Hiking In Colorado
Hiking in Colorado is a bucket list activity for many adventure travelers. The Rocky Mountain state is known for the staggering beauty and grandeur of its peaks, offering countless opportunities for hiking and trekking. If you’re craving a fun adventure in some epic landscapes, look no further! Colorado has everything you’re looking for and more.
The Rocky Mountains rise out of the Great Plains, creating a series of craggy granite peaks that tower over the landscape. Their striking beauty is reflected in the serene alpine lakes that litter the park, and below the treeline the mountains are clothed in aromatic forests of pine and aspen. This is Colorado at its finest, with so many wonderful opportunities for hiking you simply won’t know where to start.
Hiking in Colorado isn’t just about the Rockies. The Indian Peaks, Vail, Denver, and Aspen all offer a range of pretty forested trails, high ridge walks, and wide expansive meadows covered with flowers in early summer. This sunny state boasts a wealth of riches when it comes to hiking. So what are you waiting for? Check out our guide to hiking in Colorado.
Types Of Hiking In Colorado
Colorado’s spectacular landscapes offer tremendous hiking possibilities, whatever your tastes and preferences. If you’re looking for challenging ascents and daring ridge walks, head to Rocky Mountain National Park or the Indian Peaks, where you’ll find some strenuous hikes and incredible panoramas.
For those looking for moderate, fun hikes surrounded by incredible scenery, Vail, Boulder, and Aspen offer plenty of fantastic trails teeming with wildlife and interesting foliage. Some Colorado trails pack in a lot of variety, with waterfalls, lakes, rivers, wild meadows, craggy ridges, and rocky peaks, so you’ll never want to stop exploring.
Finally, if you’re traveling with younger kids or simply looking for a relaxing stroll, you’ll find easy low-level hikes all across the state, with plenty to entertain younger hikers.
Easy Hikes In Colorado
Maroon Lake Hike: If you haven’t got much time in the Colorado Rockies, but want to stretch your legs and take in some marvelous scenery, try this short hike along Maroon Lake. It’s a popular route, but the view across the lake to North Maroon Peak makes it all worthwhile. This is one of the most picturesque easy hikes in Colorado.
Ouzel Falls Hike: This Ouzel Falls hike is an easy, accessible route suitable for hikers of all ages and fitness levels! Although it’s just a short walk, the scenery here really packs a punch and you’ll get the chance to see a series of beautiful cascading waterfalls. This easy hike is best experienced in autumn when the leaves turn and the forest is at its best.
Family Hikes In Colorado
Sugarloaf Mountain Hike: The iconic Sugarloaf Mountain provides one of the best views of Rocky Mountain National Park, and is a short, family-friendly hike that kids of all ages will enjoy. There are a few steep switchbacks but it’s a manageable trek and the views are simply magnificent.
Enchanted Forest Trail Hike: If you’re looking for a magical day out with the kids, you can’t go wrong with this trail through the Enchanted Forest in Apex Park, Denver. At 9.3km it’s a relatively long walk for kids, but the sights, sounds, and smells of this otherworldly forest will keep them distracted! If they’ve still got some energy at the end of the hike, visit the Heritage Amusement Park for more fun and games.
Day Hikes In Colorado
Buckskin Pass Hike: If you only have time to do one hike in the Aspen region, make this incredible day hike to the top of Buckskin Pass. Beginning at the stunning Maroon Lake, the trail rises steeply up past the Geneva Lake Trail. Once you finally reach the top, after a somewhat grueling climb, you’ll get a magnificent panorama across to Snowmass Mountain.
Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes Hike: Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful places for hiking in the United States, and this wonderful day hike will take you on a tour of some of the park’s stunning lakes. Take in the lovely Nymph Lake, covered in floating lilies, and marvel at the way in which Hallett Peak is reflected in the waters of Emerald Lake. However, the best views are reserved for the trail up to Lake Haiyaha. This hike is accessible, varied, and one of the most popular in the park.
Challenging Hikes In Colorado
Lone Eagle Peak Hike: One of our favorite challenging hikes in Colorado is the stunning Lone Eagle Peak in the Indian Peaks region. This epic trek takes you across some rugged terrain, past tumbling waterfalls and glacier-fed alpine lakes. Lone Eagle Peak is known as Colorado’s most picturesque mountain and this hike shows it off at its best, reflected in the crystal waters of Mirror Lake.
Gore Lake Trail: The beautiful alpine Gore Lake is the destination on this challenging hike, and you’ll need plenty of energy in order to reach it. Although the first part of the route through the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Area is relatively easy and family-friendly, after 6.9km the trail rises steeply, ascending the valley through the forest. Look out for mountain goats when you reach the top and enjoy a well-deserved rest at the stunning Gore Lake.
