That being said, I want to share my favorite places thus far to provide some ideas for other Coloradans looking to get out and peep some leaves!
Kenosha Pass ~ 2 Hours from Denver
The leaves are expected to “peak” between September 20th until October 10th, but every year this changes with the weather.
To find the most up-to-date conditions, I recommend checking Instagram locations, Snapchat Maps, and joining Facebook Groups for Fall foliage viewing or hiking (like The Women Who Hike Group!) This is how I find the best new places to peep leaves!
Read more from my 2020 hike around Kenosha Pass with my mom, here!
Leadville Scenic Train ~2 1/2 hours from Denver
Golden Gate Canyon ~45 minutes from Denver
Another prime location for Fall hiking is not far from Denver. Golden Gate Canyon State Park is northwest of the city tucked just into the foothills.
There are miles of trails inside the park. I hiked the Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadow with my dogs, and it was heavenly.
I found the trail on the website AllTrails.com. Check out my completed hike here.
Great Sand Dunes National Park ~3 hours from Denver
One place you might not think of around Falltime is The Great Sand Dunes National Park. There aren’t too many trees in the sand, but the ones around Medano Creek and the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range are stunning when they change, especially when you can get a bird’s eye view from the top of the dunes.
Not to mention, the Fall is one of the coolest times to play among the potentially scorching-hot dunes. We obtained backcountry permits and camped INSIDE the sand dunes September 27th, 2019. Read and see more from this wild trip here!
This year's intended locations:
Here are places we hope to make it to in fall 2021. The leaves change quickly so we will see how much we can squeeze into this short window!
Georgetown Loop Railroad ~1 hour from Denver
Just like Leadville, we hope to take a scenic train ride around Georgetown and maybe even tour an old mine! Each scenic train in Colorado is different, and we can’t wait to see what this one has in store.
See another ride we’ve taken through Colorado on The Royal Gorge Route Railroad here!
Crystal Mill ~3 1/2 hours from Denver
Steamboat Springs ~3 hours from Denver
I recently took a trip through Rocky Mountain National Park to Steamboat Springs, and the leaves were just barely starting to change.
It got me excited for Fall, and I hope I can swing back over to Steamboat do some fly fishing soon!
This time around, we plan to backpack and camp among the aspens. We are so excited for this plan to go the first weekend of October. I hope we're not too late!
Check out my video from 2020 to see just why I want to go back for this year’s Fall foliage trip.
Checkout my other guides to Colorado's great places below:
Essentially, we try to eat whole, unprocessed foods. If it is processed, we will only eat it if we know and can pronounce the names of all the ingredients. We have managed, over time, to find ways to avoid unhealthy ingredients. We spend lots of time reading labels in the grocery store to make sure we are avoiding:
When preparing for backpacking trips, we have compared the ingredients of multiple brands. We have found that some are much better than others.
The dehydrator is much easier to use than I ever thought it would be. At first, I was hesitant and played it safe--only dehydrating fruits and making fruit leathers. I knew I couldn't really go wrong or make myself sick on the trail with fruit.
Once I found some recipes and recipe books, I learned that you really can’t over-dehydrate something, so now I’m always thinking, “How can this be dehydrated?”
Here are my top 3 lessons for beginner dehydrated food preppers:
3) Think Ahead
2) Parchment paper is your best friend
Before I received my dehydrator, I dried a lot of things in the oven. Every time, I would use parchment paper to keep my food off the cooking sheet. For some reason, it took me a while to consider using parchment paper in my dehydrator.
I learned my lesson when I attempted to dehydrate some basil and parsley, and the majority of it fell through the racks and onto my fruit roll ups on the bottom!
1) Separate meats and fruits.
Take time to plan out your dehydrating schedule based on how many shelves you have, every item you need to dehydrate, and how long each will take to dehydrate. You do not want to end up with spicy-flavored apple slices for breakfast on the trail; I promise.
I have discovered some of my backpacking meals are easier, more nutritious, and way more delicious than some of the store-bought packages. My friend Doug even said that my dehydrated breakfast tacos were better than the four days of dehydrated meals he had eaten!
