5 Budget-Friendly Hiking Spots in Colorado

…because you don’t have to be rich to enjoy the mountains.

After a decade of living in muggy, humid Houston, I can say with great certainty that moving to Colorado at the end of 2020 was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. For the first time, my dogs could roam freely over a cornucopia of grassy landscapes and mountainous terrain. The weather was beautiful, and there’s always something to do.

After unloading most of my belongings and paying a hefty fee to haul the rest across state lines, however, I was broke. The remainder of my money had already been budgeted toward rent and deposits, which didn’t leave much for snowboarding gear or an off-road capable vehicle.

…but why should money stop me from enjoying Colorado?

There are plenty of astonishing, extraordinary places for you and your family to visit…and they don’t cost a dime.

Boulder Falls in Boulder, CO

The lush green hills and crystal clear waters of Boulder Falls are a major attraction for tourists, locals, and college students alike. To reach the actual waterfalls, you’ll have to drive down one long, winding single-lane road that leads deep into the mountain pass. Don’t worry, there are traffic conductors that rotate the oncoming and departing vehicles smoothly through the area. About a mile or two in, you’ll park your car on the shoulder and head through the man-made paths that follow the river.

The moment you step out of your vehicle, you can feel the cool air rising from the gulch. The scent of the fresh, vibrant pine trees immediately fills your nostrils and you can hear the trickling of water.

Upon reaching the falls, you’re likely to witness other travelers kicking off their shoes and taking a dip in the cold, transparent river. For me, it was enormously refreshing to be calf-deep in the streams of Boulder Falls, but proceed with caution! The channels are deceptively welcoming, and the rocks can be slippery and difficult to navigate. Those accompanied by children or pets should be extra vigilant.

Redrocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO

If ever there were a perfect place for influencers to take a million selfies, Redrocks is it. No matter the weather, folks gather at this popular location to run the steps, practice their photography, and attend concerts before the coronavirus pandemic.

On the other side of the amphitheatre are several hiking trails that range from easy to difficult…depending on the individual, anyway. If you’re not quite used to the altitude or it’s your first time in the mountains, keep in mind that your lungs are going to be working much harder than normal. At over 6,500 feet in altitude, the air is thin enough to knock the wind out of your body within ten minutes of your walk.

Photo by Cecilia

So, bring plenty of water and take breaks as needed. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, if you’re lucky you might spot a mule deer!

Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, CO

Just across the highway from Redrocks lies miles of hiking terrain known as Dinosaur Ridge. If you’re afraid of heights like I am, that first hump up the mountain is absolutely terrifying. In addition to being incredibly steep and covered in snow, I was only wearing a pair of old, beat-up tennis shoes.

Do yourself a favor; get a good pair of boots and avoid hiking in the snow until you’ve got some experience under your belt.

Once we got closer to the top though, things leveled out a bit and it wasn’t so scary. It actually felt as though we’d walked straight into Narnia, I for sure thought we’d bump into Mr. Tumnus at any given moment.

Or a bear..or a cougar.

With the snow being as thick as it was, we’d wandered off the beaten path for about 15 to 20 feet. Upon reaching the top of that hill, we were faced with an unbelievable view of the mountain line.

Photo by Cecilia

That said, I cannot stress how important it is to STAY ON THE PATH no matter where you decide to go.

Anything can happen. If you slip and fall or get lost, it could be a while before help can get to you. Even though these hiking spots aren’t terribly far from society, cell service may not be great, and there’s always the possibility of losing your phone.

Have fun, but be careful!

Introvert & animal lover

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