Hiking Spots In Colorado – Colorado is a nature lover’s dream and a perfect travel destination. With four national parks, eight national monuments and 42 state parks, Colorado has something for every outdoor enthusiast.
Within just a few minutes’ drive, you can explore the natural wilderness of Colorado’s western slopes, the alpine lakes of the Rocky Mountains, and the vast expanses of the eastern Colorado plains.
Hiking Spots In Colorado
From climbing high peaks to rafting down fast rivers to mountain biking through wildflower-filled meadows, a trip to Colorado is sure to be filled with adventure.
Best Hikes In Colorado (local Tips • 2023)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Practice good off-road etiquette and remember to leave no trace at all our shared destinations. This means packing away all your trash (including toilet paper), being respectful on busy roads and obeying established rules.
Located in north-central Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to experience wildlife, capture stunning glacier-carved landscapes, and go on epic hikes and outdoor adventures. With more than 60 peaks over 12,000 meters and more than 150 alpine lakes, this park is the perfect stop on any Colorado trip.
I spent 10 days in Rocky Mountain National Park and explored some of the best day hikes, including the stunning Canyon Lake Trail and the short but beautiful Emerald Lake Trail. To help you plan your Rocky Mountain National Park adventure, use our beginner’s guide for helpful tips, including where to camp and what to pack.
Crested Butte, Colorado is an adventure town nestled on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. In the winter, Crested Butte is a winter playground, but during the summer and fall months it’s a great stop for mountain biking, scattered camping, hiking, and fishing.
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For mountain bikers, Evolution Bike Park is a great place to spend the weekend or head to the 401 or Dr. Park for amazing off-road driving.
For hiking, the Scarp Ridge Loop is incredible. Walk the ridge for stunning views of Oh Be Joyful Valley and Peeler Basin. Autumn is especially beautiful when the aspen leaves turn golden yellow.
Great Sand Dunes National Park has the highest sand dunes in North America. Nestled beneath the majestic Sangre De Cristo Mountains, the mountains are topped with high peaks that are often covered in snow, making it one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in Colorado.
For outdoor adventurers, sand boarding and sand sledding are popular activities. Walk up the hill and surf back! There are also many hiking trails in the park, including trails that lead to alpine lakes and the summit of Mount Herald, which offers stunning views of the sand dunes in the distance. For photographers, the night sky above Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of the best in the world, so be sure to bring your tripod and camera.
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Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado is famous for its cliffs, especially the spectacular Cliff Palace, the largest cliff palace in North America. Although you’ll need a park ranger to take you on a tour of the Cliff Palace (highly recommended) to save the site, afterwards you can escape the crowds on the miles of trails that criss-cross the mountain.
For an adventurous hike, follow the 1.5-mile Petroglyph Point Trail through narrow canyons and rock steps before passing an ancient petroglyph panel.
Phil’s World is one of the best kept secrets of mountain biking in Colorado. Located on a large tract of BLM public land just outside of Cortez in southwestern Colorado, Phil’s World is a 28-mile network of trails built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. These tracks are a mixture of classic off-road singletrack and challenging riding on polished rocks. The trails range in difficulty from beginner to intermediate, and there are plenty of trails for riders of all levels.
If mountain biking is on your Colorado travel radar, Phil’s World is not to be missed. For mountain bike tips for beginners, check out this article by mountain bike instructor and blogger Becky Timbers.
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Once an old mining town, Silverton, Colorado is now a hub for outdoor activities and a jumping-off point for outdoor adventures. The Cinnamon Pass is a must if you have a 4×4 vehicle for high altitudes. This 12-mile trail run is part of a larger 63-mile 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 that the engineer’s pass side is very rough and is best done by jeep or ATV), or the cinnamon section can be done in a few hours. Along Cinnamon Pass is Animas Forks, a historic ghost town. At its peak, Animus Fox had a population of 450, a saloon, a post office and a general store. Only a few of the original buildings remain today, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into the past.
If you want to hike in Silverton, there are many options around the San Juan National Forest, including the Continental Trail with easy access to the Weminuche Desert.
The natural amphitheater of Red Rock is just 20 minutes west of Denver. It’s a large outdoor amphitheater built of natural stone that offers stunning views of Mesa and the Denver skyline beyond.
Best Hikes Near Denver
Going to a concert at Red Rocks is a bucket list item in itself (I saw panic creep in there, which was great!). But by adding a pre-show trail or mountain bike ride on the mountain park trails surrounding the concert venue, a night of rock and roll will be even more memorable.
Red Rocks is open to the public during non-event times. Or, you can purchase tickets to outdoor yoga classes, concerts, fitness classes, or any event that fits your Colorado trip.
Once a Victorian mining town, Telluride is now a popular summer and winter destination for outdoor enthusiasts. There are miles and miles of amazing hiking trails surrounding this charming town, such as the stunning Hope Lake Trail and the nearby Blue Lake Trail (shown at the top of this article), through the Snaefell Mountains Wilderness Area.
Telluride also has a brand new mountain bike park built by Whistler’s Gravity Logic, a free lift out of town and beautiful hiking trails along the San Miguel River.
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If you’re looking for a slightly different kind of adventure, the Telluride via ferrata is a fun way to enjoy climbing and hiking in Telluride. The Via Ferrata doesn’t need a guide, but if you need someone to show you the ropes (literally and figuratively), you can hire a guide from a local manufacturer like San Juan Mountain Guides.
Maroon Bells is one of the most famous mountains in Colorado, and rightfully so. Located an hour and a half southwest of Aspen, they are two iconic peaks in the Elk Mountains. In summer, hike and backpack around the 14,000-foot peak, offering views of jagged peaks, scenic wildflowers, and wildlife like elk and mountain goats. The autumn months are a great time to visit, when the aspen leaves turn golden and the high peaks receive the first snowfall.
A popular hike at Maroon Bells is West Maroon Pass, a 13-mile round trip hike that starts at scenic Maroon Lake and climbs to West Maroon Pass. On the way, the trail crosses Lake Kawah, offering a 360-degree view.
As the Maroon Bells area has become popular, visitors should take the 1 hour 20 minute shuttle bus from the Aspen Highlands parking lot or drive to the Maroon Bells before or after the scheduled bus service, which usually runs from 8am to 5pm between stops. In 2020, private car reservations are mandatory.
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Leadville Twin Lakes are a pair of sparkling glacial lakes located deep in the Rocky Mountains. They sit at the base of Mount Elbert, the 14th highest in the state, along Colorado Route 82, which runs through the stunning Independence Pass.
There are several campsites scattered around Twin Lakes, and you can walk to the summit of Mount Elbert in just a short drive. If you have a kayak or paddle board, the sunsets at Twin Lakes will be surreal.
Colorado is full of cute, quaint towns, and Buenavista is no exception. Located on the Arkansas River in central Colorado, Buenavista is known for having some of the best whitewater rafting in the world. The Arkansas River flows through Browns Canyon National Monument, a place filled with sweeping canyon views, towering walls, aspen groves, and idyllic swimming holes.
In Buenavista, you’ll also find craft beer, great mountain biking trails, nearby hot springs, and endless hiking opportunities.
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If you’re looking for a small town adventure that’s a little off the beaten path, Buenavista is your answer.
Durango is an adventure hub for winter and summer activities in Southwest Colorado. Surrounded by the sandstone cliffs of the Animas River Valley and the jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains, Durango has a lot to offer.
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