Throw a dart at a map of Colorado and you won't have trouble finding a supreme retreat to nature.
Let us propose a trip that begins in Lost Creek Wilderness (fs.usda.gov). Located less than 50 miles from Colorado Springs, the 119,790-acre expanse boasts trails rising to elevations of 12,400 feet that braid through forests and eye-catching rock outcrops.
Trek north to Mount Evans (mountevans.com), considered one of the state's easier 14,000-foot peaks to bag. Taking the route from Summit Lake, you'll hike about 2.5 miles to the 14,270-foot summit and come back the same way. Or simply delight in the scenery by driving North America's highest paved road, starting at Echo Lake.
Go west for a visit to one of Colorado's more beloved state parks. Rifle Falls (cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/RifleFalls) is a triple waterfall cascading over limestone cliffs. It's part of a lush environment mimicking some far-off tropical escape. Stick around and explore its mysterious caves.
Trappers Lake (trapperslake.com) in Flat Tops Wilderness should be on every Colorado adventurer's bucket list. Trappers Lake Lodge and Resort and its rustic cabins and campsites are near the edge of the water, reflecting the tabletop mountains around it. The site is credited as the inspiration for the Wilderness Act of 1964, which defined "area(s) where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man."
While in this region, you'll be hard-pressed not to visit Steamboat Springs (steamboatsprings.net), with Emerald Mountain easily accessible for hiking and biking and the Yampa River for rafting and tubing. Strawberry Park Hot Springs (strawberryhotsprings.com) is a prime getaway, with steamy pools nestled in the forest.
As you make your way back toward the Front Range, stop at Grand Lake (visitgrandcounty.com), the state's largest and deepest natural lake boasting recreation galore.
The west entrance to Colorado's most famous natural escape, Rocky Mountain National Park (nps.gov/romo), is found on the edge of town. Wildlife including moose, elk and bear often can be spotted along Trail Ridge Road, which climbs above 12,000 feet. Be sure to stop in at Alpine Visitor Center before finishing the scenic drive into Estes Park, where stunning views of 14,261-foot Longs Peak await.