The snow is beginning to melt up high and the sun is brightly shining; it’s time for hiking season in Colorado! But, how do you know where to begin? The state is a veritable cornucopia of scenic vistas and jaw-dropping singletrack, so we’d suggest choosing a trail based on your desired region of the state. Breckenridge? Denver? Boulder? Crested Butte? Truly, you can’t go wrong, as the state is simply dotted with trails begging to be explored! Once you know where you want to go, take a look at the following trails to find some of the best hiking in Colorado.
Best Hiking in Colorado
This moderately trafficked trail isn’t deserted, and for good reason. It’s a quick 30-minute drive from the city, but the views will make you feel a lot farther from home. We’d suggest opting for the Mt. Galbraith Loop via the Cedar Gulch Trail. Not only can you catch glimpses of two different canyons while hiking, but the panoramic views of nearby Golden are unbeatable. Galbraith is tough enough for experienced hikers but can make a great challenge for families and beginners alike. Pro tip: You can bring your pup too; just make sure he is kept on leash. Trail beta: Length: 4.9 miles Elevation gain: 1,100 feet Difficulty: Moderate
Solitude can be found here, but we’ll admit that it’s a rarity. St. Mary’s Glacier is one of the more iconic Denver hikes, thanks to its proximity to the city (one hour) and family-friendly distances. But, you will have choices. Families hiking with children can opt for the shortest trek to the lake for some chilly summer splashing, while experienced hikers can continue up the glacier, or even up nearby James Peak (13,294 feet). Trail beta: Length: One mile RT to the lake and back; 1.5 miles RT to the top of the glacier Elevation gain: 410 feet Difficulty: Moderate Parking: $5 fee Related: Hiking Near Denver? Here Are The 7 Best Hikes
Boulder boasts world-class access to hiking trails, and its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park makes it a hiker’s paradise. Mills Lake is one such trail in the park and it’s a worthwhile trek if you’re looking for alpine views and a beautiful body of water. Along the way, hikers will also be rewarded with views of the well-known Alberta Falls, a 30-foot waterfall located on the trail. The waterfall is a destination it itself, so don’t be surprised if the crowds thin as you continue hiking past this point. Note: While Mills Lake isn’t the most difficult trail in the park, it does expose hikers to Colorado’s infamous high altitude. The trailhead is located at 9,240 feet, so be sure to bring a lot of water and stay hydrated! Trail beta: Length: 5.3 miles (one way) Elevation gain: 780 feet Difficulty: Moderate Parking: The trailhead is located off Bear Lake Road. Due to the popularity of this road during high season, it may be wise to take the free park shuttle rather than deal with the hassle of driving your own car.
This perennial favorite is a hotbed for outdoor enthusiasts of all varieties; hikers, bikers, equestrians and trail runners all flock to Walker Ranch, thanks to its wide variety in terrain and ecosystems. You can tackle this loop in either direction, and it can be accessed from three different trailheads scattered around the trail. Both directions are worth your time, so you can’t go wrong. The toughest section of trail occurs when the singletrack dips down to South Boulder Creek, the lowest point on the trail. Steep stairs or singletrack climb away from the stream to regain elevation. Trail beta: Length: 7.7 miles Elevation gain: 892 feet Difficulty: Moderate
Mt. Falcon Park is another favorite located close to Morrison, Colorado. It hosts several trails, but piecing together a few of them will reward hikers with commanding views of Denver, a lookout tower, and even some castle ruins. We’d suggest tackling the Castle Trail for a less-crowded option to see the ruins. The first few miles flaunt some steep switchbacks, but it’s a well-maintained trail that is worth the sweat equity. Trail beta: Length: 7.9 miles RT Elevation gain: 1,827 feet Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
We’ll be the first to admit that the Red Rocks Trail is not going to be the most difficult hiking trail. That said, hiking in Red Rocks Park is an experience that is always worth it! The Red Rocks Trail makes a great jaunt for sunrise strolls or even trail running excursions. It’s also a wonderful family-friendly option, since the scenery is top-shelf and the location is easy to get to. Families will love this option, since you can hike as much or as little as you’d like with your little ones in tow. Plus, do we need to remind you of how iconic Red Rocks is? Trail beta: Length: 6.3 miles RT Elevation gain: 1,335 feet Difficulty: Moderate
This is a family-favorite trail in Crested Butte, thanks to its immediate bang-for-your-buck that you get straight from the parking lot. Those with children can catch a glimpse of the beautiful changing aspen leaves within the first mile of the trail, while experienced hikers can continue on the trail. For those who continue, Snodgrass is an exceptional option if you consider yourself a leaf-peeper. Golden leaves dot the trailside, and the path offers outstanding views of the rugged Elk Range to the north. If you catch Snodgrass during wildflower season (late June-early July usually), you’ll also witness an eyeful of astonishingly gorgeous wildflowers. Trust us, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen! Trail beta: Length: 6.1 miles RT Elevation gain: 1,421 feet Difficulty: Moderate
Judd Falls is a great option for families with children or out-of-town visitors who aren’t quite adjusted to Colorado’s lung-busting altitude. This hike still offers beautiful scenery, wildflower-filled meadows, and a waterfall, but it’s all condensed within a shorter distance with less elevation gain than Snodgrass. Or maybe you simply don’t have a ton of time but still want to stretch the legs? This is a great option for immediate gratification! Trail beta: Length: 2.2 miles RT Elevation gain: 551 feet Difficulty: Beginner-Moderate
The town of Breckenridge is known for its family-friendly adventure, so it makes sense to have a few easy-moderate hikes that appeal to all ages. Hoosier Pass is one such hike with relatively minimal elevation gain and an accessible overall distance. The beauty of this hike is that it starts and ends above tree line, but the trailhead is accessible by vehicle, so most of the climbing is done before you even get out of your car. That said, you are hiking at high elevations (above 11,500 feet), so take the necessary precautions. Pack plenty of water and sun protection, and don’t forget a shell to block wind and rain. Weather up that high is notoriously fickle! Trail beta: Length: 3 miles RT Elevation gain: 700 feet Difficulty: Moderate
This gem of a hike is frequently listed as a “must do” in tourist brochures, and for good reason. Not only will you have options on distances and destination (the trail goes to two different lakes), but you can also play a game of “I Spy” while hiking. The trail is littered with old mining cabins and mining ruins that can be fun to identify and explore from the outside. But please note: any old structure is inherently unsafe, so don’t enter any of the decrepit buildings. The Mohawk Lakes themselves are beautiful, and the scenery makes the somewhat difficult hike blur into your memory. There is a fair bit of elevation gain on this trail, so plan accordingly! Trail beta: Length: 6 miles RT to Lower Mohawk Lake; 6.8 miles RT to Upper Mohawk Lake Elevation gain: 1,700 feet Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult