Using cannabis to enhance your outdoor experience is a great way to reset your inner hard drive. We should feel lucky to live in Colorado, where we can escape into nature for therapy minutes outside of Denver. There’s something spiritual about summits, hikes along rivers or even lying in fields of wildflowers that makes the connection between human and earth feel rooted.
Adding cannabis into the equation can enhance that connection. Most Colorado locals know the unwritten rules of smoking while on a hike, but some tourists and transplants might not. Below are tips on how to get the most from a pot-infused hike – and, more important, how to be cool about it.
Know the Laws
If you are 21 or over, you have the right to possess one ounce, or 28 grams, of marijuana flower or THC-infused products. So if you have an ounce on a hike (or hopefully more of a weeklong backpacking trip), don’t get a big head and bust it out wherever you want. Also, it's still illegal to posses and consume cannabis on federal land, and it's illegal to consume on state land. Even if you don't want to follow the rules, it's good to know them.
Sativa and sativa-dominant strains tend to be more energizing and motivating. Go-to strains for hikes that are readily available in Denver are Durban Poison, Green Crack, Harlequin and anything with the word "Diesel" in it. Most citrus-heavy strains, like Lemon Skunk and Tangie, are also safe bets to amp you up before the incline. Just a few puffs of any of these uplifting strains will give you the clear-headed energy and focus to take on any hike. Just don't overdo them.
Make sure you have your maps marked and downloaded and your trails set; make sure someone knows where you will be. You should always be prepared for emergencies when camping or hiking regardless of cannabis, but it’s much better to be prepared for anything before you smoke – so when a bear arrives, you’re blowing your bear whistle, not your flashlight. Over-preparing can make the entire trip that much more relaxing and your adventure out of the house less of a shock.
Getting Stoned Isn’t the Goal
It’s not about bringing a dozen joints and smoking one at every nice view you come across; it’s about having a hit or two to enhance your experience and relax yourself. Don’t be the person who overdoes it, gets lazy or aloof, and ruins the hike. Be the person who notices elk antlers or befriends a rabbit along the way.
Since cannabis and hiking at high elevations both naturally dehydrate you, next to nothing is more important than staying hydrated. Seriously, pack a lot of water – more than you think you could possibly go through. Stay steady sipping on the drive there, the hike, the camp, the incline, the decline and the drive home. You cannot drink enough water when mixing cannabis with high-altitude activity.
Know Your Surroundings
Colorado’s parks and trails are never at a loss for visitors, especially on the weekends. The parking lots and hikes themselves can literally have single-file lines at times. At any minute, you could turn the corner and run into a family, kids or tourists looking to validate stereotypes. Be discreet, be mindful of others and their comfort level, and don’t make a scene out of it. Find a nice spot away from the flock or main trail like your parents did, and be thoughtful.
Some campsites are actually cannabis-friendly. These private ranches or campgrounds allow the use of cannabis, but they're not just places to set up camp quickly and smoke. Such lodging areas have daily activities based around nature and cannabis, and you'll probably meet like-minded people.
You’re Higher Than You Think
Altitude sickness can be a problem for anyone not used to living one mile high – or being above 12,000 feet. If hiking high altitudes, take baby steps with smoking cannabis. Diving right in can cause things to start spinning real quick. Spend ten to fifteen minutes at every thousand feet you gain, make sure your breathing is under control, and keep drinking water. Try one puff, and see how you feel. Trust your body.
When you start getting noodle legs and don’t think you can go much farther, it’s time to set up camp and bring out the indicas. Indica strains relax muscles, help with aches and pains and induce a good night's sleep. Good post-hike indicas that are easy to find in Denver include Bubba Kush, Grape Ape, Death Star and White Fire OG Kush.
You Were Never There
"Pack it in, pack it out" doesn't just apply to beer cans and wrappers: Be it the butt of a pre-roll, matches or a pipe that fell and broke – make sure you've cleaned up everywhere you stop. With the mountains having a dry season and wildfire alert on high, it'd be wise to bring a portable ash tray or a water bottle to put out anything you light. Be mindful of any flames, sparks or litter that might jump out of reach.
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