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 Clean Your Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is a vital piece of equipment for anyone who ventures into the outdoors, especially since it’s part of the essential gear you need for camping. But it can also be a spendy investment. Maintaining, storing, and washing your sleeping bag is essential to get the most use out of it. We’ve compiled all the information you need below to help you clean your sleeping bag. 

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General Care

Sleeping bags should not need washing for many years when properly tended to. The best way to prolong the time between washes is to take good care of your sleeping bag in the first place. Some tips to help maintain cleanliness include:

  • You get what you put in: Keep a clean pair of clothes to sleep in. Try to keep yourself clean as well. That means removing oil, dirt, sunscreen, and bug spray that can permeate into the bag. The cleaner the items are in the bag (you), the greater likelihood your sleeping bag will stay clean too.
  • Liner: A sleeping bag liner is a single-layer enclosed sheet you sleep in inside your bag. The liner serves as a barrier between your body and the bag. It should be easy to remove and should be washed regularly. Liners are slipped inside a bag, not attached.
  • Off the floor: Keeping your bag off of the ground will help keep dirt, pine needles, and other debris out and off of your bag. This does not include your sleeping pad which serves as a barrier between your bag and the ground.
  • Dry it out: Lay your sleeping bag to dry the day after every use. Our bodies produce moisture that gets trapped in our bags from our breathing, sweat, or the environment’s humidity. When camping, try to find a dry spot on a tarp or maybe over a clean log and give the material a chance to dry and breathe. Laying out your sleeping bag prevents mold from forming in your bag.

Be Gentle

Treat your bag with care. Take your time with zippers, gently put the sleeping bag away, and mind where you place them. Most bags are best stored loosely in a well-vented bag or hanging environment. Compression stuff sacs are helpful for compact travel but are not recommended for long-term storage as they compress the material and wear down the fill. Over time, this compression ultimately impacts your bag’s warmth and comfort. Additionally, tight storage can trap smells and moisture, leaving you with a pleasant experience the next time you use it!

Washing

The first factor to consider when cleaning your sleeping bag is how much of your sleeping bag needs cleaning. The second factor to consider is whether you have a down or synthetic bag. The third is whether you have access to a machine wash or if you will need to hand wash. Consider a total wash if you notice a general browning color, overall grime, or an overall smell. For smaller messes or stains, simple spot treatment of the impacted area is fast and effective. 

Spot Cleaning

Often, only a few areas of a sleeping bag need cleaning. To spot clean, use a gentle soap mixed with water and lightly brush or rub the dirty area with the cleaning solution. Do your best to keep the cleaning solution on the exterior material only and not saturate the bag’s fill. Once you have spent some time cleaning, wipe the spot with a wet cloth and leave it to dry.

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Full Wash

Most new sleeping bags come with wash instructions which you can find on the tag. This is the best method to follow when cleaning your bag. If there are no instructions, consider the following techniques and remember that no matter the form, cleaning your sleeping bag takes time and patience:

Machine Wash

  • Device: The best way to machine wash a sleeping bag is to use a front-loading washing machine. Do not use a top loader, as the bag may become damaged and tangled around the center bar. If you do not have access to such as machine, consider going to a laundromat.
  • Soap: If you are machine washing a down sleeping bag, use special soap that is friendly on down material. If your fill is synthetic, you can use a regular detergent, but a technical gear-specific detergent will be best. Nikwax makes different detergents for both down and synthetic fill.
  • Means: Some suggest fully unzipping your bag before loading it into the washing machine, so the upper doesn’t pull apart or catch in the wash. Another option is to turn your bag inside out with the zipper fully closed. Wash your sleeping bag in warm water on a gentle cycle. The sleeping bag may need two or more rinse cycles. It is ready to dry if the bag is wet but not holding large amounts of water. Then be sure to gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the bag as you remove it from the wash.
  • Drying: Use a large dryer if possible; the more room in the dryer, the better the fill can expand when drying. Synthetics will often dry faster. Bags with down fill may take several drying cycles. Set the dryer to tumble on a low heat setting. Consider using tennis balls or other dryer aids to break up condensed pockets of fill towards the end of the cycle or when it is mostly dry.

