Peace and Quiet In a season full of traffic, crowds and noise, here are a few places in NW Colorado to escape to and REcharge Before the snow flies.

Hooper and Keener lakes

Baby trout sun themselves on the shore of Keener Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness. (Scott Franz)

These two gems sit in the stunning Flat Tops Wilderness and make for a very doable day hike or overnight backpacking trip. Bring a fishing rod, and don't expect to run into any traffic on the trail. Everyone else will be going the opposite direction to the famous Devil's Causeway. Start this hike at Stillwater Reservoir. Watch for Trail #1122 on your left after walking on the dam, and then take the trail up the saddle. Once at the summit of the saddle, take a break and enjoy the views. Then head south and hike about a mile until you see Hooper lake on your right. Keener lake is a quick hike further south of Hooper. No camping is allowed within a quarter mile of the lakes. More info on the trail is here.

Mica Lake

Big Agnes is reflected at sunset in the calm waters of Mica Lake.

Tucked in a natural amphitheater above 10,000 feet in the Zirkel Wilderness, the glassy Mica Lake offers visitors solitude, great fishing and great side hikes. Bald eagles are also a common site. It's a bit of a slog to make it here, but once you do, you'll be thankful you made the extra effort to avoid the crowds and traffic that goes to nearby Gilpin Lake. There are great camping spots all around the lake. Get your camera ready and head to the west side of the lake at sunset. Big Agnes will glow red and reflect perfectly below in the calm waters. At dawn, make a trek up the saddle, or bag a nearby peak if you're more ambitious. To get here, start at the Slavonia trailhead and make the first left to go toward Gilpin Lake. Keep an eye out about 1.5 miles into the hike for a wooden sign on the left indicating the start of the 1162 trail to the Mica Basin.

Top of Buff Pass

At sunrise, frosty and dew soaked wildflowers sparkle at first light

While Buffalo Pass Road gets packed on summer weekends, the crowds of campers rarely make it all the way up to the top and explore the glassy lakes at the summit. Hike a short ways into the Zirkel Wilderness from the back of the Summit Lake Campground and arrive at Jonah Lake. The only things you'll hear are the occasional bird chirp that echoes for miles, and the splash of a trout.

Echo Park

If you've got more time and don't mind taking a couple hour drive west, Echo Park is one of the best places to find solitude in Northwest Colorado. Here, a towering rock known as Steamboat Rock towers near the confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers. Head into Dinosaur National Monument just before the town of Dinosaur and drive to the Echo Park Road. It is not advisable to drive the road when it's raining. Petroglyphs, sandy beaches, and the Milky Way await. The Echo Park campground rarely fills even on weekends.


Scott Franz

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