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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Lee

Front Range Training Hikes

After the longest winter ever and a very wet spring, summer is slowly but surely coming in Colorado. If your goal this summer is to climb some of Colorado's tallest mountains, also known as 14ers, it is time to start preparing. The most popular time to climb 14ers is early July through early September, this is when you will encounter the most ideal climbing conditions and weather windows. So, how can you train over the next month so you are ready when all the snow finally melts? Below are details on some of my favorite training hikes in the Front Range.

Please note: these hikes are all challenging and I don't recommend them for beginners, rather for someone that is already in relatively good shape and looking to push themselves. Make sure to check the weather, read recent trip reports and be prepared. Check out the other linked blogs at the bottom of this article for preparation tips!

Bear Peak

Located in Boulder, CO this mountain is a fantastic test of your fitness. There are multiple route options that vary in length and difficulty. Some route require leashes and other routes allow dogs to be off leash with the Boulder Voice & Sight Tag. My favorite route for Bear Peak is via Shanahan Ridge, which is also arguable the most challenging route. It is the shortest route with the most elevation gain per mile. The route starts on a mellow trail and then climbs steeply through Fern Canyon. To reach the summit of Bear Peak scrambling is required and may be challenging for some dogs. The views from the summit are stunning and show off multiple mountain ranges in Colorado.

my preferred route (off leash route): 5 miles + 2673 feet elevation gain

alternate route 1 (leashes required on parts): 6.2 miles + 2811 feet elevation gain

alternate route 2 (leashes required on parts): 9.6 miles + 2847 feet elevation gain

alternate route 3 (off leash route): 8.1 miles + 2890 feet elevation gain

South Boulder Peak

Another fantastic mountain in Boulder, CO is the neighbor of Bear Peak, South Boulder Peak. You can connect the two quite easily via a maintained trail if you wanted to add more distance to your hike. My favorite route for this mountain approaches from the other side of the peaks to my preferred route above. This route also starts on a mellow well-maintained trail before you enter the grueling Shadow Canyon. This part of the route is steep, rocky and contains some scrambling. Then you emerge from the canyon and climb to the summit via another well maintained yet rocky trail. This route is entirely off leash with the Boulder Voice and Sight Tag. The views from the summit are absolutely stunning for 360 degrees.

my preferred route (off leash route): 8 miles + 3021 feet elevation gain

alternate route 1 (leashes required on parts): 10.1 miles + 3159 feet elevation gain

alternate route 2 (leashes required on parts): 9.5 miles + 2542 feet elevation gain

Cupid Peak

I have climbed this 13er more than any other mountain in Colorado, 10 times. It is a great winter and spring climb because there is low avalanche risk on the route as long as you stick to the trail and ridgeline. It is important to be familiar with winter hiking risk on this route and maintain distance from the cornices that will stick around into June. The trail is usually mostly clear of snow by May though. Here is a previous trip report with more in depth details. This hike starts around 11,800 feet and climbs about 1,000 feet in the first mile, a tough start. You reach the top of the first incline and turn right to head to Cupid and left to head to Sniktau, see below. There is more incline after this but not as steep. You can combine Cupid and Sniktau for a longer day. The views from this summit are my favorite in the front range, which is probably why I have done it so many times.

route details: 3.9 miles +1722 miles elevation gain

Mount Sniktau

This hike starts with the exact same route as Mt. Cupid for the first mile. When you reach the top of the initial incline you turn left instead of right. As you follow the trail there is a false summit that looks very real, from here to descend slightly before ascending the ridge line to the summit. There is a massive cornice along this part of the route that will be hanging out well into the summer. The trail gives the cornice a wide berth but be cautious with dogs near the edge. Here is a previous trip report with more in depth details about this hike. The views from this summit are absolutely amazing. In my opinion, this route is overall slightly more challenging and technical than Cupid, despite being shorter in distance.

route details: 3.6 miles + 1551 feet elevation gain

Mount Morrison

Located near Morrison, CO this route gives you a lot of elevation gain in a short distance. Each mile has over 1000 feet of elevation gain, making for a steep hike both up and down. It is a rocky but well maintained trail. The views from the top in the spring are stunning as you look onto the lush green foothills covered in wildflowers. This trail is subject to mud closures with heavy spring rain so make sure to check conditions and closures before going. This trail is also known for having rattlesnakes so be cautious if you are taking your dog. Dogs are allowed on this trail but must be leashed.

route details: 3.6 miles + 2014 feet elevation gain

Nugget Hill

Located just north of Boulder in Lefthand Canyon, this is one of my most hiked trails in Colorado. It is a hidden gem that will give you a great workout while seeing minimal people! It is a very rocky and minimally maintained trail so watch your ankles. The views from the top are stunning for 360 degrees, with views of the Flat Irons as well as Indian Peaks Wilderness and Longs Peak. The trail is lined with colorful wildflowers and bright green aspens in May and June. This trail is dog friendly and is partially on National Forest Land. There is very limited parking, on the road, to access this trail.

route details: 4.5 miles + 1668 feet elevation gain

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