10 Best Hikes In Colorado You Shouldn’t Miss

December 2, 2019

by Devine Samantha

Shadow of a tree on a Colorado hiking trail
©Photo by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

Colorado is home to some impressive hiking trails with thousands of trail systems spread throughout the state. You will find easy trails just outside the cities, such as Boulder and Denver for a peaceful hike. For more extreme outdoor enthusiasts, you can tackle some of the extreme summits that Colorado offers, such as Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado.

 

However, if you’re looking for a new trail to check out while you’re in Colorado, look no further than this list. It offers everything from easy novice hikes to more challenging extreme hikes that you need to plan for in advance. It might just go down as some of the best hikes in Colorado you’ll ever do.

 

Don’t forget to bring a camera to document your best hikes in Colorado, as the trails provide a great deal of scenery. You’ll find national parks, state parks, and more that you can enjoy during your visit.

 

1.

Arapaho Pass

colorful foliage at Arapaho Pass in Colorado

©Photo by Michelle Maria from Pixabay

 

The Arapaho Pass is a mountain pass located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in the heart of the Indian Creeks Wilderness. A popular trail also connects the pass to Lake Dorothy. It is at an elevation of almost 1,200 feet and is located in Nederland, Colorado.

 

The Arapaho Pass Trail is about 6.2 miles and heavily trafficked throughout the year. Known as an out and back trail, it is considered a moderate hike for outdoor enthusiasts. While the best months to hike the trail are between June and November. Luckily for any pet owners, hikers are allowed to bring their dogs on the trail, but it must be kept on a leash at all times. Many people hiking in the area remark on the lovely wildflowers in the area, with dozens of native species located along the trail.

 

The Arapaho Pass emerges from the Fourth of July Trailhead, where it climbs the northern part of the mountain. It is intersected by the Diamond Lake Trail. You can take the Arapaho Pass trail north to Monarch Lake, or you can take a side trip along the crest of the Pass and follow Caribou Pass Trail, which will lead you to Lake Dorothy. If you continue in this area, you’ll continue down an old road that was blasted into a cliff that features some difficult terrain to cross. We wouldn’t recommend this trail if you have an issue with heights.

 

2.

Castlewood Canyon

photo of hikers on Castlewood Canyon in Colorado

©Photo by Eric Lumsden on Flickr

 

The Castlewood Canyon State Park is located in Franktown, Colorado. Visitors to the area can see the Castlewood Canyon Dam’s remains, which had been a dam located in the area. Though the dam burst in 1933 and caused damage in the area sending a wave of water all the way to Denver. This dam posses no threat since then. One thing to take note of is this park is strictly open for day-use, so there is no camping or overnight anywhere around the area. But one thing for sure, there is a wide range of different trails you can hike along.

 

The trails in Castlewood Canyon State Park vary in length, from 0.5 miles to 4 miles long. Hence, you can easily select the best hikes in Colorado that suit you. The trails are rated from easy to moderate in difficulty, and pets are welcome on the trails — except the East Canyon Preservation Area trail — as long as they remain on a leash.

 

Nature lovers enjoy flocking to the trailheads, and you will find a range of natural delights. There’s Cherry Creek, which flows through the canyon, as well as a natural amphitheater. If you’re planning a special event like a wedding, you might consider the Bridge Canyon Overlook gazebo, which is located on the edge of the canyon.

 

3.

Crater Lake

aerial shot of the beautiful Crater Lake in Colorado

©Photo by Irishdaniel from Pixabay

 

Undoubtedly one of the best hikes in Colorado, Crater Lake is a Colorado mountain lake located within the Elk Mountain range. It’s a popular place, with the view towards Maroon Bells being one of the most photographed mountain views in the United States. The closest town to the lake is Rollinsville, Colorado.

 

The Crater Lakes Trail is a popular trail that gets visited frequently throughout the year. You can start the trail at the junction sign with the South Boulder Creek Trail within the James Peak Wilderness. The trail climbs steeply for roughly one mile before reaching the lakes, which includes Crater Lake and Maroon Lake.

