Just a few miles from Cañon City in the Wet Mountain Valley, Grape Creek winds toward Westcliffe through Temple Canyon. Although it takes some sleuthing to locate the public-access points and a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get in there (BLM 6227 is a good bet, and you can hike in from the bridge parking just west of Cañon), it's well worth the trouble in spring, early summer and fall for serious anglers looking for gentle stair-step rapids and deep pool after deep pool of brownies, rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout. Fish tales tell of seventeen- to twenty-inchers, but the majority are in the ten- to thirteen-inch range, and because it can take some bushwhacking to get to the best spots, you're likely to be solo. When the fish aren't biting or it's time for a break, hike around the canyon for views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the cliffs of Scrapping Ridge.

Readers' Choice: Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Outside Canon City

cpw.state.co.us

Hit this section of the South Platte River, between Spinney Mountain and Eleven Mile State Park east of Hartsel, at sunrise for the big ones: The browns, rainbows, cutthroats and cutbows are all famously "monster-size." Named for the late Denver Post outdoor columnist famous for his love of all things hunting and fishing, this section is ideal for beginners, because the high-desert prairie location means there's very little for the fly to tangle in, and the clear water makes it easy to spot your prey. The fact that the area has become so well known means you're not likely to be alone, but anglers willing to cast on windy or colder days will be rewarded with some solitude. And don't forget the waders: This Dream Stream, as it's also known, is always numbingly cold.

Readers' Choice: Steamboat Springs

cpw.state.co.us

Orvis
Orvis Denver Facebook page

There are about a dozen Orvis authorized stores around the state offering free fly-fishing classes, but the Cherry Creek shop also has the location going for it, surrounded by good restaurants for that post-lesson discussion about which stream to head to first. And trust us, you'll be ready: The Fly-Fishing 101 class, which is offered Saturdays from 9 to 11:30 a.m. starting March 31 and running through mid-August, covers all the basics of fly-casting and outfit rigging, and anyone eight and older can participate (under sixteen, bring an adult). Once you complete the course, you get a free one-year membership to the conservationist nonprofit Trout Unlimited, as well as coupons for gear. In the winter, learn Fly-Tying 101 for free, too. Not surprisingly, these classes are popular, so reservations are a must.

Be warned: The Conejos River in the San Luis Valley is remote, and although you can find a guide, there are no services or rafting outfitters running it, and you're pretty much on your own for access and shuttles (you have to hike a couple of miles through the South San Juan Wilderness to put in). That said, the 52.7-mile stretch from Saddle Bridge to the bridge at state highway 17 can be three to four days of pure trout-fishing bliss, punctuated by Class II-III whitewater and miles-long float-and-bloat sections through high-alpine meadows and past swanky ranches. Because this largest tributary of the Rio Grande runs through private property on its way to Chama, New Mexico, be aware of sections where you can't use the banks, and also keep an eye out for the dozen or so barbed-wire fences strung across the water, as several need to be manually lifted to pass. Put in just below the Platoro Reservoir for an extra 6.5 miles of Class III-IV rapids, and get a good river map to plot out the named campgrounds you want to hit along the way. No raft? There are several points of public access, and the annual Superfly competition is a hoot.

San Luis Valley

conejosriver.com

Best Fourteener for a Newcomer
YouTube

While the masses head to Grays and Torreys or Bierstadt for their first Fourteener experience, you're smart enough to take the extra time to get to Quandary in the White River National Forest. You won't be alone. The thirteenth-highest Fourteener, at 14,265 feet, is still pretty popular, and its easy access from Breckenridge or Fairplay makes it part of a nice weekend getaway. The East Ridge is the standard — and simplest — route, a Class 1-rated, 6.75-mile jaunt to the top on a well-marked, well-trodden trail that's almost guaranteed to take you past herds of snowy-white mountain goats. At the top, revel in your achievement and check out the views of several other Fourteeners that might be in your future, like Mounts Bross, Cameron, Lincoln and Democrat.

