Embarking on the best hikes in Colorado is an unparalleled experience, as this diverse state offers a variety of trails suited for all skill levels. Traverse the towering heights of Rocky Mountain National Park and explore the magical sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, all while inhaling that crisp mountain air.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore some of the most captivating and scenic hikes throughout Colorado. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker seeking challenging terrain or someone looking for easier treks with breathtaking views, our selection covers it all. As you journey through these popular trails across national parks, state parks, and wilderness areas alike, prepare to be amazed by serene alpine lakes, dense forests teeming with wildlife and fascinating geological formations.
Get ready to lace up your hiking boots and dive into Colorado’s great outdoors as we uncover the best hikes in Colorado just waiting for your next adventure.
Table of Contents:
Rocky Mountain National Park Hikes
Get ready to breathe in the fresh mountain air and take in the stunning views of Rocky Mountain National Park. With hikes suitable for all skill levels, this Colorado destination is a must-visit for any outdoor enthusiast. Two hikes that stand out are the Emerald Lake Trail and the Longs Peak Keyhole Route.
Emerald Lake Trail: A classic hike with stunning views
The Emerald Lake Trail is perfect for those who want to enjoy nature without too much elevation gain. This 3.1-mile round trip trail takes you through lush forests and past pristine alpine lakes. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding peaks near Estes Park. It’s a well-maintained path, making it perfect for families or those new to hiking.
Longs Peak Keyhole Route: A 14.5-mile round trip adventure
If you’re up for a challenge, the Longs Peak Keyhole Route is for you. For experienced hikers, the Longs Peak Keyhole Route is an unforgettable 14.5-mile round trip journey to one of Colorado’s highest peaks – with stunning views of mountains, forests and lakes along the way. Expect steep inclines, rocky terrain, and some scrambling as you navigate your way towards Chasm Lake before ascending via boulder fields towards Longs Peak summit itself.
Whichever trail you choose, be prepared for a memorable experience surrounded by the natural beauty of Colorado’s mountains, forests, and lakes. Pack water, snacks, and multiple layers of clothing to ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. And if you’re looking for more hikes, check out the Flatirons Trail in Boulder or Maroon Lake in Aspen. Happy hiking.
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White River National Forest Trails
Looking for a moderate hike with stunning views and fresh mountain air? Look no further than the White River National Forest. With a variety of trails to choose from, this forest is a hiker’s paradise.
Explore the Flatirons Trail
One of the most popular trails in White River National Forest is the Flatirons Trail. This 3-mile trek offers an elevation gain of 1,920 feet, making it perfect for intermediate hikers seeking a challenge. As you make your way through dense forests, keep an eye out for native wildlife like deer and elk.
Discover Maroon Lake
If you’re looking for a more leisurely hike, the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is a must-see. Take a stroll around Maroon Lake and capture breathtaking views of the nearby mountains with your camera. Don’t forget your camera.
Chasm Lake: A Hiker’s Dream
For experienced hikers seeking a challenge, the Chasm Lake trail is a must-do. For the more experienced hiker, Chasm Lake trail offers an incredible view of Longs Peak and its surrounding peaks while being a challenging 8.4-mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of over 2,800 feet. Be prepared for a strenuous hike with an elevation gain of over 2,800 feet.
Be sure to bring enough drinks and snacks for your journey. And don’t forget to take in the beauty of White River National Forest.
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Adventures
Ready for an adventure? Look no further than the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, where you’ll find trails that cater to different skill levels and showcase the area’s stunning natural beauty.
Fountain Valley Trail: Moderate Hike, Major Views
Take on the moderately difficult Fountain Valley Trail for a 2.2-mile hike with an elevation change of 324 feet. Trek through wildflower meadows and breathe in the fresh mountain air while taking in the surrounding landscape.