Here are my favorite recipes to date:
Trail Tacos from Camp Kitchen
(Find the recipe, here)
Pasta Primavera from Fresh Off The Grid
(Find the recipe, here)
Couscous with Vegetables
(Recipe found on Reddit)
Fruit Roll Ups aka "Fruit Leathers"
Recipe from Lip Smacking' Backpacking
There you have it. Lessons, recipes, and all the gear you need to make the healthiest dehydrated meals possible.
I will continue to update this post as I find new, easy, and healthy backpacking meals that I enjoy. I cannot wait to hit the trail and try out some new recipes!
Share your favorite recipes below in the comment section!
See more from our other backpacking trips:
Luckily, before we hit the trail, my girlfriend planned out the route and itinerary. All I had to do was pack my own gear and food. This made my entire preparation process much easier, but it didn’t make it simple.
I had to figure out how to fit and carry all of my own cooking gear, sleeping equipment, safety supplies, camera accessories, and everything else in one backpack
See the Kelty Coyote 80 backpack I wear here, and read more to see my review of the pack!
First solo multi-day trip!
Packing like this was a first for me. I have never taken a multi-night backpacking trip without John. We usually split our “necessary” equipment then carry our own clothes and water. This time I would be all alone.
Our first multi-night backpacking hike was in Yellowstone National Park! It was a doozy and didn’t quite go as planned. Read our “Backpacking through Yellowstone’s Backcountry” blog post to find out what happened!
Backpacking alone was a major learning curve for me. I learned a lot packing, carrying, and unpacking my gear every day on the trail.
In this post, I want to share a few things I learned, a couple of pieces of gear I loved, and a few pieces of equipment I cannot wait to replace with something lighter or more functional.
1) Test your gear, especially your food
I won’t say which dehydrated food company my friend didn’t like, but I will share my favorite! Visit my “Picking Dehydrated Meals” post comparing a few brands’ ingredients from my local REI.
2) Know where everything is packed
Knowing how to quickly find the gear is half of the battle when you are in the backcountry. It will do you little good to carry a first aid kit if you cannot find it inside your backpack in the case of an emergency.
John fell in Yellowstone and didn't know where his bandages were inside his first aide kit. He was close to just dumping it all out before I stopped him and handed him mine - which I found easily.
3) Weigh your stuff and only carry 20% of your weight
All of my heavy gear has caused me to fall behind my friends on nearly every trip. It has not been fun, and it's been a difficult lesson to learn.
This is why I want to share the gear I absolutely cannot live without and other items that I am hoping to spare you from purchasing and lugging around when they are not necessary!
I will not discuss every piece of my gear in the next section, so if you want to see a more complete list of our gear read our “What Did We Carry in Yellowstone’s Backcountry” post, here!
Things I always pack with me:
There are a few things I pack with me on every trip whether it be a day hike, multi-day backpacking trip, or just a car camping excursion.
- First Aide
Read the entire breakdown of my first aid kit in the detailed blog post here.
- Rain Gear
For rain gear, I alway carry a lightweight and compact poncho for myself and my Dueter backpack cover.
Order your own rain cover based on the size of your backpack here!
- Camera and Videography Gear
I am still learning how to best utilize each of these to document our travels. See how our GoPro Hero 8 did on The Four Pass Loop Trail in the video below!
Gear I love:
- My dehydrated meals
I have started making my own dehydrated meals and snacks for the trail, after too many disappointing packaged meals had bad ingredients and cost too much.
You can read all my favorite recipes and learn how I do it in my “Dehydrated Healthy Recipes Guide” here!
- Selk Bag
If you are interested in a Selk Bag please use this referral code when purchasing your own TAYLOR10!
- Solar panel
This is one of my items that I love to hate and hate to love. John bought this very nice, multi-panel solar charger for my birthday a few years ago. It is ultra convenient to have on the trail so that I didn’t have to bring extra batteries, but my particular version is very large.
I saw a few people carrying smaller versions on the trail, and I plan to exchange mine for a smaller model soon!
Here is the exact one I carry now. It is GREAT for car camping!
Gear I cannot wait to replace:
- Solar Panel
As previously mentioned, this is a large, bulky item, and although it is useful, it will be the first thing I take out of my pack next time.
