While writing his next guide to Colorado’s outdoor activities, Stewart Green heard the naysayers.
“I got a bunch of crap from a few people,” the Colorado Springs native says with a bibliography spanning a good 40 years. “‘Oh, you’re leaking all this information, and all the trails are going to be trampled, and it’s going to be too crowded. Why are you leaking all our secrets in the state?'”
To which Green had a ready-made answer: “There is no place in the book that is a secret, hidden place that no one knows about. It just doesn’t exist anymore.”
The book “Hiking Colorado’s Hidden Gems” is an appreciation of 40 trails that Green deems underrated from a life of hoofs in the nooks and crannies of his beloved state. “Landscapes of outsiders”, he calls them, with short and long, easy and difficult trails at all four corners.
Rocky Mountain National Park is no outsider. But maybe the path to Bluebird Lake could be called that, it reached over 6 miles through the distant Wild Basin. “Once you get past Ouzel Falls, you really don’t see many people there,” says Green.
This is just one quadrant maintained by the National Park Service explored by the book. Readers are also taken on a trail in Mesa Verde National Park – where they could otherwise get busy visiting the cliff dwellings – and another at Dinosaur National Monument, popularly visited for its fossil exhibit. Then there’s the national monument closest to Green’s house: the Florissant Fossil Beds of Teller County, with a trail weaving through a vast meadow where you can spot more wildlife than people.
The green also nods to several state-protected parks — more “well-maintained, well-marked” trails, he says.
People know Lathrop State Park near Walsenburg more for its boating reservoirs, less for the donkey trek to an iconic view of the Spanish Peaks. Green suspects people know Littleton’s Roxborough State Park best for the red rocks, “but maybe they’re not thinking about hiking to the highest point in the park” (Carpenter Peak).
There are locally known spots on the West Rim that Green aims to introduce enthusiasts across the state. Among them are the Curecanti National Recreation Area outside of Gunnison, Rifle Arch near Rifle, and the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area near Fruita.
Among Green’s picks on the Front Range are a trio of Douglas County open spaces: Sandstone Ranch, Dawson Butte and Lincoln Mountain. A few surprises further south are the Pueblo de Beulah Mountain Park and the trails around the Ludlow Massacre Memorial, representing Green’s important history. “I really think everyone should get out and hike there,” he says.
He is strongly committed to a “zero impact philosophy”, as he describes in the opening pages of “Hidden Gems”. He feels strongly that “[o]One of the best ways to appreciate and understand Colorado is to explore its varied terrain and natural landmarks on foot,” he writes.
“And hopefully,” he says, “when people find these places and go there, people will love them as much as I do and want to see them protected.”