Colorado River

Colorado RiverWith a water­shed run­ning through 11 nation­al parks over sev­en U.S. states, and boast­ing 1,450 miles of riverbed from its birth­place in the south­ern Rocky Moun­tains to its nat­ur­al ter­mi­nus in the Sea of Cortez, the Col­orado Riv­er is a mas­sive dia­mond in the rough whose sto­ried geo­log­ic his­to­ry includes carv­ing the Grand Canyon itself. If you’re ready to join the flotil­la of kayak­ers, rafters and canoeists who ply her waters, here are some tips to get you started.

Lots of Miles to Travel
The Col­orado Riv­er fea­tures near­ly 700 riv­er miles in the U.S. alone, which means you have your pick of how long you’d like to be on the water. Depend­ing on your put-in and take-out points, and the water lev­el, two days of pad­dling plus one overnight on a riv­er island may be just as doable as three weeks of pad­dling and overnights. Con­sid­er whether you’d like to build in time to explore oth­er parts of the riv­er, includ­ing trib­u­taries and side canyons, and fac­tor that into your sched­ule. Keep in mind that the longer you’re afloat, the more work you’ll put in to plan­ning your trip, and the more weight you’ll have in gear and provisions.

Adven­ture for All Skill Levels
While the Col­orado does offer plen­ty of stretch­es of love­ly, drift­ing flat­wa­ter, an unde­ni­able part of its appeal are the white­wa­ter rapids. If you’re still wet behind the ears when it comes to riv­er camp­ing, check out easy kayak trails like the Wilbarg­er Pad­dling Trail, which can be done as a day trip or a slow-paced overnight; or the fam­i­ly friend­ly, 25-mile Ruby-Horsethief Canyons run and score a gor­geous prim­i­tive site through the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment. On the oth­er hand, if you’ve got the skills and expe­ri­ence, noth­ing beats the thrill of big water. Near Radi­um, CO, Cataract Canyon offers rapids from class II-IV, and Gore Canyon in Bond, CO, is home to the apt­ly named Gore Fest for its infa­mous down­riv­er race through wild Class V Gore Canyon. And then there’s the Grand Canyon, which offers an end­less buf­fet of fea­tures. No white­wa­ter enthu­si­ast needs to be told about leg­endary rapids Crys­tal or Lava Falls, but begin­ners beware: these are best left to pro­fes­sion­als and the extreme­ly experienced.

Colorado RiverPaper­work
Once you’ve deter­mined the length of your trip and iden­ti­fied the sec­tion of the riv­er you’d like to run, the next step is to secure any nec­es­sary per­mits with local gov­ern­ing agen­cies in order to law­ful­ly com­plete your run. While skirt­ing author­i­ty to pull out­ra­geous stunts may be “ille­gal, wrong-headed…and glo­ri­ous,” no amount of per­son­al glo­ry is like­ly to off­set the headache of fines and heart­break of a trip cut short for want of prop­er paper­work. Know before you go, and pay care­ful atten­tion to sec­tions of the riv­er that may require mul­ti­ple sign-offs from dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ing bod­ies, such as launch­es from Dia­mond Creek in the Grand Canyon which require both a per­mit from Grand Canyon Nation­al Park and paid access fees to the Huala­pai Tribe.

Life jack­ets save lives, so wear them. Addi­tion­al­ly, be sure to check the flow rate of the sec­tion of riv­er you intend to run, as both high flows and low flows can intro­duce new dan­ger­ous con­di­tions and haz­ards, which may put the trip fur­ther from your com­fort zone. Fif­teen dams along the main stem of the Col­orado pro­vide reg­u­la­tion of flow rate and flood con­trol, so the riv­er does run less wild than it has in the past, but there are still sec­tions where the flow rate can deter­mine whether a par­tic­u­lar rock gar­den is sub­merged or exposed, or where the best line through a haz­ard may lay. Self-res­cue is always your most reli­able bet on the riv­er, so if the con­di­tions appear over­whelm­ing, bet­ter to be safe than sorry.

