With seven mountain ranges and an average altitude of 2,075 metres, Colorado is custom-made for the active outdoors enthusiast.
Add to the mix four national parks, 42 state parks and 58 “Fourteeners” (mountains over 14,000 feet/4,267 metres) and its recipe for world-class hikes only gets richer. Speaking of rich recipes — the Centennial State also has more than 180 craft breweries and 40 craft distilleries. This combination effectively makes Colorado hiking hipsters’ heaven. Bag a peak, drink a beer — it doesn’t get more Colorado than that. Enjoy a round of the state’s top mountain-town sweat-and-refresh pairings:
Hike: Bear Creek Trail (Telluride)
A scenic hike that begins right near the centre of town, Bear Creek Trail starts off as a multi-use dirt road that wanders through 132-hectare Bear Creek Preserve toward the official Bear Creek Trailhead. From there, the ascent steepens as it approaches the payoff: stunning Bear Creek Falls. You can keep going, connecting to the Wasatch Trail and the Bridal Veil Basin — or turn around for a well-earned frosty mug back in town.
Drink: Smuggler’s Brew Pub & Telluride Brewing Company (Telluride)
Located virtually at the start of Bear Creek Trail, on South Pine Street, Smuggler’s Brew Pub is a Telluride staple. Try their aptly named Debauchery — a sweet, Belgian-styled tripel that only comes in half-pints due to its strong alcohol content. Nearby Telluride Brewing Co. truthfully states, “At the end of the day, it’s all about beer.” To complement your hike into the area’s Bridal Veil Basin, sip their Bridal Veil Rye Pale Ale, which, according to the brewmaster, “goes with just about anything.”
Hike: Mount Elbert & Mount Massive (Leadville)
Leadville is where to go if you want to get high. As North America’s highest-elevation town — sitting at a staggering 3,094 metres above sea level — visiting hikers get quick access to Colorado’s two highest Fourteeners. Dare you attempt for the summits of Mount Elbert (14,440 feet/4,401 metres) or Mount Massive (14,428 feet/4,398 metres)? Mount Elbert Trail is an advanced level, 14.5-km grind and Mount Massive Trail is a more popular, though also advanced, trail stretching for 21 km — bag both summits and their combined elevation is nearly identical to that of Mount Everest.
Drink: Two Guns Distillery (Leadville)
And now for something completely different! After twice hitting heights of half-Everest, you may be in the mood for something stronger than beer. Enter Leadville’s Two Guns Distillery — makers of authentic 1880s Wild West Whiskey as well as the popular Single Six Rocky Mountain Moonshine. Owner B.A. Dallas is an artist-turned-distiller, so his gallery-inspired establishment is as unique as the spirits he serves.
Hike: Trails of Aspen (Aspen)
Aspen is more than just fur-trimmed ski bunnies and Range Rover limousines; in the summer, the area offers hardy hikes for all skill levels, from multi-use trails to technical Fourteeners. Start with The Grottoes — located 13 km from Aspen, towards Independence Pass — a wondrous walk amidst rock grottoes that glisten with ice formations year-round. Or, try Capitol Lake Trail, a picturesque day-hike into the Capitol Lake Valley where 4,307-metre Capitol Peak looms overhead. Guides (Aspen Alpine Guides and Aspen Expeditions) and equipment rentals (Ute Mountaineer) are available in town.
Drink: Aspen Brewing Company
Aspen Brewing Company, the town’s only brewery, is a favourite stop for après-hike suds and eats. Savour a sampling from their Temerity Series (such as the Brett Barrel Saison), sip from the Silver Queen Series (the Independence Pass Ale, a local take on the classic IPA, is a nice choice) or try a Seasonal Series offering, like the Belgian Farmhouse Ale in spring or the Ajax Pilsner during summertime.
Hike: Tabeguache Trail/Bangs Canyon CWP (Grand Junction)
Running through the 8,500-hectare Bangs Canyon Citizen’s Wilderness Proposal, Tabeguache Trail is a 10-km moderate hike that climbs about 250 metres and treats day-hikers to a three-hour-tour of red rocks, cactus flowers, mountain shrubs and canyon vistas. Expect a few scrambles throughout and usually more mule deer than fellow hikers.
Drink: Rockslide Brew Pub (Grand Junction)
Rockslide Brew Pub — a hip restaurant famous for brewing its craft beer right in view of patrons — is a quick drive from the trailhead, in downtown Grand Junction. Happy hour runs 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. — a reason to get that hike done early — but the joint stays open late, so there’s never a rush. If the weather is warm, refresh with a summertime-specific Honey Blonde Ale.