One of the biggest benefits of living in Denver is having access to hundreds of trails with majestic views within an hour or two of the city. Mountains, waterfalls, and lake views abound in the area and the best part is you don’t even have to be an expert hiker to soak in the beautiful scenery. Many of Denver’s trails are accessible to amateur hikers looking to get outside and explore. Some paths are even suitable for strollers and wheelchairs, allowing everyone to enjoy what Colorado has to offer.
Keep in mind that the elevation in and around Denver is high. Hydrate before you leave and make sure to pack more than enough water for your hike. Those not accustomed to the altitude may find it difficult to tackle a strenuous hike without suffering from altitude sickness.
Length: 1.5 Mile Loop
If you’ve ever been to a concert at Red Rocks, you may be surprised to find out that there are hiking opportunities within the park as well. This loop is kid-friendly and features several connecting trails, so you can make your hike as short or as long as you want. During the spring, wildflowers bloom along the path and wildlife can be spotted in their natural habitat. The defining feature of this hike is the beautiful red rock formations, which make the view iconic in its own right.
PRO Tip: There’s not a lot of shade cover during the summer months, so wear adequate sun protection. During the winter, the trails can become muddy and slushy as the snow melts.
Length: 6.3 Mile Out & Back
This trail is rated as being moderately challenging and hikers should plan to carve out a 3-4 hour window to hike the entirety of the path. There are over 1,400 feet of elevation gain, as well as multiple bridge crossings. Much of the trail meanders along a creek or a river, allowing pleasant sounds of running water to be heard. The first few miles are mostly downhill, meaning hikers should be prepared to go back uphill at the end of their excursion.
PRO Tip: It’s recommended to wear spikes during the winter months, to avoid falling due to ice and snow accumulation. The interconnecting Chavez Trail may be closed during inclement weather.
Length: 3.2 Mile Out & Back
Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, this trail is popular with hikers and sees a great deal of foot traffic. The best time to visit is between June and October, though the parking lot can get filled up during the peak summer season. Hikers will explore the pine forest and enjoy views of pristine mountain lakes, as well as rocky peak vistas along the path. The first half mile is paved, making it easily accessible for strollers.
PRO Tips: Make a quick stop at Estes Park Mountain Shop to grab snowshoes or micro spikes during the winter. Dogs are not allowed on the trail, even if they’re leashed. Owners will have to leave their furry friends at home.
Length: 1.2 Mile Out & Back
This quick hike can be completed in less than an hour, making it ideal for those needing a fresh air break midday. It’s popular amongst hikers, runners, and walkers, so expect to see other foot traffic. The path is partially paved, making it kid-friendly. There is a slight incline and lots of tree cover after the first segment, providing shade during the warmer summer months. The trail crosses valley vistas and provides views of the iconic jagged flat iron rocks that many associate with the city of Boulder.
PRO Tip: Those looking to extend their hike can use Chautauqua Trail as a jumping-off point to other connecting paths, such as Flat Irons and Royal Arch.
Length: 2.6 Mile Out & Back
This difficult trail will certainly work up a sweat, though it will be paid off when you enjoy the striking views at the summit of Mount Sanitas. Pack a picnic lunch to treat yourself once you reach the top. This hike is also well suited for sunrise or sunset hikes. Sturdy hiking boots are recommended, as there are areas of rugged terrain. The incline remains steady, though hikers will find reprieve in the easier descent. For climbers, some segments are suitable for bouldering.
PRO Tip: There is a small parking area by the trailhead. It can get full in the mornings, so hikers should arrive early or carpool. There is more parking down the road.
Length: 5.5 Mile Loop
This trail is open for hiking on odd calendar days, as well as equestrians. On even days, the path is reserved for bikers only. This allows everyone to share the trail without worrying about pedestrians and vice versa, about bikers. Peak time is between April and October, with the dense forest shade protecting from sun exposure. Apex Park spans 702 acres, with 10.1 miles of trails. Hikers have the opportunity to extend their activity or shorten it by not completing the loop.
PRO Tip: Seasonal closures are established when the trail conditions are deemed too muddy. Check ahead before you head out for a hike if the weather has been inclement.
Length: 3.5 Mile Loop
The Flatirons Vista Trail is accessible for horseback riding, as well as hiking and birding. There is a $5 parking fee unless your vehicle is registered within Boulder County. $25 annual passes are available as well. Hikers will find sweeping views of the Flat Irons, as well as the beautiful Ponderosa Pines. The trail is very exposed, with very little shade. In the summer months, wide-brimmed hats and plenty of water are recommended. Wildlife is abundant in this area, with coyote, elk, and bobcat sightings being mentioned in reviews. During the winter, look up to catch a soaring bald eagle.
PRO Tip: There are herds of cows in the area, not always fenced off from the trail. Hikers should proceed carefully and be respectful of all wildlife and bovine trail companions.
