A PATCHWORK of land stitched together by rivers and aspen groves, Colorado consists of an endless network of patterns and textures. Delicate alpine tundra, sparsely vegetated desert, towering sand dunes, steep-faced canyons, and grasslands speckled with buttes — all pieces of a quilt that could stretch over a continent exist within the 104,185 square miles that is Colorado. With this variance, Colorado offers us the opportunity to see incredible spaces only hours from each other.

Colorado has an adventure for everyone and a view for anyone. From skiers to kayakers, ultra runners to whiskey drinkers, you can bet that Colorado has a place for you to land your running shoes or camp chair and take in those picturesque sights that cause people to get outside and feel at home in the great outdoors. For that, I’m taking a moment to praise the beautifully stitched patchwork that is the Colorado landscape and what causes us to say: “Gosh dang, Mother Nature! You’ve done it again.”

1

Maroon Lake

Here in Colorado, we’re lucky enough to have the landscapes that give you goosebumps and render you speechless. Maroon Lake is one of those places. With crystal clear water reflecting the magnificent Maroon Peaks, the striking views from the sandy shore is one of the most recognizable spots in Colorado. Located near Aspen, one of the most popular times to visit this area is during the fall, when the aspen covered hillsides turn a vivid golden yellow, adding another layer of natural beauty to an already breathtaking view.

2

Ice Lake

When you reach an elevation where trees can no longer grow because of lack of oxygen, you aren’t exactly anticipating diversity. As an unexpected porcupine scuttled across the trail in the light of our headlamps under a star-filled sky, assumptions of what we would find on our hike disappeared with him. The following day, at 12,270 feet, we played on the shores of the indescribable Ice Lake in Silverton and were reminded of the diversity of Colorado landscapes at all elevations. You can know what you’re hiking to, you can research your hike and view trip reports, but nothing can prepare you for that feeling you get when nature decides to take you by surprise.

3

Mt. Sneffels

As we neared the summit of Mt. Sneffels at 14,105 feet, we took a moment to turn and face what had been to our backs the majority of the hike. Mountains, with a backdrop of mountains, surrounded by miles of mountains basking in the late morning sun. A portion of the Rocky Mountain range runs through Colorado, gifting the state with 58 peaks reaching 14,000 feet and subranges abundant with rivers meandering through sweet-smelling pine forests and thick aspen groves. The many ranges provide Colorado with a variety of ecosystems from alpine tundra to riparian zones, providing homes for a diverse spectrum of both flora and fauna, and giving us views that make waking up at 4 AM and having your lungs ache worth every second.

4

Great Sand Dune

In southern Colorado, sit 230 square miles belonging to Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve. Home to the towering 750-foot Star Dune, Great Sand Dune National Park has a variety of unique ecosystems from a desert valley to the seasonal Medano Creek. As our descent from Star Dune began to reach into early afternoon, for the sake of our feet, we picked up the pace in hopes of making it to Medano Creek before the sand reached peak afternoon temperatures.

5

Red Mountain Pass

Rain poured over us as we sat in the open air of a truck bed, bouncing up a steep muddy road to the top of Red Mountain Pass. When we reached the top, the clouds parted, and we were greeted with the warmth of whiskey and the reason for the pass's name. Although we were soaked, the fresh rain gave the colors of the surrounding mountains extra vibrancy and an overall dramatic view of the San Juan Mountain range.

6

Arkansas River

As we made our way toward Snowmass for some aspen grove camping, we stopped to take a break and stretch our legs along the side of the road just past Twin Lakes. We were lucky enough to stumble upon this view of the Arkansas River, flanked by rock outcroppings and aspens beginning to change from a soft green to brilliant gold. With snow-capped peaks comes snowmelt, and with snow melt comes wandering mountain rivers. Rivers have contributed to a great deal of the landscapes we see in Colorado today, and support a wide range of wildlife, activities like fishing and kayaking, and continue to carve into the Earth and stitch together the pieces of the Colorado patchwork.

7

Alpine Tundra

Waking up at 4 AM on a Saturday to hike doesn’t always seem appealing, But the views and a summit beer are always worth it. Colorado has fifty-eight 14,000-foot peaks, and at the summit, you can often see surrounding snow-capped peaks for miles. Sometimes, you’re surprised by a different view: A mountain goat, a thundercloud, someone doing their business, or some sign of the delicate alpine tundra you’ve made your way to. While wearing base layers, puffies, a beanie, and two pairs of pants, capturing this image made me realize how hardy these flowers truly are -- not only to be surviving but thriving at such a high elevation. Although tough against the weather, the alpine tundra is an extremely delicate ecosystem and it is important to always stay on the trail and leave no trace.

8

Huron Peak

As we made our way down from Huron Peak, the anticipation for the meal awaiting us at the bottom caused us to turn to trail running for a speedier descent. Trail running is a great way to cover more terrain and get in shape (or get to your food faster), as long as you don’t trip! Although looking at the mountains from a distance may hint otherwise, ranges are not only filled with rugged peaks. Tremendous valleys, shining lakes, and clusters of pine and aspen are interlaced with deep gullies and roaring rivers, creating unique ecosystems and microclimates between the summits you see from a distance. These areas provide amazing views and spaces for recreationists, from kayakers to backcountry skiers to hikers running for their food.

9

Urban corridor

Although some think only of the mountains in Colorado, the Front Range Urban Corridor is a unique landscape within itself. Stretching along the eastern face of the foothills, the Urban Corridor consists of cities and towns like Fort Collins, Boulder, and Colorado Springs. Affected by a natural pattern called a rain shadow, where moist air is often blocked by the mountains, this area of Colorado is often coined with having 300 days of sunshine a year. The folks at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science were kind enough to allow me access to their sky terrace after hours to capture this sunset over Denver.

10

Railroad

Eastern Colorado is considered to be part of the Great Plains and is home to the beautiful Pawnee National Grasslands and the Comanche National Grasslands. Although sparsely populated, eastern Colorado has rangeland, family farms, canyons, buttes, and sporadic deciduous forests. Retired farming and railroad machinery can be found scattered throughout the eastern plains.

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