Westward Bound: Two Amazing Years of Colorado Living
There are so many places to explore in this amazing state that I decided to write another post on our second year of Colorado living (Read about our first-year of exploration in Colorado).
If you are an outdoors fanatic, then this state is for you. Since living here, I’ve lost almost 30 pounds, which I attribute to the active community, numerous, fun trails and areas to explore, and healthier eating. Nevertheless, living in CO for two years this September has truly opened our eyes to the different colors, shapes, smells, sites, etc. that can form in nature.
I’ve also created an Instagram account for all of our hiking and traveling adventures!
It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since we made the 1,500 mile move westward. We’ve had no regrets in our move and hope to continue our exploration of, not only Colorado, but the West in its entirety!
Colorado Living: Here are 17 more places we explored:
- Red Feather Lakes: Elkhorn Creek Trail
This 7.5-mile trail sits right outside Red Feather Lakes and proved be to a hike of pure chaos yet beauty. The chaos was produced as there were NO trail markers on this trail, yet multiple trails that forked off into your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine. Despite getting turned around a few times, this adventure was still enjoyable with color-changing aspens lining the trail, small creeks and meadows, and tons of interesting rock formations. Despite the Blair Witch feeling we got when we traveled on what we thought was the right trail that ended up in the back of a rancher’s property filled with ‘No Trespassing’ signs on it, it was an fun experienced during a heat-spell in September.
- Benson Sculpture Garden
Taking a step away from hiking, one of the most intriguing and unique places we explored is located right down the road from us! Loveland is known for its artists, especially sculptors, and the Sculpture Park goes above and beyond to highlight some of the best of the best! Of course most of the sculptures represent something in Colorado’s culture and history, such as wildlife to cowboys and Native Americans. Situated near a small pond with hundreds of sculptures to explore, it’s a fun place to bring your family and see Colorado art first hand! Here are a few photos I took while visiting:
- Greyrock Mountain
Greyrock Trail was one of the best trails we hiked in Colorado thus far. The trail was both the perfect challenge as well as the perfect length with beautiful sites. Alongside hiking near the summit of Greyrock Mountain, we also came upon expansive meadows, wildlife and woodlands. All-in-all we hiked around nine to 10 miles this beautiful area and got to see the changing leaves of aspens and other trees. After reaching the top of the summit over 7,600 feet, we could see as far as the eye could see, as seen in the collage to the right.
- Wild Basin
This trail held a ton of firsts for us: first time snowshoeing, first time getting up close and personal with a Stellar’s Jay bird, and first time seeing MOOSE! Snowshoeing is a huge part of Colorado living as everyone takes pride in doing it! Snowshoeing is such a fun, exhausting, challenging, and overall smart exercise to get around on top of densely packed snow! Snowshoeing for around nine miles in the Wild Basin area way up in the Rockies was an amazing experience where, not only did we learn the art of snowshoeing, but we saw amazing sites including a mother moose and her calf right off of the trail! Amazing sites await you on this trail as well as a lack of people on it especially during the winter (who said winter hiking was dull and not fun??)
- Bear Lake from Sprague Lake Trail
Our second snowshoeing adventure occurred when we hiked eight miles from Sprague Lake to Bear Lake in very cold and windy conditions. Despite it being winter, we saw a different type of frozen beauty in the Rockies, and it was very silent, which was welcoming after being in the city all the time. This was both of our first times standing on top of a frozen lake with no fear! Snowshoeing was a bit more difficult this go-around versus our first snowshoeing adventure due to the trail being more narrow and the weather conditions a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, the views are amazing with all of the different lakes to visit!
- Loveland Fire and Ice Festival
This festival held in Loveland around Valentine’s Day is a very fun and different type of festival where there are both ice-related events and fire-related events in terms of art and activities. We watched ice sculptors create magnificent pieces of ice art as well as sculptures literally emitting fire (What’s Colorado living without ice sculpting?!). Alongside the random booths, beer and wine, and other entertaining things, such as Star Wars characters, it was well worth the visit!
- Fern Falls and Lake
This trail was packed with snow and mud since we experienced quite a warm spell in February. What makes Fern Falls and Lake Trail so interesting is that there are so many different types of landscapes to experience, such as mystically placed boulders scattered around the trail, snow-capped peaks, rivers flowing with freshly melted snow under ice, valleys and dense woods. We hiked eight miles to Fern Lake and experienced another frozen lake trail experience, which was really fun! Winter hiking is both exhilarating and surprising because you don’t know exactly what to expect both trail-wise and site-wise as it looks completely different versus during other times of the year!
