Healthy Altitudes

Hello Healthy Altitude fans! This is the first in a weekly series of articles that will be featuring various hiking trails in the Front Range. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or someone just starting out, you will certainly find a trail fit for your needs!

Living in the Denver/Boulder area as a hiker can be both a blessing and a curse—on one hand, the mountains are a quick drive away and you can hit the trail whenever you please! The bad news is so can everyone else; and there are a LOT of hikers in the area. Especially now during the pandemic where there’s nothing to do but go on outdoor adventures, trails are absolutely flooded with crowds looking for an escape to the mountains. This can be frustrating for hikers simply looking for solitude and some peace and quiet. Luckily, I have a few “best kept secret” trails that are generally crowd-free (and that’ll almost always have available parking)!

Bald Mountain Loop

Length: 4.9 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 774 ft
Difficulty: 2/5
Trailhead: Sugarloaf Mountain Trailhead (~25 minutes from Boulder)

View from the Bald Mountain Loop

This is a nice, quick hike with scenic views of the surrounding foothills. The loop trail will lead you through thick pine forests, up grassy slopes, and into fields drenched in wildflowers. The elevation gain is enough to get your heart pumping but won’t leave you exhausted.

Continental Divide Overlook (via Fowler to Rattlesnake Gulch Loop)

Length: 7.2 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 1,302 ft
Difficulty: 3/5
Trailhead: Fowler Trailhead in Eldorado Canyon State Park (~20 minutes from Boulder)

Cliffs towering above the Rattlesnake Gulch Loop

Eldorado Canyon State Park is an absolute gem in the front range and while the park itself can get crowded, this particular hike sees minimal foot traffic (especially when you get past the first couple of miles from the trailhead).

Lichen Loop Trail

Length: 1.3 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 242 ft
Difficulty: 1/5
Trailhead: Heil Valley Ranch (~20 minutes from Boulder)

A deer sighting on the Lichen Loop Trail

The Lichen Loop is an easy jaunt through some beautiful woodland scenery—the short length and minimal elevation gain makes this great trail to bring the kids to for a weekend hike! There are also plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife here. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, check out the Wapiti Trail that also leaves from Heil Valley Ranch.

Sourdough Trail

Length: 11 miles (out and back)
Elevation Gain: 1,610 ft
Difficulty: 3/5
Trailhead: South Sourdough Trailhead (~45 minutes from Boulder)

There’s not much in terms of expansive mountain vistas on this low-key trail just north of Nederland, but once you get a satisfying whiff of pine and hear the bubbling of the creek, you won’t miss the big views at all. While the trail might be a bit long for some, you can just turn around whenever you’ve had enough! I personally love this trail because it offers a serene forest setting with plenty of peace and quiet to go around.