“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is fast approaching the 40th anniversary of the classic movie’s 1986 release. While I work hard – and juggle a lot of side gigs with the same fervor – I identify with the iconic film for a couple of reasons. For starters, I am a Midwestern native, growing up a short car ride away from Chicago and its suburbs, the setting for the high school hookie adventure. And like the main character, I believe in playing hard, too – sharing in Ferris’ motto that, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Which brings me to one of my latest thrill-rides …
For the second straight summer, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides are bringing their five-star rated adventure tours and homespun hospitality to this wilderness wonderland.
Wild Bunch founder and owner Laurel Darren has become a fixture in this quaint Colorado community as a “sunbird” escaping the withering heat of her Sonoran Desert home base the last several summers.
Now, her break from the rat race has become a working vacation to allow Laurel to share her passion for people, guiding adventure tours, and hiking the rugged natural beauty of Lake City CO.
“I have found hiking is the absolute best way to explore the incredible area surrounding Lake City,” Laurel said in announcing the new service in 2022. “And now I hope to share all I have learned – as well as introduce guests to several of the local guides who showed me the way – so others can enjoy this summer tourist treat as much as I do!”
NOTE: The Lake City CO hikes DO NOT affect the usual Wild Bunch offerings in Arizona. Those Phoenix/Scottsdale adventure tours still operate under special summertime hours dictated by the desert’s extreme summer heat. For more information about those Phoenix/Scottsdale adventure tours or to book online, visit the Wild Bunch home page.
ALSO: Online booking is unavailable for the special Lake City, CO summer hikes. To book any of the Lake City CO options, please call or text 309-230-2484 or email Laurel through our contact form.
Take a Hike on the Wild SideThe Wild Bunch’s summer “satellite office” in Colorado is offering 2-hour hikes four days per week on this rotating schedule:
Tuesdays: Cataract Gulch
Wednesdays: Devils Creek
Fridays: Water Dog
Sundays: Alpine Gulch
NOTE: Unlike the Phoenix adventure tours offered by the Wild Bunch, the Colorado summer hikes are not PRIVATE unless you request the tour to be exclusive to you and your family or travel group. A private adventure costs $100 extra for the combined group.
Otherwise, a Colorado summer hiking tour can number up to 7 guests per guide.
Each booking requires a 2-person minimum at $100 per guest. Children 10-and-under also may hike at $75 per child.
For children and guests who are beginners – and may want an easier challenge – Wild Bunch also offers Lake-to-Lake hikes. This 2-hour hiking option is especially wonderful for families with children because the challenge is very easy with a gentle elevation change and beautiful views.
For more advanced hikers seeking the challenge of a Colorado 14’er – so named because the peaks are 14,000 or more feet above sea level -- the Wild Bunch is insured and permitted to take you on an incredible journey to Handies Peak.
Please understand you must allow for an all-day experience on this longer and more rigorous Colorado summer hiking tour. The meeting time is 4 a.m., and the guide fee is $250 per person and requires a minimum of two guests. There is no discount for children and the suggested minimum age for children is 8.
Please allow at least 48-hours advance notice if you would like to enjoy the Handies Peak adventure.
All of the Lake City CO summer hikes are available from Thursday, June 1 to Thursday, Sept. 28.
Except for Handies Peak, all of these Colorado Summer hikes start at 7 a.m., with guests meeting their guide in front of Cabin Fever Mercantile in Lake City CO.
The store is located at 306 Silver St., Lake City, CO 81235. Click here for a new tab with a map.
Owned by Wild Bunch gal pal Tracy Lanktree, the five-star rated store is a destination for both tourists and hikers visiting Lake City so they can “shop the mountain life,” as Cabin Fever Mercantile likes to say. The specialty shop offers all sorts of hiking gear, as well as Lake City apparel, souvenirs, and homemade gifts native to the mountains.
NOTE: Cabin Fever Mercantile is not a contact for the Wild Bunch hikes; the store simply offers a centralized meeting point to begin your adventure!
After meeting, guests follow their guide in a separate vehicle to the desired trailhead. The Wild Bunch staff DOES NOT provide transportation.
