‘The Mountains are calling’ isn’t just a phrase in my life, it’s a feeling. I think she went dormant for a few years of my teens and 20s when I only answered to the ‘calling of the waves and the Oceans’, but she’s back now and she’s full force.
Earlier this year I traveled for a long weekend to Sedona, Arizona and literally fell head over heels for the red rock wonders. (Read more about that visit on my previous blog post here, and this one about the vortexes !) Last year, I traveled to Denver, Colorado for the first time with friends and spent a lot of time hiking in the Rockies. I’ve been obsessed with both red rock and forest mountain ‘styles’ ever since. Luckily for me, Evergreen, Colorado had all of the above, and was within an hour’s drive of Denver.
My friends (otherwise known as T & T), and Adam and I (A & A, so combined – we are the T & A group), spent last weekend away in the mountains, and it was everything the soul could need. Our Airbnb was quite literally IN the mountains, and we had to drive offroad through tight (completely upright) turns for several miles to get to it. My heart did a backflip for that cute little A-frame cabin in the woods.
Evergreen is just a little over an hour south-west of Denver. The drive out is extremely scenic, and you climb some serious altitude in the process. The town of Evergreen itself is small and cozy, but still offers everything you need. There are late night grocery stores, bars and restaurants, Baskin Robbins!, shops, gas stations, a lake with a trail around it, plenty of hikes and parks, and even a crystal shop! #witchgang
We spent 2 full days hiking and exploring while we were there, leaving the days on each end for travel, Denver, eating/drinking, and resting. Combined with when we came to Denver last year with T & T (AND T & Z), we have been sort of tackling – without really knowing it mind you – a top 10 hiking list for the Denver area. This year I thought it would be cool to check more items off that list! Denver’s ultimate ‘hike it list’.
Hike #1: Royal Arch Trail at Chautauqua Park
Last year we tackled Saint Mary’s Glacier and Bear Lake at Estes Park. This year we were shooting for the Panoramic Point of Golden Gate Canyon Park, a view of the Continental Divide at, but a little morning thunderstorm and COLD front threw us off course a bit. (Thanks Mercury Retrograde!) Instead, we headed north to Boulder Colorado and the Flatirons, and went to Chautauqua Park. There was a trail here called the ‘Royal Arch‘, with outstanding views of the Flatirons and Boulder.
I’m not going to lie, after all the hiking Adam and I did in Sedona, I really figured the 4-something-mile route of the Royal Arch wasn’t going to be much of anything crazy. I was wrong, SO wrong. Aside from the fact that I think we took some wrong turns to start, the hike was seriously brutal you guys! Imagine yourself hiking on an outdoor stair climber … for hours on end. Oh yeah, and at like 8,000+ feet above sea level too! It’s tough! We had to stop so many times just to be able to breath (or stop sweating for a second). Talk about a GREAT workout though, I guess I really got what I asked for there. But you know what, it was so worth it. To be emerged in the forest like that was one thing, but there were so many views everywhere you looked too.
Once we finally reached the top of the Royal Arch it was a bit misleading and hard to understand what view all the fuss was about. It just looked like a giant rock arch in the sky, tucked in some trees, whoopie-do! But that’s the beauty of it all, the views were so hidden. You had to hike yourself up through the arch to see what was on the other side … incredible views of Boulder (and you could see Denver way in the distance too) AND views behind you of the Flatirons. Breathtaking! We hung out up there for awhile to rest our asses, take pictures, and make friends with the wild life. (We had a chipmunk that didn’t mind getting friendly). Then hike back was just as rough as the hike there, but I”m happy to report we all made it. 🙂
Hike #2: Roxborough State Park
Red Rocks! Dude, I was so happy! Beautiful slabs of red rocks, just shooting out of the ground, surrounded by pine trees everywhere. It was so gorgeous! This place is designated a National Natural Landmark too. Now, this wasn’t really an area you go to for some serious hiking like at Chautauqua, but it was definitely worth checking out. The area is very ‘public-y state park-y’, with wide trails, flat trails, and lots of families. Regardless, it was beautiful to walk around on top of the red rocks and down in between them too! You pay to enter the park and then you can walk on any of the trails they have laid out for you. There is also an onsite information center and restrooms, so that was convenient.
After an hour or so though I was ready for something new, as I don’t really see this place as somewhere you would spend the whole day at. But that’s good because then there is time to see more!
