Colorado is a hiker’s dream. From epic 14ers to dazzling day hikes, the state is lush with unforgettable trails. And many are just a short drive from the heart of Denver. Whether you’re planning a vacation to the Rocky Mountains, counting down the seconds until the work day ends, or rounding up the family for some time outdoors, here are four of our favorite day hikes near Denver, Colorado.
St. Mary’s Glacier
Difficulty: Moderate Length: 1.5 miles round trip (If you don’t go beyond the glacier) Location: Arapaho National Forest Elevation gain: 420 feet Elevation: 10,848 feet Pass required: No permit is required for this trail Distance from Denver: 43.8 miles (55 minutes depending on traffic) St. Mary’s Glacier draws climbers, hikers, and skiers year-round and the hike exists largely due to the kindness of private landowners who still allow passage to adventurers. Please be mindful of their generosity and make your impact on the area minimal. Weather near the glacier is often cold, even during the summer. A down jacket, convertible pants, and wool socks are highly recommended.
Mount Falcon Castle Trail
Difficulty: Moderate Length: 7.9 miles round trip Location: Morrison, CO Elevation gain: 1,669 feet Elevation: 7,851 feet Pass required: No permit is required for this trail Distance from Denver: 26.8 miles (36 minutes depending on traffic) How often does a hike pay off with views of 100-year-old ruins? The Mount Falcon Castle Trail is relatively tame to Colorado standards but its switchbacks can be testy. Thankfully, iconic views of Denver and rich history lead most hikers onward. Reach the summit and you’ll gain a firsthand look at the ruins of John Brisben Walker’s home. Brisben was the man behind the Red Rock Amphitheater, which isn’t technically a hike but well worth the trek! Fun Fact: Sections of the Mount Falcon Castle Trail were once considered as possible sites for a presidential summer home. Interested readers can learn more about Walker’s history on Mount Falcon here.
Belcher Hill Trail
Difficulty: Moderate Length: 9.0 miles round trip Location: White Ranch Open Space Park Elevation gain: 1,290 feet Elevation: 7,860 feet Pass required: General use permits required for groups of 15 or more Distance from Denver: 20.5 miles (30 minutes depending on traffic) The Belcher Hill Trail is great for hikers craving an overnighter. There are campgrounds just a mile from the trailhead that serve as a perfect launch point for an early morning outing. Interested campers can learn how to acquire a camping permit here. Belcher Hill Trail loops throughout the White Ranch Open Space Park and is often pretty muddy. The 9.0-mile system will test your navigation skills, but will surely leave you excited for more.
The Rainbow Lakes Trail
Difficulty: Easy Length: 1.9 miles round trip Location: Indian Peaks Wilderness Elevation gain: 270 feet Elevation: 10,315 feet Pass required: No permit is required to hike this trail Distance from Denver: 56 miles (1 hour 36 minutes) Most hikers in the area come to visit Brainard Lake, but those wanting a more secluded experience should keep driving along the dirt road until they reach the Rainbow Lakes Trail. Getting to the lake is fairly easy, feeling more like a stroll than an actual hike, but mountain reflections on nearby glaciers, lakes, prime fishing, and fresh air make this one stroll you’ll come running back to. Have a hike in mind? Read our Denver hiking checklist to make sure you’re packing the right gear. Final thoughts:
- Have fun.
- Leave No Trace.
- Take lots of pictures and tag us!