Hand Wash

  • Device: Fill your bathtub or a similarly large tub with warm or cool water.
  • Soap: Use the same material-specific soap listed above and read the instructions for the recommended amount. When hand washing, it can be more difficult to rinse the soap out, so starting with a smaller amount than recommended may be beneficial, and slowly adding more as you go.
  • Means: Lay the bag in the water and gently rub and massage the bag. Next, soak the bag for around thirty minutes or until it is fully saturated. Rinse your bag with clean water (you may do this multiple times) until the soap is out. Before hanging to dry, gently squeeze excess water out of the bag. It can be helpful to work from one end to the other squeezing section by section.
  • Drying: Follow the directions above. If a dryer is unavailable, lay the sleeping bag on a clean surface or hang it up to dry. Use a location out of direct sunlight and with low humidity. Once it has started to dry, you may need to manually unclump or fluff the fill in your bag to ensure it dries thoroughly.

Final Thoughts

Have a new sleeping bag that you are excited to test out? Autumn is the ideal time to hike and then cozy up in your sleeping bag under the stars! For some spectacular colors and views, check out the best fall hikes near Colorado Springs. While it is safe to hike alone, if you are looking for some expertise, guided hikes through Broadmoor Outfitters are a perfect way to learn about and get familiar with a new area or trail.

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.

Hiking Boots vs. Trail Runners – Which Do You Need?

It’s a constant debate among hikers. Are hiking boots or trail runners better for exploring the backcountry? As professional hiking guides, we’ve heard this question countless times, and now it’s time to list the pros and cons of each option so you can make the best choice for your future adventure. 

So, let’s take a close look at trailer runners vs. hiking boots and what each option brings to the trail. But first, let’s define these two types of footwear. 

What Are Hiking Boots?

Hiking boots are sturdy footwear that can take on everything the trail can throw at you. They typically deploy heavy-duty materials (such as leather) with a proven track record of holding up against harsh trail conditions season after season. Hiking boot soles tend to be stiff and supportive, while the upper can be waterproof or not – depending on your preference.

Boots either sit above the ankle, providing improved support and protection, or below the ankle. The low-cut option can also be referred to as a hiking shoe. But boot or shoe, this dedicated hiking footwear shares the same material and construction.

The last defining characteristic of hiking boots is that they are often noticeably heavier than your average street shoe or runner. This point brings us to trail runners.

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What Are Trail Runners?

As their name implies, trail runners are designed for runners tackling any terrain that’s not pavement. It could be dirt trails, mud, gravel, rock, or any combination of these options. Since they’re designed for running, trail runners have a flexible and light design to facilitate moving fast and fluidly. Since they’re lighter, trail runners use less robust materials than dedicated hiking boots and offer less cushioning. But their naturally light movement and lower rigidity tend to make up for these drawbacks.

Now that we know the basics of hiking boots and trail runners let’s dive into each one’s benefits and drawbacks for hiking.

Hiking Boots – Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

Durability

Hiking boots are the burly tank of the hiking trail. Their heavy design is robust, long-lasting, and offers a great deal of support. Specifically, the heavier boot materials, such as leather, synthetics, and nubuck, are incredibly resistant to everything the trail can throw at you. They’ll hold up season after season (with proper care).

Support

Hiking Boots are also noticeably stiffer than your average footwear, thanks to their midsoles (the middle layer embedded in the sole of the boot). It may initially seem and feel counterintuitive to opt for stiffer footwear, but this design provides more protection and stability when you’re hiking for hours across rocky or uneven terrain.

Additionally, hiking boots offer significant ankle support. The lacing system typically extends above the ankle. This allows you to wrap your ankles in a stiff, supportive shell that significantly improves your stability on the trail. Such ankle support is absolutely crucial for hikers with a history of ankle issues or those tackling very loose or uneven terrain.

Warmth

The thick materials and increased coverage that hiking boots offer also improve warmth retention on chilly hikes. They can block a sharp wind and slow down how quickly heat escapes from your foot area. Combine these benefits with a thick sock, and burly waterproof hiking boots can get you through most 3-season hiking conditions. However, remember that regular mid-winter hiking in sub-freezing temperatures may require a winter-specific boot.

Drawbacks

Weight and Bulk

All the benefits and features that contribute to hiking boots’ benefits combine to form one glaring drawback – weight. Hiking boots are noticeably heavy on the trail – although recent technology advancements are helping – and can sometimes feel ungainly and bulky while hiking.

