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Suggestions for a first hike in CO without steep ledges (or suggestions for getting over the fear)?

Hi everyone,

I'm new to Colorado and hiking in general. I'm a bigger guy but can easily hike 3 or 4 miles, however I tend to freak out on trails that have steep edges on the sides so I've been unable to finish many that I've tried. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get over this fear or a place that doesn't have these sheer ledges? 

12 Replies

There are hundreds of trails that would work for you.  What part of Colorado are you wanting information on?  Hermann’s Gulch off I-70 comes to mind, as well as South Fooses Creek near Salida.

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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hi @Jpacillo! Welcome to the community! 🙂 Colorado is one of my favorite places in this country... any time I'm within its borders, I'm happy. What part do you live in, so we can get some suggestions close to you? Don't worry: there are a ton of places in CO that don't have sheer ledges! If you're close to Denver, you can go hike a 4-mile loop at the Red Rocks Amphitheater.

If all else fails, you can try to get over your fear of ledges using the method this dad did. 😄 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
My dad won't let a crippling fear of heights keep him from peering over the edge. Well maybe.Dun Aonghasa, Inis MorFor licensing / permission to use please c...

Thanks so much! Love the video 😂

I live in Parker. I was at Castlewood Canyon yesterday to do the "easy" loop of Lake Gulch and Inner Canyon trail and ended up trying it from either side and turning around on both 😅

There's absolutely no shame in turning around! I have definitely "noped out" on some trails before that made me uncomfortable because of either the height or the exposure - one of which was Half Dome! I got this permit for an epic hike, got nine steps up on the chains, and said "Nah, I'm cool. I don't wanna go out this way." 

You have a lot of options where you are in Parker, CO! Check out Hiking Project and read up on some local trails; usually, trails with exposure may be rated a black diamond, so maybe browse the reviews of the trail and see if there are any photos that make you uncomfortable before venturing out.  

@hikermor had a great suggestion of taking a rock climbing class or two! I honestly believe knowing how to maneuver myself on rock formations helps with my level of comfort when I encounter them on a trail. We're not going to suggest you go free climb El Capitan just yet, though. 😄 

And if you get to an unexpected, short section of exposed trail, there's no shame in crab walking or inch worming (like the dad in the video above :D). The closer your center of gravity is to the ground, the more stable you'll feel. Getting yourself a set of trekking poles, too, may help because that gives you even more lateral stability while hiking. I was in Olympic National Park a few years back and while the trail I was on wasn't near a sheer rock face, it cut right across a hill that I swear felt like it was at a 60* angle. Focusing on the trail just in front of me helped.. that whole "Don't look down!" mentality. 😄 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I had the pleasure of living in Windsor Colorado for 3 years, I currently live in CA for work but I miss CO every day, you are so lucky to be there!  I've done that loop around Red Rocks Amphitheater mentioned above and it's mellow as well as beautiful, plus you get the chance to walk around the amphitheater itself during the day, so that's a great option, especially if you are a music lover becuase they have a really cool display on the inside in their visitors center.

If you feel like driving, there are some really beautiful and more mellow, i.e. flat to rolling types of trails in Rocky Mountain National Park and the views are just stunning!!  You could make a weekend out of it and rent a cabin on the Fall River and enjoy your weekend exploring trails in RMNP.  The town is fun to check out too.   Good luck in your trail finding and HAVE FUN!!  

Kate B. - Happy When Hiking

Being careful around steep terrain is a perfectly sensible reaction, especially when first exposed to such. Go right ahead and remain cautious.  What might help is a good rock climbing class (on rock, in steep terrain, not in a gym).  Learn to evaluate the terrain and conditions, along with the non evident subtle hazards - slick grass, crumbling rock, etc.

It's been awhile, but the trail to the summit of Pike's Peak from Colorado Springs is perfectly feasible, aw well as many others.....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hi @Jpacillo , welcome!  I agree what has also been said, Colorado is a virtual wonderland of great hiking!

And again, what part of Colorado are you in?

Odds are Denver or Colorado Springs, but...whatever.

What I tend to do is get a map of my general area or areas I'm interested in, a map which shows some topography (very important to understand topo maps in Colorado!) and showing national forests and wilderness areas.

Find trail heads you might be interested in and then look for trails that follow rivers and/or streams, and maybe trails leading to lower elevation lakes.  This keeps you from most steeper hikes.

There are also hikes up 'rolling' hills, more 'rounded' less steep, hills which also avoid most steep ledge sections.

I recommend visiting your local REI and looking at the Nat Geo topo maps , and discuss your preferences with the 'vests'.

Once you get your breathing acclimatized and your 'mountain hiking' legs under you, you can venture out to some the the higher meadows and elevations.

good luck!

REI Member Since 1979
Another, more complete, video/slide show of our Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop, mid August 2013, clockwise

I thought I replied once already lol but I'm in Parker. I attempted some easier trails at Castlewood Canyon but ended up turning back out of fear of ending up dead and alone 😂 thanks for your help! 

Hi @Jpacillo!

I grew up in south Aurora, just a mile or two over the Parker city limits by a couple of miles. I can remember going to Castlewood Canyon with my Girl Scout troop and not loving some of those trails for the same reasons you describe!

If you're looking for mountain views without necessarily being up in altitude, I'd take a short drive north to Cherry Creek State Park. There, you get more of a feel of the high prairie that Colorado is known for in addition to our mountains. If you're feeling adventurous, and you have a bike, you can ride your bike up the Cherry Creek Trail from Parker right inside the park!

If you would like a great view of Denver from the foothills without the sheer drop, I'd recommend Mt. Falcon park with a caveat: the park has two trailheads, and you will want to start from the west trailhead where the trails are gently rolling, and you can still get a pretty good view of Denver without having to creep right up to the edge of the hill. Don't start at the east trailhead near Red Rocks until you have conquered that fear of sheer drops! Mt. Falcon has a series of linking trails that you can use to make your own loops. 

Finally, I highly recommend Waterton Canyon as a way to see some beautiful canyon views with a gentle incline. The first six miles are an access road for Denver Water, so you have plenty of berth, several rest stops, and some pretty cool views of bighorn sheep! After six miles, the trail gets steeper and more rugged, along the lines of a traditional singletrack experience. 

I hope this helps! If you want more ideas for day hikes, we carry many guides at your nearest store (Greenwood Village), where you'll also find some green vests who would be happy to share their favorite spots. 

Happy hiking!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.