- Arthur’s Rock
This was such a fun trail to explore in Lory State Park, Fort Collins! Right next to Horsetooth Mountain, this specific trail is rated as moderate-difficult due to quick elevation rise and rockiness of the trail. We walked around four-and-a-half miles total, and made it up the steep inclines to the amazing views from the top of the rock:
- Hall Ranch (Bitterbrush Trail and Nelson Loop)
We hiked 11 miles in the Hall Ranch open space area on the Bitterbrush trail and Nelson Loop. This was one of the most beautiful and diverse hikes we’ve been on yet! We saw mule deer, prairie dogs, tons of birds, and we heard a wild turkey (we didn’t see it unfortunately).
The sites will strike you with awe. There was an amazing view of Long’s Peak in the distance along Nelson Loop, the last part of the hike, as well as magnificent rock formations and structures. We made the mistake of not wearing sunscreen and our skins were screaming! The trails themselves weren’t busy at all with other hikes, but you definitely have to keep an eye and ear open to the numerous bikers along the trail.
- West Valley Trail & Soldier Canyon Falls
My friend and I hiked five to six miles in Lory State Park, Fort Collins, on the West Valley Trail to the beautiful and hidden gem Soldier Valley Falls. This hike stayed around the contingent mountains where Arthur’s Rock lies, but it takes you through picnic areas, other trail heads and the beautiful waterfalls!
The Soldier Valley Falls area is similar to entering another ecosystem. Instead of the grassy and bushy plains and mountains, you enter into a shady, moist area with dense trees, flowers and water! It’s only 0.1 miles long, so it’s more so a viewing point versus a hike. You get to see lots of snow runoff coming down the rocks into a clear and cool creek. This is a great site to take visitors and justifies the need to see it!
- Hermit Park’s Kruger Rock Trail
This moderately rated hike in Estes Park’s Hermit Park is worth the effort. The views of the Rockies, especially Long’s Peak, is absolutely stunning. We’ve never before had such a view of the local peaks in northern Colorado!
The gradual incline going up the mountain was somewhat intense mainly due to the high altitude. The last step prior to reaching the peak involves climbing up a narrow, rocky path, but once you get past that, you can see absolutely everything! After trekking up to the top of Kruger Rock, we hiked back down the mountain and camped in the Hermit Hollow’s campsite where we saw lots of mule deer, chipmunks and birds.
- Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail
This is one of the few trails that we’ve done so far that encompasses a vast body of water. This trail is around six-and-a-half miles long and is rated as easy. We decided to hike it right after a huge, wet spring snow, so most of it was flooded—we tested our ability to leap great distances! The slabs of rock layering the shore of the lake are absolutely beautiful—I wish I had such rocks decorating our yard!—and the bird species vary.
- Lily Mountain Trail
This may have been one of the most strenuous trails we’ve done—or because we hadn’t hiked for a few weeks prior!—as the inclines were quite gradual but intense up to the top of Lily Mountain. The views are absolutely beautiful on the way up as well as from the top at 9,789 feet and were well worth the effort!
- Twin Sisters Peak Trail
This was such a fun hike and not too strenuous either! The inclines were spaced out well and not too strenuous compared to our hike up Lily Mountain. Being able to see different types of ecosystems as we hiked up to the 11,500 feet summit was very interesting especially once we breached the treeline (note to self: bring bug spray next time because the mosquitos at the top were hungry!). This was definitely on our favorite hikes with amazing views of the surrounding area!
- Fossil Creek Reservoir
We started to hike around lots of Larimer County open spaces as part of the Larimer County Passport to the Open Spaces initiative where you collect penciled badges from selected trails. This was a beautiful open space filled with tons of bird species from birds that prefer water, such as pelicans and raptors. Great for bird watchers and not strenuous at all!
- Red Mountain Open Space
This open space accurately defines the phrase, “Colorful Colorado” due to its variety of colored and layered rocks from a rusty red to pale pink, chalk white to silver grey. Not only was this trail gorgeous in all respects, but the birds and wildlife were abundant especially being right next to the Soapstone Prairie land. It was very dry and hot when we hiked it in July, and this was also part of the passport initiative! Watch out for hordes of biting flies!
- Eagle’s Nest Open Space
Another passport trail, this trail was abundant in a variety of grasses! The sites are beautiful especially of the rocky sides of the facing mountains. We also saw cows since it was an open range area. The creek that flowed near the end of the trail was gorgeous with crystal clear water.
- Blue Lake Trail
This trail was worth the long, long hike! At the end is an absolutely beautiful, clear lake at around 11,000 feet up with nearby mountain peaks adorned with glaciers! Moose scat and tracks were all we saw, but it’s fairly obvious that moose reign free and numerous in such country. We hiked a total of 12 miles that day even though the trail to and from the lake is a total of 11.1 miles. Half the trail was easy and the other half was somewhat strenuous merely due to its length and the amount of rocks on the trail itself.
From exploring the various trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park to our first snowshoeing experience, I look forward to the many other places we’ll see in the coming year along this growing list! Colorado living is the only way to truly live and explore if you enjoy nature!