This bulkiness is often highlighted on longer hikes when your energy starts to dip, and all that added weight on your feet may feel ponderous.

Stiff Materials

While stiffer soles and materials help with hiking stability, they can also detract from your overall comfort on the trail. The uncompromising nature of tough hiking boot material often doesn’t automatically yield to accommodate your foot.

This leads to the common “break-in” period, where you wear your boots on several preliminary hikes before the material very subtly starts to conform to your foot size. Still, the material is stiff, and what may be comfortable at the beginning of a hike may not be hours later when your feet have swelled slightly from the hike.

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Trail Runners – Benefits and Drawbacks

Trail runners are almost the exact opposite of hiking boots. Let’s take a close look at what sets them apart in the world of hiking, and where their benefits and drawbacks lie. As we progress through this section, keep in mind that trail runners are – as their name implies – designed first and foremost for running. However, they’ve recently gained an intense following in the hiking community for their comfortable and lightweight design.

Benefits

Lightweight

First off, they place a premium on lightweight materials. The shoes are designed to move light and fast, and every upper material choice reflects this goal. Therefore, trail runners don’t hold you back while hiking and make each step feel light and natural. 

This natural feel is further enhanced by trail runners’ flexible design, which we’ll discuss next. 

Flexible

The bottom sole and midsole (if it has one) on a trail runner feature lightweight and flexible material choices. This flexibility gives these shoes a very natural feel. Every step is fluid and unrestricted, making this footwear option feel much more comfortable than its heavier boot counterparts. 

Breathability

Exceptionally lightweight material choices also facilitate a wonderfully breathable design. Trail runners are often designed to shed heat and moisture very quickly. The result is footwear that helps keep your feet cool and comfortable when you’re working hard and also dry quickly when they get wet – either from a quick downpour or a sweaty hike. 

A note on weatherproofing: Many trail runners are available in a waterproof option. These options won’t be as breathable as their non-waterproof counterparts but offer improved resistance to bad weather. However, keep in mind that the thin and lightweight materials don’t retain the waterproofing treatment as long as full-sized hiking boots. 

Comfort 

As we’ve touched on while discussing flexibility, trail runners are exceptionally comfortable. The light and soft material easily conform to your feet to mitigate almost all rubbing, chaffing, and stiffness. The result is vastly improved comfort that has no break-in period. This point also tends to make trail runners an ideal option for hikers with exceptionally large or wide feet, as many trail runners (such as the Altra Brand) focus on naturally wide designs for optimum comfort.

Drawbacks 

Lower Durability 

The focus on lightweight materials means trail runners aren’t as durable as heavy-duty hiking boots. They’ll often wear down more quickly, and the thin upper material is more susceptible to scrapes or tears. Everyone’s expereince will vary, but we often see trail runners lasting for just one or two seasons of heavy-duty use before materials begin to fail.

Less Support 

Trail runners typically offer minimal support. Their low cut means no ankle support, while less cushioning in the sole leads to a rougher ride than hiking boots. Many trail runner shoes will include a rock plate – a hard plastic insert – in the sole to help lessen the impact of rocks underfoot. But nevertheless, trail runners undoubtedly offer much less support than a burly hiking boot. 

Bringing It Together

We’ve certainly covered plenty of information regarding both trail runners and hiking boots. So let’s bring all the benefits together to see where each option shines in the backcountry.

Trail Runner BenefitsHiking Boot Benefits
– Lightweight– Highly Durable
– Flexible– Supportive
– Natural Step– Excellent weatherproofing
– Breathable– Warm
– Quick Drying– Increased Cushioning

How to Choose Between Hiking Boot and Trail Runners

So which is best, hiking boots or trail runners? Well, the decision comes down to your preferences and what you expect from your footwear. To help you make that decision, let’s consider a few specific questions that dramatically influence which option is for you.

Do your ankles or arch require support in order to hike comfortably? Many hikers need additional support in these areas to prevent a rolled ankle or arch pain. Additionally, a previous injury may also necessitate increased support to avoid flare-ups. If this sounds like your situation, hiking boots may be the best option. Alternatively, do your feet ache in stiff or rigid shoes, or do you always get blisters from your toes rubbing against the inside material of stiff shoes? In this case, trail runners’ soft and flexible comfort will likely be a good choice.