Hike #3: Maxwell Falls in Evergreen, CO
We were soooo sore on day 2 of hiking, especially by this point in the day. Day 1 in Boulder really beat the crap out of all of us, that hike was so strenuous! But I know we all wanted to see and do more, so we decided to stop at another trail on the way back to our Cabin in the woods. We were full on expecting this to be another simpler trail that would lead us to some humongous awesome waterfall. … But that’s definitely not at all how things went. (But hey, that’s half the fun!) This trail was also pretty brutal, with a lot of uphill climbing. More so done on dirt versus ‘rock stairs’ so the impact was a little different, but it was still one hell of a workout! I believe in total we did about 4.5 miles round-trip here to the ‘falls’ and back, and it took us several hours.
Now this hike wasn’t on the top 10 day hikes near Denver list, but it was right in Evergreen. The hike was mostly deep in the pine forest, but it had some great views too. There were a lot of people on this trail (just like the one in Boulder), but it was sort of nice to see other people struggle too, ha! Then you didn’t feel like such a wuss. Once we got to the ‘falls’ we honestly couldn’t find it. There was so much brush and rock in the area, it really just looked like a corner where a small creek was coming out of a large cliff. With some further exploring by Tommy while there rest of us took a break, we were able to locate the small waterfall in the back, and spent some time relaxing by it.
On the way back it was nice to go downhill through all the tough paths you had to climb to get there. Tania and I even went for a nice jog downhill for awhile (just like we got to do in the Rockies last year) and it was so refreshing! The exhilaration wore off a bit when I took a serious nose dive into the ground because I tripped on a branch, but I didn’t get hurt so it was still fun nonetheless.
If you get the chance to go to Denver, I hope that you get the chance to hike and explore! Colorado (and the whole south west for that matter) is such a beautiful area full of mountains and wilderness. This is a place I want to return to often to conquer more trails!
Here is some additional info on places we went, ate at, etc., to help you out on your next getaway.
Eating in Denver
- Travel arrival: We ate at Snooze A.M. Eatery downtown Denver. Last year we tried to get in here for brunch in Boulder, but the wait was like 2 hours and we just didn’t have that kind of time to waste. You know it was okay, but it really wasn’t anything I need to experience again. I’m not sure if it’s what I ordered (a breakfast sandwich) or how tired I was or what, but I just wasn’t really impressed.
- Travel departure: The Komotodo Sushi Burrito place! 🙂 Oh man did I want to go back there! IT. IS. SO. GOOD. Found this place while exploring last year and even ate it at TWO times then too. I had the crab one this year and it was amazing!
Groceries in Evergreen
- The good ole ‘King Soopers‘ grocery store is open late, so we hit that up the first night after picking up T & T at the airport. It worked well to get snacks, breakfast foods, and things to pack a lunch for the days we were going to hike, and then just eat out for dinner. We got simple things like chips, fruit, protein bars, and stuff to make some sandwiches on the go. I think this was definitely the most efficient way to go about it!
Dinner in Evergreen
- After the first day of hiking we decided to follow a recommendation in the guide our host left, to go to a place called Murphy’s Mountain Grill. We were absolutely famished and had to wait a long time for our food, as the place was pretty poppin’. We looked like dirt off the street and everyone was dressed a bit nicer, so that’s something to make note of. Also the burgers DID NOT come with any side item, not even french fries! That pissed all of us off.
- The meal after the second day of hiking called for a little more authenticity (and hopefully fries with burgers) so we checked out another place downtown Evergreen called Cactus Jack’s. This was more of a local hang out, sort of like a dive bar restaurant. It was extremely loud with live music on the patio so we sat inside. The service was extremely slow but the food was very satisfying after a long day!
- I spotted this bad boy the night we ate at Murphy’s Mountain Grill and refused to leave Evergreen without checking it out. The Crystal Garden. Finally made it there the last day and I could have spent hours in that shop looking at all the crystals! They had 2 humongous amethyst slabs outside the shop, welcoming you in. Picked up a few new pieces for my collection, and I’ve decided this is my new thing I must get anywhere I go: a new crystal. (Come a long way from the days it would be a new shot glass anywhere I went …)
Other Trails & Activities Near Evergreen
- Alderfer/ Three Sisters Park – Just a few miles outside of Evergreen, and also on the top 10 day hikes near Denver list.
- Elk Meadow Park – In Evergreen, also on the top 10 day hikes near Denver list.
- Mount Evans – the highest summit in the Chicago peaks at the front range point of the Rockies. This isn’t on the top 10 day hikes list, but it’s also a lot more intense than your average hike. This bad boy is 14,000 feet or higher!