Hiking tips

5 essential hiking tips and places to go around Boulder | Health and wellness services

Living in Boulder comes with many benefits, including access to some of the best places 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 in

Whether it’s your first hike 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 reviewing distance, elevation, ratings, trail conditions and more. You can also talk to local guides, view regional maps, or visit the Adventure Resource Center at the main CU Recreation Center for additional assistance. Here are some other online resources we recommend:

Pack the essentials

No matter what type of hiking you’re doing – a leisurely day hike or climbing a 14er – there are a few essential supplies you’ll want to carry with you in your bag.

  • The water. Higher altitude can dehydrate you faster. As a general rule, 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 bring him extra water as well.
  • Food. Pack snacks with a mix of protein and carbs to help keep you energized throughout your hike. This can include things like peanut butter crackers, jerky, trail mixes, and fruit snacks.
  • Solar cream. Higher altitude can also increase your risk of sunburn because there is less atmosphere to protect you from UV rays. Wear 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 just in case. Make sure your kit is equipped with disinfectant ointment, bandages, blister treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers, and other personal care items you may need, such as an inhaler.
  • Raincoat. The weather can change quickly and afternoon storms are common at higher elevations. Prepare for rain and thunderstorms by packing a rain jacket or windbreaker to keep you dry.

If you plan to go into the backcountry, consider packing extra items like a headlamp, navigation device, fire starters, and an emergency shelter kit.

Check the weather

Check the forecast before you go and keep in mind that the weather in Colorado can change in an instant. Prepare for less than ideal weather by dressing in layers. This will allow you to cool down when it’s hot and bundle up if it’s raining or getting colder at higher altitudes. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are the best because they retain less moisture than regular cotton clothes and dry quickly. Pack a windbreaker or rain jacket for extra protection. It’s also important to wear proper shoes that fit you well, provide adequate support, and have good traction. If you plan to wear a new pair of hiking shoes or boots, break them in several times before embarking on longer hikes.

Leave no trace

Leave No Trace principles help minimize our impact on the outside. Here are some ways you can help protect our parks and wildlife while hiking:

  • Follow the rules. Read signs posted in parks and at trailheads to make sure you’re aware of applicable regulations and restrictions, such as trail closures and pet policies.
  • Respect the closures. Stay clear of trail construction areas to protect yourself and trail crews and to help them complete trail improvements as quickly as possible.
  • Pack it. Pick up trash you see on the trail and avoid leaving trash behind. If you’re bringing a dog, don’t forget to pick up and bag all their waste (you can bring an airtight container to help eliminate odors from used doggy bags).
  • Prevent forest fires. Colorado is at high risk from wildfires, especially during the summer and fall months. Pay particular attention to fire restrictions and bans, including cigarette and marijuana bans.
  • 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 on a hike, bring a friend (or a few) with you. Accidents happen more often than you think, so it’s a good idea to have someone around to call for help or provide assistance, especially on less traveled trails. If you decide to go alone, tell someone where you are 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 happens, they can call for help.