 

If you’ve decided to hike this trail, it stretches around 3.8 miles long and is defined as an out and back trail. It is a moderate trek, so many seasoned hikers will have no trouble with it. The trail is best hiked between June and October when the weather is nicest. However, you might want to put on sunscreen before setting out. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.

 

4.

Crystal Mill

An old wooden house near the waterfall in Crystal Mill

©Photo by Joe Sparks on WikiCommons

 

Crystal Mill is also known by the names of the Old Mill and the Sheep Mountain Power House. It is an 1892 mill that is situated on the Crystal River in Crystal, Colorado. Originally built as a power plant for the Sheep Mountain Tunnel and mining group for the local silver mines. This Old Mill stands tall, and it has now been a significant sight of the park.

 

The trail at Crystal Mill is a 9-mile trek that is an out and back trail. While Crystal Mill backpacking is a popular activity on this trail. This trail is rated as moderate, so many hikers are able to make the journey. Many people travel with family and kids and go swimming in the waters outside of the Old Mill. There is a fee to travel under the ropes and see the mill, which runs roughly $10 per person.

 

Jeeps and ATVs can make part of the trek, so many people complain in the area about the amount of traffic on the trails. You don’t need to worry, though, as the vehicles are only able to travel on the first 0.3 miles of the trail. So beyond that 0.3 miles, it will just be you and other hikers. The trail takes most people roughly four hours to travel, although you can easily spend more time swimming or eating lunch. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must remain on a leash.

 

5.

Devil’s Head Lookout

Stairway leading to summit of Devils Head Lookout

©Photo by Glennfcowan WikiCommons

 

When you want to experience Denver hiking, you might consider the area around Devil’s Head Lookout. This structure is a lookout tower in Douglas County, Colorado, at the summit of Devils Head. The Devil’s Head Lookout is located within the Pike National Forest, at the highest point of Rampart Ridge.

 

When you hike on the Devil’s Head Lookout Trail, you can get to the summit and enjoy views 100 miles in every direction on a clear day. The elevation is over 9,700 feet. However, the trail is easy to moderate one for hikers to trek, meaning just about everyone in the family can journey together and enjoy the view.

 

An out and back trail, the Devil’s Head Lookout Trail is 2.5 miles to the Fire Tower. You will find that the best time to take the trail is between April and November, so it has a pretty long season compared to other trails in Colorado. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but you must remember to keep them on a leash.

 

6.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

the stunning Golden Gate Canyon State Park at summer

©Photo by Simona Giuffrida from Pixabay

 

Another top option in this list of best hikes in Colorado is the Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which has plenty of trails to keep you occupied. It also allows you to enjoy the wilderness. The park features over 12,000 acres of forest, meadows, and peaks, and you’ll find miles of trails spread throughout the park. As a park only 30 miles away from Denver, Colorado, it’s a great place to travel to get away from the bustle of the city.

 

Golden Gate Canyon State Park offers two different campgrounds so hikers don’t need to clear out of the area by sunset. In fact, you can camp with an RV or a tent. This then allows you to have a comfortable home base while you’re exploring the park. Head to the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook at view 100 miles of the Continental Divide. Meanwhile, if you want to explore other activities, there are picnic sites and stocked fishing ponds.

 

The 36 miles of trails are perfect for families and friends to explore on a day hike or a weekend getaway. Some of the trails are perfect for mountain biking and horseback riding, as well. During the winter, the park is open, and you can enjoy winter activities such as snowshoeing.

 

7.

Island Lake

a man standing in front of Island Lake in Colorado

©Photo by OakleyOriginals on Flickr

 

Island Lake is a beautiful lake in Colorado outside of Silverton. Located within the San Juan National Forest, this hidden gem is a secret many seek out when visiting Colorado. This lake is a glacial lake that features a relatively incandescent body of water. Other lakes are in the area, but this one received its name from the flat-topped rock located in the water that is visible when water levels go down.