In addi­tion to your water­craft of choice—be it a wood­en dory, a canoe, inflat­able raft, or a kayak—and all assort­ed oars and pad­dles, you’ll need to pack enough pro­vi­sions for the length of your trip. That includes water! You’ll have plen­ty of it below you, but depend­ing on the river’s con­di­tions, it’s like­ly to be too silty for even the stur­di­est fil­ters. Water­proof dry bags are impor­tant for keep­ing your per­ish­ables fresh and your sleep­ing sys­tem from becom­ing sog­gy; and portable riv­er toi­lets are a must for pro­tect­ing the san­i­ta­tion of a riv­er bot­tom that sees mil­lions of vis­i­tors a year.

If the thought of fresh snow falling on the moun­tain doesn’t excite you, then this win­ter could be a long one.

For the rest of the cold-blood­ed pow­der hounds out there, the first signs of snow mean only one thing: that Open­ing Day isn’t far away. Whether you’re down­hill appetite con­sists of a full plate of Breck­en­ridge and Vail, or per­haps a heap­ing serv­ing of Park City or Mam­moth Moun­tain fur­ther West, wher­ev­er you like to ride, there’s no deny­ing the excite­ment that open­ing day brings to the table. To cap­i­tal­ize on the chang­ing weath­er and impend­ing snow­fall, here are the pro­ject­ed dates for some of the county’s biggest ski resorts—and some win­ter trail­ers to get you ready to shred.

Mam­moth Moun­tain Ski Area, Cal­i­for­nia: Novem­ber 9
Serv­ing as one of the best ski resorts in Cal­i­for­nia, Mam­moth Moun­tain Ski Area of the Sier­ra Neva­da moun­tain range boasts big ter­rain, beau­ti­ful views and a long ski­ing sea­son. The begin­ning of it all begins Novem­ber 9th, mak­ing it one of the ear­li­er open­ing dates in the coun­try. Check it out at the start, the mid­dle and the end, and Mam­moth Moun­tain will deliv­er the expe­ri­ence for which it’s named.

Breck­en­ridge Ski Resort, Col­orado: Novem­ber 10
Fea­tur­ing var­ied high-alpine ter­rain, Breck­en­ridge Ski Resort is anoth­er dia­mond of the Col­orado ski indus­try, and with the com­bi­na­tion of the adjoin­ing moun­tain town of Breck, this all-around moun­tain envi­ron­ment real­ly throws a par­ty on open­ing day. While the snow might not be its deep­est in Breck­en­ridge by Novem­ber 10, the com­mu­ni­ty is still full-spir­it­ed, and the groom­ing can guide you along like a racetrack.

Win­ter Park Resort, Col­orado: Novem­ber 15
In oper­a­tion 20 years shy of a cen­tu­ry, Win­ter Park Resort has long ago fig­ured out how to cap­ture the excite­ment of open­ing day. Spread out between Mary Jane Moun­tain and Win­ter Park Moun­tain, Win­ter Park Resort offers over 3,000 ski­able acres to explore and plen­ty of trails for all lev­els of skiers. To catch the first wave of a long ski sea­son at Win­ter Park, get your boards waxed and ready to go by Novem­ber 15.

Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming: Novem­ber 16
Sit­u­at­ed near the bor­der of Wyoming and Mon­tana, Grand Targhee Resort is world-famous for its deep pow­der, laid-back atmos­phere and scenery that can’t be beat any­where else in the low­er 48. Com­prised of two moun­tains spread over 2,600 ski­able acres, the excite­ment of Grand Targhee Resort begins Novem­ber 16. If open­ing day is any­thing like it was the year pri­or, those pow­der hounds might be able to get their fix ear­ly this year.

Park City Moun­tain Resort, Utah: Novem­ber 17
Just on the out­skirts of Salt Lake City, Park City Moun­tain Resort serves up 347 named trails spread out over 7,000 ski­able acres, lend­ing towards sea­son after sea­son of new ter­rain to explore. Park City is aim­ing to open Novem­ber 17th with groomed trails and access to as many of their 41 lifts as pos­si­ble, plus a lit­tle cel­e­bra­tion to go along­side all the good ski­ing. Com­plete your stay with a night out on the moun­tain or at the near­by Park City, and your open­ing-day cel­e­bra­tions can con­tin­ue well into the night.

