Longform

SPORTS & RECREATION

part 2 of 3
Best Day Hike
Cathedral Lake
White River National Forest, near Aspen

This five-mile hike begins in a grove of aspen, passes through high-mountain valleys and rock slides, and ends at timberline and the lake, which is bordered by the immense rock formations that gave it its name. Take Highway 82 from Glenwood Springs toward Aspen; shortly before reaching town, take a right at the Maroon Bells turnoff and follow the signs to Cathedral Lake trailhead (the big stone church at the turn is a good landmark). The drive alone is worth it, especially in the fall when the aspens are turning.

Best Urban Nature Hike
Boulder Creek Path
Skaters, bikers, runners and walkers in the know have enjoyed this scenic route along Boulder Creek for years. Completed in 1987, the $3.3 million project made the vast and scenic area in Boulder Canyon accessible to recreationists everywhere. And now the path has earned national recognition. Earlier this year, it was among eight river-restoration projects across the country to receive awards from the Washington-based American Rivers Symposium. That should clue everyone to what many of us already know--that the Boulder Creek Path is a great place to get away from it all without going very far from home.

Best Wheelchair Hike
Jim Creek Nature Trail System
Winter Park Resort

Although there are fat-tire wheelchairs out there hardy enough to traverse a typical mountain trail, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation's outdoor center in Winter Park's Jim Creek area provides satisfying outdoor experiences for people driving stock models. The 1.2-mile loop, dedicated last summer and maintained by the National Sports Center for the Disabled, provides easily navigated, barrier-free paths with wide boardwalks crossing the creek, as well as campsites with wheelchair-accessible tent platforms and cooking grills.

Best Night Hike
Full Moon Hikes
Roxborough State Park
South of C-470 off Highway 121

You won't need a backpack--and probably not even hiking boots--for these cosmopolitan nature affairs. But you might leave with a spare tire. Led by volunteer naturalists, the hikes combine two favorite things--moonlight and desserts--against the uncanny backdrop of Roxborough State Park's jutting red-rock formations. Invariable sellouts, the hike-(and eat)-by-night events benefit the Roxborough Land Fund, established for the acquisition of the Southdowns area adjacent to the park.

Best Intercontinental Link
American Discovery Trail
The newly configured American Discovery Trail is actually a network of existing trails and links that work their way across the state, from the Kokopelli Trail at the Utah border to Old Bent's Fort on the Santa Fe Trail. The route passes through all of Colorado's varied terrain, allowing access along the way to wilderness areas, urban nature pockets, historic sites and just plain beautiful expanses. A northern route heading out of Denver toward Nebraska and Iowa is in developmental stages.

Best Day Trip
(Cheap)

Peak to Peak Highway
Estes Park south to Central City
Want to see awe-inspiring slices of high country from the comfort of your car, all without the speed and monotonous traffic of I-70? The Peak to Peak, north of the interstate and west of Boulder, is 65 miles of scenic wonder, with panoramic views of the Continental Divide and charming high-country towns along the way. And if you want to avoid the gambling crowds that have overrun formerly tranquil Central City and Black Hawk, hang a Louie at Nederland and head back to town.

Best Day Trip
(Expensive)

Central City/Black Hawk
Hey, it's not Vegas. But you can lose as much cash as you like in this Colorado gambling center, even if voters thought they were approving only "limited stakes" gaming (no bet over $5) when they voted to allow gambling four years ago. These two Victorian mining outposts were crumbling into obscurity before the slot machines and roulette wheels came to town. Now spruced up with Old West storefronts and late-twentieth-century traffic and stress, the twin mountain towns are a surreal but fascinating experience less than an hour from downtown Denver.

Best Ski Resort in Summer
Steamboat Springs
Featuring rodeos nearly every weekend, classic car races, miles of bicycle trails (they even let you bring your mountain bike up the ski-mountain gondola or will rent you one at the top), classical-music concerts on the mountain, great restaurants and Western flavor, Steamboat Springs is Aspen in the summer--without the glitz or the price.

Best Mountain Weekend for Plain Folks
Leadville
West on I-70, then south on Colorado 91

Once a booming Victorian silver town, sitting pretty under the ominous watch of fourteeners Elbert and Massive, Leadville long ago shed any claims--staked or otherwise--to rural chic. At the harsh altitude of just over 10,000 feet, it never was a stylish ski mecca, and since the Climax molybdenum mines faded, Leadville's hardy mountain people will welcome you tourists happily if you respect their habitat and clean up after yourself. You can bed-and-breakfast it or rent a small house for the weekend, and urbane campers can stoke up on caffeine in the town's coffeehouse or shop junk-and-antique stores. And there are lots of things to do and explore. Leadville has historic sites, a train ride and Jeep tours. Don't miss the Mosquito Pass burro race, an annual summer event that starts in the middle of town and is accompanied by Boom Days--a funky street celebration for locals and tourists alike.

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