GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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If you aren’t used to it, high altitude can catch you off guard. Drink plenty of water to help stave off the effects of altitude sickness—dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, and nausea. You also should slather on the sunscreen, as it’s easy to get sunburned up here. And in summer an early morning start is best, as afternoon thunderstorms are frequent and potentially dangerous above the tree line.
DeLonde Trail/Blue Bird Loop. At the Caribou Ranch Open Space, the DeLonde Trail/Blue Bird Loop is an easy 4.5-mile walk through forests and wildflower-filled meadows. An elk herd resides on the open space, so listen for the bulls bugling in fall. The 1.2-mile DeLonde Trail starts to the left of the trailhead information kiosk and connects to the Blue Bird Loop just above the former DeLonde homestead site. You can take a break at the picnic table overlooking the pond near the ranch house before continuing on the loop to the former Blue Bird Mine complex. Allow two hours to complete the hike. Trailhead: From Nederland, drive north on Hwy. 72 to County Rd. 126, turn left, and go 1 mile, Nederland, CO, 80466. 303/678–6200.
Indian Peaks Wilderness. Offering some of the most popular hiking in the area, Indian Peaks Wilderness is a place where you'll always have company in summer. The area encompasses more than 50 lakes, 133 miles of trails, and six mountain passes crossing the Continental Divide. Wildflowers are prolific, and peak in late July and early August. Cinquefoil, harebell, stonecrop, flax, wild geranium, yarrow, larkspur, lupine, and columbine (the state flower) all mix in a mosaic of colors on the slopes and in the meadows. Parking at trailheads in the wilderness area is limited, so plan to start out early in the day. "No Parking" signs are posted, and, if the designated parking lot is full, the etiquette is to park your car on the outbound side of the road at a spot where there's still room for vehicles to pass. There's no central access point to the area; contact the U.S. Forest Service or check its website for trail information and driving directions. Permits are not required for day visitors but are for camping. All dogs must be on leash. Boulder Ranger District Office, Arapaho National Forest, 2140 Yarmouth Ave., Boulder, CO, 80301. 303/541–2500. www.fs.usda.gov/detail/arp/specialplaces/?cid=fsm91_058237. Lost Lake. The easy 2.8-mile (round-trip) hike to Lost Lake has enough altitude to give you views of the high peaks under the brilliant blue sky. It's a good option for those visiting from the flatlands, as you'll gain a mere 800 feet on this two-hour walk. Trailhead: From Nederland, drive south on Hwy. 119 to County Rd. 130. About 1 mile after the pavement ends, look for a road on the left that goes sharply downhill (marked Hessie Trail). Park there and hike 0.5 miles to the trailhead., Nederland. Diamond Lake. The well-traveled trail to Diamond Lake starts out as the Arapaho Pass Trail at the Fourth of July trailhead. It's steep as you climb through the pines, but the elevation gain between the trailhead and the lake is only 800 feet. The trail delivers terrific views of Jasper Peak and the Arapaho Peaks. In late July, when the snowfields are gone, the wildflowers cover the slopes and meadows with bursts of color. At the junction with the Diamond Lake trailhead to the left, the trail passes a waterfall and crosses a stream (with a bridge) before it descends to Diamond Lake. Relax at the lake and enjoy the views before returning. Allow three hours to hike the 5-mile round-trip. Trailhead: From Nederland, drive south on Hwy. 119 to County Rd. 130. About 5 miles after the pavement ends, look for signs for the Fourth of July trailhead., Nederland.
B&F Mountain Market. You can get water and food for your hike plus deli sandwiches and other groceries at the B&F Mountain Market. 60 Lakeview Dr., Nederland, CO, 80466. 303/258–9470.
Indian Peaks Ace Hardware. This is a good (and super-friendly) place to get information, maps, and gear. 74 Hwy. 119, Nederland, CO, 80466. 303/258–3132. www.indianpeaksace.com.
Eldora Mountain Resort. With a 1,600-foot vertical drop (the longest run is 3 miles), Eldora Mountain Resort has 53 trails, 12 lifts, and 680 acres; 25 miles (40 kilometers) of groomed Nordic track; and four terrain parks accommodating different ability levels for snowboarders and skiers. Tucked away in the mountains at 9,200 feet (summit elevation is 10,800 feet), Eldora's annual snowfall is more than 300 inches. Daily lift tickets are $79. The Indian Peaks Lodge rents skis, runs a ski school, and has a cafeteria-style restaurant. 5 miles west of Nederland off Hwy. 119 and Eldora Rd., 2861 Eldora Ski Rd., Nederland, CO, 80466. 303/440–8700. www.eldora.com. $79. Mid-Nov.–mid-Apr.; lifts run 9–4.