If you’ve ever been to the mountains of Colorado in the spring, you know it can deliver all varieties of pleasant and not-so-pleasant weather in the blink of an eye. Temperatures can rise and fall faster than Scarlet O’Hara changed her mind in “Gone With the Wind”.
Speaking of wind, you’ll also find that it can get a bit gusty at times, making the task of planning and preparation a wise decision indeed.
If you are aware, informed, and properly prepared though, the not-so-pleasant weather and wind can actually add to the fun and adventure! When weather is less than ideal, you will discover that you may be the only human around for as far as the eye can see and the ear can hear. The magic of the tranquility and solitude can be healing, breathing energy and life into the care-worn soul.
Here are a few tips and reminders for Spring hiking in the Rockies.
Dress in layers.
Wearing clothing, (like Under Armour) that is designed to wick the perspiration away from your body, along with long sleeves, long pants, and a light jacket, will ensure your best comfort. Water-resistant boots are a must also, as the spring snows can turn wet and slushy. It’s easy to find places in Estes where you can buy or rent outdoor gear and snowshoes. You can check out the Warming House, or Estes Park Mountain Shop for starters.
Bring a light pack.
Because you are coming for the outdoor experience, you’ll probably want to bring a small backpack, rain gear, water bottles for high-altitude hiking, maps, headlamps, hiking boots, and a whistle to attract attention – in case you get lost and to alert wildlife. (Remember, hungry bears are just waking up and coming out of “hibearnation”, looking for breakfast. It’s best if you try to avoid being breakfast.)
You may also want to pack binoculars, and a camera. In fact, definitely bring a camera! And don’t forget to bring extra batteries and a charger. There are so many opportunities to catch once-in-a-lifetime photos you won’t want to miss because your batteries died…
Most importantly ~ Keep your tummy wet and your head and feet dry! (Stay warm and hydrated)
Prepare for wind.
Now, when it comes to wind, it’s best to stay low and avoid the gnarly gusts and arctic blasts, which can actually push you off balance, snap branches and even knock over whole trees.
Estes Park resident and freelance editor, writer, blogger, Stephanie Granada writes,
“While it’s true that we get blasted pretty good from time to time, that doesn’t have to keep you from getting outside. It’s what you came here to do, after all. Still, it’s smart to come prepared with some basic know-how about staying safe.
Jacob Leithead, a long-time Estes resident, avid hiker and GM at Dancing Pines Distilling Co., advises visitors to stay below elevation 9,000 and definitely cancel any peak bagging plans. “Always figure a four-degree drop in temperature for every 1,000 feet you ascend,” he says. Those degrees may seem insignificant, but it makes all the difference when the wind is blowing at 30 miles per hour. “The trees are also thicker the closer you are to town and less likely to snap.”
While you may be bummed about skipping the higher peaks, there’s one undeniable silver lining: “You can see the greatest diversity of plant and animal life below 9,000 feet,” Leithead says…”
For more on this article and to find out what experts say are the best trails to hike on a windy day, checkout the Visit Estes Park post here >
Photos by Brett Wilson