Four Pass Loop: A Thrilling Journey Across Mountain Passes
For a more challenging trek, tackle the Four Pass Loop. This 27-mile trail traverses four mountain passes – West Maroon Pass, Frigid Air Pass, Trail Rider Pass, and Buckskin Pass – each offering unique views of waterfalls, jagged peaks, and pristine alpine lakes. The loop typically takes three to four days to complete but offers unforgettable experiences along the way.
Before embarking on your adventure, check current trail conditions at the White River National Forest website or local ranger stations. And always practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the beauty of this wilderness area for future generations.
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Exploration
If you’re seeking a unique hiking experience in Colorado, look no further than the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. This remarkable destination offers breathtaking views at dusk as you traverse calf-burning sands under moonlight on Perkin Central Garden Trail. The park is home to North America’s highest sand dune at 750 feet, providing an unforgettable challenge for hikers.
Photo by Justin Wang on Unsplash
Conquering North America’s Tallest Sand Dune
The main attraction of Great Sand Dunes National Park is undoubtedly the towering sand dunes, which provide a one-of-a-kind adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. As you hike up these massive mounds of sand, be prepared to feel the burn in your legs and lungs due to both elevation gain and the shifting terrain beneath your feet. Take a moment to pause and appreciate the breathtaking views of this magnificent sandscape.
Hiking through this unique landscape provides opportunities for incredible photography, especially during golden hour when shadows cast by the setting sun create dramatic contrasts across the rippling sands. In addition to exploring on foot, visitors can also try their hand at sandboarding or sledding down some of these impressive slopes.
Trailhead, Distance, Elevation Gain, and Difficulty
- Trailhead: Perkin Central Garden Trail parking lot
- Distance: Varies depending on the desired route; most popular routes range from 1-4 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: Varies; High Dune has an elevation gain of approximately 650 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous, depending on the route and individual fitness level
No matter which trail you choose within Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, you’re sure to be rewarded with unforgettable memories as you explore this geological wonder under the vast Colorado sky. Pack your bags, inhale the crisp mountain air, and get ready for an extraordinary experience.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado offers a unique hiking experience with breathtaking views and North America’s tallest sand dune at 750 feet. Hiking through this remarkable destination provides opportunities for incredible photography, sandboarding or sledding down some of the impressive slopes, and unforgettable memories under the vast Colorado sky.
Day Trip Hiking Destinations
Colorado has some of the best day trips from Denver, where you can experience a variety of scenic trails and breathtaking landscapes. One such destination is the Royal Arch Trail, a local favorite for its stunning views and challenging terrain.
Royal Arch Trail: A Gateway to Boulder’s Flatirons
This 3.5-mile round trip hike takes adventurers through dense forests, over rocky inclines, and up to the impressive Royal Arch – a natural sandstone formation that serves as a gateway to panoramic vistas of Boulder’s Flatirons and beyond.
Flatirons Trail: Journey Through Geological History
The iconic Flatirons trail system in Boulder allows hikers to travel back in time amidst ancient rock formations while enjoying fresh mountain air. With multiple routes available ranging from easy strolls to more strenuous climbs, there’s something for everyone at this popular hiking spot.
Rattlesnake Arches Trail: Discovering Red Canyons and Natural Arches
- Hike Length: 13.8 miles round trip (out-and-back)
- Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure filled with sunset-red canyons and nearly three dozen natural arches, head west towards Grand Junction on Rattlesnake Arches trail located within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. This moderately difficult hike rewards visitors with awe-inspiring scenery reminiscent of Utah’s famous Arches National Park.
These day trip hiking destinations offer an incredible opportunity to explore the diverse beauty of Colorado’s landscapes. From challenging climbs and ancient rock formations to picturesque canyons and natural arches, each trail provides a unique experience for outdoor enthusiasts looking to enjoy the state’s stunning scenery. So, pack your bags and head to Estes Park or White River National Forest for a day of adventure and fun.