I purchased this at one of REI’s Member Garage Sales. I went for the cheaper price over proper fit. I do not recommend this if you plan to do multi-night backpacking trips.
Instead, I recommend you get fitted at REI! They have free consultations where an employee will show you how to properly pick a pack. I plan to do this as soon as I can! Plan your visit at REI.com
I’ll be taking another good, hard look at all of my gear again before any more backpacking trips. Hopefully I can replace the items I want and get my pack weight down closer to the 30 pounds I need. My body will be thrilled if I can pull it off!
Read about some of our other camping trips:
Recently, John and I discovered that Kuku Campers also has a location here in Denver! We reached out and have been able to take out some of their vans during our recent trips.
Here has been our experience!
First, we took one of their newer Mercedes Sprinter Class C-Lux Vans on a road trip from Denver to Salida, Colorado. We tried try our luck fly fishing the fabled “Mothers Day Hatch” on the Arkansas River. We didn't have any success on the water, but we did have a successful camping trip when our Kuku Camper kept us dry during the storm that rolled in Sunday morning!
Next, we took a BRAND NEW Metris Mercedes Van to Tarryall Reservoir outside of Fairplay, Colorado. Again it was a weekend on the water, but this time we joined some friends and did some swimming! Again it was super successful from keeping us out of the elements at night. Our friends got cold in their tents, but we were warm and toasty inside our Metris!
The KuKu Camper vans has made everything so convenient!
Here is all that was has been inside each van:
These complimentary items cut our packing load down drastically! We still did need to pack a few items from home, but even some of these we could have snagged from Kuku.
Here are the items we still packed from home:
Kuku offers additional rental add ons:
Kuku has several add ons you can rent like sleeping bags, chairs, towels, hammocks, pillows, coffee percolators, and more! You can see the entire list of add ons when you reserve your booking.
The "Take It or Leave It" shelf:
The differences between the vans:
The biggest differences between the vans is the size. The Class C-Luxe we took out first is there largest class van, while the Metris is on the smaller side. The Class C-Luxe features an extra upper level and a moveable kitchen table to make a lower bed as well.
When you book on the Kuku Campers website you can see the different size and class ratings. It all depends on how many people you are bringing with you, and how much stuff you are packing in. Personally - we like the larger ones!
There are other small differences between the vans including how things are arranged; for example, in the Metris the fridge is hidden in a drawer under one of the bench seats!
Kuku Campers has made our weekend getaways so easy and convenient. It is unbelievable. Our vacations become stress free and we actually can enjoy things!
If a camper van sounds like your kind of camping, check out Kuku’s website www.kukucampers.com to book your own weekend getaway or vacation!
Use code Tacos5 to get 5% off your booking!
See more from our other trips across Colorado:
A Weekend at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Spending Spring Break in Rocky Mountain National Park
Fly Fishing outside Aspen, Colorado
Of course, I had already spilled the beans on social media, but we still wanted to capture this moment and have really nice snapshots taken for our loved ones.
An old friend of mine from high school saw our announcement and instantly reached out about taking our pictures. She has always dreamed of photographing in Colorado, and I didn’t think twice about having her take our pictures!
The pictures turned out so well that we asked Holley to help us create this guide, “The Top 5 Places to Photograph in Colorado”. We hope this helps any and all couples, photographers, and just anyone traveling to Colorado. Enjoy!
#5 Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater - Morrison, CO.
Get there early to beat the crowds and to catch the INCREDIBLE Colorado sunrise.
#4 Lookout Mountain - Golden, CO
It was only a 30-minute shoot, but the pictures turned out fantastic!
#3 Garden of the Gods - Colorado Springs
#2 Paint Mines Interpretive Park - Calhan, CO
See more from all of our trips to The Paint Mines in our other blog post, here. We have been back several times and I fall in love with it more and more each time!
#1 Royal Gorge Route Railway - Cañon City, CO
Horsetooth Reservoir - Fort Collins, CO.
Chautauqua Park - Boulder, CO
We hope you enjoyed this list of our favorite places across Colorado, and that it helps you take some of your own beautiful photographs.
