What to Wear Hiking in Colorado

When you’re spending time planning a hiking vacation in Colorado, pouring yourself into the details, you’re envisioning everything goes right. You’re picturing smiles and laughter, time unplugged in nature, and memories made – whether by yourself or with your family. However, there’s a relatively easy way for things to go wrong. 

Being unprepared for Colorado’s weather patterns can not only put a wringer in your vacation – it can compromise your safety, too. We’ve put expert advice together to compile this informative overview of what to wear hiking in Colorado. You can also check out our other post on Hiking Safety in Colorado

Typical Weather

Before you can decide what to wear hiking, accommodate yourself with Colorado’s climate

  • Spring: Spring weather in the Colorado Springs area means pretty drastic temperature shifts from day to night. Highs can be anywhere in the 50s and lows in the 20s. 
  • Summer: Summer in the Colorado mountains is definitely warmer than spring. However, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the low 50s, these significant shifts in temperature from day to night mean you’ll still need to pack more than just a t-shirt and sunblock. 
  • Fall: Highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s is just about perfect weather for hiking in Colorado, but it doesn’t mean you don’t need to bring plenty of layers – just in case you are hiking later in the day than you planned. 
  • Winter: Temperatures in Colorado Springs hang out in the 40s in the day and high teens at night during the winter.
Photo by Reymark Franke on Unsplash

Layering

Wearing and bringing extra layers with you is crucial when hiking in Colorado’s mountains. At the very least, your basic hiking outfit/packed extras should contain the following:

  • Moisture-wicking base layer.
  • Moisture-wicking undergarments.
  • Insulating layer. In summer, this may be a warm fleece, depending on the weather forecast. In winter, this needs to be a heavyweight insulated synthetic or down stuffed jacket, like a “puffy.”
  • Rain jacket
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Extra socks. We prefer wool.
Photo by ArtHouse Studio from Pexels

The Problem with Cotton

There’s a phrase in the outdoor world that warns us, “Cotton kills.” While this sounds extreme and is not the case in every climate, it should definitely be kept in mind when hiking anywhere in Colorado. 

Cotton is hydrophilic, which means it loves water; the plant fibers attract moisture and hold onto it, so it dries out very slowly. It’s highly absorbent and can hold up to 27 times its weight in water. This means our bodies must work extra hard to heat ourselves along with the cotton fabric in an attempt to dry it out. This can be dangerous in climates such as Colorado’s that have major temperature shifts from day to night and storms that seem to come out of nowhere. 

Unsafe Cotton Scenarios

Imagine you’re hiking in any season – you’re working hard and exerting yourself physically, so naturally, you work up a sweat. Your hydrophilic cotton shirt is absorbing every drop of sweat your body generates as you’re hiking up and over mountains. 

Now, imagine you’re wearing that sweaty cotton shirt, and it’s getting late in the day, and the temperature is dropping fast. You’re going back down the mountain, and although the descent is brutal on your knees, your body temperature is dropping quickly because you aren’t using much energy hiking downhill. With strong winds that can decrease your body temperature in seconds, things can take a turn for the worse very quickly from here.

However, the good news is that this scenario is entirely avoidable with knowledge, good preparation, and mindful packing. When packing for your hiking trip in Colorado, it’s best to keep the phrase “cotton kills” in your mind.

What to Wear Hiking Instead of Cotton

Head to any outdoor gear store, and you’re bound to see the term “moisture-wicking” on dozens of tags. Moisture-wicking fabrics like synthetic and wool fabrics are the opposite of cotton: they are hydrophobic, meaning they resist water penetration. 

Polyester and nylon are top contenders among synthetic moisture-wicking fabrics, and wool is the leader (and my personal favorite) when it comes to natural fibers. Whether you get soaked in a downpour or sweat profusely on your hike, your moisture-wicking shirt, pants, and socks are going to dry super quickly and not leave you cold and clammy like cotton will. 

Additionally, wool is a superb natural insulator. This makes wool the leader in fabrics that transition from daytime to nighttime hiking in areas where temperatures shift dramatically, like Colorado. 

But isn’t wool too hot for summertime hiking?

You can purchase 100% wool hiking attire that is lightweight enough to wear while hiking in the summer in Colorado. Just look for base layers – they can be pricey but incredibly versatile and suitable for all of Colorado’s seasons.

Things to Remember

When considering what to wear while hiking in Colorado, it’s important to think past just your clothing. 

