Three Lightly Trafficked Trails to Hike this 4th of July
Independence Day is almost upon us. Can you smell the hot dogs? The cold beers? The freedom? While I love a good BBQ, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the 4th than by first hiking in Colorado! Now, there are a lot of places in Colorado that are beautiful and offer some wild views. A popular destination will likely be the 4th of July Trailhead, which is an entrance to Arapaho National Forest. This is one of my favorite areas, and the hike to Lake Dorothy is beautiful. BUT you should be cautioned about the crowds. It might be a little busy…okay, a lot busy tomorrow.
You might ask, “Well Jason, where then can I hike?” I wracked my brain to think of a quiet, peaceful trail that would be the best hike for July 4th. Here are three quiet trails you might want to consider!
- Mount Flora via Berthoud Pass Trailhead
This hike is a pretty easy endeavor! It does rack up about 1,800 feet of elevation gain in roughly three miles, but it’s easy enough for families and dogs! You’ll need to take a service road until you get to the marked trail, but from then on, you’ll only have about two miles to Mount Flora. The trail itself is pretty gradual and is surrounded by forests, sweeping views (the trail is a part of the Continental Divide), and alpine lakes. Can it get much better than that? Yes, yes it can. One more mile and you can summit another peak—Breckenridge Peak. Two peaks, one hike. Jackpot.
But hold up, a trail this beautiful is going to have a ton of people on it, right? Maybe. If you start at sunrise, you won’t run into many people. The trail doesn’t start to get too busy until later in the morning. If you start early, you might have the summit to yourself, but you’ll probably meet some people on the way down.
- Shelf Lake Trail
This trail is moderate and would be a good climb for a variety of hikers. The trail itself is usually lightly trafficked (on the 4th everything will be a little busy). The first bit of the trail will be a little steep, but don’t let that put you off. The middle section of the hike is gradual and it only gets steep again just before you reach the lake, which is above the timberline.
At this point in the season (and considering our weather), there won’t be any more ice on the lake, but the views will still be amazing. I’ve also heard the wildflowers are supposed to come out full force this week and next along this trail, so if you’re looking for a wildflower hike in Colorado, you might be glad to travel this path.
- Kirby Gulch
Kirby Gulch is a lesser known trail, so I’m going to give you some directions. To get to this quiet hike, you are going to want to take Highway 285 to Guanella Pass Road/Geneva Road and head north for almost seven miles. Keep your eyes peeled for Bruno Gulch Road and head west on that! You’ll be on this road for a little less than a mile. At around 0.9 miles, you can just park on the side of the road (there’s no fee, don’t worry).
The hike itself isn’t anything, but it will take you a few hours to complete, especially if you’re going to spend some time exploring the area. It’s six miles and boasts around 900 feet of elevation gain. The pace of the overall hike you can set yourself, but it isn’t really strenuous.
The gulch is a valley, and you can see the peaks rising up around you, which is always an awe-inspiring experience. The valley is also a great place to practice dispersed camping in Pike National Forest.
This hike was my first thought, but as you might be aware, there are a lot of wildfires in this area right now. For that reason, I can’t recommend that you hike this tomorrow, but it I definitely a hike that you should consider! If you do decide to go, be aware of the fire hazards and rules that might be in place!
There you have it! Three quiet Colorado hikes to satiate your 4th of July nature cravings. Have fun fellow hikers. Be safe and remember to protect this beautiful land we have the privilege to experience.