 

You can hike to the lakes on a 4-mile trail and pass numerous testaments to the settlers and silver miners who came to the area to seek their fortune. Mines and equipment have been abandoned along the edges of the trail. You can also journey along the trail for 6.9 miles, although the entire journey is considered a difficult trek.

 

Snow is common in the area, as are storms due to the high elevation. During the summer months, however, the basic is filled with wildflowers just waiting to be photographed. The trail is best hiked between April and September, and you might encounter other hikers, as well as rock climbers, in the area. Dogs are allowed if they remain on a leash.

 

8.

Matthews Winters Park

photo of the dinosaur footprints in Colorado

©Photo by James St. John on WikiCommons

 

Matthews Winters Park, sometimes written as Matthews/Winters Park, is a park located in Jefferson County, Colorado. You will find a variety of trails in the area, with nine of them great for hiking or mountain biking. Of these, five of the trails are considered a difficulty level of easy, so they’re perfect for just about any nature lover. These trails range from 0.9 to 6 miles in length.

 

One of the main trails in Matthews Winters Park is the Matthews Winters Lollipop Trail, so named for its roughly lollipop shape when drawn on a map. This trail is a 5.1-mile loop and is considered moderate or intermediate in difficulty. You can take a shorter loop on the trail if you want to just take a quick hike, such as after work.

 

The Matthews Winters Lollipop Trail has several ups and downs. However, the views you can get make the journey all worth it. The maximum grade is 21%, although the average is merely 5%. Dogs are allowed in Matthews Winters Park as long as they stay on their leashes while you’re out and about.

 

You can also find Dinosaur Ridge here where the rocks show dinosaur footprints that have awed many people around the world!

 

9.

Mount Elbert

the lake at Mount Elbert shows the reflection of the blue sky

©Photo by skeeze from Pixabay

 

Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado and is part of the Colorado Rockies. Located in San Isabel National Forest, this mountain is also the second-highest peak in the continental United States. Located nearby is Mount Massive, which is the next-highest peak in the U.S. and the Rocky Mountains.

 

There are numerous trails to hike up this 14,440-foot tall mountain; five to be exact. Also, some of these trails can be quite strenuous. A common trail to take is the standard route, via the Northeast Ridge. This trail is a relatively easy hike for most people to make. The biggest danger is a failure to acclimate to the altitude and can result in you getting sick or in injuries such as from falls.

 

The route to the summit of Mount Elbert is steep in the last 1,000 feet, so you’ll want to trek this area carefully. It gains 500 feet in elevation in less than half a mile. Also, storms are common this high up. This then means you’ll want to get an early start on your journey in order to be complete the trail before afternoon storms roll in.

 

10.

The Flatirons

the yellow green grass and rock formations at the Flatirons

©Photo by susancycles from Pixabay

 

If you’re looking for a good hiking excursion near Boulder, Colorado, you should consider hiking the Flatirons. A flatiron is a steeply sloped landform with a triangular shape. So the area known as the Flatirons contains five numbered rock formations, as well as numerous other named ones.

 

Considered Boulder’s most iconic landmark, these structures are a short distance away from the city. You’ll find numerous areas to hike around them, so they make for a great trip to unwind after a long day or a long weekend excursion. Many of the trails start at the Chautauqua Trailhead. You can choose an easy hike or a more difficult one, as long as all of the trails are open. The Flatiron Loop Trail is a relatively easy hike.

 

There are other hiking options, such as heading to Woods Quarry. Here it gives you a view of a sandstone quarry as well as views of the Flatirons. No matter which trail you choose, you’ll pass through open fields and ponderosa pine tree forests.

 

Go For The Best Hikes In Colorado

Whatever type of trail you’re looking for, you can readily find the best hikes in Colorado. The national parks are famous around the world. You’ll enjoy a great hiking adventure, whether you’re traveling alone or with a group. Make sure to take a camera or a pad and pencil to record the awe-inspiring trails of Colorado scenery.

 

If you’re still in the area and have time to go around town, make a visit to Fort Collins and Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for some new adventures!