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Beginners Advice: Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
RMNP is one of the most extraordinary places to hike. But if you're a beginner you should be prepared.
Several weeks ago we had the amazing opportunity to go hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. As beginners to the hiking experience, we had no idea of how things would go or even where to start. And to be honest, we didn’t even do much research before we hit the trails. It can’t be that complicated right? Well we were wrong!
It seems there’s “a little” more to it than buying some hiking boots, grabbing a backpack and some water, and setting off on a trail. Before we get into what we discovered about
trailblazing gasping for air in RMNP, you have to have an idea of what this place is all about.
Our Rocky Mountain National Park Experience
Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is an experience of a lifetime and one you would never forget. It’s not just about the physical quest to ascend beautiful trails, it’s also a spiritual journey that will enlighten your soul.
The majestic scenery of these incredible mountains combined with the greenery of life-giving trees and the constant surprise of nature cannot easily be described. You just have to be there to feel the incredible sense of amazement that will overtake your mind and body. And yes, even if you are fearful of heights like me and are prone to catastrophic meltdowns, you can discover peace being so close to heaven.
Whether you hike the trails or prefer to take a leisurely drive, you will find that RMNP will deliver amazing lifelong memories. We did both and were able to see elk, deer, longhorn sheep, and dozens of chipmunks along the way. The scenery from the roads or the trails is breath-taking. There are many lakes and waterfalls or other places to stop and enjoy.
But hiking the trails. That’s where the magic happens!
Beginners Advice for Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
When we decided to sell everything and travel the world, we also made the commitment to be outdoors as much as possible. I’ve always loved spending time in the woods or by the water, plus my lifelong obsession with wilderness survival and military experience makes hiking the perfect activity to pursue. Despite all this, I found out we need to be better prepared.
Invest in the best shoes possible.
I absolutely love VANS for their style and street comfort, but they absolutely suck for hiking up mountains. Donetta and I learned it's WAAAY better to invest in the best shoes than to skimp on it.
We spent a couple of hours at REI (our new favorite place) in Colorado Springs getting expert advice on shoes and trying on several brands before deciding on Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM Hiking Boots. While they were $160 for each pair, they have been well worth it. They are super comfortable and lightweight and great for a variety of needs.
Plan your hike in advance.
Unless you’re going to do some of the easy trails that are a mile or less on paved roads, you should plan out your hiking trail in advance. You have to consider the distance for the hike, the elevation, how long it might take you to complete it, and what supplies you should carry.
There were times when things could've gone sideways. What looks like a simple three mile hike can become a real challenge because of the elevation and route. What you thought would be an hour trek becomes three hours of traversing in the dark. Planning in advance is the better way to go.
Carry plenty of water.
It seems like common sense to have water, especially on longer hikes, but you will need more than you think. Thankfully we carried a two-liter water bladder in our backpack because bottles would not be enough.
You must stay hydrated during your hike even when it's cool outside or you don't think you need it. If you're climbing at higher elevations or steep inclines, this will be taxing on your body. And without water you could die which is no bueno.
Buy the proper gear for hiking and the location.
Just like investing in the best shoes should be a priority, having the proper supplies for your hike AND the location you are hiking is essential.
Even though I have enough military tactical gear to make me look like a special forces bad ass, grizzlies don't give a shit about your Molle Pack when they want to eat you. Carrying bear spray is critical for the Rocky Mountain National Park ... yet not so important in Red Rock Canyon in Nevada.
There are a lot of variables to prepare for and having the right gear can make the difference between life and death. Consider the weather conditions, the terrain, the wildlife and always have a plan.
Take it slow and easy.
Getting to your destination is not a sprint, it's a marathon. It's tempting to want to reach the summit as quickly as possible but this can be detrimental to your health and spirit.
Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park as a beginner takes patience and knowing your limits. If you try to move too fast on certain trails, you could end up a casualty. If you go higher than your body can handle, you could get altitude sickness. It's not worth the risk. So take it slow, take it easy, and don't be afraid to retreat.
Hiking is a glorious way to spend your time outdoors.
No matter where you hike or how long you hike a trail for, it can be an amazing time for you and your companion. The key is to just get started and do it. There are many rewards for being in the outdoors besides the exercise.
Maybe you'll get to see that moose or bear you've always dreamed about. Possibly you'll find that inner peace or spiritual revelation you've hoped for. Perhaps you'll get to go skinny dipping or enjoy being naked in the woods (be sure to use tick spray). Whatever the potential reward, it won't happen without that first step.
There's lots of resources for hiking on Rocky Mountain National Park and we can't recommend enough for you to get out there if you have the opportunity. It truly is special and worth every penny.