spring brings out all of the best in the city as wildflowers start to pop up, the trails dry out, and everyone is enjoying the longer daylight hours. This is a time to get outside and see everything that the area has to offer, so we have brought together some of the best spring activities in Colorado Springs for everyone to enjoy this region as much as we do. 

Wildflower Hunting

Springtime means flowers, and when talking about Colorado Springs, it means many things. This is one of the best things to do in Colorado Springs throughout the year, and the season is upon us! The snow has disappeared and made room for all new life to pop up and dazzle us with its colorful displays. 

Many of the best hikes in Colorado Springs will be covered in wildflowers during this season. Hiking along Pike’s Peak will provide an overview of the area that will let you absorb all of the colors at once. Adding a wildflower identification book to the experience is a great way to learn more about the area and become more engaged during a hike. 

Garden of the Gods

Whenever anyone talks about hiking in the area, it’s guaranteed that Garden of the Gods will come up. This is what the region is best known for, and rightfully so. This Natural Monument is a stunning display of the local geology and is full of trails to guide your experience through the area. 

In the springtime, the red rock stands in front of mountains that are still holding on to the last remnants of winter, making the red pop out even more than it does in the summer. 

guided hike through the Garden of the Gods is one of the best ways to learn about the region’s incredible geological formation and natural features while getting to explore as much as possible. 

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Feeding giraffes isn’t necessarily one of the first things that come to mind when looking at activities in Colorado Springs, but the area offers this unique experience. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is tucked into the side of a mountain overlooking Colorado Springs. There’s an impressive array of different animals that inhabit the zoo, such as Amur leopards, Australian Parakeets, and giraffes. 

After visiting with all the wildlife, you can jump on the Mountaineer Sky Ride that will take you up high to show off the beautiful region in all of its color and glory of spring. 

Photo by Kevin Bree on Unsplash

Colorado Springs Food Tour

While a food tour is one of the best things to do year-round, we love it as an option for things to do in Colorado Springs in the springtime. The city is full of fantastic food and drink locations worth visiting. On a local food tour, you can get a little bit of everything before heading home and letting your belt loose. 

Sprng weather makes for the perfect experience outdoors. You can easily walk around downtown from restaurant to restaurant without sweating heavily or shivering your way down the road. It’s an excellent time to stroll around and digest the most recent meal!

Climb a Fourteener

A Colorado classic for the most adventurous of visitors is to go and climb a fourteener. The term ‘fourteener’ refers to a mountain with an elevation above 14,000 feet. Some of these are challenging hike that requires an early rise and challenging climbs, but Pikes Peak is the easiest, most family-friendly, and closest to Colorado Springs. 

You can hop in the car and be near the summit of Pikes Peak in a matter of hours, but you can also camp along the road at designated campgrounds to make a weekend trip out of the climb.

While the trail is much easier than others, it’s still necessary to make sure you are well-prepared for the hike. Afternoon storms can start in the spring, and you’ll want to make sure you are off the trail in time before the weather rolls in. 

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is one of the favorite sports for all Colorado locals. If you’re new to the sport, a guided rock climbing tour is the perfect introduction to both the area and the sport. In the spring, the rock is dry, and the colder temperatures provide the ideal climbing climate. 

If you’re an established climber that climbs more than they eat, check out Garden of the Gods, Cheyenne Canyon, and Red Rock Canyon. They’re all in the vicinity and have some world-class climbing that is less frequented than other spots in Colorado. 

Glen Eyrie Castle

Finally, the springtime has everyone feeling on top of the world, so you may as well feel like a king or queen in the Glen Eyrie Castle. The original founding father of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer, built this massive castle for his wife, but it is now open for tours. 

This Victorian Castle sits on over 700 acres of pristine Colorado land. Several different events are created to provide various unique experiences to the guests. There’s something for everyone at the castle, from tea tours to writing workshops. 

Tips for Hiking on Muddy Terrain

Spring hiking in Colorado Springs, or just about anywhere in Colorado, is synonymous with mud hiking. Many of us ask the question, can you hike in the mud? The answer is a resounding yes, but there are a lot of particular tips for hiking in the mud that comes in handy to help any user get the most out of their time on the trail. 

Just because the trails are muddy doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and settle into couch life. Getting out is entirely possible! Learning how to manage mud season takes some adjustment time, but it gives you a whole new world of places to hike in the springtime. Mud season isn’t going to stop showing up, so it’s time to adapt. 

Photo by Caspar Rae on Unsplash

Pick the right trail

The best move for hiking in the mud is to do a hefty amount of research and preparation. Some trails will stay wamps throughout mud season, and others may be in better condition than others. If you pick the right trail, you may not even encounter much mud on the hike. 

