Hiking the Collegiate Peaks in Buena Vista

The mountains of Colorado give way to some of the most impressive hiking trails in the United States. Getting outside on a trail and getting your body moving under the warm Colorado sun is so enjoyable! From shorter hikes with minimal elevation gain, to the more challenging and longer hikes that lead up to the tallest peaks in Colorado, there are amazing hiking options for every type of hiker. If you enjoy hiking and want a great challenge, we highly recommend hiking a 14er. Out here in Colorado, the accomplishment of hiking to the peak of a 14,000 ft mountain, or as us locals say “14er” is like obtaining a badge of honor. We arguably have a total of 54-14ers in Colorado and once you get a taste of summiting one of them, you’ll be hooked! There are quite a few people who try to complete hiking all of them, which is an incredible accomplishment. If your goal is to hike them all in your lifetime, or you just want to get the first one under your belt, there are loads of important things to keep in mind and ways to prepare for your hike to the summit.

The Sawatch mountain range in Buena Vista includes a group of 14,000 ft mountains called the Collegiate Peaks which are some of the tallest mountains in the Rocky Mountains. The Collegiate Peaks are named after Ivy League Universities and are among the highest concentration of 14,000 foot peaks in the United States. Mt. Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, and Belford are some of the most impressive and stunning peaks in the area and are sought out by avid hikers that crave to see the jaw-dropping views from the top. OK well, Belford isn’t a University, but it’s still part of the range!

When choosing which 14er you want to summit, it’s very important to plan and study your route. Having a strong understanding of what your chosen route looks like on a map helps prepare you for different parts of the trail. 14ers.com is a great site that has current information on trail conditions, elevation gain, length of each hike, printable maps, and even includes comments from hikers that have done each hike with their reviews. All Trails is a great app to use as well, but be sure to download the route and trail prior to getting started so there is no chance that you’ll lose the map because of lost cell service when you’re on the trail.

Always be prepared for changing weather. Depending on where you live, you are most likely going to experience a drastic change in elevation when coming to Colorado. A change in elevation means a definite change in temperature and weather. You could get lucky at the base of the trail with warm weather, but we can promise you the temps at the top are not nearly as warm. Make sure you are prepared with synthetic layers in your backpack to keep you dry. We highly recommend wearing something like a Melanzana to protect you from the weather. Check out some awesome layers that we recommend here.

Temperature fluctuation isn’t the only factor when considering weather- thunderstorms and lighting often occur in the summertime. It’s not uncommon for the day to start off with blue skies, but in a matter of minutes, that blue sky can turn very dark and ominous. Be mindful that if a thunderstorm comes along when you are hiking above treeline, you will be sticking out like a literal lightning rod. Keep an eye on the sky during your summit – be smart and head back to the trail head if the sky looks threatening. The mountain will be there for your ascent another day.

Wear appropriate clothing. Close toed shoes with ankle support is the best kind of shoe you can wear. Merrell and Columbia have great hiking boot options that will provide support and comfort as you make your trek to the mountain top. Although not required, it’s helpful to hike with trekking poles to maintain balance and they provide that extra push when climbing up steep terrain and are helpful when navigating across rubble and loose rocks, or even snow fields. Black Diamond makes durable trekking poles that we recommend.

Once you start hiking above treeline, you lose all shade to protect you from the sun’s intense rays. We recommend wearing a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, and definitely wear sunscreen even if there are clouds. Remember, you are gaining elevation, and essentially getting closer to the sun with very little atmosphere to filter those rays.

Bring a first aid kit. It’s always good to be prepared! Summiting a 14,000 ft mountain is challenging, and you wouldn’t want to be in a bad situation without any sort of aid. From blisters to a headache to a twisted ankle, you want to be prepared for anything. 

Start early! When we say early, we mean start before the sun even comes up. You don’t want to be on the summit after noon, as that is when weather often changes quickly and it’s essential to be off a high summit at that time. If you’re planning on hiking a 14er that’s far from where you are staying, think about camping at the trailhead so you can be sure to get up and get started before the sun rises. Make sure to check trail rules about this as each trail is different and may or may not allow camping at the base. This is where planning ahead comes into play!