  • If you have sensitive skin, make sure you bring sunscreen to apply on all exposed skin, following the bottle’s directions. 
  • Sunglasses and hats can protect your eyes, neck, and face from the sun.
  • Bug spray will help keep the gnats at bay.
  • Colorado is home to over 27 types of ticks and 20 tick-borne diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. To prevent ticks from crawling onto your skin, opt out of the shorts, and wear long pants tucked into your socks. Even if it’s hot, your moisture-wicking pants will keep you cool enough to hike. Also, remember to learn more about Colorado tick bite prevention, dangers, and bite protocols.
  • Footwear should be closed-toed and provide adequate ankle support for optimal safety. 

Conclusion

Safety is the most important thing to consider when planning what to wear hiking in Colorado. If you’re unclear on how to hike safely, consider coming on one of our Guided Hiking Tours in Colorado Springs. We’ll make sure you’ve dressed appropriately, show you around Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, and keep you safe!

Safety Tips for Hiking in Colorado

We’ve all heard horror stories about accidents happening in the wilderness. Most of us are familiar with the novel and film “Into the Wild,” which recounts Christopher McCandless’s beautifully tragic and fatal story that takes place in the depths of the Alaskan wilderness. We’re painfully aware of notable accidents because they make for great television. However, the reality is, these tragedies are actually few and far between; there are exponentially more “successful” outings than tragic ones. The key to avoiding accidents altogether, and mitigating risks when they occur (because nature is nature, after all), is being prepared and knowledgeable before hiking in Colorado

These safety tips will cover important points you need to remember when exploring Colorado. So read on, and they’ll prepare you so that your stress is minimized and fun is maximized.

Image by Jonáš Sanislo from Pixabay

Share Your Plan

Planning and communicating that plan are both key components of hiking safety. You should never head out for hiking in Colorado (or anywhere!) without first telling someone. Whether you’re planning to hike for only one hour, overnight, or a couple of weeks, let someone know the ins and outs of your trip. For example, tell the person when you’ll be leaving and returning, where your car will be parked, and which trail(s) you’re planning to be on. Furthermore, let that person know if you change your route or any aspect of your plan. That way, if you get lost and need to be found, people will know where to look.

Be Prepared For Bad Weather

Two words: no cotton. Even if there’s no rain in the forecast, weather can change fast in Colorado. If you’re hiking during the day and get sweaty and are still in the wilderness when temps drop at night, you don’t want to be stuck in a wet, cold cotton shirt. From head to toe (or hat to socks), all of your hiking clothing should be made out of a moisture-wicking fabric such as wool or any synthetic fabric blend that’s marketed as quick dry. Bring a raincoat, an extra shirt in case of a sudden temperature drop or rainstorm, and an extra pair of moisture-wicking socks. Wear good-fitting, broken-in hiking boots that provide ankle support. Lather on the sunscreen even if it’s cloudy. 

Look over the National Lightning Safety Institute’s resource on lightning safety protocols. Better yet, print it out to have with you in case you need it.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Bring Water and Snacks 

A good rule of thumb is to bring one liter of water for every hour you plan to be hiking. This is a great standard, and it’s also wise to pack a trustworthy water filtration system such as a Katadyn or Life straw, in case you are in the wilderness longer than you planned.  Bring snacks, too, as hiking burns a lot of calories. High-calorie foods like peanut butter, candy bars, granola, beef jerky, and trail mix are all great and easy options. Don’t just toss your food wrappers on the ground, however. Follow all Leave No Trace practices out of respect for nature, wildlife, and future generations of hikers to come. 

Keep it Realistic

We know how thrilling it can be to push ourselves and have new experiences, but staying safe, smart, and within our personal limits is the number one hiking tip we can offer. Plan your trip according to your experience. For example, if you’ve never been camping overnight, it’s probably not a good idea to head out on a week-long camping trip in the backcountry. If you’re not experienced at reading maps, stick to a well-marked trail, or even stay in cell phone range so you can use your phone’s GPS in case you get turned around. Finally, unless you’re in great shape, don’t embark on a ten-mile hiking trip as your first adventure.

If you would feel more comfortable hiking with a professional wilderness guide who knows the lay of the land, then stick to these Colorado Springs hiking tours for beginners.

Image by Inna Sherman from Pixabay

Stay Updated

Know what’s going on in the area you’re planning to hike. There will often be signs at the more popular trailheads informing hikers of recent wildlife sightings and how to behave if you encounter a bear, mountain lion, or coyote. Don’t worry – these animals are usually more afraid of you than you are of them! Check out Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s page on handling conflict with wildlife to stay safe and prepared.

