Water pools and drops through meadows knee-deep with summer’s bounty:
columbines, Indian paintbrush, primrose. I wade through the grass, chasing my three kids as they climb higher, following the stream up toward its headwaters at an unnamed lake just below the Continental Divide. We’ll camp where the valley narrows, right at treeline, and then scramble up a peak on the Divide. But there’s no hurry. We don’t have to worry about other hikers occupying our camp or crowding the route above. No trail crosses the meadow and there are no people to share it with.
Sounds like a million great places in the mountains, right? But this spot is special because the trailhead is less than hour from Boulder, Colorado, where I live. It’s special because the hike is only a few hours, yet whenever I go there I feel a million miles away. It’s special because Front Range hikers flock to the local trails every summer weekend, but even on the nicest Saturday in August, no one seems to go here.
Here at Backpacker, we share some of the best-kept secrets in the outdoors. But I’m not telling you where my Colorado getaway is. I will, however, take you there.
I’m inviting readers to join me and the Backpacker staff in Boulder this summer for a unique adventure. And all you have to do to join is commit to helping kids get into the wilderness.
You already know that Backpacker is a longtime supporter of Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit organization that mentors underprivileged youth in the outdoors. Just in the last three years, we’ve led fundraising climbs on Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta, and the Grand Teton. In that time, I’ve had the good fortune to hike with dozens of readers, and we’ve collectively raised about $500,000 for Big City Mountaineers. That money supports hundreds of weeklong backpacking trips for teens, many of whom have never seen a trail or camped a single night.
How do you raise the bar on a program like this? In 2016, we’re doing something new. We’re hosting our fundraising trips in Colorado, where we can take you to the places I and the rest of Backpacker’s staff love—the places near our Boulder home, where we go with our families and friends. After the hikes, we’ll celebrate with an evening in Boulder, where you’ll tour the Backpacker offices and meet some of our friends from the outdoor industry.
We’re planning three different trips: Long’s Peak, the Collegiate Peaks, and my favorite local meadow, described above. None of the routes are technical—no climbing skills required—but participants should be comfortable in alpine terrain. Here are the dates, and what you can expect:
On this peakbagging trip, we’ll tag a trio of Fourteeners: Mt. Belford, Mt. Oxford, and Missouri Mountain. The peaks are clustered in the spectacular Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, where we’ll camp before the summit climbs. No experience required, but you’ll need strong legs: If we make it to the top of all three, expect more than 7,000 feet of elevation gain.
DatesJuly 15-17, 2016
This 14,259-foot summit in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the premier climbs in Colorado. We’ll backpack to the Boulder Field, the highest established campsite in the National Park System, then get up early the next morning and climb the Keyhole Route. This classic ascent is a fun scramble, with views across the Rockies.
DatesAugust 12-14, 2016
You’ll have to trust me on this one. For this trip we’ll head to one of my favorite spots in the mountains close to Boulder. We’ll hit the Continental Divide before returning to town to attempt a dayhike that’s on my personal bucket list: the Boulder Skyline Traverse, a 16-mile route linking all five major peaks that loom over town. Even locals brag about bagging this one.
Dates August 19-21, 2016
Space is limited, of course, so if you’re interested, don’t wait: Get more info and register today.