Best Hiking And Camping In Colorado – Colorado is a treasure trove of America’s best-loved trails, parks, peaks and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a rock climber, pioneer, outdoor enthusiast, or just a little new to all the hype, Colorado has countless reasons to get you excited! With year-round opportunities for outdoor exploration, hiking in Colorado is always a good idea. Start planning your next Colorado excursion here!
This popular Colorado hiking destination takes you through the eerie remnants of a former mining town’s past and is surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenic landscapes. Located in the White River National Forest, this hiking trail follows the same path that miners carved more than 100 years ago.
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Commonly referred to today as the “Crystal Mill” or “Old Mill,” the Old Sheep Mountain Power Station was a compressor station built in 1892 to power the machinery building the Sheep Mountain Tunnel.
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The old mill itself sits on a small outcrop beside Crystal River Creek which drops into a shallow pool under a timber frame. Once a testament to humanity’s ability to harness the forces of nature, the old mill has since been overrun by nature itself. The mill is a romantic reminder of the old world, even if it’s an all too familiar story that repeats itself across the Colorado desert.
Ready to walk to the Crystal Mill? Take Schofield Pass from Crystal Town (a 2 mile paved road) or start your journey along the same road from Marble Town, just 9 miles from the mill. Lodging is easiest to access here and the drive/hike is pleasant with great views of Whitehouse and Sheep mountains.
These roads are heavily traveled by cars, pedestrians, bicycles and UTVs all year round. Unless you have a 4×4 with adequate experience, we do not recommend driving from Crystal City to the Old Mill. Not only are the views better on foot, but the level of traffic on the narrow, unpaved roads, as well as road conditions, make driving dangerous for passengers and hikers.
Once you get to the Mills parking lot, you can see the old power plant prominently displayed! Snap a few photos before exploring the area via the many trails available from this trailhead, or get up close to the creek for $10 each! Come see why Crystal Mill is one of the best hikes in Colorado!
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As Colorado’s most famous pristine hot spring, Conundrum Hot Springs is an excursion not to be missed! Located near the Conundrum Creek Trail, this 18-mile (round-trip) hike is longer, but well worth it! For this reason, many hikers purchase permits to camp in the Conundrum Creek Valley between Silver Dollar Pass and Triangle Pass.
This trail is of medium difficulty, it begins with a gently sloping hike through meadows with beautiful snow capped mountains in the distance. You will cross three creeks before reaching the eight mile mark where you will see a sign directing hikers to campsites. From there, the springs are pretty easy to find!
You truly won’t regret making it all the way when you come to find a bunch of hot springs off the trail. At 11,200 feet above sea level, they have an average temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit. One hot spring is big enough to hold a party of 15! Sit back and enjoy the most spectacular views of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness all around you.
Located in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods is a relatively short hike in Colorado that is great for families and all ability levels. The National Natural Landmark began forming millions of years ago as sediment at the bottom of an ancient sea. This is truly one of Denver’s best weekend getaways, so if you’re in the area, you’ll want to take this excursion!
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Over time, the hardened seabed formed red and white sandstone and was subjected to the same geological forces that created the Rockies before eroding into the peaks and shapes we see today. These formations come to life with cleaver names and each one has its own story.
The history of the inhabitants of the Garden of the Gods goes way back as well, with tribes such as the Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Ute all claiming an ancestral connection here. In particular, ancient Ute petroglyphs dating back to 1330 BC. tell creation stories of people who would camp among the red sandstone figures. A much-loved destination in the past, the Garden of the Gods is owned by the City of Colorado Springs and remains free to enter!
While exploring on foot and by car is free, many guided and alternative tours are also offered, be they jeep tours, segway tours, or horseback tours. The park has both paved and dirt roads, but most of the attractions are visible from the paved road, which takes about 20 minutes.
For anyone interested in hiking, start at the trading post. It contains a large shop, a restaurant with great views from its courtyard, information about the park, restrooms and even a Starbucks. To learn more about the park’s history and individual formations, consider taking a free 30-minute guided tour, available 10am-2pm daily.
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The 4.8-mile Bridal Veil Creek Trail near Telluride, Colorado is hiked primarily for its namesake waterfall at the end of the trail, although moderate hikes feature a few additional waterfalls in its forest floor!
Departing from Telluride’s east end, this hike ascends to the base of iconic Bride’s Veil Falls, the state’s tallest free-falling waterfall that drops more than 365 feet above Box Canyon. Above the falls on a 400-foot bluff is a hydroelectric plant built in 1907, which continues to supply the city with a quarter of its energy to this day. Because of this plant, hikers are not allowed to climb the falls. Luckily, the best view of Bridal Falls is actually from its base!
The Bridal Creek Trail itself was recently opened in an effort to entertain hikers with an alternate route that is less dangerous than the traditional route, a steep 4×4 route that has become congested with heavy road traffic over the past year. Many hikers still enjoy walking this route for views of the city on the way down, but they prefer the safer, shadier alternative of scaling the falls. This hike has quickly become one of the most popular hikes in Colorado!
Located in the White River National Forest just seven miles east of Glenwood Springs, Hanging Lake is just one of many beautiful lakes in a deep canyon carved by the Colorado River. It’s also one of the best hikes in Colorado!
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This idyllic lake has bright green water and gentle currents flowing through it. The spring water lake was created by a geological fault that caused the lake bed to drop from the overlying land, and is today one of the best examples of a plant community hanging over the garden. Considered one of the purest water sources in the world, it is a sacred space of mythological origin for the Ute tribe and flows into nearby Bridal Veil Falls.
Although the trail is difficult and steep for miles, it is relatively short and truly beautiful. Of course, it is forbidden to swim in the suspended lake, but that is precisely why today it is so beautiful and so alive! Because the lake’s ecosystem is incredibly fragile, it can only be accessed via a viewing platform.
The Hanging Lake Trail begins at the Hanging Lake Rest Area in Glenwood Canyon and can be accessed by car, foot or bike. Entry permits at the trailhead cost $12 per person, whether you choose to park or not. These funds will be used for the conservation of this beauty and for the educational and reservation services offered for this trail.
This tough but short 4-mile hike in Colorado has an incline of over 1,400 feet and is located in Bluebell Canyon in Chautauqua Park. The final destination of the trail, the Royal Arch, is a huge geological wonder. You can walk around and through the arch and see all of Boulder below with its one iron and valley landscape.
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The trail is complete with amazing rock formations and views of the valley below. At the start of your hike, you’ll descend directly into Bluebell Canyon before beginning your ascent. The journey is otherwise steep and strenuous, as most of the walking is stairs. It never stops until the end!
To get to the Royal Arch Trailhead, find the Chautauqua Park trailhead first and take the Bluebell Road trailhead to the Bluebell Shelter. From there you will see signs directing you to the Royal Arch. The best advice for this walk is to walk the trail during the week and in the morning, as it is notorious for its extreme congestion,
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