In addition to staying updated about the wildlife, also acquaint yourself with general trail rules and alerts. For example, a gust of wind can make a simple campfire spread out of control during exceptionally dry periods. If you plan on having a campfire, use this comprehensive, up-to-date list of current fire bans in Colorado counties to avoid any fines, or worse, wildfires.

Our best recommendation is to visit the park website that manages the trail you’ll be hiking before heading out. There, you’ll learn about current trail conditions and potential hazards.

Bring a First Aid Kit

It’s wise to have an intentionally stocked first aid kit when you head out on any length of hiking trip. The American Hiking Society is a great resource for hiking tips, including how to stock your first aid kit. Depending on how much time you plan to spend hiking, you may also consider taking a Wilderness First Aid course, where you’ll learn how to handle accidents such as broken bones and allergic reactions. 

Bringing it Together

Hiking is a great way to get exercise, spend quality time with family, and enjoy Colorado’s stunning scenery. It’s important to do so safely, however. Even though accidents are rare and mostly avoidable, the chances of them occurring increase dramatically if you’re unprepared. So, use these hiking safety tips while you’re hiking in Colorado to stay safe and stress-free. Remember to tell someone your plans, prepare for bad weather, stay hydrated, learn about Colorado’s wildlife, and pack a first aid kit. If you’re prepared, you’ll have nothing to worry about!

Remember that you can always join us for guided hiking in Colorado Springs and enjoy all the knowledge and experience that our team has to offer!

Hiking the Barr Trail

3 Colorado Springs Area Hikes Worth the Adventure

Pike’s Peak and the Colorado Springs beauty brings outdoor enthusiasts to the area daily and ever since the 1880s. Hiking trails are routed all around this remarkable city and are available year-round.

Whether it is a moderate, difficult, or easy trail you are seeking, these three Colorado Springs area hikes are worth the adventure. 

Lace-up your best pair of hiking boots and set off on in search of refreshing air and exercise.

Barr Trail

Extreme adventures looking for a 26.2 roundtrip trail will be in heaven when looking for a path that will take them to Pikes Peak. Barr Trail starts at Manitou Springs, located less than ten miles of Colorado Springs, and will have you up at the top of Pikes Peak when completed.

This trail is on the difficult side. Be prepared for some intense hiking, as Barr Trail is an advanced trail, or plan to stay overnight at Barr Camp. The amount of time to reach Pikes Peak summit is around six to ten hours. Remember to take into consideration temperature, weather changes, and altitude.

Some crucial areas along Barr Trail include mile 9, and open shelter area for hikers to build a campfire, and mile 13, Pikes Peak Summit.

Fido is welcome on this trail if he stays on his leash. Bicycles are also able to travel here. Hiking is not available year-round, just from April to October. There is also a fee to park at the Barr Trail parking lot.

Rainbow Gulch Trail

While in the Manitou Springs area and looking for an easy trail, consider Rainbow Gulch Trail. Start at Rampart Range Road close to Woodland Park and end at Rampart Reservoir, a 400-acre recreation area that lies in the Pike National Forest. At less than three miles long, every skill level will enjoy this delightful hike.

Bird lovers will be in heaven, walking along this trail. Do not forget your camera! Nature and scenery are fabulous, and you will want to capture the beauty.

The Intemann Trail

At less than five miles, 4.81 to be exact, Intemann Trail is excellent for hikers of all levels. The trail connects Manitou Springs to Section 16 and Bear Creek Regional Park. It is also a way to get from Manitou Springs to Colorado Springs. Of course, the trek is completed solely by trails.

During your hike, be amazed at views of the Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, and Red Rock Open Space. Hiking is permitted all year. What an incredible way to see the leaves change, the snowfall, spring flowers, and so much more.

Bicycles, horses, and dogs on a leash are frequent visitors of the Intemann Trail, so keep an eye out for them.

Conclusion

When searching for endless outdoor recreation and adventure near Colorado Springs, consider trying your hand at one of these three hiking trails.

There are many more hiking trails in the Colorado Springs area if these amazing trails do not satisfy your wanderlust. One to note is Heizer Trail, a moderate-difficult trail that will take you across Cascade Mountains Summit.

Contact Broadmoor Outfitters if you have any questions or need any local planning advice.