Best Hiking Areas In Colorado – Colorado is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream and ideal travel destination. With four state parks, eight national monuments and 42 state parks, Colorado has something for every outdoor enthusiast.
Within a short drive, you can visit the otherworldly Colorado Desert of the Western Slope, the rocky highland lakes and the open country of the Eastern Colorado Plains.
Best Hiking Areas In Colorado
From scaling high peaks to biking through wildflower meadows along cascading rivers, a trip to Colorado is sure to be full of highlights.
Best Hikes Near Denver
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Located in northern Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to witness wildlife, photograph spectacular glacier-carved landscapes, and do incredible hiking and outdoor adventures. With more than 60 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation, and more than 150 high-altitude lakes, this park is the perfect stop for a Colorado hike.
I spent 10 days in Rocky Mountain National Park looking for the best day trips, including the spectacular Chasm Lake Trail and the short but beautiful Emerald Lake Trail. Use this beginner’s guide to help you plan your Rocky Mountain adventure, including where to camp and what to pack.
Crested Butte, Colorado is a small adventure town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. In the winter, Crested Butte is a winter playground, but in the summer and fall, it’s a great destination for biking, camping, hiking, and fishing.
Denver’s Best Hiking Trails
For mountain bikers, Evolution Bike Park is a great place to spend a weekend or hit the 401 or Dr. A magnificent cross country park.
The Scarp Ridge Loop hike is amazing. Hike up the hill to enjoy views of Ah Happy Valley and Peller Valley. It is especially beautiful in summer when the hanging leaves turn golden.
Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. This ridge towers at the base of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, often adorned with snow-capped peaks, making it one of Colorado’s most beautiful and unique landscapes.
For outdoor adventurers, sand skiing and snowboarding are popular activities. Climb the ridge and jump again! There are hiking trails throughout the park, including trails to Highland Lake and the summit of Mount Herrad, which offer spectacular bird’s-eye views of the mountains. For photographers, the night sky over Sand Dunes National Park is one of the best in the world, so be sure to pack your tripod and camera.
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Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado is famous for its cliff dwellings, particularly the incredible Cliff House, the largest in North America. Although you’ll need a park ranger to give you a tour of the cliff palace to protect the ruins (recommended), you’ll be able to avoid the crowds on the miles of hiking trails later.
For a spectacular hike, take the 1.5-mile Petroglyph Point Trail, which winds through narrow canyons and stone steps before crossing an ancient dyke.
Elephant World is one of Colorado’s best kept mountain biking secrets. Located on a highway on BLM public land near the town of Cortez in southwest Colorado, Elephant World is a 28-mile trail designed for mountain bikers and mountain bikers. The trails are a mix of classic cross-country trails and challenging climbs. Course difficulty ranges from beginner to intermediate with many trails to suit all levels of riders.
If mountain biking is on your Colorado trail radar, Elephant World is not to be missed. Check out mountain bike guide and blogger Beck Wood for information on mountain biking for beginners.
Epic Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes (helpful Guide + Photos)
Colorado’s Silverton Mining District has long been a hub for outdoor activities and a jumping-off point for backcountry adventures. If you have a 4×4 vehicle with high ground clearance, the cinnamon stick is a must have. This 12-mile cross-country trail is part of the 63-mile Grand Alpine Loop that passes through Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass in the San Juan Mountains.
The loop can be done in a day (although we’ve heard Engineers Pass is quite scenic and best done on a Jeep or ATV), or the Cinnamon Pass section can be done in a few hours. At Cinnamon Forks is Animas Forks, a ghost town steeped in history. In its heyday, Animas Forks was home to 450 residents, a saloon, post office and general store. Today, only a few of the original buildings remain, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into the past.
There are many opportunities for hiking in Silverton in the surrounding San Juan National Forest, including easy access to the Continental Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness.
The Red Rock National Theater is twenty minutes west of Denver. It’s a large open-air amphitheater made of natural stone with stunning views of Table Mountain and the Denver skyline in the distance.
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Catching a concert at Red Rock is a bucket list in itself (I’ve seen Panic there, amazing!). But when you add a jog or mountain bike ride along the park trails surrounding the festival grounds before the show starts, it makes rocking the night away even more memorable.
The Red Rocks are open to the public during non-event hours. Or you can purchase tickets to outdoor yoga classes, concerts, fitness classes, or any other event that fits your Colorado trip.
A former Victorian mining town, Telluride is now a popular summer and winter destination for outdoor enthusiasts. There are miles of hiking trails around this charming town, including the scenic Lake Hope Trail and the nearby Blue Lake Trail (pictured at the top of this post), which wind through the Sneffels Mountain Wilderness.
Telluride also has a new mountain bike park built by Whistler’s Gravity Logic, free gondola tours from town, and beautiful hiking trails along the San Miguel River.
Hikes Just 30 Minutes From Denver, Colorado
If you’re looking for a slightly different adventure, the Telluride Via Ferrata is a really fun way to experience rock climbing and hiking in Telluride. The Via Ferrata doesn’t require a guide, but if you want someone to literally and figuratively show you the ropes, you can hire one of the local outfits like San Juan Mountain Guides.
Maroon Bells is one of Colorado’s most iconic mountains, yes. Located an hour and a half southwest of Aspen, they are two unique peaks in the Elk Mountains. During the summer, hiking and backpacking around this 14,000-foot mountain is filled with views of mountain ridges, spectacular flowers, and wildlife such as rhinos and mountain goats. Autumn is a good time to visit, when the hanging leaves turn golden and the high peaks dust the first snow.
A popular hike in the Maroon Bells is the West Maroon Pass, a 13-mile hike that starts at beautiful Maroon Lake and climbs to the West Maroon Pass. Along the way, a trail passes around Crater Lake with 360-degree views.
Because the Maroon Bells area is so popular, visitors must take the one-hour and twenty-minute bus ride from the Aspen Heights parking lot or get to Maroon Bells before and after the regular bus service, which is usually between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Reservations are required for private cars in the afternoon 2020.
Great Beginner Hikes Near Denver
Lead Twin Lakes are a pair of sparkling glacial lakes deep within the Rocky Mountains. They sit at the foot of Mount Elbert, the 14th highest mountain in the state, and are located on Colorado State Route 82, which crosses Liberty Road.
There are several campsites scattered around Twin Lakes, which is only a short drive to the top of Mount Elbert. If you have a kayak or paddle board, the sunset from behind Twin Lakes is incredible.
Colorado is full of beautiful places, and Buena Vista is no different. Buena Vista, Colorado, in the heart of the Arkansas River, is known for some of the best whitewater swimming in the world. The Arkansas River flows through Browns Valley State Monument, an area filled with spectacular canyon views, towering cliffs, overhanging trees and beautiful swimming holes.
Buena Vista also has craft beer, mountain bike trails, nearby hot springs, and plenty of hiking opportunities.
Best Hikes In Colorado (local Tips • 2023)
If you’re looking for an adventure town that’s a little off the beaten path, Buena Vista is your answer.
Durango is the center of southwest Colorado with winter and summer activities. Surrounded by the sandstone cliffs of the Animas River Valley and the peaks of the San Juan Mountains, Durango has a lot to offer.
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