Best Hikes In Colorado
Cathedral Lake Hike: Do you have a head for heights? Then why not try this amazing trek to Cathedral Lake, a stunning alpine lake at the base of Cathedral Mountain. The route to the top is fairly strenuous, but the rewards are incomparable. Enjoy views over Malemute Peak, Leahy Peak, and the ridges and crags of the Rocky Mountains.
Bear Peak: Looking for a hiking challenge and one of the best treks in Boulder? This Bear Peak hike is an epic climb up some steep and rocky terrain, but the views at the top are a fitting reward. Bear Peak is one of the five tallest peaks along the Boulder Front Range and a great option for hikers looking to get in shape for more adventurous treks.
Beaver Brook Trail: There are many fantastic hiking trails in Denver, but this exciting route along the Beaver Brook Trail is one of our favorites. It’s not too challenging, but you’ll need to cross a few creeks and do a little scrambling over the rocks and ledges. You’ll be hiking along a route lined with pine trees and populated by birds, butterflies and all kinds of wildlife. Look out for the buffalo herd along I-70!
Arapaho Glacier Trail Hike: This incredible hike will lead you all the way to the Arapaho Glacier and offers an incredible view of the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks. However, it’s not for the faint-hearted and you may need hiking poles to help you get to the top. The hike may be steep, but the views are truly epic.
Bluebird Lake Hike: If you’re looking for a way to get off the beaten track and away from the crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park, this beautiful hike may be just what you need. Bluebird Lake is in the lesser-known Wild Basin region of the park and features dense pine forests, cascading waterfalls, and some of the most breathtaking views in the park.
Pitkin Lake Trail Hike: Looking for a great day of hiking in Vail? Look no further than this adventurous day hike through the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Area. There are a few steep climbs, but the hike isn’t too strenuous, with plenty of variety. The route takes you from rushing creeks and aspen forests to beautiful meadows and tranquil alpine lakes. The dramatic view at Pitkin Lake is worth all your efforts and makes this one of the best hikes in Colorado.
Crater Lake Hike: The trek out to Crater Lake is an Aspen classic and a must for anyone who wants to escape the crowds of Maroon Lake. This trail will lead you down a less-traveled road where you can see North Maroon Peak from a different angle. The fantastic vista at the east side of Crater Lake is simply stunning.
Lair o’the Bear Park: This fun hike offers everything of the best that Colorado has to offer – a gorgeous forest hike, views of snow-capped peaks, and a secret castle hidden away in the hills! Dunafon Castle is a restored castle nestled in the gorgeous Colorado scenery, and this hike offers the best view of its enigmatic towers. The hike is an enjoyable, moderate trek and the perfect way to spend an afternoon outdoors.
Lake Dorothy Hike: Set against the incredible backdrop of Mount Neva in the Indian Peaks, Lake Dorothy is one of the prettiest lakes in Colorado. The trail leads you up through thick pine forests until it rises above the treeline, revealing some incredible vistas over the craggy mountains. Lake Dorothy, surrounded by these epic peaks, is simply stunning.
Lake Haiyaha: Lake Haiyaha is one of the finest gems in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the steep hike up to it is a treat for keen trekkers. The lake itself is surrounded by boulders and jagged rocks, and a series of magnificent peaks form a remarkable backdrop. You’ll get an incredible view of Chaos Canyon and the two mountains that rise on either side: Otis Peak and Hallet Peak.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Colorado?
Colorado’s diverse terrain means that hiking is possible in some areas throughout the year. Low-elevation trails in the foothills close to the big cities are accessible even through the winter, as are some of the trails in the eastern grasslands and western deserts. In the Rocky Mountains, the hiking season usually runs from late spring to fall, although you should expect the highest trails to only be open between July and September. Early or late snows can also affect possibilities for hiking during the shoulder season. As with any mountain hiking, always check the weather forecast and take advice from local guides before you set off.
In the west of the state, the mountains tail off into orange desert canyons and plateaus, creating very different conditions for hiking. Here the best seasons for hiking are spring and fall, to avoid the blazing summer sun. These desert trails are best avoided in the extreme weather of summer and winter, as conditions can change quickly, unexpectedly cutting off trails.
Best Regions For Hiking in Colorado
Colorado boasts some of the most incredible scenery in the United States and is blessed with several amazing regions for hiking. Many hikers are drawn here for the splendor of Rocky Mountain National Park, 265,000 acres of epic mountains, crystal lakes, cascading waterfalls, and wide, grassy meadows. Nearby Denver might be a big city, but it offers easy access to some fabulous walking trails, teeming with wildlife.
Boulder and Aspen are also popular cities that offer fantastic opportunities for hiking, especially if you’re looking for accessible, family-friendly trails. Vail might be best known as a ski resort, but in the summer months you’ll find vast meadows of wildflowers and beautiful forested hillsides. Finally, the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is perhaps Colorado’s finest hidden gem, a lesser-visited region with some rewarding and challenging hikes over rugged, wild terrain.