To pick the right trail, head online and look into certain trail conditions. Some trails will be better positioned to drain quicker or dry out faster from the sun. South-facing trails, for example, get a huge amount of sun and will be much more likely to provide a solid, less muddy, trail surface. 

The internet is another great resource for discovering trail conditions in the spring. Many hikers head out and report back to different social media groups, where they will describe what the trail looks like throughout the season. You’ll likely find others have gone out and checked before you have even considered going out, so use the information they’ve provided to save yourself some time. 

Head out early

As the temperatures rise, ice turns to mud. If you can, getting out on the trails earlier in the morning means that the mud is likely to be a bit more firm and stable to hike on. Further on in the day, you’ll find yourself trekking through deeper and softer mud. 

Heading out early also gives you a jump on the crowds of people that are all trying to get outside after a long winter. Trails tend to deteriorate throughout the day as use increases. If you get out early, you’ll find the trail in the most pristine condition that it will be on that day.

Choose to get muddy

One of the best, but hardest to follow, tips for hiking in mud is to “make the trail deeper, not wider.” This concept generally means hiking straight through the mud rather than trying to walk around it off of the trail. While this is best for the trail, it’s hard to commit to getting yourself covered in mud that can often come up and over your boots. 

Taking care of trails often means not putting yourself first. In mud season, it means accepting the mud and owning it. You’re most likely going to get muddy anyway, so commit and get really muddy. Bring some plastic bags that you can throw your boots into when you’re finished with the hike, and the car upholstery will be grateful. 

Since getting muddy is just about the only option on the menu, it’s good to learn how to clean hiking boots well. Hiking in mud season means cleaning boots more often; otherwise, the mud will work its way deep into the boots and potentially ruin them. It’s a simple process but takes a bit of time to do once the hike is over. 

Protect your feet

Cleaning your boots is one way of protecting your feet in the long term. It’s equally important to prepare for the hike, as it is to prepare for cleaning up after the hike. 

Mud is likely going to make its way to your feet. Even the most waterproof boots can struggle up against some seriously thick mud, so you need to be prepared for the likelihood of getting wet feet. In mud season, it’s necessary to bring along a couple of extra pairs of socks to throw on throughout the hike or at the end and an extra pair of clean shoes to drive home in.

If the trail is completely obliterated and covered in soupy mud, bringing boot liners is a good option for protection. Boot liners are simply plastic bags that go between your boots and socks as a completely waterproof barrier. They aren’t comfortable, but they’re effective. 

Wet feet can be more than uncomfortable; they can be dangerous and painful if they stay wet long enough. Go prepared and knowledgeable about what to do when your feet get wet on the trail or at least have a quick exit to the car. 

Bring the right gear

On top of simple plastic bags, a couple of other pieces of gear will help make hiking in the mud more accessible. 

For starters, gaiters are a great addition to hiking in the mud and are perfect for spring hiking in Colorado Springs, as you may encounter some snow along the way. Gaiters are like sleeves for your ankles that strap over your boots and fasten around your calf. They function to keep anything from getting inside your boots, even when you get above the top of the boot. 

Gaiters will help you to keep anything from getting inside your boots, but they won’t help you when the mud makes you slide around like walking on ice. This is where a solid set of trekking poles comes in handy. 

Bringing trekking poles will give you a better sense of balance in the mud. You can take great care without them, but the moment your feet slip, you’ll look like a frosted chocolate cake rather than a happy hiker. Trekking poles add more contact points with the ground and improve your balance. 

How to Know if Snow is Safe for Hiking

After a long, snow-filled winter, every hiker is itching to get out onto the trails without trudging through feet of snow. The spring is a time filled with temptation and desire to do the thing we all love to do the most: strap on our boots and get outside.

As the world begins to thaw, it’s of the utmost importance that everyone remembers how snow can still be dangerous, even when there isn’t much of it. If you come to a point on the trail covered in snow, is it safe to traverse across, or should you turn around and find another route?

There are dangers to hiking in the snow that can often be avoided. Sometimes the shortest way isn’t the best, and when you’re tired it can be tempting.

We’ll look into the ways to determine the safety levels of the snow, as well as how you can prepare for hiking in the snow. Many of these safety tips remain the same as if you’re hiking on a summer day without any snow in sight, but they are still important to keep in mind. If there’s one thing to remember here, know that in any scenario, it’s best to choose the least risky option and come back to try another day.

Avalanche forecast

Hiking in the snow can be one of the most dangerous activities in the winter, especially when the snowpack is unstable. With the right training, any user can head out and determine safety levels and decide what they feel comfortable doing in the backcountry. Even users with a high level of training need to approach the trails with caution as avalanches can be unpredictable. 

One of the best resources for any user hiking in the snow is the avalanche forecast. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) works closely with different snow forecasters across the state to obtain thorough information that can help keep people safe in the mountains. 