See more of Holley's portfolio at: https://www.holleygrimesphoto.com/
Drop us a comment below where your favorite places are across the state, or even the country, so we can check them out next time we are with Holley!
Check out some of my other Colorado Guides:
Guide to Garden of the Gods Park - Colorado Springs
Spend a Weekend Camping in the Dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park
Our Family Spring Break - Denver, Colorado Springs, and Estes Park
John and I both grew up in the southeastern United States and had never explored skiable mountains. When we moved to Colorado, it seemed like everyone asked us, “Do you ski or snowboard?” and “Do you have the Epic or Ikon Pass?” Resort skiing or snowboarding seemed like everyone’s favorite hobby, and it was a bit of a turnoff for us.
Resort Fun = Resort Prices
You can look into both passes and compare the two on epicorikon.com to see if they work for you!
Single day passes seemed to be the best strategy for us to ski when we wanted but not be obligated to ski for the season sake of justifying the investment in a season pass. That being said, single day lift passes range in price and can be upwards of $200 depending on the day, so we pick our days carefully.
Single-day passes on Valentine’s Day weekend 2021:
Steamboat Springs: $129-219
Loveland Ski Area: $89
To rent or to buy?
Eventually, John and I both purchased clothing, helmets, goggles, and skis secondhand on Facebook Marketplace and Offer Up. Most of our gear works great, and we even use some of the winter coats snowshoeing and camping.
In general, getting into the sport has been quite a process for us, but every time we hit the slopes, we love it more and more as we become more comfortable on skis and on the mountains. We’ve been out each of the three winters that we have lived in Colorado and have decided to write about our experiences, as total newbies, at some of the best ski resorts in the world:
Due to our skill level, we did not have a full-fledged experience of the Breckenridge mountains. We stayed on one lift at the base of Peak 8 all day, but we didn’t care. We skied until our bodies hurt then ended the day with drinks at the base with our friends! It wasn’t the best day of skiing, because we were pretty banged up at the end, but we enjoyed every minute of the ride!
Reserve your own day on the mountain on, keystoneresort.com
Howelson Hill is a famous skiing area, but we didn’t know that at first. All we knew was that it was $25 to ski for the day compared to the $180 at the resort. We quickly bought tickets, rented skis at a nearby store, and hit the lift.
Howelson is a tiny hill with its main focus being cross country trails and ramps for jumping. That being said, it was perfect for us. We spent all day on a few short runs practicing and perfecting our skiing skills. We wish we would have found this place the first time we went skiing, because it was perfect for beginners and there was hardly anyone around.
Our second year at WinterWonderGrass, we made sure to buy our tickets early to get special pricing on lift tickets with our festival passes. This year, we were determined not to miss out on the big resort!
Steamboat really changed the way we ski, and we owe a lot to these mountains and their “champagne powder” snow. We also owe a lot to our friends who pushed us to ski terrain we’d never tried.
Organize your own weekend in Steamboat at, www.steamboat.com
John and I have both been to Aspen several times, but we have never been on the Aspen mountains together. Aspen has four mountains: Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain, and Aspen Highlands. With our combined experience, we have been to three of the four.
You can learn more about each Aspen Snowmass Mountain on their website, aspensnowmass.com
The terrain was beautiful, though, and all of the people were very kind. They gave me tips and tricks every time I came through the lift line. I’ll stick to skiing, but I can’t wait to be back on Snowmass!
The same weekend that I went to Snowmass, I hit up Buttermilk. This time, I ventured out of the terrain parks and beginners’ areas to try to give snowboarding a second chance.
It was a difficult day on the board, but the bacon made it all worth it!
John's experience at Aspen Highlands:
New Year’s Day 2020, a group of friends and I took on Aspen Highlands. Some of the more advanced skiers in the group crushed the legendary Highlands Bowl, while my friend from Mississippi and I explored the easier trails. We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day on the mountain.
The Aspen Highlands feature 144 trails, and a whopping 65% of those trails are expert runs called double blacks. The Highlands are also infamous for the ‘Inferno’ formally known as the Highland Bowl. Skiers and snowboarders who dare the Highland Bowl must hike from the highest ski lift up the rim of the bowl. Unfortunately for my guest and I, there aren’t any easy or many more difficult trails (known as greens and blues respectively) to balance out the expert terrain surrounding us.