Eat a nutritious breakfast. You will be expending a lot of energy on this hike. This is a perfect time to consume complex carbs along with protein and fats to give your body as many nutrients as you can. Stop along the way to refuel and indulge in snacks. Bringing snacks on the hike up is a key element that will ensure that the energy you are exerting is being restored by nutrition. Ensuring that the group you’re hiking with is feeling good, staying hydrated, and refueling with snacks is a great way to ensure your whole group is in good shape to finish the hike. Here are some of our favorite snack options

Stay well hydrated. Try to drink a liter of water before even starting your hike. As a rule of thumb, you should be drinking 1 liter for every 2 hours of hiking. If this is your first attempt at bagging a 14er, it will probably take you 3-6 hours to complete your hike. We recommend bringing 2-3 liters in a bladder such as a Camelback. Don’t expect to re-fill your water bottle along the route, there are parasites in the streams that will make you sick if you don’t treat it before drinking. You can bring water filtration along (a good idea in any case) but don’t count on it as some routes can be dry.

The last thing we suggest when hiking a 14er, is to push past your mental limitations!. We’ll admit it – the first part of the hike is going to be challenging. It’s going to be steep and your mind might focus on the larger goal. Take it one step at a time, you CAN do it, and it will get easier if you push yourself. Encourage your hiking buddies when they’re feeling defeated, and you’ll feel inspired to keep trekking as well. Choosing your hiking partners wisely is also important – those that are rational, prepared, experienced, and upbeat are the best!

Enjoy reaching the summit- you’re on top of the world! Give yourself some time to enjoy the views, and take lots of photos. Locals sometimes like to bring a sign that has the name of the 14er on it with it’s elevation so you can snap a photo at the top with a proud smile showing which mountain you successfully summited – just be sure to pack it out with you, as you do with everything you take on the mountain. Leave no trace is the motto. 

We hope this guide to hiking a 14er helps get you prepared for a fun, exciting, and tremendous achievement. If you’re planning on visiting Buena Vista and have a knack for hiking, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to summit one of the beautiful Collegiate Peaks. The views will last a lifetime. Happy hiking!


What to Wear to Go Whitewater Rafting with KODI Rafting

You’ve booked your KODI Rafting trip, now the question is, what should you wear? If this is your first-time whitewater rafting, you probably have a lot of questions around proper clothing. It's important to dress appropriately when you’re getting on the river so that you keep warm and happy throughout your rafting trip! We will provide all of the rafting equipment that you’ll need for the day, but it’s important that you come prepared with proper clothing to wear on the river. We’ve come up with a list of must-haves for your upcoming rafting trip and where to buy these items locally.

Say No to Cotton

Make sure to check the weather before you leave to come on your trip. Just as with any activity, the time of year you choose to go rafting will impact how you should dress. Spring trips early in the season most likely will require heavier layers than a trip taken mid-summer when the sun is strong and hot. No matter the weather, avoid cotton, jeans, and long non-synthetic pants. Once cotton gets wet, it stays cold and gets heavy- not ideal for a day on the water. Depending on what trip you decide to do with KODI, it’s likely that you will get wet on the trip, so be sure to wear quick-drying shorts/top and/or a bathing suit under your clothes. If the forecast is sunny, it’s a good plan to have a synthetic shirt for sun protection and warmth. 

Proper Footwear is Important

Wearing sturdy footwear (no flip flops/crocs) is extremely important! Sturdy footwear can be sneakers, strapped sandals, or wetsuit booties that won’t fall off. Some of our favorite brands for good water shoes are Chaco, Teva, Keen, and Astral. When picking the right shoes, choose a pair that’s light-weight, moisture-wicking, and/or quick-drying. For those who might be worried about getting cold feet, consider investing in a pair of neoprene socks. NRS makes a great pair that is super thin but also warm. You wear them just like socks: put them under your river shoes and you’ll stay pretty warm. Grab yourself a pair at one of our favorite local shops in Buena Vista, CKS Main Street. These guys have tons of other gear available in store, and they also have great rafting shoe options. The Trailhead in Buena Vista also has great water shoe options, as does the local Outdoors & Mountain Market in Leadville.

KODI Rafting Gift Shop

Of course, you can grab additional items at our gift shop. KODI’s gift shop has a great selection of fun t-shirts, hats, souvenirs, and most importantly - sunglass retainer straps. Having the security of a sunglass retainer strap eliminates the likelihood of losing your sunglasses right off your head and into the water, never to be seen again. We can’t recommend grabbing one of these for your rafting trip strongly enough!

Melanzana: A Local’s Favorite

A Colorado staple clothing item that is 100% hand-made and loved by rafting and outdoor enthusiasts alike can be found in Leadville at one of our favorite local stores, Melanzana. A small group of locals started Melanzana back in ’94 and it has since exploded in popularity. Melanzana makes unique hoodies, beanies, dresses, and more. They have a few different fabrics, but a lot of Melanzana lovers go for their Micro Grid fabric, which is a super-soft lightweight fleece with a grid of open channels for maximum comfort and breathability. Micro-Grid fabrics are great for rafting season as it is fast-drying and pretty sweet!

