There’s your uncle who believes the Earth is flat, your cousin who grew up in Kansas City and won’t shut up about the Chiefs, and your stepmother who treats you like the junior high kids she teaches.
We can’t help you with those relatives during Thanksgiving dinner. But we can help match a hike with those who want to “experience Colorado” outside of the craft beer scene. Hey, you can always have a drink as a reward for getting out instead of battling crowds on Black Friday (or Thursday, because God forbid you wait until the turkey settles before you scratch and claw for a $300 big-screen TV).
If you are planning on taking any relatives who are not from Colorado, the East Coast or Minnesota on one of these hikes, tell them to pack for snowy conditions. Their best bet is layers, boots and a thick pair of wool socks.
The relatives who post way too much on Instagram
Where: Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs
Hike length: 2.5 miles round-trip, but it is steep.
Your relatives from Missouri flooded social media with a picture of the crab rangoon you served at dinner (#wheresthestuffing), the icicles hanging off your porch (#snowinNov), and 45 pictures of their dogs Franny and Fred chasing a skunk in the backyard (#PepeLePew). Now give them something their 15 followers will really want to see: one of the prettiest single spots in Colorado.
Hanging Lake is a beaut, from the small waterfalls springing from the wall to the crystal-clear green water occupied by endangered trout. The hike is strenuous and the drive is fairly long, three hours from Denver, but that will put your selfie-snappers to sleep.
You’ll gain 1,000 feet in a mile after the concrete introduction from the parking lot. You can call 970-945-6580 for current conditions. If the town has had snow, be careful, because the trail could be snowy or, worse, icy. The trail is steep enough for that to cause concern without proper footwear so wear a good pair of boots.
If you’re traveling west, there is no direct access, so follow Interstate 70 west to exit 121 and take Grizzly Creek, then return to I-70 east and take exit 125 for hanging lake. Get there early if you can, as the parking lot fills up fast, and cars who don’t get a spot but park illegally will get a ticket. The lake is open year-round at all hours.
RELATED: Hanging Lake reservations: When you’ll have to pay and how many can hike in a day
The relatives who “want to work off the turkey”
Where: Green Mountain, located in William Frederick Hayden Park in Lakewood
Hike length: Your pick. The summit is nearly 7,000 feet, and there are many ways to get there. The Green Mountain Trail is a 6½-mile loop. The Hayden Trail is 1½ miles from the Utah Trailhead up the south side of the mountain. The Summit Loop is nearly 3 miles and a scenic trail around a portion of the park’s summit.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know what “working off the turkey” means. Sometimes, a walk around the block will fool someone into thinking you can work off your 2,500-calorie dinner. That’s the beauty of these trails: There’s enough variety to please anyone, and all of them offer great views of Lakewood. You can, if you want to really challenge them, walk for hours. Or, you can give in to their whining and stop after a half-mile. There are many different ways to access the trail, but the most popular are from either the Florida or Utah trailheads along Alameda Parkway. These fill up quickly on the weekends, but many times these hikes are dry when others are full of snow.
The relatives who strive to be socialites
Where: Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hike length: Just a bit more than 2 miles. There is some elevation gain, but it’s not too bad.
This partially paved trail is crowded every day, even in the winter, so it’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t be packed with people on Thanksgiving (not everyone loves the Dallas Cowboys). This will help your relatives who break out in hives if they don’t make a new friend, either on Facebook or IRL, every day. They can say “hi” to hundreds of people and maybe even make small talk about their shared interest in Goldendoodles, dessert wine or the crazy way they prefer fruit pie for Thanksgiving.
You can go on to Emerald Lake if you’re feeling ambitious (that may even get you out of having to watch the Cowboys). You can park at Bear Lake once you enter the national park near Estes Park if you arrive early enough, usually before 8 a.m., but there is also a park-and-ride to your right, with regular shuttles, as you drive up Bear Lake Road just a little way before you reach Bear Lake. A one-day pass costs $25, and a seven-day pass costs $35. An annual pass costs $70. Call 970-586-1206 for conditions. The roads are usually clear even if there’s snow, but they may be icy.
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The relatives who “want to climb a mountain”
Where: Mount Sanitas in Boulder
Hike length: The loop, the most popular option, is a bit more than 3 miles, but you gain nearly 1,500 feet.
Yes, there are relatives who want to really experience Colorado and climb a mountain, perhaps after overdosing on John Denver on the road trip to your house. OK, fine, so take them up Mount Sanitas. Yes, it’s steep, just like most mountains, but it’s also short. It’s a legit peak, even if it’s nowhere near 14,000 feet, and you can have fun counting how many times your relatives say “Oh, my goodness, can you imagine,” at all the Boulderites running up and down the mountain while they train for the Olympics — or it’s just their regular Friday.
The trailhead is located a half-mile west of 4th Street on Mapleton Avenue. Parking is available at the Centennial Trailhead on the south side of Mapleton Avenue. Centennial is just west of the Sanitas Trailhead. The Sanitas Valley Trail gives you access to many trails, so make sure you are taking the Mount Sanitas Trail.
Go to bouldercolorado.gov/osmp for more information.
Relatives who think Black Friday is for shopping, not hiking
Where: Confluence Park
Hike length: As much as you want
These people exist, too, so you’ll have to trick them into a short hike after you shop for threads downtown. If you want to shop at REI so your relatives can “look outdoorsy like you,” they will have to wait until Saturday, as the store is closed Thursday and Friday for Opt Outside. Confluence Park is one of the best urban parks in the state, with concrete hiking trails, including the famous Cherry Creek Trail and the murals that accompany it that are also ideal for hiking in the heart of downtown. Take them long enough, and it’s possible you can avoid taking them to the Cherry Creek Mall.