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Detour to camp at Gore Lake on a 12.4-mile overnight in the Gore Range on one of Denver’s best local hikes. Photo by Fredrick Marmsater
Inner Canyon Trail, Castlewood Canyon S.P.
Even though the outdoorsy residents of Denver frequent Castlewood, it’s still easy to find solitude in this 2,303-acre preserve where 13 miles of trails crisscross the prairie, shady forest, and canyon bottoms. Check out the Inner Canyon Trail, a 1.1-mile (one way) journey that descends 200 feet to the floor and passes through the pines of the Black Forest.
Trailhead39.333567, -104.744232Drive time 50 mins. Info bit.do/castlewood
Centennial Cone, Centennial Cone Park
When Denverites want to show off our city’s wild borders, the 12-mile loop around this extinct volcano is our go-to for quick-access views. Head out from the Mayhem Gulch trailhead and switchback 1,500 feet in 1.5 miles from the floor of Clear Creek Canyon. Turn right (east) onto the Travois Trail and begin the loop. Let the vanilla-scented forest envelop you, then cross bare rocks with views of the 9,000 footers nearby. Close the loop along the Elk Range Trail, where Thirteeners rake the western horizon.
Trailhead39.737191, -105.371633Drive time 40 mins. Infobit.do/CentCone
Eccles Pass, Eagles Nest Wilderness
As any Front Range hiker knows, standard routes up the nearby Fourteeners are so busy with all manner of peakbaggers on summer weekends that you’ll find more solitude at a Broncos game. But not many Front Range hikers know about the Gore Range Thirteeners. You will have to tackle I-70, but the range is deep and empty, and this 12.4-miler gets the goods. From the Meadow Creek trailhead in Frisco, climb through 3 miles of aspen groves to treeline, where alpine meadows unravel before a cirque of 12,000-footers (Deming and Buffalo Mountains, Red and Eccles Peaks). Camp between Eccles and Red Buffalo Passes to bag them, or take the 1.4-mile spur to Gore Lake (mile 8), a secluded alpine stunner. Continue following Gore Creek to finish at Deluge Lake trailhead in Vail.
Trailhead39.588823, -106.106129Drive time 1 hr. 15 mins. Infobit.do/Eccles
CHEAP, GOOD GEAR
Denver probably has more outdoors equipment per capita than any other major city. Find it used at the Wilderness Exchange on 15th Street. wildernessexchangelimited.com