Sometimes you just need to unwind and get away from the hustle of the city. While Golden and Boulder are beautiful spots for hiking, they can be a bit crowded, especially on weekends. If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, Conifer has plenty to offer and will leave you feeling refreshed. It’s only 30 minutes from Denver and boasts several parks to choose from, but my favorites are Meyer Ranch, Flying J, and Staunton State Park.

Meyer Ranch is right off of 285. Pay attention, though: the sign for the exit is only about 20 feet before the turn and it’s easy to miss. Once inside the park, you’ll have several trails to choose from, all easy to moderate. The Lodge Pole Loop will take you through gorgeous open space before curving back into the woods and is just over a mile. The Sunny Aspen takes a slow incline up through pines and, of course, aspens, before meeting up with the slightly more challenging Old Ski Run. At the top, you’ll find sunny picnic spots and picturesque views.

Next up is the Flying J Ranch. To get there, continue south on 285 and turn onto Barkley Road, then right on Highway 73. It’s a tranquil spot offering flat, winding trails through the forest, and is friendly to bike riders and dog lovers. The trails are plenty wide enough to accommodate everyone. The Shadow Pine Loop is about three miles, crossing gentle streams and boulders. It’s also a great spot for bird watching. You’re likely to hear the sound of woodpeckers and chickadees, otherwise it’s as quiet as can be.

If you’re still in the mood to hike – you fit, fabulous person, you – continue south on 285 for 10 miles and stop at Staunton State Park. There is an entrance fee of $7, but it’s well worth it for the more varied terrain and scenic views of lakes, waterfalls, wildflowers in the spring, and snow-covered fields in the winter.

When you’re finally tired, head back to Conifer for beer and tasty treats at the Snowpack Taproom, Brooks Place Tavern, or Colorado’s Best Beers. Each has a great selection on tap and healthy options if you don’t want to blow your workout.

As always, bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and keep an eye out for critters. Enjoy your hike!

Evan is a writer, filmmaker and animator from Illinois. She moved to Boulder in 2011 to study film at the University of Colorado and fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. After graduation, she moved to Austin to pursue her film career. Despite the amazing tacos, music, and people, she found herself homesick and moved back to Denver, where there are far fewer cockroaches and seasons are an everyday occurrence. She is still writing screenplays and animating her own short films, and spends the rest of her time exploring new trails, towns, restaurants, and slopes all across the state.