The 7 a.m. start time is the only time available for the meet-and-follow-to-the-trail option. However, guests can opt to meet their Wild Bunch guides at the trailheads.
All guides are local except Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren, now a long-time summer transplant in Lake City CO.
All guides are first aid trained and CPR certified. All guides carry spot trackers and other assorted safety equipment on each adventure.
The Wild Bunch provides water, snacks, and other items necessary for a successful adventure including backpacks for guests to borrow to carry any additional items they would like to bring.
June and September are the prime months to see wildflowers blooming on these hikes, especially at Handies. Aspen trees also change color to a rich gold in September, and the sight is specifically wonderful along the Water Dog trail.
Colorado Hiking goes WildAll of the Colorado summer hiking tours are insured and permitted through the Bureau of Land Management.
These are the trail options guests can choose from:
- Handies Peak, which is a “14er” off of the American Basin -- the most scenic of valleys in the San Juan Mountains. Colorado is home to 58 mountain peaks of at least 14,000 feet in elevation and this is among the grandest of those so-called 14ers because of the stunning panoramic views. With the basin located above timberline, the hike to the 14,048-foot summit is full of visual treasures including wildflower-speckled meadows, the sparkling Alpine surprise of Sloan Lake, and a large assortment of craggy peaks, rock glaciers and other formations that are sometimes snowcapped. Handies is considered one of the easiest 14ers to climb despite gaining almost 2,500 feet in the 2.7 miles from the trailhead to the peak. Although the difficulty is listed as strenuous, a fit hiker should have no problems reaching the top. PLEASE NOTE: 48 hours advance notice is necessary to enjoy this hike, which is specially priced because of the difference in length and challenge from the other offerings. ALSO: There is no discount for children, and the recommended minimum age is 8 years old.
- Waterdog Lakes Trail. This popular route sits high above the east side of Lake City and features a steep initial climb among a mix of rocks and forest. The trail, which includes 2,400 feet of elevation gain, eventually leads to gorgeous meadows marked by Aspen Groves and the highlight of the trip -- the picturesque lake itself.
- Devils Creek to Devils Lake. This scenic trail follows to where the creek feeds into the glacier-carved lake, which is nestled beautifully between the volcanic deposits of the Calf Creek and Cannibal Plateaus. The trail offers several gorgeous views of Lake Fork Valley and Uncompahgre Peak plus nearly 3,600 feet of elevation gain.
- Cataract Gulch to the waterfall. This steep ascension climbs to a beautiful lake basin. The hike wanders through dense woods and lovely Alpine meadows and passes numerous waterfalls cascading along Cataract Creek. The elevation gain is nearly 2,600 feet.
- Alpine Gulch. This challenging route is worth the work because of several scenic views, including a number of waterfalls. Herds of elk and deer are often spotted along with several old log cabins dotting a trail that includes beautiful meadows and steep cliffs. The descent to Henson Creek also includes a bridge over the gulch and there are several creek crossings. PLEASE NOTE: 48 hours advance notice is necessary to find out if this hike is even available for the desired date. Water levels for the creek crossings can prevent this adventure because of safety precautions.
The guide fee for the Handies Peak 14er:
- $250 plus tax per person for two or more hikers
- No children’s discount. Minimum recommended age for children is 8 years old
The guide fee for the other four Colorado summer hikes:
- $100 plus tax per person for two or more hikers
- $75 plus tax for children ages 10-and-under
NOTE: Gratuity not included in the price of any adventure. A 20-percent gratuity is suggested as a starting point for good service -- same as an excellent waitperson at a restaurant.
To book any of the Lake City CO summer hikes, please call or text 309-230-2484 or email founding owner Laurel Darren via our contact form. Online booking is not available. Cash, Credit Card or Venmo accepted and required to reserve a date.
Go Wild in Lake City CO
- Except for the longer Handies Peak challenge, each adventure includes 2 hours of hiking on the trail. However, guests should plan for a 4-hour window of activity to account for drive-time to and from the trail. Drive time could take 10 minutes or up to an hour either way depending on the trail. Guides are not allowed to offer transportation to and from the trailhead. NOTE: The hike to Handies Peak is an all-day experience.
- Because of the early-morning start times – as well as the occasional challenge the remoteness of our mountain escape can have on cellphone and internet service – if booking upon arrival in Lake City CO, please contact Laurel Darren as soon as possible via call or text at 309-230-2484. Except for the 4 a.m. start time of the Handies Peak experience, all of the other Wild Bunch hikes begin at 7 a.m.
- Same-day bookings are not allowed because of those early-morning start times. Groups of 8 or more hikers also requires 48-hour advance notice because extra guides are needed to be scheduled. The Handies Peak and Alpine Gulch experiences also require 48-hour advance notice because of additional logistical challenges.
- Despite different surroundings and a new, exciting experience, loyal Wild Bunch guests can expect the same great treatment received during a trip to Phoenix/Scottsdale. Wild Bunch still provides all the tools necessary to be successful – including water, snacks, and a professional guide. Guests are welcome to bring extra necessities if they wish.
- Although Laurel is a dog lover who hikes her Plot Hounds everywhere they go with her, the Wild Bunch recommendation is to leave the dogs at home for these hikes. Most dogs and their owners are not prepared for the additional challenges of these mountainous hikes in unfamiliar territory. Dogs are welcome but they must be leashed at all times for safety reasons.
- Please be honest about the ages and ability levels of your children if you would like them to join you on your Wild Bunch hiking adventure. Same as described above in relation to pets – not all children are prepared for these hikes. For instance, the recommended minimum age for the Handies Peak 14er is 8 years old.
- Closed-toe shoes are mandatory. Wearing hiking boots are ALWAYS a great idea in the San Juan Mountains.
- The typical temperatures in the mountains during the summer range from a mid-70s high to a mid-30s low. So, wear different layers of clothing and be prepared to ditch the coat and gloves, or jacket and hoodie in the Wild Bunch-provided backpack when a chilly morning start warms to mid-day temps. Also be prepared to put layers back on if the weather changes unexpectedly.
- Lake City CO is an incredibly laidback community. Take a cue from your hosts: DO NOT be in a rush! Enjoy your time in the “chill” surroundings and relish the relaxation as if you were savoring the greatest meal you had ever tasted. Yes, it can be THAT good.
All tours include snacks, water, and a professional guide for 2 hours of hiking. Except for Handies Peak, families with kids receive a discount to $75 per child 10-and-under on all of the Lake City CO summer hikes. An adult must accompany children. Minimum recommended age for the Handies Peak 14er is 8 years old.
PRICES DO NOT include taxes, and any gratuity decided upon by our guests.
TIPPING TIP: Same as any service industry workers, the best adventure travel tour guides typically earn a gratuity of 20-percent or more from their guests.
CANCELLATION POLICY: All we ask for is a credit card to hold the time and guide. We know minds and plans change. We offer a full refund up to 48 hours before the departure time of your tour. After that, 50-percent of the deposit is forfeited to help cover the costs of the guides. Thank you for understanding. NOTE: Weather rarely works against outdoor plans in Lake City. However, if inclement weather changes plans, we will do everything possible to reschedule your tour for another mutually agreed day. But should we have to cancel a tour because of the weather, we will refund everything.
GROUP POLICY: With a guests-to-guide ratio of 7 to 1, advance notice of 48 hours is necessary to try and accommodate groups of eight or more. Please call 309-230-2484 or email Laurel through our Contact Form.
Online booking is not available. Cash, Credit Card or Venmo accepted and required to reserve a date. For groups of eight or more, a 20-percent gratuity is added to the tour total. The larger group outings require extra planning and guides, so we ask if things change last-minute, please let us know as soon as possible. We will do our best to accommodate, but Safety and Service will be our primary focus. Thanks for understanding!
NOTE: Transportation is not provided to or from the trailhead. Guests meet their guide in Lake City CO at Cabin Fever Mercantile and travel to the trailhead in a separate vehicle.