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: Manitou Incline (Manitou Springs)
This lung-busting grind will get you in shape to tackle the rest of Colorado’s mile-high hikes. Running along a decommissioned cable car route that once transported building materials up Pikes Peak, the infamous Manitou Incline climbs 610 metres in only 1.42 km. The grade is as steep as 68 per cent in some spots and hikers are often demoralized by its “false summit” — what appears as the final ridge-crest in fact leads to a 300-step staircase to the actual peak. (Just think of the sense of accomplishment.)
Drink: Bristol Brewery & Colorado Mountain Brewery (Colorado Springs)
You’ll need a quality beer after returning from the Incline — whether you hike back down or take the mellower 6.5-km Barr Trail out — and Bristol Brewery’s Laughing Lab Scottish Ale fits the bill. Winner of nine Scottish Ale medals, this full-bodied, deep-red smooth ale is an apt reward. The logo — a panting dog — is reminiscent of how you’ll feel after tackling that leg-scorching trail.
Hike: New Santa Fe Regional Trail (Colorado Springs)
Part of the American Discovery Trail, the 23-km multi-use New Santa Fe Regional Trail is a relatively flat though highly scenic jaunt, meandering past robust wildflowers, prickly cacti and babbling creeks — it even dekes through the U.S. Air Force Academy for almost half of its length. A picnic area at the Palmer Lake Trailhead starts things off and the trail connects to the Pikes Peak Greenway at the end.
Drink: Pikes Peak Brewing Company (Monument) & Colorado Mountain Brewery (Colorado Springs)
The New Santa Fe Trail passes through Monument at about halfway, which is home to Pikes Peak Brewing Company. Sample their refreshing, through strong, Gold Rush Belgian White for notes of honey, clove and baking spice. At day’s end, return to Colorado Springs for Meatloaf Wellington and a hoppy, aggressive Panther IPA at Colorado Mountain Brewery.
Hike: Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs)
Spiky, finger-like rock formations stab from ponderosa pines and juniper shrubs, snow-capped Pikes Peak serves as a backdrop and 24 km of well-marked trails guide you through it all — this is Garden of the Gods, a hiker’s amusement park and National Natural Landmark near Colorado Springs. Tackle Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trails — a moderate, five-kilometre circuit covering rolling, rocky terrain — then hike Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trails for expansive vistas of the signature red-rock peaks. Rock-hounds will appreciate the guided climbing excursions also offered within the park.
Drink: Trinity Brewing Company (Colorado Springs)
Trinity Brewing Company beckons the eco-cicerone. This brewery takes its low-carbon footprint seriously — it was built from almost entirely recycled materials, beers are brewed in wooden barrels once used for spirits or wine and local and organic ingredients are used whenever possible. Indulge in one of 10 craft-brewed saisonales for an artisanal après experience.
Hike: Hanging Lake Trail (Glenwood Springs)
Call this one short-and-sweet. Hanging Lake Trail is just over one rigorous kilometre in length and the reward is a relaxing viewpoint near a unique mountain oasis lake — a turquoise waterbody formed by travertine deposition and surrounded by sheer cliffs. A picturesque waterfall cascades into the lake and trout swim in abundance beneath it (no fishing allowed). Check out Spouting Rock while you’re up there, where snowmelt spurts through a hole in limestone and mists hikers with a refreshing spray. This geologically impressive area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 2011.
Drink: Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company (Glenwood Springs)
When Steve and April Carver decided their hometown of Glenwood Springs needed its own craft brewery, they tracked down Bill Carver (no relation), owner of Carver Bakery & Brewing Company in Durango, and began a partnership that has since created one of the most award-winning breweries in the state. Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company is known for their Shoshone Stout, St. James Irish Red Ale and Dotsero Cream Ale — as well as a handcrafted root beer for toddlers and teetotalers.
Hike: Trails of Durango (Durango)
Durango Trails 2000 is a non-profit organization that builds and maintains trails throughout the Durango area. Thanks to its members’ hard work, visitors enjoy 33 well-marked trails in and around Durango — ranging from multi-use scenic routes (Animas River Trail, meandering through town alongside the Animas River) to thigh-burning high-altitude hikes (Engineer Mountain Trail — climbs 725 metres and tops out at almost 4,000 metres of elevation).
Drink: Five Craft Breweries
Proudly proclaiming itself “The City of Brewery Love,” Durango is a beer-aficionado’s must-visit. Sip a Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale at Carver Brewing Company (in honour of your hike); refresh with a unique Blueberry Wheat Ale at Durango Brewing Company; savour Ska Brewing’s award-winning True Blonde Ale (sweetened with local honey); taste a Colorado Kolsch — a local take on a German classic — at Steamworks Brewing Company; or sample a flight of the days’ finest suds at the simply-named Brew Pub & Kitchen.