Atlantic Peak, White River National Forest
Miles 4 (out and back) Drive from town 1 hour 30 minutes
The only problem with an outdoor Mecca like Colorado? In summer, the high country can be as busy as an REI holiday sale. That’s why locals avoid crowd magnets like Fourteeners and target slightly lower peaks, like this Thirteener near Copper Mountain ski area. The approach passes through the remnants of Boston Mine, which thrived during the late 19th century. From there, the trek ascends 2,500 feet through willow thickets; at about mile 2, the trail peters out into a steep, unmarked climb. Pick the path of least resistance to reach the ridgeline and summit, where you can see 14,265-foot Quandry Peak one mountain to the south. Trailhead Mayflower Gulch Info
Meridian Peak, Eagles Nest Wilderness
Miles 14 (out and back) Drive from town 1 hour 45 minutes
For a Gore Range summit without the Gore Range effort, cruise up the Elliot Ridge Trail to 12,426-foot Meridian Peak. From the remote trailhead (4WD required), head south on the trail’s namesake ridge where constant views spread out across alpine grassland (watch for elk and wildflowers in the summer), intermittent snowfields, and the pointed spires of the Gore Range. At the summit, stand face to face with Eagles Nest and Mt. Powell before turning around and heading back to the car. Note: Elliot Ridge is exposed for its entire length, so check the weather, especially in summer. Trailhead Elliot Ridge Info
Sawtooth Ridge Traverse, Mt. Evans Wilderness
Miles 10 (loop) Drive from town 1 hour 30 minutes
Another strategy for losing crowds? Hike between the mountains. Ridgeline traverses have all the views and scrambling fun of our favorite peaks, but they look intimidating to the casual crowd. Case in point: The Sawtooth Traverse links two of the Fourteeners closest to the city, Mts. Evans and Bierstadt, but sees a fraction of the traffic. Where most peakbaggers are high-fiving atop 14,060-foot Bierstadt, your day is only beginning. Step onto the ridge (the route is exposed but difficulty tops out at nontechnical class 3 scrambling). The 2-mile traverse—and Rockies views—will keep you focused, but pay attention to the weather. There are no bail-out points if afternoon storms threaten. Tip: Leave a car parked at the summit of Evans to cut 4 miles off the return. Trailhead Mt. Bierstadt Info
When you only have an hour, head to Cheesman Park, which was originally a cemetery. While some of the bodies were interred in a new location, many others were simply dug up, and others were never moved at all. A shady, 2-mile loop rings the park—just trying not to think about what lays beneath your feet.
Where to Buy Gear in Denver: Feral Mountain Co.
Where to Eat Near Denver
Tommyknocker in Idaho Springs is right off I-70, at the gateway to the mountains.
Don’t Forget: Pack some mid-cut boots for the scree fests above treeline.
Our Scout: Heather Balogh Rochfort
Our Scout: Stasia Callaghan