You can see where we’re going with these questions. Think about what will make your feet happy. Everyone’s priorities and comfort levels are different, so consider what works for your feet, the terrain you’re expecting to encounter, and what you expect your footwear to provide out on the trail. Fill in these blanks, and you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect shoes for your next hiking adventure.

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.

Image by Drew Tadd from Pixabay 

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.

Photo by Andy Køgl on Unsplash

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. 

Photo by Yann Allegre on Unsplash

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!

Photo by Julien Flutto on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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

Photo by Davide Sacchet on Unsplash

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.

Are Trekking Poles Worth It?

Are trekking poles worth it? As a hiking guide, I’m asked this question hundreds of times every single season I’m in the backcountry. It could be guests asking me before a trip if they should have hiking poles or strangers I meet on the trail who see that I’m a guide and want my opinion on the matter. But no matter the circumstances of the question or who is asking it, there is rarely a straightforward yes or no answer. There are several distinct pros and cons worth discussing to help you decide if trekking poles are worth it.

Therefore, let’s take a moment to go over these pros and cons to see where hiking poles shine on the trail and where they might be a hindrance, and I’ll finish with my own recommendation on the issue. Then, you should have all the information you need to decide if a new pair of hiking poles will make an appearance on your next hike, be it a guided hike in Colorado Springs or on your own.

Trekking Pole Benefits

Increased Stability

Trekking poles dramatically increase your overall stability on the trail. Uneven terrain, fatigue, and sneaky tree roots can all play a role in compromising your stability and cause you to lose your balance or even take a tumble while hiking. Trekking poles, however, can dramatically improve your overall stability by increasing the number of contact points you have on the ground from two – just your feet – to four. You can also use those two additional contact points to test water/snow depth, untrustworthy-looking rocks, or mud you might encounter on the trail. In fact, trekking poles are one of our “must-have” recommendations on our list of tips for hiking in muddy terrain.

By doubling your contact with the ground, hiking poles make it much easier to avoid losing your balance, and to recover more quickly if you do.

Support

In addition to upping your stability on the trail, trekking poles also offer the crucial benefit of providing support for your knees and hips. When used properly, they can transfer some of the burden of hiking to your arms and shoulders – allowing you to hike harder and farther without letting achy knees hold you back.

The benefit is especially pronounced when going downhill. The jarring impact of hiking down a steep trail – especially with a fully loaded backpack – can trash your knees in no time. But distributing part of that load to your arms can make a world of difference in your hiking experience. Let’s take a closer look at how your arms can suddenly play a larger role in your hiking.

Photo by Nilotpal Kalita on Unsplash

Let Your Arms Do Some Work

Your legs are working endlessly as you hike, but having your trekking polls in hand allows you to push down on the ground with your arms to propel yourself forward or upward (or lessen the impact of going downward). Therefore, you’re suddenly able to use your arm muscles to improve your forward movement and shepherd in the support we discussed earlier by taking some pressure off your knees and hips.

While your arms can absorb and mitigate that shock of going downhill – thus saving your knees – they can also fully join the hiking effort when going uphill. In this case, using trekking poles and your arms to push down on the ground will help you get a small but noticeable amount of power pushing you upward. Over the long run, during a strenuous or prolonged climb, this assistance can play a prominent role in your hiking endurance. You’ll also get an arm workout during what is predominantly a leg-only activity.

Trekking Pole Downsides

Now that we’ve covered the benefits, we must balance that information by including a few drawbacks that influence the question: are trekking poles worth it?

Additional Weight and Bulk

A common downside to trekking poles is that they add more bulk and yet another piece of gear to your hiking equipment. Hiking is already a gear-heavy enterprise, and adding even more to the mix can be hard to justify. Specifically, trekking poles need to be stashed in or on your pack when you’re not using them. In this scenario, they’re simply more weight you’re toting around and taking up valuable space in your pack.

Next, wielding trekking poles effectively has a learning curve, and they may feel like a handful when you first start using them. Let’s take a look at this drawback next.