Vail Moun­tain Resort, Col­orado: Novem­ber 17
Serv­ing as one of the many Holy Grails of ski­ing in the Col­orado back­coun­try, with­out a doubt there will be a line to get the first ski-lift at Vail this year. With over 5,000 ski­able acres to explore, includ­ing sev­en leg­endary back bowls that skiers can lit­er­al­ly get lost in, Vail draws in big crowds through­out the win­ter, and has many peo­ple count­ing down until Novem­ber 17, when they’re pro­ject­ed to open the slopes.

Snow­bird, Utah: Novem­ber 22
Con­nect­ed and locat­ed near Alta Ski Area, to real­ly uti­lize these two pre­miere ski des­ti­na­tions in Utah, it’s rec­om­mend secur­ing the Alta-Snow­bird Ski Pass. To get your first taste of the ter­rain that either of these two ski moun­tains pro­vide, head on over to the base of Snow­bird on Novem­ber 22nd and take in the fes­tiv­i­ties. Fea­tur­ing fresh groom­ing, good music and only the tip of the win­ter ice­berg, Snow­bird and Alta set a high bar for down­hill ski­ing and the fun that go along­side it.

Big Sky Resort, Mon­tana: Novem­ber 23
Not far out from the col­le­giate city of Boze­man, Big Sky Resort beck­ons stu­dents, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and trav­el­ers from across the world to some first-class Mon­tana moun­tain rid­ing. Com­pris­ing of over 5,750 acres of ski­able ter­rain, split between over 30 lifts, Big Sky Resort pro­vides enough space to explore on your own even dur­ing peak sea­son. Big Sky’s open­ing day is aim­ing to be Novem­ber 23, 2017, and will serve as a sweet way to start of the win­ter season.

Aspen Snow­mass, Col­orado: Novem­ber 23
With over 5,000 acres of ski­able ter­rain between four dif­fer­ent moun­tains, the Aspen Snow­mass expe­ri­ence is mas­sive. Aspen Moun­tain and Snow­mass are aim­ing to open the slopes come Novem­ber 3rd, while But­ter­milk and Aspen High­lands will gain access lat­er in the year. Sure to be big a par­ty and prob­a­bly a decent lift line, Aspen Snow­mass will con­tin­ue to the excite­ment through­out the win­ter sea­son and halfway into autumn.

Jack­son Hole Moun­tain Resort, Wyoming: Novem­ber 25
While any time of year is a great time to vis­it Jack­son Hole and the sur­round­ing Grand Tetons, come win­ter time, and specif­i­cal­ly Novem­ber 25 this year, there’s only one thing on everyone’s mind. It’s the stun­ning atmos­phere that attracts peo­ple to Jack­son Hole, and it’s the world-class ski­ing that makes them nev­er want to leave. Fea­tur­ing two moun­tains to explore and a ver­ti­cal drop of more than 4,000 feet, Jack­son Hole is home to some extreme ter­rain and great lodg­ing, mak­ing for a great time when­ev­er you visit.


Col­orado is known for its jagged land­scape and thou­sands of peaks, but not all of them require tech­ni­cal climb­ing skills. Scram­bling is the art of tra­vers­ing ter­rain that’s too steep to hike but not steep enough to require climb­ing equip­ment. It’s a hybrid of the two. Some of the clas­sic Col­orado scram­bling routes fall into a Class 3 and Class 4 rank­ing, indi­cat­ing that they are safe with­out a rope or a full rack of rock protection.

Mt. Alice, Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park
When the mass­es head to Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park, they head for Longs Peak. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is often dan­ger­ous­ly overcrowded.

But at the heart of the Con­ti­nen­tal Divide is Mt. Alice, a fine yet over­looked 13er, which fea­tures excit­ing exposed Class 3 climb­ing between Alice and Neigh­bor­ing Chiefs Head. Set deep in the west­ern reach­es of the park, climbers start in Wild Basin and make their way up to Alice’s dra­mat­ic pyra­mi­dal face. Start from Lion Lakes, work­ing up Hour­glass Ridge for a thrilling tra­verse to a less­er-known sum­mit offer­ing soli­tude and vistas.

flatironsThe Flatirons, Boulder
One of the Front Range’s clas­sic climb­ing spots, these angled sand­stone for­ma­tions are tex­tured enough for excel­lent grip and fun-sus­tained climbing.