Readers' Choice: Mount Bierstadt

Tenmile Range

14ers.com

Best Fourteener for a Native
Flickr/Dustin Gaffke

So you've bagged a bunch of Fourteeners and you're ready for the quintessential Colorado experience. It's time for Windom, an isolated peak in the San Juans that sports a spectacular view and an even better approach: Take the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train from Durango or Silverton to the Needleton trailhead in the Chicago Basin ($89 per person, round trip), a scenic ride that drops you at the base camp at 11,000 feet, right at the foot of three Fourteeners. Camp overnight (no permit needed), nail the summit, then take the train back when you're done. The hike up can start with a quick dip in Twin Lakes, about a mile from the trailhead, followed by a five-mile journey that gains 3,000 vertical feet over rock slabs, streams and some steep scree slopes. Along the way, you'll be treated to a waterfall and lots of wildlife; after traversing the rocky ridge at the top, look down on Upper Sunlight Lake amid the surrounding peaks.

Readers' Choice: Longs Peak

San Juan Mountains

14ers.com

Best Fourteener for the Whole Family
YouTube

Not only is Denver's closest Fourteener located at the end of North America's highest paved road — which means if you're nervous about your kids' first time, you can drive nearly all the way to the summit and check out their high-altitude reaction not far from the car — but the 14,264-footer is ideal for all first-timers, with routes rated as easy as Class 1. The shortest and easiest is the 2.9-mile trek from Summit Lake, or you can take more motivated tykes to Echo Lake for the fourteen-mile Class 2 Chicago Creek Route. Make a game of counting the bighorn sheep, mountain goats and marmots, and be sure to check out the 1,700-year-old bristlecone pines at the alpine garden, where your young'uns can make jokes about how they're almost as old as you.

14ers.com

Best Thirteener
Flickr/Jon Holm

Savvy mountaineers know that it's not just about the Fourteener checklist; many of the Thirteeners in Colorado are harder and far more interesting. Pacific Peak in Arapaho National Forest falls into that category, and has the bonus of Pacific Tarn, the highest lake in the country, which sits at 13,420 feet on the way to the summit at 13,950 (which, by the way, makes it one of Colorado's so-called Centennial Thirteeners, the state's hundred highest). Located not far from Quandary, Pacific takes hikers past two abandoned mines and several lakes tucked into glorious high-alpine meadows, and also offers ice climbers two challenging couloirs. The four ridges at the top — choose your route carefully, because each ridge approach varies from moderate to expert in skill level, and all of them require some route-finding — are exposed and rocky, but slow-and-steady to the talus field results in a straight shot at Quandary, the Tarn and the whole Tenmile Range.

Readers' Choice: Dallas Peak

Tenmile Range

14ers.com

Best Twelver
Flickr/Greg Younger

Just like Thirteeners, Twelvers are often overlooked because they're not Fourteeners. The highest summit in the Vasquez Mountains, which sit on the Continental Divide, the 12,947-foot-high Vasquez Peak is a true hidden gem, a mostly easygoing stroll on an old mining road and well-cut trail through forests of spruce and fir, krummholz and endless fields of wildflowers, interspersed with a few steep, rocky segments. Far fewer crowds and the flora and fauna of the surrounding wilderness areas are definite draws, but the best part of this hike is the 360-degree vista at the easily attained summit, including the Indian Peaks and Gore Range, as well as Pettingell Peak, Hassell Peak, Mount Machebeuf, Bard Peak, Mount Evans, Grays and Torreys, and even Longs Peak in the distance. Translation: Don't forget the camera.

Vasquez Mountains

alltrails.com

Atherial Fitness Facebook page

It takes only one class to earn your wings at Atherial Fitness. The aerial fitness studio offers yoga, barre and dance classes, most of which incorporate aerial silks — long strips of fabric that allow fliers to hang from the ceiling while getting a serious workout. Work your core and raise your heart rate in Atherial HIIT and Aerial Core. Use the silks to elevate your yoga practice, and find yourself in inversions after a few flow classes. After flying from one pose to another, lower the silk hammock closer to the ground and settle in for Atherial's more restorative classes. Learn aerial choreography in DanceFly, or take signature barre moves to the air in Barrefly. Once you get the hang of it, fly solo during open gym sessions.

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