We started our day by riding the ski lifts to the very top of the mountain. My friend and I weren’t as skilled as those destined for the Highland Bowl, and when they immediately dove off the edge of the blue ‘Broadway’ run onto double blacks, we stayed on the blue terrain. The two of us enjoyed a day of skiing and watching New Year’s Day football games in the mountain’s lodges.
At the end of the day, I took the lift to the top of the mountain one last time. On the ride up, I noticed the group of friends that had split off for a more difficult day on the mountain. I yelled, they stopped, and I quickly caught up to them. We bombed down the mountain together before finding a large table at the base to enjoy a bite to eat and stories of the famed Highland Bowl.
Loveland Ski Area:
We went for Valentine’s Day and got an absolutely perfect powder day. It was “Colorado blue-bird skies” all day, and we got lucky, because we have heard that Loveland gets very windy!
We finally feel like we know what we are doing on the mountain, and Loveland really helped boost our confidence.
See more Colorado Guides below!
For Christmas 2020, my family made the decision to follow through with our vacation plans to visit Kona, Hawaii, for a week of “Mele Kelemaka” on the Big Island. The decision was not made lightly, and we seriously debated going, but we followed all of the guidelines and safely made it to the island on December 16th.
It took a lot of planning to get to the island. We had to do much more than the usual “where to stay” and “what to do” research for our trip. The new COVID-19 policies almost deterred us from taking the trip, but we persevered, and figured out what we needed to do to get there safely.
While doing our research we found others facing these same frustrations and hesitations, so I wanted to share exactly what we did to get to Hawaii safely.
*Please note that things may change before you arrive on the Island. We arrived December 16th, but things are constantly changing, so check Hawaii.gov to make sure you are up to date with current guidelines.
Step One: Figure out Which Island To Visit
Each island has different restrictions. Before we booked our flights we had to research each one to see where we wanted to go. We figured out where we should go by looking at different government and local websites (like HawaiiCovid19.com) to see how things were looking and learn about current restrictions.
For example, Kuai had a mandatory 14 day quarantine requirement regardless of test results, so we did NOT want to book there!
Here are a few resources that we found helpful:
Step Two: Get The Correct COVID Test on The Correct Day
Scheduling our appointments and getting tested was by far the most stressful part of this process. All of these pandemic precautions are so new to everyone that we were all worried about doing something incorrectly. There is a lot of different information out there, and there were a lot of things we could have done wrong, but luckily, we figured it out and did everything correctly.
Essentially, we needed to find a testing facility near us that was on the Hawaii list of official providers and get the test within 72 hours of our arrival to the island. For us, this meant we needed to be tested after noon on Sunday for our Wednesday flights.
We chose to get tested at Walgreens and had back up appointments scheduled at Go Health Urgent Care, because both provided results within 24 hours, but Walgreens had appointments scheduled 3-days out where the urgent care was first come-first served. This gave us plenty of time to get our tests on the calendar and eased some of our concerns.
We arrived at the drive-through pharmacy window for our appointments, and all we had to do was show our confirmation emails and drivers licenses to the pharmacist. We confirmed for the hundredth time that we were getting the correct test to enter Hawaii before the pharmacist handed us our swab. Once we were handed our sterile swap, we swabbed our noses and handed them back. It was very easy!
Only about an hour later, we all received emails letting us know that we all were NEGATIVE! It was a major relief. Now, we had to prove it to get on our flights!
Step Three: Uploading Results and Declaring Our Travel
Once we had our emailed negative test results, we created traveler profiles on travel.hawaii.gov. 24 hours before our flight, we logged in and answered all of the required questions. They asked us to upload our negative results, take a health questionnaire, and declare our travel plans to the state. This was the easy part.
Step Four: Showing Your Code in The Airport
We landed on the island and kept our fingers crossed that everything would go smoothly.
It turns out that we were randomly selected to be tested again. We didn’t expect to get tested when we landed, because we had read that only 25% of people were being tested upon arrival, but it seemed like our entire plane had been chosen to be tested again.