Length: 6.0 Mile Out & Back
The path begins in a valley before it traverses through a steep and densely forested area of ponderosa pine trees. To ease into the 1,400 feet of elevation gain, there are multiple switchbacks on the way to the peak. Once hikers have reached the summit, they will be treated with 360-degree views of Estes Park, as well as visibility of Longs Peak and Hallett Peak. Dogs aren’t allowed on trails within Rocky Mountain National Forest.
PRO Tip: Sturdy hiking boots are recommended, as well as enough water to stay hydrated over several hours. This hike isn’t to be underestimated, as the elevation may sneak up due to the switchbacks.
Length: 3.1 Mile Out & Back
Though the cave is permanently closed to protect the bats, hikers can still enjoy the view from the entrance. This is considered a productive hike, despite its moderate rating. The trail weaves through various red rock formations, as well as expansive views of surrounding Boulder. There are many smaller offshoot trails, allowing hikers to extend their time on the trail. The best time to visit is between May and October, as the snow and ice can make the rock scramble a bit treacherous.
PRO Tip: While dogs are allowed on the trail, many hikers recommend against it. The incline plus the rocky terrain can be difficult on a pup’s paws.
Length: 8.8 Mile Out & Back
The Chasm Lake Trail is popular amongst hikers, horseback riders, and snowshoers in the winter months. Due to its location within Rocky Mountain National Park, no dogs are allowed on the trail. Pups can remain back at the campsite or anywhere vehicles are allowed. Those who embark on this trail will be greeted with a beautiful alpine lake, a waterfall, and stunning meadow views once they’ve breached the tree line. In the early morning hours, such as 3-5 AM, the parking lot is often full of hikers using this as the jumping-off point to hiking Longs Peak, the highest in the park.
PRO Tip: Novice hikers should avoid this trail during the winter, as it requires a fair bit of expertise and experience in snowy and icy elements.
Length: 6.4 Mile Loop
Located within William F Hayden Green Mountain Park, this trail spans a diverse range of terrain that used to be home to buffalo. Now there are many wildlife species in the area, such as coyotes, hawks, rabbits, deer, and even a mountain lion or two. The trail leads hikers to the highest peak in the park, at an elevation of 6,800 feet. There are views of Metro Denver to the east and mountain ranges to the west.
PRO Tip: Hikers should stay on marked paths, as old artillery shells can be found within the park. These shells date back to before World War II and visitors are told to not touch or disturb these pieces if they come across one.
Length: 7.9 Mile Out & Back
One of the best times to visit this trail is during the springtime when the meadows are painted with colorful blooming wildflowers. During the winter, this trail is used by cross-country skiers. Abundant wildlife includes mountain goats, which hikers are encouraged to leave alone if they come across them. Dogs are allowed on the trail and there are off leash areas for them to run around and play. The trail takes a brief detour by Mayflower Lake, before heading to Continental Falls and ending at Mohawk Lakes.
PRO Tip: Consider carpooling if you’re hiking with a group, as the parking situation can become stressful during peak times, such as the weekend. There is no overflow parking available. Midweek trips are encouraged.
Length: 8.7 Mile Loop
Anyone interested in historical landmarks will enjoy this hike to the ruins of John Brisben Walker’s home, which burned down in 1918. Surrounded by Douglas firs, this trail boasts views of the city of Denver, as well as Red Rocks. This trail can be used to connect to other trails, making the hike customizable. Weekends see a crowd, so hiking midweek is recommended when possible. Mount Falcon Park is located in Indian Hills, which is a quick 23-mile drive from Denver. Families can pack a picnic lunch and make an afternoon of their adventure.
PRO Tip: Families making the trek with children should park on the west lot for easier terrain and less incline.
Length: 3.4 Mile Out & Back
This is one of the favorite hikes among Boulder locals, making it well worth the quick jaunt up from Denver. Located at the Chautauqua Trailhead, this path twists and turns along grassy meadows and lush pine forests. The arch is an iconic formation and the Instagram photo opportunity can make the stairs feel less strenuous. Dogs are welcome and there are designated off-leash areas for them to enjoy themselves.
PRO Tip: The free parking lot is shared by several other trails. The beginning of the Royal Arch Trail can be found at the ranger station.
Length: 9.3 Mile Out & Back
This is a high-traffic trail that’s part of the Jefferson County trail system in Golden. It’s popular with birders, hikers, and mountain bikers. Though it’s dog friendly with off-leash areas, reactive dogs may not enjoy the bikes. There are pockets of shade along the path, making the trek enjoyable even during the warmer summer months. Several stream crossings keep the trail interesting and engaging, as well as keeping your eyes peeled for prairie dogs, badgers, mule deer, and rabbits. During the winter, poles, and spikes may be necessary.
PRO Tip: Roadside parking is available for free. Hikers should begin this trail at the base of Lookout Mountain before embarking on the marked path.