Nordic walking is an emerging outdoor activity that promotes aerobic exercise, an upper body workout, and a connection with nature. It can be done year round and only requires a set of walking poles. The pole swinging motion is likened to cross country skiing without skis but somewhat counter intuitive because pole tips are supposed to remain behind the lead foot and not used as means to pull yourself forward. Instead, pole tips are only supposed to lightly touch the ground and serve as a mechanism for emulating a cross country ski workout.
The following are trails we have hiked that seem ideal for Nordic walking because each includes one or more of the following characteristics:
- Wide enough to allow poles to be consistently swung shoulder width apart and to provide a buffer for pole-snagging vegetation.
- Void of rocky terrain because rocks wear down pole tips and make it difficult to get into a rhythm of lightly touching poles to the ground. Use metal tips on a soft surfaces (e.g., dirt, grass, snow) and rubber tips on hard surfaces (e.g., concrete, asphalt).
- Gentle changes in elevation and a small number of switchbacks because long, flat straightaways promote good Nordic walking posture.
Each trail’s name is linked to an in-depth blog post that includes maps, pictures, videos, and more. Parents will find that the following trails are also good for family hikes and picnics. Hikers and mountain bikers can enjoy some of the following trails but should check out the map of all Colorado trails we have explored for more options.
Sanitas Valley Trail – Only 10 minutes from downtown Boulder, the Sanitas Valley trail is a popular destination for runners, trail runners, and walkers. Nordic walkers can enjoy the wide, 1.0 mile long dirt path (or 2.0 mile round trip). Parking is free but limited.
Lake Estes Trail – Located in the heart of Estes Park Colorado, the Lake Estes trail a 3.75 mile paved path with gentle changes in elevation. In September and October, Elk can be seen along side the trail. The following picture was taken from the eastern corner of the trail and showcases Prospect Mountain in the background. Free parking can be found in multiple places.
Lily Lake Trail – Lily Lake trail is a flat, wide 1.4 mile long dirt path. It is a fishing haven for Greenback Cutthroat Trout and often the site of strong winds. It is one of the few Rocky Mountain National Park trails that includes free parking.
Fort Collins / Loveland
Bobcat Ridge Natural Area – Although the 4.0 mile Valley Loop trail includes some switchbacks, a 300 foot elevation gain, and a few rocks; it offers long stretches of trail that are suitable for Nordic walking. There are several interpretative stations on the trail that detail the historical and ecological significance of the area so there are plenty of good excuses for taking a break. Parking is free.
Cathy Fromme Prairie – Cathy Fromme is a small park with a 2.5 mile paved concrete path and a raptor viewing blind. Its wide path and close proximity to Fort Collins make it an ideal location for repeated visits. Parking is free at both ends of the park.
Coyote Ridge Natural Area – The first mile of Coyote Ridge trail is wide, flat, and smooth. Beyond the first mile, the trail narrows and climbs aggressively over a ridge. A 2.0 mile round trip Nordic walk is recommended using the restroom as the turnaround point (seen in the center of the following picture). Parking is free.
Fossil Creek Open Space – Fossil creek is an utopia for Nordic walkers with a passion for birding. The park includes three short trails with loose gravel and paved concrete surfaces. The grasslands and water habitat serve as a bird sanctuary so sections of trail are closed at various intervals throughout the year. Parking is free. Maxwell and Pineridge Natural Areas – The eastern trails in the Maxwell and Pineridge Natural Areas are wide and flat and, thus, are suitable for Nordic walking whereas the western trails are better suited for mountain biking and hiking. In Maxwell, stay close to Colorado State’s football stadium and, in Pineridge, walk around the Dixon Reservoir. Both natural areas experience heavy usage by trail runners, bikers, dog walkers, and more so be mindful of your swinging poles. Parking is free and available in multiple locations.
Poudre River Canyon
Seaman Reservoir Trail – Seaman Reservoir is a flat, wide, 1.0 mile long dirt trail located adjacent to the Gateway Natural Area. It is a tranquil setting for a Nordic walk with fly fishermen quietly wading through the North Fork Cache la Poudre River. What’s more, the end of the walk offers a scenic view of Seaman Reservoir. Parking fees apply.
North of Poudre River Canyon
Mount Margaret – The 4.0 mile dirt trail is wide, smooth, and only changes elevation from 8,090 to 8,180 feet. We hiked straight to Mount Margaret and enjoyed its panoramic views but there are several 1.5 to 2.5 mile loops that branch off of the main trail and head to Dowdy Lake and Red Feather Lakes areas. Explore the secondary trails for an opportunity to have a long nordic walk. Parking is free.It takes time to develop good nordic walking posture and rhythm so newbies should be patient. To learn more, we recommend Claire Walter’s book Nordic Walking: The Complete Guide to Health, Fitness, and Fun.