Melanzana prides itself on their commitment to putting “quality, soul, and authenticity before quantity” so their 20-person team of skilled sewers carefully puts all the materials together, making each one unique. When they’ve made a new batch of products, you better pick one or two up quickly because they sell out fast! Their website shows current stock status, so you know what items they have currently available. Melanzana has just one rad store and it’s located in Leadville between our Frisco and Buena Vista outposts. Typically, the only way to get a Melanzana is to visit their store. However, this summer their store will remain closed due to pandemic restrictions, so if you would like to get a Melly, you’ll have to enter their lottery system. Read more about the lottery system here  www.melanzana.com/lottery

Bring a Change of Clothes

Melly’s are nice and warm and great to wear after your rafting trip with us. You probably don’t want to drive home in wet clothes, so plan to bring a set of dry clothes, socks, and shoes so you can change in the likely event you get wet. Bringing a towel and a bag for your wet clothes is very helpful too! If you think you might want to bring something small in the raft, consider bringing a dry bag if absolutely needed. Please note that we will be leaving most personal items locked in your vehicle. On most rivers, there is a photo company providing digital photos of you going through rapids, so don’t even worry about bringing your phone on your rafting trip. 

KODI Rafting also offers wetsuits, booties, and splash tops. Wetsuits are farmer johns and splash tops are heavy-duty rain jackets designed for the river perfect for cooler days. On our full-day trips, wetsuits rent for $10, booties for $5, and splash tops for $5. You can also rent the full set for $17, which is a great investment for being comfortable. On half-day trips, wetsuits rent for $5, splash tops for $3, and booties for $3. The full set goes for $10.

What does KODI Rafting provide for me that I do not need to bring?

  • Helmet
  • Paddle
  • PFD life jacket - required

KODI’s guides make your safety their number one priority, so each of these items have been cleaned and checked thoroughly and regularly to ensure the best possible experience for our guests!

  No matter what your whitewater rafting skill or experience level is, we are here to help you have the best adventure, and that includes dressing appropriately. A properly planned outfit will make all the difference while on your white water rafting adventure with us. Knowing what to wear is important, so here’s a checklist of the best product in each category for what you might want to have:

___ Quick-drying shorts/top - Prana is a great brand for men & women that can double as hiking clothes

___ Synthetic shirt for sun protection & warmth - The North Face offers sun protective, light-weight shirts

___ Water shoes - Teva is a sturdy and durable brand for excellent water shoes

___ Sunglasses

___ Sunglasses retainer - consider buying local, and buy this item at our shop!

___ Sunscreen - we offer choices at our shop

___ Sweatshirt or Melanzana - Made in Leadville, if you want incredibly comfy outerwear and would like to dress like a local!

___ Drinking water (we will also provide you with water if needed), ideally a reusable water bottle with a carabiner to hook onto the boat to avoid one-use plastic bottle waste

Give us a call if you have more questions about what to wear for your rafting trip at 877-747-RAFT. See you on the river! 


Quick and Easy Guidelines to Buying Your First Raft

Colorado summers are marked by hundreds of rafts floating down the Centennial State’s rivers and for good reason. Rafting is super fun and a wonderful way to spend the day outdoors with family and friends.

If you’ve caught the rafting bug and are thinking about purchasing your own raft, here are some quick and easy guidelines to help you make the right choice.

  1. The larger the boat, the more people and gear it can carry.
  2. The smaller the boat, the more nimble and maneuverable it will probably be and the more exciting the ride in whitewater. Just don’t overload a small boat, because that will affect its maneuverability.
  3. A 12-13-foot raft is comfortable for a maximum of five-six people and a 14-15-footer will work well for up to seven or eight people. For two people, stick to a 12-foot or smaller raft.
  4. For multiday trips for two people, figure on at least a 13-foot raft. For three or four people, you’re looking at a 14-15-foot raft.
  5. A paddleboat means every one of the raft paddles and participates. With an oar boat, one person is in charge of maneuvering the raft.
  6. The wider the boat, the more stable it will be in whitewater. A narrower boat can fit through tighter rocky stretches.
  7. The distance between the side tubes of a raft determines the size of the cooler or dry box that will fit inside.
  8. A wider raft doesn’t necessarily have more interior room. If the boat has larger diameter tubes, that eats into this space.
  9. Have more questions? Contact KODI Rafting. Our rafting guides and experts can help you choose the raft that’s right for you.