5 essential hiking tips and places to go around Boulder | Health & Wellness Services

Helena V Berbie

Girl wearing a beanie holding her arms up with joy in front of a forested lake.

Living in Boulder comes with a lot of perks, including access to some of the best spots for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. If you’re planning a trip to one of the nearby parks or trails, keep these tips in mind.

Ease into it

Whether it’s your first time hiking or you’re more experienced, choose a trail that matches your fitness level. You can check online resources to see which trail is best for you by looking at distance, elevation gain, ratings, trail conditions and more. You can also talk to local guides, check out regional maps or visit the Adventure Resource Center at the The main CU Rec Center for additional support. Here are some other online resources we recommend:

Pack the essentials

Regardless of the type of hike you’re doing—a leisurely day hike or summiting a 14er—there are a few essential supplies you’ll want to bring with you in your pack.

  • Water. Higher elevation can cause you to become dehydrated more quickly. As a rule of thumb, drink at least one liter (32 oz.) of water every two hours while hiking. If you’re bringing a dog with you on the trail, be sure to pack extra water for them as well.
  • Food. Pack snacks that have a mix of protein and carbohydrates to help keep your energy up throughout your hike. This can include things like peanut butter crackers, jerky, trail mix and fruit snacks.
  • Sunscreen. Higher elevation can also increase your chances of a sunburn because there is less atmosphere to protect you against UV rays. Wear an SPF 30+ sunscreen and reapply every one or two hours while hiking. Hats and sunglasses can provide you with additional protection.
  • First aid kit. Accidents happen, and it’s important to have a first aid kit on hand in case they do. Make sure your kit is equipped with disinfecting ointment, bandages, treatment for blisters, over-the-counter pain medication and other personal care items you may need, such as an inhaler.
  • Rain jacket. Weather can quickly change and afternoon storms are common at higher elevations. Be prepared for rain and thunderstorms by packing a rain jacket or windbreaker to keep you dry.

If you plan on going into the backcountry, consider packing additional items such as a headlamp, navigation device, fire-starters and an emergency shelter kit.

Check the weather

Look at the forecast before heading out, and keep in mind that weather in Colorado can change in an instant. Be prepared for less-than-ideal weather by dressing in layers. This will allow you to cool off when it gets hot and bundle up if it rains or gets colder at higher elevations. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are best, because they hold less moisture compared to regular cotton clothing and dry quickly. Pack a windbreaker or rain jacket for extra protection. It’s also important to wear appropriate shoes that fit you properly, provide adequate support and have good traction. If you’re planning to wear a new set of shoes or hiking boots, break them in a few times before committing to longer hikes.

Leave no trace

Leave no trace principles help minimize our impact on the outdoors. Here are some ways you can help protect our parks and wildlife while hiking:

  • Follow the rules. Read posted signs at parks and trailheads to make sure you’re up to speed on current regulations and restrictions, such as trail closures and pet policies.
  • Pack it out. Pick up trash you see on the trail and avoid leaving litter behind. If you bring a dog, remember to pick up and pack out all of their waste (you can bring an airtight container to help eliminate smells from used doggy bags).
  • Prevent wildfires. Colorado is at a high risk for wildfires, especially during the summer and fall months. Pay close attention to fire restrictions and bans, including bans on cigarettes and marijuana.
  • Be respectful of others. Stay on designated trails, and be courteous to other hikers. Protect wildlife by maintaining your distance and keeping your dog on a leash or at home.

Use the buddy system

If you’re going for a hike, take a friend (or a few) with you. Accidents are more common than you might think, so it’s a good idea to have someone around to call for help or provide assistance, especially on less frequented trails. If you do decide to go it alone, tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. Have a plan in place in case they don’t hear from you. That way if something does happen, they will be able to call for help.

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