More off-season backpacking ideas in Colorado

A popular article of mine is Off-season Backpacking Destinations in Colorado.  Basically, where to go in the early Spring or late Fall if a person wants to backpack if there is snow higher up in the mountains.

Based on both search inquiries to my site and some recent emails, looks like people are interested in some additional ideas.  The other places are a mix of the Grand Junction area, some High Plains gallivants, and some Front Range haunts.

As before, I only gave the basic info. I’ll let the interested backpacker research the finer details as needed. 🙂



A backpack of only about 10 miles round trip and 1000′ gain, but the minor scrambling, route finding, and water crossings make this trip a bit of a mini-adventure for many.  The trip starts at the Skagway Reservoir near the old mining town of Victor and not far from Colorado Springs.  The typical trip has its end goal at the old power plant located deep in a canyon.

The area used to be a bit of secret, but since the area is now flagged (and people leave lots of trash behind; please don’t do that!), the area is now a bit more well known.

The old brickwork is cathedral-like. And the area is sublime. A strong hiker could easily do this trip in a day. But sleeping in the canyon and the seemingly isolated area makes for an excellent getaway and is trip that is sure to be savored.

Way down by the Oklahoma and Colorado border, Picture Canyon in the Comanche Grassland is fantastic. Pictographs abound, archaeoastronomical sites can be discovered,  bird watching aficionados will be pleased, and the spring wildflowers are sublime.  An ~ 15-mile loop can easily be made with trails that lead into an around Picture Canyon.

A fantastic trip to explore the beauty of the Colorado High Plains.

Another canyon a bit more known in recent times versus the past. Located in the Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness, Knowles Canyon is often combined with Mee Canyon to make a scrambling, bushwhacking, route finding spectacular of ~ 40 miles. While Mee Canyon has their adherents, and the physical challenge of linking the canyons (by bushwhacking and possibly a packraft) could be interesting for some, I think the 28-mile round-trip hike into and out of Knowles Canyon is a worthy jaunt in its own right.

Knowles is a canyon that ranks up with anything I’ve done in Utah and even as an out and back did not fail to entice. A BLM ranger told me he could spend six months down there as it is his favorite. I could see why once I was down there.

Pollock Canyon is easily accessible from Fruita. No gnarly jeep roads or the possibility of getting stuck when the roads turn muddy. And Rattle Snake Arches is easily reached from this area to make a backpack of 15 miles, or even more, to some unique scenery.

Rattle Snake Arches itself allegedly has more arches than anywhere but Arches National Park. Plenty to explore in the area for the adventurous! Or stick to the trails and still see some interesting scenery.

Note: Camping is not allowed at the arches themselves. 

from Jeffco. My photos are from so long ago; I could not even easily find them in my collection. 🙂

Looking for a very mellow backpack and just want to get out? The White Ranch Open Space has 20+ miles of trails, free backcountry campsites, and is not far from Denver. The permits are free. See the Jeffco website for details.

from Jeffco

It has been several years but since I’ve been there. But I do remember the back side of the park, in particular, feels reasonably remote. The park is best thought of as a place for a quick get-away, if you are jonesing for an overnight, want to test out some gear, or as an excellent introductory trip for children.


There you go. A few more ideas if you want to get some backpacking in when there is snow up high. But you really want to lace up those hiking shoes. And if you want more details, see a book I wrote with Cam Honan of The Hiking Life for these and other trip ideas!

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