The epic 500 mile Colorado Trail begins just outside Sterling Ranch
The official trailhead for arguably Colorado's most famous trail, the Colorado Trail, lies just west of Sterling Ranch. What awaits? Colorado's version of the Appalachian Trail.
It's around this time of year that I start getting the itch to watch Colorado Trail thru-hike videos on Youtube (here's a cool one from last hiking season). At 485 miles long, a complete thru-hike of the trail takes you all the way from Denver to Durango through Colorado's most mountainous and remote areas. And it only takes a month to a month and a half to complete. How does a summer trekking through Colorado's high country sound?
I became interested in the Colorado Trail when my brother-in-law went on the trek 10 years ago. He and two friends made it from Denver to Breckenridge - an incredible feat if you think about it - before they were undone by a couple minor injuries and, well, the fact that they'd hiked from Waterton Canyon, 10 minutes west of Sterling Ranch via Titan Road, to Breckenridge. They told of rainstorms and blistered feet and 15-pound weight losses, but they also told of how incredible it was being on an epic, wild journey in the 21st century. My brother-in-law speaks reverentially of the challenge and beauty of the journey a decade later.
I won't bore you with too much more about the Colorado Trail given the wealth of resources about the trail available online (here's the Colorado Trail Foundation's website if you're looking for a place to start). But I think even us day-hikers can appreciate the fact that the eastern gateway for Colorado's version of the Appalachian Trail lies just outside Sterling Ranch.
You can day-hike from the Waterton Canyon Trailhead or even try your hand at the first segment, which runs 16.8 miles from the Waterton Canyon Trailhead to the South Platte River Trailhead. The trail is easy to moderate and takes you along the South Platte river and into a canyon. It's perfect for hiking, running, biking, and even fishing (though unfortunately dogs aren't allowed). You can even bring a picnic lunch and find a spot by the river. It's a great, close, easy trail for Sterling Ranch residents.
Finally, on a related topic, here's a Roundup post on one of my favorite nearby day-hikes, the Devil's Head Trail. The trail is great for families and out-of-state guests who want a quick taste of Colorado.