Editors Note: This post was written by my partner, Billy. I’ve yet to go backpacking, mostly because the initial start-up cost of gear is significant. *However* his beginner’s experience taught me that backpacking is a lot more beginner-friendly than I had assumed, and I thought it was important (and helpful) for him to share it!
So you’ve decided you want to go backpacking but you don’t really know where to begin. It can be intimidating and everyone who does it seems so advanced that you could never do it too. I felt that way, too, so I’ll share my own experience and some tips for how you can get started.
I’m not going to lie, Devils Garden tested me. Not so much my physical strength, but my willingness to get out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries. The hike to Double O Arch is absolutely doable for beginners (or it wouldn’t be so popular) but if you have a fear of heights, it will push you.
That being said, I whole-heartedly encourage you to let this hike be a way to get out of your comfort zone in a safe, exciting, and stunningly beautiful setting. Hiking Devils Garden is challenging without being overwhelming and doesn’t have the huge crowds of Delicate Arch.
Colorado National Monument was the first stop during my summer 2016 road trip, and I quickly realized that this area of Colorado is best visited at literally any other time of year than when I went in June with my husband. (Ok, August is even hotter, I went back with my parents at the end of summer 2018)
But the scenery? Totally worth the 6 a.m. wake up call.
Leadville, Colorado is an awesome escape from the summer heat, and is a totally overlooked leaf-peeping destination. But 10,000 feet of elevation makes hiking and trail running a LOT more difficult, particularly if you’re trudging up the side of a mountain. I used to think the only beginner-friendly options were simply running around town (which is honestly still quite hilly). That is, until I got some local insight (thanks @scoutycowdog!).