Over the Mountains We Go

Trigg Skoe


By Ally Gran


If I can do it, so can you.

There is a stigma centered around outdoor recreation, including backpacking. You have to be incredibly knowledgeable, have the greatest gear, have been born on a mountain, be in the best shape, etc. Take it from someone who is none of these things, these assumptions are false, and YOU can do it.

Backpacking is a marvelous and captivating experience where you strap everything you need to your back and walk, sometimes for a few miles, or maybe a few days, or maybe (for those particularly dedicated) for a few months. You can reach places that no car has ever been or will ever go, be alone in the middle of a forest without hearing the murmur of cars, see the milky way with the absence of light pollution, skinny dip in a lake, carefully watch a moose feed, drink the cold water of a mountain stream, and watch a sunrise with only the company of the birds around you.

My first experience backpacking in Colorado kicked my ass. I was using a broken and borrowed backpack, a tad hung-over, out of breath from the altitude, sleep deprived, and had had minimal exposure to hiking mountains. As we hiked the first day, I remember internally protesting the weight on my back, the tenderness in my feet, and the constant thirst in my throat. But it all became worth it as the beauty of the area was exposed. We hopped around a beautiful waterfall, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on tortillas (a backpacking classic), filtered water from a mountain lake, bonded as friends, and watched the sunset over mountains, it was incredibly gratifying. 

This experience is something that is called ‘Type 2’ fun, and it is true of most backpacking adventures. It’s the type of fun that you have to work for and a type of fun that may not always be fun in the moment. It is definitely worth the mental and physical victory though and the personal push to get to your destination. Backpacking is not all butterflies and rainbows, although you can probably see a few of those on a backpacking adventure. You have to soak in all that it encompasses, you are carrying everything you need to survive on your back and walking, it sounds easier than it is (hence, ‘Type 2’ fun).

ANYONE CAN DO IT! Empower yourself to try something new, to step out of your comfort zone, and try backpacking! Everyone knows the classic John Muir quote, ‘the mountains are calling and I must go’. Answer that call, go backpacking and you will not be disappointed. That being said, do not be smug. Understand and accept your level of expertise, ask questions and do research.

If you are looking to get into the backpacking scene, I would highly suggest talking to the Rec Center’s Outdoor Department. The amazing folks there will not only give you advice for when/where to start, but can hook you up with gear rentals. The next place to look is CSU’s Outdoor Club, where they host camping, backpacking, climbing, etc. adventures all on a more casual basis. Inquire via their Facebook page and group to found out more information about trips and ask questions, this group features expert outdoorsmen/women that love to teach new adventurers! Women for Wild Lands also hosts outdoors trips, with a mission to empower women to explore and protect our public lands (men are definitely invited to this welcoming community as well).

AFTER checking in with some experienced backpackers, head outside! Bring your friends, go by yourself (just let someone know your plans). The Poudre Valley offers miles and miles of trails that are ready to be backpacked!  A few favorites include Cirque Meadows at our very own Pingree Park (about 6 miles round trip) and American Lakes near State Forest State Park (about 11 miles round trip). Rocky Mountain National Park also offers pristine backpacking with the reservation and purchase of a backcountry permit.

Coming into the tail end of the backpacking season, be careful and be prepared. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder, so it may not be the best time to dabble in backpacking. That being said, you can still go! If you would like to wait, June through August are perfect times to start on the trail.


Whenever and wherever you begin a new adventure, remember to stay confident and believe in yourself. You CAN backpack. I hope to see you on the trails.