Happy Friday! This is definitely one of those weeks in which the weekend couldn’t come fast enough. I really need to get some more sleep this weekend and do some organizational things to get me ready for the next month of craziness.
I really wanted to continue adding a couple more posts on backpacking so I decided to write this one on some of my absolute favorite locations around the US. I am going to list three states however in my descriptions I actually explain exactly where within the state I recommend doing some backpacking (or at least hiking).
Colorado: I am very biased since I am from Colorado but I absolutely love it. There are so many beautiful places to hike that this was by far the hardest to choose one backpacking location. Maroon Bells is a beautiful area and many people recommend a trip there, however I am going to talk about the Steamboat area (Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area) since I have personally had the most experience here. It is a very beautiful area and the perfect place to go to get away from the crowds. I have usually gone in August and rarely see other people/groups on the trails. The views are truly breathtaking and the lakes are freezing but clear and beautiful. I recommend getting on the continental divide and taking a route either north or south. This allows you to stay high and enjoy those views. The downside to this area is that it is very high in elevation and you have to gain a lot of elevation in the first couple days in order to get onto that trail (be cautious if you are from out of state or are not experience.
Virginia: Western Virginia was the first place I ever backpacked. The Appalachian mountains are absolutely beautiful, so basically the entire tri-state area (North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee). I include this location because the fall foliage is definitely a highlight of any place I have ever been. Mid to late October is the ideal time to enjoy the prettiest trees in the US. I just picture walking up a mountain covered in reds, oranges and yellows and it makes me so happy! The mountainous landscape combined with the perfect colors makes for an amazing experience. This is definitely the most accessible location. There are trails everyone can do and you can go for however long you want. Just doing a day on the Appalachian Trail is very worth it!
Utah: Although I am from Colorado and hold it very dear to my heart, Utah is my favorite place to hike. There are so many incredible national parks and landscapes and features I couldn’t have ever imagined. As far as backpacking goes, I have done several longer trips in the Uinta wilderness, which is a east/west mountain range. It is very beautiful but can be quite a challenge as there are many passes and peaks that you must climb in order to reach some of the pristine lakes and trails. There are some more populated areas with great fishing, shorter trails and interesting rock features (eg. Red Castle lake). I highly recommend this area! For a shorter trip (but pretty challenging) climb Kings Peak, the highest mountain in Utah. The last mile to the summit requires you to boulder the entire way, so allow for extra time!
Thanks for reading!
This is most definitely a very different post than any other I have done, however this part of me is so important that I decided I want to include more of it in my travel posts. Some may not take me for the type of person to pack up the essentials, throw it on my back and head into the great wilderness. The outdoorsy side of me is a major part of who I am and it is why I grew and changed in the ways I did. I think it is so important to have something that let’s you forget about our society for a brief period of time. Here I will share why I love to backpack so much:
It allows me to clear my mind and free myself from consumerism for a bit: Don’t get me wrong I love to shop, the hunt for my favorite items of clothing and decor is way I do love to spend my time. However, I think it is important to find that place, activity etc… where everything else goes out the window and you can truly be yourself. No one judges and no one is watching. It is my way of unplugging from all of the noise for a bit in order to re-organize my thoughts and stay in touch with myself. So after my first backpacking trip 7 years ago I realized how free I feel when I am out there just with a few friends wandering the mountains. I have everything I need with me so all I have to worry about is slowly making my way to the final destination.
I gain lots of perspective: A part of what I gain on each and every backpacking trip is perspective on so many different aspects of life. Most of all though is perspective on myself relative to the rest of the world, how small I am in such a great world, how small humans are. There are so many other living things in the world and it does me lots of good to be reminded of how we as humans are not the only ones. It also reminds me to be grateful for everything I have. The wilderness can be a very humbling place as you can surround yourself with the sublimity of nature.
It is a relatively cheap way to travel: So there is a lot of gear involved in planning and implementing a large scale backpacking trip but there are lots of ways to do it on the cheap. Also, once you do have gear it is a very cheap way to travel. Over the years I have collected various pieces of backpacking equipment however there are ways to find things or rent for cheaper. Many colleges and universities have rental systems. Definitely not all places but those that have outdoor programs are sure to have a center which will rent to students and employees. Many also rent to community members. This is a great option if you have never been before and are not sure you will like it. Make sure, however, that you learn how to use equipment prior to going into the field. The Sierra Trading Post is a great place to find deals on gear as well as the REI garage sales. Clothing items (quick dry, fleece etc.) are things that can fairly easily be found in thrift stores. I may do a longer post on this in the future but in summary backpacking can be a great way to travel and see beautiful places without breaking the bank.
There is so much time to really get to know people: Backpacking trips have been the best way to truly get to know a person. There is so much time and space to talk and there is nothing to hide behind. I have made some of my best friends in having experiences like this, it really takes a friendship to an entirely new level. Going by yourself can be rewarding as well but I love backpacking with other people. It brings another aspect to the experiences and you can learn so much about the people you are with.
For many people Colorado is seen as an outdoorsy, hiking destination. The mountains definitely live up to their reputation and probably exceed it. Many hikes are incredibly difficult especially on the well-known 14,000 foot mountains scattered throughout the state. There are a few however that are very suitable for beginners both in length and difficulty. I would note that these are the hikes that I have seen lots of people get altitude sickness on. If you are traveling from out of town (or think you might get altitude sick) be especially cautious when designing your itinerary and remembered that it is always better to turn around if a member of your group is very sick, even if that means you will not reach the summit. Here are the two best 14,000 foot mountains, in my opinion for beginners:
- Mount Bierstadt. This Colorado mountain sits at 14,065ft tall and is located just south of the mountain town Georgetown (about an hour west of Denver). This is easily the shortest hike of all the 14er’s I have climbed. This is a shorter hike because you drive so far up, starting at a much higher elevation but beware because parking here can be difficult. Because it is easy and one of the most accessible it is very crowded, especially on weekends. I would say as long as you start early (which is necessary on a fourteener anyways due to the variable weather) you will be totally fine and stress free. The climb itself is steadily uphill since you start so high. It took our group about four hours to do the whole thing and spend time at the summit.
- Grays and Torres. These are separate 14,000 foot peaks but most people do them both together since they are very close together, separated only by a short saddle. This hike is definitely longer, taking us around six hours to do both peaks. It is a total of 8 miles from the trailhead up and back down. This one can also be crowded depending on the weather so I again recommend getting an early start. The other great thing about these mountains is that they are also relatively close to Denver with an hour and half drive to the trailhead.
Both of these hike are incredibly beautiful with amazing 360 degree views of the mountain ranges. I highly recommend climbing one of these peaks if you are up for the physical challenge because those views are definitely worth the challenge!