The western United States is full of natural and amazing beauty that people can explore. States such as Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Arizona contain natural landmarks that beckon tourists throughout every season of the year. The Rocky Mountains cover more than 3,000 miles, stretching from the western United States up into Canada. A number of public forests and parks exist in the western United States, with abundant hiking and backpacking trails available for visitors to explore.
Anyone seeking a journey off of the beaten path might plan a hiking excursion in Colorado or another western state. Scenic vistas are plentiful when hiking in this rugged wilderness. Rock formations provide a challenging trek, while trails also wander in and out of grassy fields, along running streams, and through aspen forests. Trails are rated for difficulty, so hikers can select the one that fits their physical condition. Some trails are ideal for an afternoon jaunt, while others are better suited for experts and those planning to commune with nature for a day or two.
Many trails in the western states are situated at higher elevations. When hiking at elevations above 6,000 feet, hikers must prepare for this type of excursion. Exertion at high altitudes has an impact on cardiovascular performance due to less oxygen in the air. Hikers will need to prepare for high-altitude hiking by training and by bringing specific supplies. Training involves hiking up steep hills at a strong pace with a fully loaded backpack. Hydration will also be crucial when hiking at high elevations. Sunscreen is important, too.
Watch for signs of altitude illness when hiking in Colorado or in other western states. Altitude illness symptoms include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and sleep disturbance. More serious complications can include brain swelling, fever, and a dry cough. If symptoms persist or become serious, descend immediately. Seek medical assistance if descending does not alleviate the symptoms.
Learn more about hiking in Colorado and the western United States by visiting the following resources:
- Day Hiking: Yellowstone National Park in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming covers more than 2.2 million acres with more than 900 miles of hiking trails.
- 10 Trails You Have to Try: Hiking in Montana is plentiful due to the rugged terrain in this state. Mountains, valleys, hills, forests, and grasslands offer something for every hiker.
- Boulder Reservoir Wildlife: Hikers in the Boulder, Colorado, area might visit the Boulder Reservoir. Hiking is available, and abundant wildlife is present in this refuge.
- The Ashton-Tetonia Trail: The Ashton-Tetonia Trail in Idaho has an elevation of 5,277 to 6,064 feet, and the trail is more than 29 miles long.
- South Mountain Trail Map and Descriptions: Hikers navigating trails in the Sonoran Desert might find rocky passes, canyons, rattlesnakes, and desert plants.
- Paseo del Bosque Trail: People in the Albuquerque area might take the Paseo del Bosque Trail to explore the Rio Grande cottonwood forest.
- Thunderbird Conservation Park: The Thunderbird Conservation Park has 1,185 acres in the deserts of Arizona. Abundant hiking and horseback-riding trails meander through this park.
- Hiking/Backpacking: The Royal Gorge Field Office boasts a number of different hiking and backpacking trails through the rugged wilderness of Colorado.
- Trails and Hiking in Colorado Springs: Hiking in Colorado Springs is both challenging and plentiful with the Fountain Creek Regional Trail, the Santa Fe Regional Trail, and the Pikes Peak Greenway.
- Waterton Canyon/Strontia Springs Reservoir: Visiting the Waterton Canyon/Strontia Springs Reservoir in Colorado offers a wide assortment of outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, and bicycling.
- Colorado Scenic Byways (PDF): Visitors wishing to take their time exploring Colorado might take one of the scenic byways to find natural areas with hiking trails.
- High-Altitude Illnesses: Physiology, Risk Factors, Prevention, and Treatment: Spending time at high altitudes can result in high-altitude illness that includes nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and dizziness.
- Altitude Illness: Lower air pressure, lower humidity, and increased UV radiation contribute to altitude illness that can occur at high elevations.
- Dead Horse Point State Park (PDF): Dead Horse Point State Park is located in Utah. This park sits about 2,000 feet above the Colorado River.
- History of Red Rock State Park: Red Rock State Park is located in Arizona. The park features hiking trails, horseback-riding trails, biking, natural landmarks, and abundant wildlife.
- Round Mountain Hiking Park (PDF): Round Mountain Hiking Park is located in Arizona. Rocky terrain at varying elevations offers challenging conditions for hikers.
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal: The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is the home of abundant wildlife. This refuge offers more than 10 miles of hiking trails for hikers of all ages and skill levels.
- Mills Lake and Black Lake: The peaks present in Rocky Mountain National Park are both rugged and spectacularly beautiful, ideal for exploring on foot.
- A Hiking Guide to Trails in the Yuma Area (PDF): Yuma, Arizona, provides visitors with plentiful opportunities to hike, climb, and explore nature.
- Cache Valley Hiking Trail Guide (PDF): The Cache Valley is located in Logan, Utah, in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. This trail guide provides information about hiking available in this area.
- Exploring Monument Valley in Arizona: Monument Valley in Arizona offers a stunning experience of monuments, vistas, color, and natural beauty.
Tip for New Hikers
If you’re embarking on hiking as a new hobby, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Practice is imperative: You need to get ready for the intense hikes ahead. If you have local hills or mountains, do them a few times. It’ll help build up your strength for the mountains ahead.
- Get your car and bike in shape: Biking up to the mountainside or taking your car can put stress on the machines. Get the right bicycle parts and strong tires to handle the mountainous roads. If needed, you can remodel your garage to do most of the work in-house instead of going to a shop.
- Have supplies on-hand: Water, athletic gear, helmet, rope — make sure all of it is packed and ready before you go hiking. You don’t want to make last-minute buys that could be weak for the climb.
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