Colorado is serious about outdoor activities, and Denver is no exception. The residents of the mile-high city do an excellent job at balancing city life and fresh-air fun.
Within a short driving distance, you have access to some of the best hiking trails in the country. We’ll show you 25 of our favorites and why they should be on your list.
The 25 Best Hikes Near Denver in 2023
The best hikes feature lakes, waterfalls, and streams through canyons and forested mountains near Denver. Enjoy the exercise and breathtaking views on these Colorado trails for all skill levels, and don’t forget to pack your camera!
Many of these trails are close to the city, while some may be a further drive (it’s worth it). Check out these 25 hiking trails near Denver, Colorado, and experience the great outdoors.
1. Trading Post Trail
This easy, family-friendly hike is in Morrison, about a 30-minute drive from Denver. The Trading Post Trail is inside Red Rocks and is a great spot to hike and catch a concert on the same day.
Trading Post is a 1.5-mile loop trail that takes around 45 minutes to complete. The best time to visit this popular spot is May through September, when nice weather is guaranteed.
2. Wild Basin
One of the most popular trails in Rocky Mountain National Park is Wild Basin to Calypso Cascades. Wild Basin is an easy trail during the summer but moderately challenging in the winter (bring poles).
The trail is 3.5-miles (out and back) and takes around an hour and a half to complete. It is crowded during the summer, but worth it when you can clearly see the waterfalls.
3. Chautauqua and the Mesa Trail
The Mesa Trail is in the Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) near Boulder, about 45-minutes from Denver. It is a moderately challenging hike over 6 miles point-to-point (3 hours).
This trail is popular but still has some more secluded areas. The Chautauqua trail receives high traffic from locals and tourists due to it going through the Chautauqua Meadow, where hikers can admire the Flatirons. You can also take your dog along on this trail.
4. Coyote Song Trail
Coyote Song Trail is in Littleton at the South Valley Park. It is a popular morning and afternoon hike for families between May and October.
The trail is an easy 3-mile loop and takes approximately 1-hour and 15-minutes to complete. However, there is not much shade so bring sun protection and plenty of water.
5. Staunton State Park
Staunton is Colorado’s newest state park and features well-maintained trails in a forest setting with rocky cliffs. There are many routes in this park, and most of them are moderately challenging—plan for a several-hour hike on these popular trails.
6. Garden of the Gods
The main trail that takes you around the rock formations is an easy 4-mile loop (1-hour and 40-minutes), but plan for at least 2-hours as there are various views to enjoy.
The Garden of the Gods is a popular attraction, so expect busy times during the weekends. Also, there is not much shade; bring sun protection and water.
7. Lair O’ the Bear
The easy 2-miles out and back Lair O’ the Bear trail is perfect for a family afternoon stroll. At the end of the trail, there is a real castle that you can view from a distance (private property). The path is often busy and is the perfect spot to walk or jog any time of the year.
8. Glacier Gorge Trail
Glacier Gorge is a challenging route in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is not for beginner hikers, families, or pets. There are steep, slippery inclines, but you will find a breathtaking lake at the end.
The trail is over 9-miles and takes around 4-hours and 30-minutes to complete. Bring poles and wear boots with micro-spikes.
9. Brainard Lake Recreation Area
The Brainard Lake Recreation Area has several hiking trails, the most popular is the Mitchell Lake Trail, which leads you to Blue Lake.
It is a 6-mile out and back route, taking around 2-hours and 45-minutes to complete. The terrain is moderately challenging, and you should wear good hiking boots.
10. Mount Falcon Castle Trail
Mount Falcon is a windy, moderately challenging trail with castle ruins at the top. Watch out for mountain bikers speeding around sharp corners. This loop trail is just under 7-miles and takes around 3-hours and 30-minutes to finish.
11. Waterton Canyon Trail
Hike through Waterton Canyon on this 12-mile out and back trail. It is a relatively easy hike, and you will see many people walking, running, biking, and fishing. You may encounter big horned sheep on your 4-hour and 45-minute trek, so keep your distance.
12. Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is a moderately challenging hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. You will pass several lakes on this 3-mile out and back trail before you reach Emerald Lake, which lives up to its name. This hike is one of the most scenic trails in Colorado, so you may want to bring your camera.
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13. Maxwell Falls
The 4-mile (2-hours) Maxwell Falls loop trail features cold streams, lush forests, and waterfalls in Arapahoe National Forest. It’s a moderately challenging hike but still easy enough for older kids and dogs. Get there early before the rush sets in around 9 AM.
14. Castlewood Canyon State Park
The loop trail is somewhat challenging, but it has a great variety of scenery and terrain. Be prepared for wind, and watch out for rattlesnakes on this Castlewood Canyon State Park trail! The hike is 6-miles and takes approximately 2-hours and 30-minutes to complete.
15. Mohawk Lakes
This difficult trail near Breckenridge is 8-miles and takes over 4-hours to finish. It’s a long hike with steep inclines and unmarked trails (you will need a trail map).
Mohawk Lakes are much easier to hike during the summer. If you come in winter, be prepared for waist-deep snow.
