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Monday, March 31, 2014

Hiking in Denver: One Man (and his family) Blazes the Trails

Alisha McDarris

We at TerraDrift love the great outdoors. Cycling, kayaking, backpacking, hiking…Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of the latter available in South Florida, so we have to look elsewhere. Turns out, Denver, Colorado is a pretty sweet place to do so with an abundance of trails and wilderness just outside the city. And to find those trails we discovered one need look no further than our good friend Aaron Johnson’s trail-blazing blog It’s got everything: trail profiles with concise descriptions, accurate directions, and plenty of photos to help you get off the couch and get outside.
We had a chat with Aaron recently to find out more about it.
Terradrift: What Prompted the start of your blog, Day Hikes Near Denver?
Aaron: We started the blog because we had just moved up to Denver from Colorado Springs and were having a hard time finding good trails. I was looking through an issue of Backpacker magazine where they published the regions where they have the most readers and saw that they had a huge readership in this area, and that the Denver/Boulder region had more hikes than any other metro area they served. So, we just added things up: Lots of people + Most trails in the US + No really good resources = A great opportunity.
Terradrift: Makes sense to us! What kind of hikes do you feature on your blog?
Aaron: We’ve been focusing on hikes to waterfalls, easy hikes, and hikes that are within a 30 minute drive from Denver. Our goal is to focus on stuff that is close and easy, then build out to more difficult hikes that require those long drive times.
Terradrift: Simple enough. How often do you hit the trails nowadays?
Aaron: Hiking is always an option on the weekends for us, and I sometimes get up early and will hit the trail before work. The last couple years have been challenging though as our kids (3 and 6) are at ages where it’s difficult to go much farther than a mile. We are hoping to double the number of hikes we have on the site in 2014, so beginning in April, I’ll probably be exploring new trails a couple times a week, on my own and with the family.
Terradrift: Aww! I cherish the memories of my dad taking me out on hikes and backpacking trips when I was young. What are some of your favorite hikes near Denver?
Aaron: My buddy Jimmy and I did a hike called Cathedral Spires back in the fall. I haven’t published it yet, but it’s hands-down the best hike near Denver. It has everything: the North Platte River, meadows of aspen, keyholes in the rock that you have to squeeze through, and a route-finding puzzle to the summit. The views up there are amazing. Our most popular hike has been Maxwell Falls.
Maxwell Falls | Image © Day Hikes Near Denver
Maxwell Falls | Image © Day Hikes Near Denver
Terradrift: Sounds amazing! What is it that you like so much about hitting the trails?
Aaron: I like the sense of the unknown, finding secret places along the trail. My radar is always on for dark places in the woods and rock where there may be some hidden cave or ravine. It’s also a great way to reset, and to get disconnected by all of the demands of media and day-to-day life.
Terradrift: I can’t tell you how much I love disconnecting and heading outdoors. Do you ever head outside of Denver or hike for longer periods of time?
Aaron: We do. We love getting up into Rocky Mountain National Park, which is about 90 minutes away. I think I’ve spent close to two months of life in there and have only explored a fraction of it. I love the Sangre De Cristo mountains, and hope to take our family up to camp at Lower Sand Creek lake. Mt. Tijeras launches into the air straight off that lake and it’s absolutely breathtaking (not to mention the abundance of trout in the lake). I’m excited to explore more of Southwestern Colorado, especially up in the San Juan Mountains.
Terradrift: I’ll pass on the trout fishing, but I’ll kayak that lake like it’s nobody’s business. Since you venture out with your family a lot, do you have any recommendations for families with kids wanting to do some hiking?
Aaron: The real key to making a hike happen with your family is packing your gear and food the night before—that and going early so that we can get back for nap time. Going early has real benefits though: empty trailheads, sunrises, and more opportunities to see wildlife.
So basically, if you’re headed to Denver and you’ve got your hiking boots all waterproofed and ready to go, hit up to discover the best places in town (or rather outside of it) to get your hike on!

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. [Portfolio]


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