Magazine article Sunset

Mountain Weekend

Magazine article Sunset

Mountain Weekend

Article excerpt

Crowd-free alpine hiking » A new kind of deli in Salt Lake » Cool off with fancy popsicles in Denver »

Day trip

Walden, CO

Why go now: The snow has finally melted, leaving the high peaks and deserted trails in a spray of wildflowers. And while crowds swarm Rocky Mountain National Park to the southeast, a day of alpine hiking, good food, and funky shopping awaits in and around this under-theradar town. Where the heck is it? In the center of North Park, a fertile valley ringed by pine forests and snowcapped mountains between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs. Elevation: 8,100 feet Town population: Less than 1,000 Moose population: About 600 in North Park, the mooseviewing capital of CO. Real-deal wranglers: Walden's Old West vibe comes from the ranchers and cowboys who stock up on supplies in town before hitting the annual Never Summer Rodeo (Jun 25-26; $8; Jackson County fairgrounds). Dress code: Carhartt pants or Wranglers with cowboy boots. Hollywood connection: Um, none. But with a perfect-for-people-watching, four-block Main Street, no one minds that the nearest movie theater is Go-some miles away. Stretch out: North Park is about 1,600 square miles; that's nearly a square mile for every local.

1. Take a hike that'll wow you

The 4- to 6-mile round-trip Ruby Jewel Lake Trail, 20 miles east of town in State Forest State Park, has the same jaw-dropping scenery as nearby Rocky Mountain, but no sign of the hordes. Walk up the ridge, past rosy-colored talus rock fields (where "Ruby" is said to come from), and get ready for knockout views of a small lake beneath 12,954-foot Clark Peak. Snow on the trails can last through the month, so hit the Moose Visitor Center for updates. $7/vehicie; 56750 State 14, Gould; parlu.state.co.us

2. Throwback shopping

In town, warm weather means Hoopla can hoist the massive sliding front door to show off its vintage wares, much of it salvaged from local ranches: roller skates, Austrian china, costume jewelry, hat boxes, furniture, tulle and lace dresses, and even animal pelts (from a local trapper), saddles, and branding irons. MEN, IT'S NOT so PRISSY IN THE BACK, a sign at the front honestly promises. 421 Main St.; 370/819-4050.

Make it an overnight

Adjoining sister hotels the Antlers Inn and the Majestic Suites are cozy spots to camp out on Main Street. …

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