Tips for fun backpacking hikes in Colorado National Parks
Whether the current situation in the world has you locked inside your home in an effort to avoid the pandemic or it even hindered with your elaborate spring break travel plans, leaving you with seemingly no options, one of the best things you can do for both your physical and mental health is to go on a family backpacking trip, and explore the wonders of nature. So, take advantage of the natural beauty of your home state, and visit some of the most magnificent national parks in Colorado that are open for hiking. Here is a list of the best places to visit, as well as a few helpful tips for ensuring a safe and enjoyable backpacking trip:
Open parks to visit this spring
Note: While the visitor centers have been closed in all of these national parks, and the tours and events have been canceled or postponed, the parks themselves remain open and free for exploration.
Mesa Verde National Park
Although often overlooked, Mesa Verde is arguably among the most beautiful Western national parks, offering ancient dwellings situated on towering cliffs, rocks decorated with petroglyph drawings, as well as some of the most incredible landscapes you’ll ever see. From challenging yet pleasurable Mancos Valley trails leading you through endless stretches of green vistas to a walk through history at Chapin Mesa’s breathtaking archeological sites, including gorgeous trails following natural streams through the Spruce Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park is truly a sight not to be missed.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Flickr by: NPS/Patrick Myers
Still remaining open day and night all year round, The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is home to the tallest and some of the most beautiful dunes in North America, surrounded by a diverse scenery of wetlands, grasslands, alpine lakes and aspen forests. Whether you decide to climb the towering dunes and camp in the awe-inspiring area between them, take a short hike through beautiful alpine and forested trails, or even experience the most stunning starry night in surreal surroundings, The Great Sand Dunes National Park offers endless activities ideal for a short backpacking trip.
Garden of the Gods
A registered National Natural Landmark, Garden of the Gods offers some of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring views of soaring sandstone rock formations combined with beautiful snow-capped mountains and clear blue skies. With a number of short, one to three-mile long trails, Garden of the Gods provides some of the most scenic hikes that are calm, easy, enjoyable, and suitable for the whole family.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Vast enough to feel overwhelming at first glance, yet still calm and intimate enough to help you feel at one with nature, Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers some of the oldest rock formations, steepest cliffs and the most unique scenery in the country. While the rim of the canyon offers a number of easy to moderate hiking trails filled with wonderful flora and fauna that are ideal for a relaxing, slow-paced backpacking trip, more experienced, adventure-seeking hikers can even decide to venture into the depths of the Black Canyon itself, for an experience like no other.
How to prepare for a backpacking trip
Clothing and accessories
Apart from opting only for essential lightweight and breathable clothing that will keep you safe from weather conditions and allow full range of movement, always pack a few extra layers in your backpack for added warmth or a potential change of clothes. It would also be a great idea to bring quality outdoor watches that will allow you to keep time, while being safe from outside elements.
Essential adventure gear
As you never know what unexpected situation might arise when you’re in the wild, don’t forget to pack a first aid kit that will help keep you safe and sound on your trip. Bring at least one water bottle for every person, as well as a handful of healthy snacks, to ensure you stay hydrated and energized throughout your adventure. Consider bringing smaller accessories as well, such as a flashlight, a compass and an army knife, to ensure you are properly equipped for all scenarios.
Taking care of your health
Just because you’re exploring the magical outdoors, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mindful of your health and take all the necessary precautions when going on a trip, especially if you are traveling with children. Apart from bringing enough wet wipes and/or hand sanitizers to maintain proper hygiene, don’t forget to keep a safe distance from other hikers and backpackers you might encounter on your trip as well, and always stay safe by maintaining a slow and steady pace when walking through unfavorable terrain.
Backpacking through the beautiful national parks of Colorado is the best way to relax and unwind, while escaping from everyday stresses and worries, at least for a little while. And with just a bit of advanced planning and preparation, you’ll be ready for an adventure of a lifetime.