Photo by Aaron Huber on Unsplash
Notable Colorado Trails
Colorado is home to some of the most awe-inspiring trails in America. Here are some notable ones that will leave you in awe:
Fish Creek Falls: A Soothing Soundtrack
Located near Steamboat Springs, Fish Creek Falls offers stunning waterfall views and a peaceful hike through lush forests. Source
Alberta Falls: Natural Beauty in Estes Park
Experience fresh mountain air and vibrant alpine meadows on this moderate hike in Estes Park. The reward? Breathtaking views of blue lakes and the stunning Alberta Falls. Source
Cascade Creek: A Serene Encounter with Mirror Lake
Take in the serene reflections of surrounding peaks on calm days at Mirror Lake on the Cascade Creek Trail. This scenic route also passes by several waterfalls along the way. Source
Sniktau Mountain: A Quick Escape to High Elevation Terrain
Looking for a challenge? Sniktau Mountain near Denver offers a steep climb with incredible panoramic views from its summit at 13,234 feet. Perfect for a quick escape to high elevation terrain. Source
Crystal Mill Trail: A Fascinating Trip Through Colorado’s Mining History
Step back in time and explore Colorado’s mining history on the Crystal Mill Trail. The trail features the iconic Crystal Mill as its centerpiece and offers stunning views of pristine wilderness and crystal-clear waters. Source
Hikes & Wildlife Adventures
Looking for a unique way to explore nature? Try a moonlit hike at Mueller State Park or Cheyenne Mountain State Park near Colorado Springs. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and enjoy the serene forests and meadows illuminated by the glow of the full moon. Check each park’s event calendar for upcoming dates and registration information.
Moonlit Hikes in State Parks Near Colorado Springs
- Experience: Join park rangers for a guided hike through the wilderness under the stars.
- Benefit: Get a chance to witness the beauty of Colorado’s landscape at night.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, don’t miss the full-moon adventure at the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center. Learn about wolves, coyotes, and foxes while exploring their natural habitat during twilight hours.
Full-Moon Adventures at the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center
- Experience: Enjoy an educational tour followed by a leisurely hike through wolf enclosures under moonlight.
- Benefit: Witness these magnificent creatures up close while supporting conservation efforts.
For those seeking a challenge, hikes like Estes Park or Chasm Lake offer steep elevation gains. If you’re looking for breathtaking views, check out Maroon Lake or Flatirons Trail. With countless trails catering to various skill levels and interests, there’s a perfect hike waiting for you in Colorado.
Other Hiking Trails in Colorado
- Experience: Explore the great outdoors and take in the stunning views.
- Benefit: Get some exercise while enjoying the beauty of nature.
FAQs in Relation to Best Hikes in Colorado
Where to Find the Best Hiking in Colorado?
Rocky Mountain National Park, White River National Forest, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offer some of the best hiking in Colorado.
Most Beautiful Sections of the Colorado Trail
San Juan Mountains, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, Kenosha Pass, and Indian Creek are some of the most beautiful sections of the 486-mile long Colorado Trail.
Most Challenging Hike in Colorado
The Longs Peak Keyhole Route is considered the most challenging hike in Colorado, with steep inclines, rocky terrain, and an elevation gain exceeding 5,000 feet.
Best Month for Hiking in Colorado
June to September is the ideal time for hiking in Colorado, with access to alpine lakes and meadows without significant avalanche risk or trail closures due to weather conditions.
Looking for the best hikes in Colorado? You’re in luck because there are countless trails to explore, from Rocky Mountain National Park to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve.
Whether you’re a local or a traveler, an outdoor enthusiast or just someone who loves nature, these hikes offer something for everyone – and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking!
- Rocky Mountain National Park: With over 350 miles of trails, you’ll find hikes for all skill levels, from easy strolls to challenging climbs.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve: Hike up the tallest sand dunes in North America and take in the stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
- Maroon Bells: This iconic hike near Aspen is known for its stunning fall foliage and picturesque views of the Maroon Bells peaks.
- Garden of the Gods: Explore the unique rock formations and stunning vistas of this Colorado Springs park.
So grab your hiking boots and get ready to experience the beauty of Colorado’s great outdoors. And don’t forget to pack plenty of water and sunscreen!