Beginner’s Guide to Hiking | Colorado Elopement Photographer
Y’all already know I pride myself on going above and beyond for my couples. And if you didn’t… Take a quick detour and learn more about ya girl. I don’t just provide the deets on their dream elopement location and then disappear – hell no. I put together custom guides for each couple with where to eat, where to stay, how to get their marriage license, and what to do while they’re here.
Hiking is typically on their to-do list when it comes to how they want to spend their time. In working with my couples, I’ve learned a lot of people picture these big-ass mountains and a day-long adventure as hiking. FAKE NEWS. There are a crap-ton of accessible locations here that still come through with the gorgeous views everyone wants. A lot of my couples are beginners when they travel here to elope, so I want to start sharing some great beginner hikes around Colorado.
Hiking Basics – Before the Hike
Hiking is a such a fun way to exercise – you’ll forget about all the work you’re doing while looking at all the beautiful nature around you. That said, hiking can and will kick your ass if you’re not expecting it. Before heading out to CO, it’s not a bad idea to check yourself – if you haven’t exercised in a hot minute, I’d recommend taking a couple easy, one to two-mile walks with bae in the weeks leading up to your trip to prep for what’s coming.
As far as gear goes, I’m that bitch who could spend HOURS at REI, an outdoors store that is honestly heaven on earth. Hiking can require lots of gear, from shoes to clothing to backpacks, but if you’re not planning on dedicating a significant amount of time to hiking, here are the basic essentials:
Backpack or daypack – A backpack is totally fine if you’re just starting out! You’ll want something big enough to hold any snacks, layers, and water bottles. A step up from your basic-b backpack is a daypack, which is usually more supportive for your back and has a pouch specifically for your water reservoir so you can drink without having to take your pack off.
Hiking boots/shoes – A sturdy pair of gym shoes with good traction will work fine for beginner trails, but if you want to go all in, invest in a pair of hiking boots that fit and support your foot, feel comfy, and make sense for the type of hiking you’ll be doing the most.
The ‘fit – Go for comfort. I promise no one is checking to see if your outfit is Instagram-worthy out on the trails. If you’ll be going up in elevation, make sure you bring extra layers since it’s always colder at the top!
Food and water – ALWAYS bring water. Especially out here with our higher altitude, it’s so so important to stay hydrated. As far as snacks, Alex and I love granola bars, fruit, trail mix, and sandwiches. Whatever you decide to bring, if you pack it in, pack it out – don’t be the jerk who leaves an apple core along the trail.
Check the forecast before the day of your hike! Weather in the mountains can change fast, so always prepare for the worst. It’s way better to bring too many layers vs. not having enough.
Use AllTrails to familiarize yourself with the trail. I love checking out reviews online from other hikers to see if they had any issues or found something badass along the trail. Reviews will also give you an idea on when it’s best to hit the trail. Spoiler alert – most of the time it’s early in the morning, so drag your ass out of bed and get ready for killer sunrise views!
Day of the Hike
Double check that you have everything you need before you hit the road and let someone know where you’re going. Better to be safe than sorry.
There are some unspoken “rules” when it comes to hiking that a lot of newbies may not know. But don’t worry, your girl’s got your back.
Downhill hikers almost always yield to uphill hikers
Passing lanes on a trail are the same as when you’re driving – keep to the right and pass on the left
For the love of God, STAY ON THE PATH. Don’t try to be a hero and create something on your own – you’re stomping on plants and other little creatures.
Leave what you find. This is why I love my camera – if I see something cool, I take a picture and move on. In some places, it’s illegal to remove natural objects like flowers or shells
Respect nature and any furry creatures you come across! You’re in their home, so don’t touch or try to feed them
Okay now that you’re a hiking pro, we can get to the fun stuff – the actual hikes! Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) has been a hot spot ever since the panini started and Alex and I have done our fair share of visiting. It’s one of the most popular natural parks, with 76 mountains and only an hour and a half drive from Denver. A one-day pass into the park will cost you $25 per car, but there are lots of different shuttles that will pick you up in town or at their visitor’s centers and take you to the different trailheads for free.
Another short and sweet loop that’s under a mile round trip, Sprague Lake trail has benches that you can use to rest and take in the views. You can even see the Continental Divide at the far end of the lake!
This is an out and back trail, which means you’ll hike out to the end and then turn around and hike the same way back. It’s just over a mile round trip and because it’s so popular, it’s really well maintained. There are a few spots where you can pull off and take a break to grab some killer photos.
Another out and back, this one is about a mile and a half total and an amazing waterfall is your prize at the end! It takes you through a forest and past some rivers for most of the hike. Bonus – it’s really well shaded from all the trees, so this is a great choice during the summer.
This is the longest beginner loop on the list at almost six miles, but if you and bae are up for it, it’s a must-do. It’s in one of the most scenic areas of RMNP and has amazing scenery, wildflowers, waterfalls, lakes, and wildlife.
If you and bae try one of these trails while you’re here, send me a DM and let me know! I love connecting with future couples. Speaking of future couples… if eloping is starting to sound better and better, I’d love to be part of your special day.