Want to take your day hikes to a new level? Try one of these overnight town-to-town hikes.
The British call it “tramping”—walking from village to village, spending the night at inns, eating at pubs. If you want to kick your day hikes up a notch and enjoy a strenuous trek to a summit or across a pass—but prefer a bed to a sleeping bag when day is done—this kind of “self-guided town-to-town hiking” may be for you.
Also known as “daypack and plastic,” the concept will have you walking from a mountain trailhead to a mountain town carrying just a daypack, staying the night at a hotel or rental condo (that’s where the plastic comes in) and retracing your steps the next day. Here are five town-to-town hikes in Colorado to get you started:
ASPEN TO CRESTED BUTTE. A true summer classic, especially during July and August when the wildflowers are in bloom, this 11-mile trip following the West Maroon Creek Trail has a 3,000-foot elevation gain. It is essential to reserve a shuttle to and from the trailhead on the Crested Butte side, as the trailhead is 14 miles out of town. Put your feet up at Elevation Hotel at the base of Mount Crested Butte. As an alternative, the East Maroon Creek Trail also connects Aspen and Crested Butte. It’s about 16 miles long, but has a more moderate grade and fewer users. Starting from Aspen, take Maroon Creek Road off of Highway 82 to access both trailheads at Maroon Lake.
VAIL TO MINTURN. This 11-mile hike, with a 2,000-foot elevation gain, uses the Two Elk Trail over Two Elk Pass, starting from the summit of Vail Pass. Views of the Gore Range, Sawatch Range and Vail’s Back Bowls are highlights of this day’s walk, as is the Mexican food that awaits hikers in Minturn (try Gardunos, 291 Main St.). From trail’s end, it is a mile or so along the road into the town of Minturn, where you can lay your head at the cozy Minturn Inn; call a taxi or shuttle to avoid that part of the walk.
NEDERLAND TO WINTER PARK. The Arapaho Pass Trail through the stunning Indian Peaks Wilderness is a 16-mile hike, but with only 2,000 feet of elevation gain. With a nice forested stretch as well as mountain vistas, this long walk starts from the Fourth of July trailhead on the east side of the Continental Divide and ends at Monarch Lake on the west side. Arrange a shuttle or taxi from Monarch Lake into Winter Park or Granby for lodging. Our suggestion? Hit the hot tub at the Trailhead Inn in Winter Park.
BRECKENRIDGE TO COPPER MOUNTAIN. This walk is nearly 13 miles long, all on Segment 7 of the Colorado Trail, with 3,600 feet of elevation gain. Skiers will enjoy this hike for its up-close views of the Breckenridge ski area as well as more panoramic vistas of other Summit County resorts. In Breck, the Goldhill trailhead off of Highway 9 is the starting point. Upon arriving in Copper, cross Highway 91 to stay at the Foxpine Inn; or the free, convenient Summit Stage bus from Copper to Frisco to Breckenridge provides a return option for those who want to walk only one way. This stretch of trail is also well loved by mountain bikers on summer weekends.
ESTES PARK TO GRAND LAKE. From Bear Lake trailhead on the Estes Park side of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Flattop Mountain trail takes hikers 4.5 miles to the top of Flattop Mountain and then 12 more miles to Grand Lake on the west side of the park. The elevation gain is a reasonable 2,850 feet over those 16.5 miles, and the traverse of the park is wild and spectacular. The chance for wildlife sightings is especially good on this epic walk. In Grand Lake, stay at the Gateway Inn to rejuvenate for the next day’s hike.
What to pack for a long day hike