They Can Be a Handful

For many hikers, the thought of no longer having your hands free and available for drinking, bracing on rocks, or adjusting your pack is borderline repulsive. Suddenly acclimating to having your hands engaged during your entire activity can feel strange and alien – and many people avoid using trekking poles for this reason.

This downside becomes especially pronounced on narrow or overgrown trails.

Increased Snag Risk

Using poles for balance and support on the trail may work like a charm on open terrain, but it can become a different story in overgrown areas. Thick shrubbery, bushes, and narrow trails are all a recipe for snagged trekking poles, which can quickly turn them into a hindrance. Very rocky terrain also holds the same dangers. Here, gaps between boulders or smaller rocks are the perfect trekking pole traps.

In all these cases, a snagged trekking pole can be anything from a minor annoyance to a more severe obstacle that upsets your balance.

As with many of our trekking pole downsides, this issue can be mitigated with experience and practice. But once again, that learning curve comes into play, and many hikers decide that trekking poles are not worth this effort.

My Recommendation

After years of working as a hiking and backpacking guide and seeing the full range of hikers, from trekking pole lovers to ardent refusers, I’ve developed the opinion that just about everyone can benefit from a hiking pole or two in most situations.

For the longest time, I was also highly skeptical of trekking poles even when I was carrying ridiculous pack loads as a guide. But a season in the famously rugged White Mountains of New Hampshire shattered that prejudice, and I now fully appreciate that the benefits of trekking poles far outweigh the downsides for the vast majority of circumstances. I now tell my guests, and about everyone who asks, that you can’t go wrong with at least one trekking pole.

A single pole bridges the divide between pros and cons where you still benefit from increased stability and support while mitigating the downsides by still having one hand free and not trying to learn how to wield two new hiking instruments at the same time. Once you’re comfortable with just one trekking pole, perhaps that’s the perfect balance for you or perhaps you’ll take the next step and use a pair. My recommendation here grows dramatically if you tend to suffer from sore knees or poor balance with hiking – you’ll be amazed by the added support! So, for many folks on the fence about trekking poles – just try one.

That said, there are certain situations where trekking poles may not be worth it. Bushwacking – hiking in dense vegetation off-trail – is a perfect example where hiking poles have the potential the get snagged and become a hindrance. Or if you’re a super lightweight hiker and can’t justify adding additional weight to your gear list.

Final Thoughts

So in the end, think about where you’re hiking and if trekking poles have a chance of making that hike easier. If the answer is yes, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you take the plunge and give them a try. If you’re hesitant, then just try a single pole to test the waters and find out if trekking poles are worth it to you. All you need to do now is find a trail, and our favorite hikes near Colorado Springs are a great place to start.

Happy hiking!

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. 

Hiking with your Dog in the Winter

Leaving your dog at home isn’t a real option for most of us. You may tell others that your dog doesn’t do well away from you, but the truth is always that you don’t do well away from the pup. Regardless of the reasoning, hiking with your dog in the winter is an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. 

Winter hiking can be strenuous for seasoned hikers all around the world. Some are more accustomed to it, while others are better adjusted for tropical climates. The fact holds true when we start talking about your furry best friend as well. Certain dogs love the snow, while some won’t even leave the house and brave the cold. 

This quick guide serves to help first-time snow pups become lovers of the cold rather than learn to fear it. Soon enough, your dog will be crying to get outside when the flakes start falling. 

Paw protection

Before all else, your dog is going to feel the cold in its paws. Even with years of rough roads to toughen up their pads, the snow can be detrimental to a dog’s winter hiking experience. 

Many dogs that aren’t accustomed to winter will get snow trapped in between their toes, causing them to stop and try to remove it quite often. It’s a difficult thing to work with and is much better to prevent before having to pick snow out of their paws every ten minutes. 

One of the best ways to protect paws is to try on booties. A lot of different companies make booties, but they all fit differently. Remember that your dog’s front and back paws might be different sizes, so some booties only come in pairs.

There are other options for the dogs who rip the booties off immediately or have the kind of paws that booties fall straight off. In the North, the most popular solution amongst sled dogs is a salve called Musher’s Secret. Although it isn’t much of a secret anymore, it’s the perfect layer that protects snow from building up and damaging paws. 

