Colorado Guide Books: Our Top Five

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One of the first things we recommend to Colorado outdoors enthusiasts, especially out-of-state visitors, is to pick up a few good Colorado guide books before an adventure or trip. Outdoors guide books are extremely helpful to gain a thorough understanding of a particular Colorado wilderness area, from its history, trail network, geology, ecosystem, and more.

From flora and fauna field guides to “best hikes” guides, there certainly is no shortage of Colorado guide books featuring outdoors wisdom. Just do a search on Amazon and you’ll come across plenty — some of which are excellent, and others…not so much. After years of sifting through local used book stores and reading an uncanny number of guide books, we continuously turn to a few favorites. In this post, we share with you our top five Colorado guide book picks, which we hope will bring as much enjoyment to you as they have to us. Most of these books can be found used on Amazon for considerably less than retail price. Keep exploring!


Our Top Five Recommendations

Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs

Perhaps one of the most commonly found guide books on a Colorado hiker’s bookshelf! Gerry Roach’s classic, “Colorado’s Fourteeners,” is the premier guide to standard and alternate routes to the summits of the state’s 14er mountains. This book truly is a go-to reference guide, which we use for our 14er adventure planning. Organized by prominent Colorado mountain ranges (i.e., Front, Sawatch, etc.), Roach describes 14er routes with exceptional detail and in an easy to follow style. “Colorado’s Fourteeners” is a must-have guide book in our opinion. And if you like this book, check out Roach’s “Colorado’s Thirteeners.”

Complete Guide to Colorado’s Wilderness Areas

The Complete Guide to Colorado’s Wilderness Areas” is one of our absolute favorite books to find Colorado’s hidden gem hikes. Colorado’s federally designated wilderness areas are described in wonderful detail. Accompanying each wilderness area section are maps and recommendations for day hikes, destination hikes, and shuttle hikes. Additionally, the book is full of photos from Colorado’s preeminent landscape photographer, John Fielder, along with his favorite hike suggestions. Although this books appears to have been last published in 2002, it is still incredibly useful for exploring Colorado. Moreover, you can easily find inexpensive used copies online.

Colorado’s Best Wildflower Hikes: Volume 1

Colorado’s Best Wildflower Hikes: Volume 1 – The Front Range,” is the first in a series of excellent guide books featuring hike recommendations for Colorado wildflower viewing. For those that live along the Front Range or are just visiting, this book is a go-to reference guide. Hikes are organized by plant life-zone (e.g., plains, foothills, alpine, etc.), noting the area’s wildflower bloom season and peak bloom. In addition, each hike details a featured wildflower that you are likely to see on an outing. We love this guide book so much, we also picked up “Volume 2 – The High Country” and “Volume 3 – San Juan Mountains.” Each volume has become an indispensable reference for our hike planning and wildflower identification. Although these volumes appear to be out of print, each book can be found used on Amazon.

Plants of the Rocky Mountains

Plants of the Rocky Mountains” is our go-to field guide for Colorado plant identification. Although we have plenty of Colorado plant field guides (i.e., “Wildflowers of Colorado” and “Rocky Mountain Wildflowers“), we find “Plants of the Rocky Mountains” incredibly comprehensive and easy to use. The guide is well-organized into groups (i.e., trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and more), making for simple reference. In addition, detailed descriptions of leaves, flowers, fruits, and common locations aid in the guide’s overall use. So, when we aren’t too concerned about our pack’s weight, this guide book is in our backpack. In fact, we probably recommend this guide the most out of all Colorado field guides!

Roadside Geology of Colorado

Roadside Geology of Colorado” is an outstanding reference guide to Colorado’s geologic history. This guide book is incredibly helpful to understand geologic features within the state, whether on a hike or driving through. Moreover, the book is oriented towards the casual observer of geology and easy to understand. Organized into sections focused on Colorado’s plains, mountains, and plateaus, can read cover to cover or flip to areas of most interest. Further, the book is full of helpful illustrations and stunning photographs, making it a true joy to read. While there are a number of other excellent books on Colorado geology, such as “Hiking Colorado’s Geology,” we turn to “Roadside Geology of Colorado” most often due to its detail and comprehensiveness. Bottom line — this book is a great investment to develop a base level of knowledge on Colorado’s amazing geology!

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