Locat­ed just min­utes from res­i­den­tial Boul­der, the Flatirons offer an easy approach with just enough length to make it a local favorite for after-work climbs. The Sec­ond Flat­iron, the low­est angle of the three, fea­tures one Class 5 move with a high Class 4 the rest of the way up. Its most noto­ri­ous move involves a sec­tion known as the “Leap of Faith.”

From the top of the Sec­ond, which over­looks Boul­der and Den­ver, it’s a short trail hike down to the base. The First and Third Flatirons are steep­er, with more sus­tained low Class 5 climb­ing. With run-out pro­tec­tion and great grip, they make for fun rope-free ascents with the option of free-rap­pels from the summit.

kelso ridgeKel­so Ridge, Tor­reys Peak
Grays and Tor­reys peaks are two of the most pop­u­lar 14ers in the Front Range, with prox­im­i­ty to Den­ver and Boul­der, plus a rel­a­tive­ly easy yet crowd­ed hike to their summits.

Tor­reys Peak is rife with hik­ers, but it offers a less trav­eled and thrilling line to the sum­mit. The Kel­so Ridge tra­vers­es sec­tions of Class 3 and 4 scram­blings, with a short, stout exposed knife edge. Start by fol­low­ing the main hik­ing trail then turn­ing about a mile in onto a side trail that pass­es a his­toric min­ing cab­in. From here, the low­er sec­tions are fraught with boul­ders and rocky tow­ers as climbers steadi­ly ascend the rudi­men­ta­ry path.

The ridge requires route-find­ing skills, as some sec­tions can be deceiv­ing­ly chal­leng­ing but can be bypassed. The excit­ing crux of the route is known as the “Knife Edge,” a short, thin and blocky tra­verse right before the sum­mit. From here, climbers take a short scram­ble to sum­mit Tor­reys Peak. Those want­i­ng a longer adven­ture can cross over and sum­mit Grays Peak then come down the stan­dard route, or detour via Kel­so Mountain.

Mount BierstadtSaw­tooth Ridge, Mt. Bier­stadt / Mt. Evans
The Saw­tooth Ridge is a Front Range Clas­sic, con­nect­ing two 14ers, Mt. Bier­stadt and Mt. Evans, via a thrilling low Class 3 scram­ble for half a mile. While the ridge may be scram­bled, either way, the most com­mon route starts by sum­mit­ing Mt. Bier­stadt (14,065 feet) and drop­ping down on to the ridge direct­ly from the summit.

The trail starts by tra­vers­ing a sprawl­ing talus field and regain­ing the ridge via a series of gen­darmes and boul­ders. This is where the real fun starts as climbers fol­low trails on thin ledges and climb­ing short walls while bounc­ing back and forth to either side of the ridge. Fol­low­ing the cairns mark­ing the trail, the route alter­nates between Class 1, 2 and before end­ing on a grassy tun­dra access­ing Mt. Evans (14,265 feet).

With a total ele­va­tion change of 4,675 feet, the route is short and steep, but it makes for a spec­tac­u­lar intro­duc­tion to ridge scram­bling in Colorado.

Lone Eagle Peak, Indi­an Peaks Wilderness
Lone Eagle Peak is one of Colorado’s most breath­tak­ing moun­tains thanks to its point­ed sum­mit ris­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly above the Indi­an Peaks land­scape. And it alter­nates between Class 3 and 4. Route find­ing skills are essen­tial, as it is easy to take a wrong turn into Class 5 territory.

Start­ing from Crater Lake, the cairn-marked route ascends ramps of up to Class 3 climb­ing. It then fol­lows a series of ridges and notch­es while keep­ing the sum­mit in sight. This leads to an extreme­ly exposed, Class 4 tra­verse across the sum­mit ridge to a mag­nif­i­cent point­ed pin­na­cle. Lone Eagle Peak is tru­ly Col­orado scram­bling at its best.

Clos­ing Thoughts
While scram­bles may not be tech­ni­cal climbs, remem­ber to use extreme cau­tion and wear a pro­tec­tive hel­met and stur­dy boots. Don’t go it alone, and always be aware of haz­ards includ­ing adverse weath­er and rock­fall. Be safe out there!