Bundle them up

Malamutes and Huskies are well-equipped with a thick fur coats to keep them toasty all winter long. Even your Golden Retriever or Australian Shepherd might have enough hair to get them through more mild winters. If you’ve fallen for a short-haired pup, it might not be long before you see them shivering and trying to cozy up next to you. 

Many dogs love to be swaddled in a warm winter jacket that adds another layer of protection from the elements and helps trap the heat they produce while running around. In winter, hiking with your dog isn’t about making a big fashion statement, but it may require adding to your dog’s wardrobe.

Higher caloric intake

When people start asking, “is it safe to hike in winter?” they inevitably find an article that talks about eating. Food is the body’s main fuel source to produce heat, and the same goes for your dog. 

So, before you head out onto the trail, give your pup a few extra handfuls or scoops of their kibble. It can make a huge difference in helping to keep them warm and energized for a longer hike.

Even when your dog is fit and ready to go on long summer hikes, the winter is much more demanding when it comes to energy spent. Bring along a lot of high-fat treats (think “salmon jerky”) that will give a boost of energy to help your pup warm up. 

Train them properly

Another added danger on the trail in the winter is skiers and snowboarders. In the summer, your dog may avoid mountain bikers on the trail, but many dogs see skiers as a person to play a game with. Train them to stay away from skiers and other people moving quickly through the snow. 

Skis use a sharp metal edge on both sides to help dig into the ice. In the wrong circumstances, that metal edge can easily hurt any person or dog, especially at high speeds. 

It’s best to keep your dog on a leash, even if they are used to having free range. The transition to winter hiking with your dog can be a big one, and they need to learn the new environment before being left to roam freely. 

Have a backup

Bringing a dog along can sometimes be like bringing a small child. When they decide that they don’t want to hike anymore, you won’t be hiking anymore. So, you need to come prepared with a backup plan. 

One day your pup can be ready to take on any level of snow, and the next, they will be shivering at the sight of it. If you have another hike planned that might be drier or slightly warmer, head in that direction. Recognize that you need to be flexible and make smart decisions for your dogs because they won’t always do the same. 

Modify your first aid kit

One of the biggest parts of hiking safety is having first aid training and the supplies you’ll need. First off, a first aid kit is a must for any hiking, regardless of the season. When you add your dog into the mix, you “need to modify it to become a human and dog first aid kit. In the winter, hiking with a dog means learning proper hiking safety and first aid. 

A lot of doggy first aid is the same as human first aid. You’ll want to add extra gauze pads, athletic tape, cotton balls, gloves, and the rest of the normal gear. More dog-centered first aid would mean packing some of the following:

  • Hydrogen peroxide – Useful for inducing vomiting if they found anything they shouldn’t have gotten into.
  • Towel – Wet dogs are dangerous in the winter. They can freeze quickly, and it’s best to get them as dry as possible, fast. 
  • Soft muzzle – Any mouth injuries may be inflamed by eating snow, which they will likely try and do. This can also help reduce the licking of other wounds. 
  • Rubber booties – To protect any wounds that happen on their feet, have some rubber booties to cover them up. 

We all prefer not to even think about our dog getting injured, but the truth is that it’s possible. It’s best to come prepared and ready to treat anything as the vet is a bit more out of reach when you are in the mountains. 

Visibility

Visibility means two separate things here. First off, a whiteout snowstorm and blinding sunlight bouncing off the snow can be dangerous for your dog’s eyes. Second, short days mean longer nights, and you want to find your dog if they ever get loose in the dark. 

If you’ve hiked in the snow, you know how bright the white landscape around you makes everything. It can be difficult to see, which is why mountaineers wear those silly goggles with peripheral protection. 

Fortunately, you can get a pair of goggles for your dog for both function and fashion that makes them look ready to hit the ski slopes. Goggles will help to protect them from the dangerous UV rays that can quickly damage their eyes as well as the cold snow pelting through the air. They’ll look cool and be able to keep their vision.

Long, dark nights and winter go hand in hand. Maybe you don’t live somewhere like Alaska, where there’s barely any sun to be seen in winter, but the chance is still higher that you will get stuck out in the dark. 

Any time you go out with the potential of finding yourself in the dark, it’s best to have something like a light-up collar for your dog. This way, if they get loose, you can track them through the woods by the bobbing neon green light. It will simply help to ease your mind and know where they’re at throughout the entire hike.