If you're like me you love to hike. The challenge is finding the best hikes -- the trails that take you above timberline to turquoise lakes nestled in dramatic cirques, to passes with see forever views and to glorious alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. My opinionated guide helps you find the best hikes in America's top hiking areas.
Southwestern Colorado - One of Colorado's best day hiking areas is the San Juan Mountains around the towns of Ouray, Telluride and Silverton. The area boasts some of the most spectacular peaks, ridges and glacial valleys in the state. Fourteen peaks tower above 14,000-ft. and literally hundreds rise above 13,000-ft.
Central Colorado - The Sawatch and Elk Mountain ranges around Aspen, Leadville, offer the quintessential Rocky Mountain hiking experience with glacial valleys leading to vast alpine expanses sprinkled with glistening lakes amid soaring peaks. Three national forests and six wilderness areas protect this amazing landscape.
California's Southeastern Sierras - Around Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, Bishop and Lone Pine, is a hiker’s paradise of rugged peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and gorgeous meadows, crisscrossed by an incredible network of trails traveling through the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas and the backcountry of Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.
Ouray (7,746-ft.) is a pretty little Victorian mountain town in Colorado nestled beneath a dramatic granite amphitheater and surrounded by 12,000-ft. plus peaks. A variety of accommodations and services along with its close proximity to some of the regions great hikes makes the town a perfect base camp for outdoor enthusiasts.
Aspen (7,908-ft.) lies nestled at the head of the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado, amid the incredible landscape of the Elk and Sawatch Mountain ranges and surrounded by the White River National Forest. Each summer hikers descend upon the town, attracted to the area's great recreational opportunities and amazing scenery.
Bishop (4,100-ft.) is a small, laid back town along the eastern slopes of California's spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains. Area trails offer access to literally hundreds of thousands of acres of gorgeous lakes, forests and rugged mountains in the Inyo National Forest, John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia-Kings Canyon backcountry.
Distance: 8.0 - 12.7 miles (Loop)
This is my favorite trail in Telluride featuring great views, two beautiful alpine basins and thigh-high wildflowers from mid-July to early August. Get an early start, take your time and enjoy this varied trail at a leisurely pace. Location: Near Telluride in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 3.4 - 9.2 miles (RT)
This popular trail climbs to a 12,462-ft. pass with breathtaking views of the 14,000-ft. peaks towering above the heart of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Visual delights include two stunning lakes and pretty meadows sprinkled with wildflowers. Location: Near Aspen in Central Colorado
Distance: 13.8 miles (RT)
Alta Peak offers some of the best views in the southern Sierras. From its lofty summit breath-taking vistas extend from the Sierra Crest, the Great Western Divide and the Kaweah Peaks to the foothills of the San Joaquin Valley. Location: Near Lodgepole in California's Southwestern Sierras
Distance: 7.8 - 8.2 miles (RT)
This great hike visits two gorgeous lake basins, passing wildflower-filled meadows and passing numerous waterfalls along the way. A dramatic ridge with towering peaks forms the backdrop for upper Ice Lake, nestled in an alpine wonderland. Location: Near Silverton in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 9.4 miles (RT)
Distance: 7.8 - 13.4 miles (RT)
The jagged spires of the Minarets and two 14er's, Mount Ritter and Banner Peak, form the dramatic backdrop for Ediza Lake, one of the most stunning lakes in the Ritter Range. Location: Near Mammoth Lakes in California's Southeastern Sierras
Distance: 7.8 - 13.4 miles (RT)
This is one of the best hikes in the Bishop area, visiting a series of beautiful lakes nestled in a dramatic basin of 13,000-ft. granite peaks. Location: Near Bishop in California's Southeastern Sierras
Distance: 6.3 - 11.0 miles (RT)
Popular hike to three scenic lakes nestled in beautiful glacial basins set amid rugged ridges and peaks. Beyond the lakes the trail climbs to a dramatic pass on a ridgeline south of Mt. Sneffels (14,150-ft). Location: Near Ouray in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 7.6 - 11.7 miles (Loop)
One of the top hikes in the Telluride area, this scenic loop traverses the panoramic spine of Blackface Mountain on its way to the base of Lizard Head Peak (13,113-ft.), an eroded 400-ft tall spire shaped like the gaping maw of a lizard. Location: Near Telluride in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 7.0 - 8.9 miles (RT)
Little known hike climbs steeply through forest and alpine meadows to a stunning glacial lake set amid a backdrop of rugged 13,000-ft. peaks. Nearby Columbine Pass offers panoramic views of Bridal Veil basin and the Sneffels Range. Location: Near Silverton in Southwestern Colorado
Distance: 3.4 - 13.0 miles (RT)
Imposing peaks, pretty waterfalls, stunning lakes, a huge alpine basin and panoramic views from a 12,500-ft. pass encompassing Treasure Mountain, Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells are the scenic rewards on this 13-mile (RT) hike to West Maroon Pass. Location: Near Aspen in Central Colorado