In the meantime, we picked up our luggage and our rental car and drove to our Airbnb. In that time, about an hour had passed and none of us got a call!
We had successfully and safely all made it onto the island!!!
We were so relieved that we had all made it to Hawaii without incident! From here, our vacation and our relaxation was set to begin.
One of my absolute favorite things about Colorado is the mountains. They are what draw most people to the state, but I love them not only for their beauty or fantastic skiing but for their geological make up.
I know. Totally nerdy, but what's inside and underneath the mountains amaze me more than anything else I have had the opportunity to explore. The Continental Divide, to me, provides a window into the world below us, and the most relaxing manifestations of that world are hot springs.
Waters from the surface seep down so deep into cracks between tectonic plates that they are heated by the magma of our Earth's interior. To me, that is absolutely mind blowing! I cannot see and learn enough about these places, yet I have only been to about a dozen of the state's 93 geothermal areas!
Even though I have only begun to scratch the surface, I want to share the locations I have been to, because each one is much different than the others! The Resort and Spa locations are listed first followed by Natural Springs. Each features directions from Denver, the cost of admission, and a little bit of my experience.
You can read more about all of the hot springs and much more from across Colorado on my Colorado Travels Page, here!
Resort and Spa Hot Springs
Since the hot spring waters have to travel such far distances underground to be heated, many of the pools host lots of sediment and minerals from the porous rocks they flow through. These mineral rich waters have been a part of Colorado's history for centuries. Native American tribes believe some spring waters are full of healing powers while others are considered sacred.
Over the years, these waters became large tourist destinations. To protect many of the springs and their fragile surrounding areas, safer soaking areas were created for large crowds of people to come.
These areas often boast board walks, designated man-made pools, and other amenities. These are now the most common kind of hot spring you will find in Colorado, and I've listed the locations I have been to.
The Springs Resort and Spa was the very first hot spring I went to in Colorado! It holds a special place in my heart for not only that reason but for the fact that I had the ENTIRE spa to myself. It was because of a snow storm, but it was still very relaxing and enjoyable.
Located in Pagaso Springs in Southern Colorado roughly 5 1/2 hours from Denver.
Cost $35 for adults to enter.
Click here to see more of my experience, or visit their website to book!
Indian Hot Springs is the closest spring to Denver that I've visited, and I cannot lie: It is one of my favorites. The indoor hot spring pool area doubles as a green house for huge tropical plants that surround the turquoise water. Plus, the geothermal caves are an incredibly therapeutic experience!
Located in Idaho Springs off of Interstate 70 roughly 45 minutes from Denver.
Cost $18-20 for adults depending on the day and $33-34 with access to the steam caves. Indian Hot Springs offers more amenities as well.
Click here to see more of my visit, or visit their website to book!
Strawberry Park Hot Springs was another spring that I visited during a downpour of snow, but is was pitch black and the middle of the night! Strawberry park stays open very late into the night, and after dark, clothing becomes optional. It is the perfect place to soak after a long day of skiing!
Located near Steamboat Springs about 3 1/2 hours from Denver.
Cost $15 for adults, and no children are allowed after dark.
Click here to see more of my night at the spring, or visit their website to book!
Iron Mountain Hot Spring is nestled in the side of the red walls of Glenwood Canyon and provided John and I with the best views of almost any hot spring I had been too. We went on a hot, summer day and enjoyed our time soaking along the banks of the Colorado River.
Located in Glenwood Springs about 3 hours from Denver.
Cost $25 for adults and children to enter.
Click here to see how we spent the day in Glenwood Springs, or visit their website to book!
Desert Reef Hot Springs was an oasis on a blustery day in the desert of the Pike's Peak region in Colorado's southern foothills. Clothing becomes optional at the single, large pool after 6 p.m.
Located in Florence, Colorado, in the Royal Gorge Region about 2 hours from Denver.
Cost $20 for the day.
See more about my experience here, or visit their website!
Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa boasts 22 different pools ranging in temperature and size. A girlfriend and I spent the entire afternoon exploring each and every pool and deciding which ones we liked best.
Located in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado, about 2 hours from Denver.
See more about my visit here, or watch my YouTube video below.
Talkin' 'bout Tacos
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!