Good Guidebooks: Hiking

2009 November 9
by David Schlichter

If you are as into outdoor adventures as we are, you know that being prepared can not only make for a more enjoyable day, it can literally save your life.  We’re spending the next three days bringing you some of the best outdoor adventure guidebooks for the Denver region so that you can have as much fun as possible and be as prepared as possible.  We’ve poured over the books to ensure we’re recommending the best, and all of the books we feature can be found in and purchased from the new Good Books section of our website (brought to you in association with

With a whopping 54 fourteeners (mountains rising above 14,000 feet)–all of which allow access to hikers–Colorado is a hiker’s Mecca.  Visitors come from all over the country and the world to ascend them, and quite often after the experience those “visitors” become “residents.”  Hiking fourteeners is no easy feat, though, but a Good guidebook can make all the difference.  There are two books that do an outstanding job of guiding you on your quest to ascend any or all of Colorado’s fourteeners.

51AZEF84F5L._SL160_Colorado’s Fourteener’s: From Hikes to Climbs by Gerry Roach is a phenomenally thorough guide to Colorado’s fourteeners.  Roach does an excellent job introducing readers to relevant safety precautions, weather considerations, Leave No Trace trail ethics, and the rating system used in the book.  He then provides route descriptions for all 54 fourteeners that are detailed and easy to understand.  Routes are mapped on crisp and very helpful USGS color topographical maps and on occasional color photo overlays (photo overlays are where routes are marked on top of a photograph).   In his appendix, Roach identifies for readers what are regarded as the most classic routes, and he provides a list of all of the mountains in order of ascent difficulty–giving the beginner an easy idea of where, out of the 54, to start.   This is a book with Good content that will change very little over the course of a lifetime, and at around $15, it is a total steal.

51AGFVTHS7L._SL160_51BA6SVP8DL._SL160_ Dawson’s Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) by Louis W. Dawson II [together] is another fourteener hiking guidebook we highly recommend.  Dawson’s layout is perhaps a bit more user-friendly than Roach’s.  Winter ascents are more thoroughly detailed (though routes in general are a bit less detailed than in Roach’s guide), and he includes information on ski descents (Lou Dawson was the first person to ski down all 54 fourteeners).  The book has the majority of routes shown on photo overlays—a real strength for people who are less skilled at using topo maps (though they are medium quality black and white shots that could be improved in future versions).  He has topo maps, however they are significantly lower quality than Roach’s.   Dawson, too, has a great appendix which includes “Grand Slam” routes, sunrise/set times, and emergency services phone numbers.  At around $42 for the two, Dawson’s guide is over twice as expensive as Roach’s, but it has some real advantages for those new at orienteering and those who are especially interested in winter ascents/descents.

51rMtdKV3gL._SL160_If you’re looking for a hiking guidebook that doesn’t always take you above 14,000, consider getting 100 Classic Hikes Colorado by Scott S. Warren.  This book has just what we look for in Good guidebooks with clearly marked distances and difficulties, quality directions and descriptions, a “getting there” section for each hike, a trail profile image displaying elevation gain and drop as the trail progresses, a list of the best months during which to do each hike, and topo maps for each hike as well.  Our only critique is that the topo maps could be a bit more crisp and easy on the eyes (but we’ve seen a lot worse).  This is an excellent Colorado hiking book, and it only sets you back around $15.

The books above are some of the best hiking guidebooks you can get for the region.  They all can be found in and purchased from the new Good Books section of our website.  Tomorrow, we’ll be featuring the best cycling books for the region.  Enjoy!

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