Boulder Hikes

2015 McLean LauraBy Laura MacLean

Working in human rights is an incredibly demanding career. The problems don’t have obvious solutions, progress is too slow, the red-tape is too thick, the list goes on. It would be nearly impossible for individuals who work with victims of human rights abuses to never feel depressed or burnt-out. Even engaging with heavy topics from arms-length can be overwhelming. That’s why it is important to occasionally leave the world’s brutality behind and appreciate it’s beauty. There’s no better way to do this in Colorado than to hike.

The city of Boulder rests at the base of the Flatirons, beautiful rock formations that have walking paths weaving through them. These trails are accessible from the city. The most popular Flatiron hike is the Royal Arch trail, where the view of the city does not disappoint. It’s a busy trail on the Fourth of July when fireworks light up the sky.

Of course, no trip to Colorado would be complete without visiting Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and hiking in the Bear Lake area. It’s an easy jaunt around Bear Lake, and then a steady climb to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. The views are wonderful, but the crowds are not. RMNP is wildly popular in the summer, especially on weekends when parking is at a premium and often the only way to access the trailheads is via shuttle.

Dream Lake in RMNP (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Dream Lake in RMNP (Photo by Laura MacLean)

There are other hikes that are just as beautiful and much more secluded. For example, beyond the little community of Eldora are the trailheads for Diamond Lake and King Lake. Hikers require a sense of adventure for these hikes as they are quite remote, often overrun by streams and deep snow can linger on the trail even during the summer months. However, the views more than make up for the physical toll.

Crossing a stream on the way to King Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Crossing a stream on the way to King Lake           (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Not far from Boulder is the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, where moose often graze and there is a trail that leads to Lake Isabelle. The walk is not difficult and the pay-off is incredible, especially in mid-July when the wild flowers are in bloom.

A beautiful day at Lake Isabelle  (Photo by Stacey MacDonald)

A beautiful day at Lake Isabelle
(Photo by Stacey MacDonald)

Further north still, the hike to Chasm Lake is a personal favourite and has everything you could want on a hike. The trail starts in a forest, follows a creek with waterfalls up to a meadow above the tree line and then winds its way above a valley with Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls below. As the trail reaches a dead end at the rock face of the mountains, hikers become climbers as they are required to scramble up rocks for the pleasure of seeing Chasm Lake.

Admiring the view on the way to Chasm Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Admiring the view on the way to Chasm Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

State Forest State Park is a three hour drive from Boulder. What the park’s name lacks in creativity, it makes up for with scenic hikes. Lake Agnes is a short, easy hike, and well-worth braving the narrow dirt road to access the trailhead. American Lakes (also called Michigan Lakes) and Snow Lake are at the end of a much longer and more challenging trail that starts in the Craig campground at campsite 16. The trail features many beautiful lookout points and if your timing is right, wild animals and millions of wildflowers.

The view of American Lakes from Snow Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

The view of American Lakes from Snow Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Finally, Hanging Lake is located near Glenwood Springs. Though the hike is only 2.4 miles roundtrip, the trail is steep and the uneven rocks can make for a slow climb. The lake at the end is truly unique because its waters are a surreal green and the lake “hangs” in a canyon.

In some cities, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy rest and relaxation from arduous, emotionally demanding work. In Boulder, it’s right outside your door. These hikes offer more than sightseeing activities and beautiful pictures. Adopting the Boulder outdoor lifestyle means making your well-being a priority. Law school has a way of thwarting a healthy work-life balance, but in Boulder, the mountains on your doorstep have a way of inspiring a sense of adventure. Exploring Colorado’s natural beauty is a way to reconnect with the simple pleasures in life. Furthermore, the Boulder lifestyle forces one to challenge herself. Physical feats that seemed out of reach become exciting goals crossed off your bucket list. Weekend hikes also proved to be an excellent way to bond with others. Previously unknown classmates become fast friends when they brave sudden lightning storms and glacial lakes together.