Other Outdoor Activities in Colorado
Although hiking is one of the most popular things to do, there are many other outdoor activities in Colorado! The area around Boulder is perfect for mountain biking and road biking, as well as offering fabulous hiking opportunities. If you like to ski and snowboard, head to Vail, or try your hand at snowshoeing in the Indian Peaks. Alternatively, head to Rocky Mountain National Park for some really fun scrambles.
How To Plan A Trip To Colorado
Are you ready to plan your hiking trip to Colorado? If you’re looking for advice, top tips, and recommendations, why not check out our Indian Peaks guide, Aspen guide, Denver guide, Rocky Mountain National Park guide, Vail guide, and Boulder guide! We’ve put together everything you need to know, from transport advice to recommended trails and guides. Planning a hiking trip has never been so easy!
Hiking regions in Colorado
- Aspen (41)
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (31)
- Boulder (89)
- Colorado Springs (116)
- Denver (115)
- Elk Mountains (71)
- Front Range (203)
- Great Sand Dunes National Park (16)
- Indian Peaks Wilderness (63)
- Rocky Mountain National Park (134)
- San Juan Mountain Range (118)
- Sawatch Mountain Range (119)
- Vail (10)
Best Hikes in Colorado
Chicago Lakes Hike
The Chicago Lakes Hike, near Denver, takes you to Colorado’s high country! The trail winds though the wilderness to beautiful alpine lakes nestled in a glacier cut valley at the base of Mt Evans!
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
Lone Eagle Peak Hike
Lone Eagle Peak is a rugged hike, but it’s also one of the best hikes in Colorado. You’ll walk past many waterfalls including Cascade Falls. At the end, you’ll see Lone Eagle Peak towering over Mirror Lake and dominating the mountain landscape. This beautiful reflection makes it one of the most scenic views in Colorado.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
This hike starts from one of the most photogenic lakes in the entire Rocky Mountains. The gruelling climb up to Buckskin Pass is definitely worth the effort. From its lofty heights you will be completely surrounded by panoramic views.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
Upper Piney River Falls Trail
Upper Piney River Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Vail Region. The trail, which rewards hikers with stunning views of the Gore Range, slowly climbs up 213 m, spread over 4.6 km, to a cascading waterfall. This trail is commonly used as the approach to Mt. Powell - the highest summit in the Gore Range at 4,141 m.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
Exclamation Point Hike
The Exclamation Point Trail is one of our favorite scenic hikes in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This short but sweet trail culminates at one of the National Park’s most incredible lookouts over the Canyon-sign us up! Compared to the South Rim of the canyon, this hike along the North Rim is more rustic and often less trafficked, making it the perfect trail to meander and enjoy the grandeur of the steep-walled gorge.
Mount Evans via Chicago Creek Hike
The Mount Evans via Chicago Creek Hike is a beautiful, but demanding hike through Colorado’s wilderness. Perhaps one of the most picturesque hikes in the Front Range, this trail will guide you past several crystalline alpine lakes before delivering you to the base of the postcard worthy Mount Evans. This hike may be challenging, but the scenery supersedes the effort.
Piedra Falls Trail
The Piedra Falls Trail is a quick and easy adventure in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado that will take you to a stunning waterfall setting. While out hiking the trail, you will follow along the banks of the East Fork Piedra River and pass through some woodland terrain, before arriving at the sight of the cascading Piedra Falls. This is a fantastic trail that the entire family can enjoy on a fun weekend outing!
Crystal City Road #314
The Crystal City Road #314 is a great hiking route in Marble, Colorado that follows along a mountain road to reach a historic site. While out hiking the trail, you will gain elevation along the rugged road as it runs parallel to the Crystal River, passing through the mountains to arrive at the site of an old mill dating to 1892. Walkers should take note that this route is not accessible during the winter months due to dangerous conditions.
Mount Princeton Trail
Looking to challenge yourself? The Mount Princeton Trail is a demanding adventure up to the summit of one of Colorado’s famous fourteeners (14ers). Put your stamina to the test as you ascend over 1,000 m to the summit of the Collegiate Peak that sits in the Sawatch Mountain Range. The unparalleled vistas of the encompassing mountains will motivate even the most discouraged hikers to persist and complete their trek.
High Dune Trail
Did you know there are sand dunes in Colorado? Well, the highest dunes in North America are located in Colorado, and the High Dune Trail is the best way to experience this geological anomaly. Though you may have never considered adding the Great Sand Dunes National Park to your Colorado adventure itinerary, we highly suggest you explore these immense sand mounds that are the most biologically diverse environments in the state.
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Other Activities in Colorado
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