16. Flying J Ranch Park
The Shadow Pine Loop Trail in Flying J Ranch Park is a relatively easy 4-mile hike. It is a popular park for birding, hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing, so expect to see many people.
This dog-friendly trail through old-growth pine and Douglas fir has trash cans and restroom facilities along the route.
17. Devils Head Lookout Trail
Devils Head Lookout is a moderately challenging hike near Larkspur, Colorado. It is a 2.5-mile out and back trail that takes around 1-hour and 30-minutes to complete. The path has lots of shade and is still easy enough for beginners.
18. Grays and Torreys Peaks
Are you ready for your first Colorado 14er (elevation above 14,000 feet)? Prepare yourself for this challenging hike at Grays and Torreys Peaks.
It is not for beginners or Colorado newbies. Climb alongside mountain goats on your way to the top! This peak takes approximately 5-hours to complete (8-miles).
19. Walker Ranch Loop
Walker Ranch Loop Trail is an 8-mile (3-hours and 45-minutes) hike near Boulder and features cliffs, forests, and rushing waters. It is moderately difficult but a very popular area for hiking, biking, and birding.
20. Chasm Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to many challenging hikes, and Chasm Lake is no exception. Bring your poles and spiked shoes to hike this almost 9-mile out and back trail. Consider using a guide service, as some paths are unmarked and hard to find.
21. Lookout Mountain
Lookout Mountain Trail in Bellevue is a 10-mile (over 5-hours) out and back hike. It is moderately challenging with steep inclines and tight paths. While it is somewhat popular, you can still experience seclusion in this heavily forested area (lots of shade).
22. Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado (another 14er) and is a challenging hike. It is a more gradual elevated climb and takes around 6-hours and 30-minutes (10.5-miles) to complete.
You’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views of the countryside on this trail. Prepare to take lots of gear, water, and enough snacks.
23. Alderfer/Three Sisters
The moderately challenging Alderfer/Three Sisters route is a popular spot for hikers and mountain bikers. It is just under 7-miles of forested landscape and takes around 3-hours to complete.
24. Deer Creek Canyon Park
The Black Bear Trail at Deer Creek Canyon is just over 6-miles and is a moderately challenging hike with rocky terrain and steep inclines.
Initially established in 1994, this trail has undergone various changes and today connects Canyon Park with Hildebrand Ranch Park. This trail generally closes between February and the end of July to help protect raptor nesting territory.
25. Carpenter Park
The trail is a moderate hike with a steady climb to the top. You will experience rock formations and steep inclines without much shade (bring sun protection). Carpenter Peak Trail is over 6-miles and takes around 3-hours to complete.
Things to Consider
There are precautions you must take any time you are exploring nature. Be sure to pack all of the supplies you need and follow all trail rules and regulations.
Consider these handy tips before your next hiking trip!
- The best months for hiking in Colorado are from early June to late September, when the snow is gone. However, you can have a great hike during the winter if you have the right gear.
- Altitude sickness is a real thing in the mile high, so take it easy for the first few days you’re in the area. Hike some of the easier trails before working your way up. Take plenty of rest breaks and listen to your body.
- Afternoon thunderstorms are common during the summer, and lightning can be dangerous to hikers. Be sure to plan for an earlier hike (before noon) if you will be in the high country.
- Colorado experiences over 300 days of sunshine annually, so wear plenty of sunscreen and other sun protection like hats and UV resistant clothing. Also, stay hydrated by bringing plenty of water.
- Bring a trail map with you and stay on the marked trails at all times.
- Pack a first aid kit, bear spray, and a snake bite kit. You most likely will not encounter dangerous wildlife, but it’s essential to keep your distance if you do.
- Check park rules beforehand, as many do not allow dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve answered your most pressing questions about hiking near Denver:
What is the most beautiful hike in Colorado?
While there are many amazing hikes in Colorado, some would argue the most beautiful is the Emerald Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. Enjoy stunning views of the mountains, lakes, and foliage.
What city in Colorado has the best hiking?
Some of the best cities in Colorado for hiking include Buena Vista, Aspen, Breckenridge, and Colorado Springs.
Does Denver have good hiking?
Several trails within the city limits offer decent hiking, but the best hikes are a short drive from Denver. Some of the best places to hike near Denver are Red Rocks and Rocky Mountain National Forest.
What mountain towns are close to Denver?
Check out Boulder, Lyons, and Idaho Springs for nearby mountain towns that offer hiking trails and beautiful scenery.
How close is Denver to the Rocky Mountains?
Denver is 66 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park and takes a little over an hour to drive there. Plan a short day trip to one of the most majestic parks in the country.
The Best Hikes Near Denver: A Summary
Colorado has an abundance of breathtaking state parks featuring canyons, cliffs, forests, and crystal clear lakes. The state caters to hikers of all levels, whether you have never hiked a day in your life or can run up a mountain blindfolded.
For easy, family-friendly hikes, start with trails at Red Rocks or Gardens of the Gods. For challenging trails, check out Glacier Gorge at Rocky Mountain National Park or Mitchell Lake Trail at Brainard Lake Recreation Area.