Measuring Peace: Highlights from the Global Peace Index Launch

2015 McLean LauraBy Laura MacLean

This summer, the One Earth Future Foundation (OEF) and the Institute for Economics and Peace co-hosted a very exciting event in Denver: The Ninth Annual Global Peace Index Launch. Academics, activists, politicians, business leaders and religious leaders were invited to a discussion at the Boettcher Mansion to explore recent trends in militarization, safety and security, and ongoing conflict. Specifically, the panelists were tasked with answering some very tough questions: Is the world becoming more peaceful? What are the main factors that build peace? How can we prevent violence?

The questions were asked in the context of the new findings in the 2015 Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 162 states according to their level of peacefulness using 23 indicators.[1] This year Iceland was ranked as the most peaceful country, while Syria was ranked the least peaceful. Canada placed 7th, while the United States placed 94th.
2015 Global Peace Index

                                                                                               Map from the 2015 GPI.

The GPI’s definition of peace is quite broad: peace is not the opposite of war, but the absence of violence and fear of violence. This “Negative Peace” is measured by examining on-going domestic and internal conflict, societal safety and security and militarization. Additionally, this year the GPI has introduced a new element of analysis: “Positive Peace”. Aubrey Fox, the Executive Director of the Institute for Economics and Peace, explains that Positive Peace is measured by examining “…the attitudes, institutions and structures [characteristic] of more peaceful nations”.[2] Some of the factors of Positive Peace are a well-functioning government, low levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others and equitable distribution of resources, to name a few. In other words, the GPI is no longer simply looking at what causes war and violence but what causes peace and stability.

The GPI includes a report about the trends and conclusions that can be drawn from the ranking. The bad news is that according to the GPI, over the past 8 years the world has become slightly less peaceful. Notably, terrorism has increased “and shows no sign of abating”.[3] Over the past 8 years deaths caused by terrorism have more than doubled. Also, an estimated 50 million people are refugees or internally displaced, which is “the highest number since the end of the Second World War”.[4] The GPI calculated that the Global Economic Impact of violence is US$14.3 trillion, which is equivalent to 13.4% of the World GDP.

As for the good news, expanding the dataset and looking at a longer period of time, the panelists at the GPI launch feel that the world is still on average more peaceful, notwithstanding the increase of violence in recent years. Notably, interstate conflicts are consistently decreasing and homicides have gone down in developed countries. Andrew Mack, Director of the Human Security Report, told the conference that there has been a decline in low-level conflicts, which he pointed out, means there will be fewer high-intensity conflicts down the road.[5] Mack is cautiously optimistic for peace trends in the future.

Looking at the good and the bad, looking at the short-term and long-term trends highlights the bottom line: the world has peace inequality. The decrease the GPI finds in peace over the last 8 years is not evenly spread: 86 countries deteriorated, while 76 improved. Countries with low level of peace are more volatile, whereas countries with level levels of peace are more likely to remain peaceful. Europe has reached record levels of peace, while the Middle East and North Africa has “…experienced more upheaval and uncertainty than any other region.”[6] Even sources of instability that are universal do not effect countries evenly. For instance, although, terrorism has been increasing in recent years, 82% of terrorism deaths have occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

2015 Global Peace Index Launch

                                                                                               Photo by Michael Stadulis.

How can we transform peace inequality to peace equality? According to Fox, the answer lies with the factors of positive peace:

…I think for the global community it’s about finding ways to invest in these underlying factors. The three domains that we find the most important are sound business environment, good governance and low levels of corruption. […N]one of those are easy [to achieve] but unlocking those is really the key. [7]


[1] “Global Peace Index Report 2015”. Institute for Economics and Peace. June 2015. [GPI]

[2] Fox, Aubrey. Interviewed by Lindsay Heger, One Earth Future Foundation. June 22nd, 2015.

[3] Supra note 1 at 45.

[4] Supra note 1 at 51.

[5] Mack, Andy. “The Ninth Annual Global Peace Index Release.” Boettcher Mansion, Denver, USA. June 23rd, 2015. Panel discussion.

[6] Supra note 1 at 57.

[7] Supra note 2.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.