The forecast is easy to read and incredibly helpful, even if you don’t have any formal avalanche training. Although the snow may be gone down low in the cities, the peaks hold onto snow for a huge chunk of the year, meaning avalanches are always possible. 

Before heading out in the spring, the avalanche forecast should be the first thing you check while checking the weather forecast for the day. The conditions can change quickly overnight and throughout the day, so check again today, even if you went hiking yesterday. 

Crossing steep terrain

Avalanches generally occur on specific angled slopes, which means crossing steep terrain becomes much more dangerous. Even without snow, steep slopes can be tricky and dangerous. This is likely to happen where the trail doesn’t get much sun, but the snow has built up on the trail that acts as a ledge on the steep hillside. 

When crossing steep terrain, use your trekking poles to provide extra balance and use your feet to kick steps into the snow. This will give you better traction and control over how your feet are positioned. 

Depending on how steep the slope is and how much snow there is, you may require crampons and an ice ax to self-arrest (stop yourself when sliding down the mountain). Generally, if a large amount of snow spreads down the mountain and you are not an experienced mountaineer, this is the time to head back and find another way.

Avoid taking risks on steep terrain. This is where you can slip and slide for hundreds of feet uncontrollably if you don’t have the proper training and gear. Please don’t risk it. Enjoy the view you have and turn back around to try another day.

Photo by Moriah Wolfe on Unsplash

General dangers

Snow brings along several different changes in the terrain that you need to be aware of and look out for. You no longer know what you’re actually hiking on top of or how high you are from the ground. Air pockets can form under the snow, and as the temperatures rise, it can be easier to fall into these pockets and struggle to get out. 

The three biggest dangers to be aware of are snow bridges, tree wells, and hazards due to spring melt. 

Snow bridges

Snow bridges form over creeks and other small spaces in the terrain. Running water and open-air will remove the snow near ground level, leaving a “bridge.” Unlike the Golden Gate, these bridges are highly unstable and often won’t support a single person, let alone a long traffic jam of cars. 

If you see a snow bridge, try not to cross it. If you must, move slowly after testing each step and don’t let more than one person cross at a time. There are often better options around. You may just need to look. 

Tree wells

In areas with high levels of snow, trees create spaces near their bases that can be incredibly hazardous for anyone moving through the terrain. The branches don’t let the snow gather as heavily underneath the tree, which leaves a gap that is a tree well. 

Whenever hiking near trees with heavy levels of snow, stay away from the base of trees. It can look completely uniform but, in reality, has nothing underneath it. These wells can be impossible to escape, especially when alone, as hikers can become entirely buried. Give trees a wide berth when hiking in the winter. 

Spring melt

A huge amount of Colorado’s water comes from the snow in the winter. The snow builds up and then quickly melts as the temperatures rise in the spring. This spring thaw or melt can often lead to dangerous flooding in communities and on the trail. 

The increase in melting snow also creates more snow bridges and more open-air pockets underneath the top layer of snow. While these aren’t as deep and dangerous as tree wells, it opens the door to falling deep in the snow and struggling to get out. 

Spring melt means that formerly frozen lakes that you may have been skating or skiing across may be deceivingly thin. Once temperatures start to rise, it’s best to steer clear of any large bodies of frozen water. Even when things look frozen, the thaw can be hidden underneath a thin layer that will break at your first step. 

Choosing the right gear

If you’re going to choose to go out in the snow, it’s important to bring the right gear. One of the most important pieces of gear is some form of flotation. 

Flotation refers to staying up on top of the snow rather than post-holing (walking in the snow up to your hips). Different forms of flotation can be snowshoes, cross-country skis, touring skis, or a splitboard. These gear pieces will help you stay on top of the snow rather than falling deep into any hidden air pockets. 

Hiking poles with snow baskets are also an incredible tool for moving safely through the snow. As we mentioned earlier, they add a huge level of balance that can help you cross dangerous patches of snow and stay upright when you hit an icy spot. Even if you prefer to hike without poles in the summer, they make for a great addition in the winter. 

Hike or stay put?

In the end, the decision to hike across a certain patch of snow is up to you. The best thing you can do is learn how to identify the dangers such as snow bridges, tree wells, steep slopes, and results of spring melt. 

There’s no guarantee that any patch of snow will be safe to cross, but you can work to build up your skills and knowledge about snow travel. Provide yourself with a base level of knowledge in the morning by checking the avalanche forecast. This will give you a great starting point for making decisions in the snow.

Remember that the snow can be dangerous and unforgiving. If you are ever in doubt or uncomfortable with a situation, it’s time to turn back and wait a few more weeks for the snow to melt. The trail isn’t going anywhere, and will wait for your return with a snow-free welcome.