Colorado is a hikers' paradise. Whether you are trying to bag the highest peaks in North America, enjoy solitude in the lush lodgepole pine and aspen forests, or take in open vistas of wildflower-covered meadows and waterfalls tumbling down steep cliffs, Colorado has a hike for you. There are day hikes you can do over the weekend, hikes you can take kids on, and hikes that will challenge even the fittest hikers. Wherever you go, the views will leave you breathless and in awe of the majesty of nature. Photo: Tomasz Zajda/Fotolia
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25 Best Colorado Hikes
- Panorama Point, Photo: Courtesy of winterbilder - Fotolia.com
- Chief Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of Flat Nine Photo - Fotolia.com
- Green Mountain , Photo: Courtesy of lobodaphoto - Fotolia.com
- Marker Hill, Photo: Courtesy of Tadeusz Ibrom - Fotolia.com
- Lost Lake Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Dan Collier - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com
Mayhem Gulch Trail
Located just an hour’s drive from Denver, in Centennial Cone Park, the Mayhem Gulch Trail is a popular day hike in the Front Range. It is a 4.7-mile loop trail that offers fantastic views of Clear Creek Canyon. The elevation gain is 900 feet, but it offers solitude, and the view of the waterfall on the northeast side of the park makes the effort worthwhile. As you leave the canyon, the trail heads to a large meadow, where you can spot herds of mule deer and elk.
At 7,256 feet, Horsetooth Rock is the highest peak on Horsetooth Mountain and the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Park near Fort Collins, Colorado. The 5-mile return hike will gain you 1,440 feet in elevation, so it is considered strenuous. It has a series of switchbacks and stairs but it is well maintained. The views from the top are well worth the effort.
Herman Gulch Trail
The Herman Gulch trailhead can be found just off I-70 near Bakerville, Colorado, in the Arapaho National Forest. The 6.5-mile trail will take you through beautiful rolling tundra to Herman Lake at the entrance to a broad, open valley. The Herman Gulch Trail is part of the Continental Divide Trail and follows Herman Gulch all the way to the tree line before it turns to the lake. You might be lucky enough to spot mountain goats or bighorn sheep along the way.
Starting at the Fourth of July Trailhead, the Arapaho Pass Trail is a beautiful 9.3-mile round trip hike that will take you up through a dense conifer forest before opening up to a green meadow full of wildflowers. It is a steep trail that will gain you 1,781 feet in elevation and you will have to pass a few creeks, but the view of Caribou Lake below and Mount Neva above will take your breath away.
The Manitou Incline in the Colorado Springs area is considered the most challenging and extreme trail in the country. It will gain you almost 2,000 feet in elevation during a less than 1 mile hike. The trail consists of former railroad ties that now form a unique staircase that provides an excellent workout and a challenging hike. It is not for those not in an excellent condition.
Starting at the Glacier Gorge trailhead on Bear Lake Road, the 5.3-mile hike to Mills Lake is a very popular destination and can get crowded on weekends and holidays. The hike is considered easy, although it gains 780 feet in elevation. The trail first passes by the scenic 30-foot Alberta Falls before continuing to Mills Junction and the North Longs Peak Trail Junction. From there, you can go towards The Loch and Sky Pond to Lake Haiyaha, or, after crossing Vale Brook and hiking through spectacular Glacier Gorge, towards Mills Lake.
One of the most popular ways of seeing the magical blood-red Sangre de Cristo Mountains at sunset is to hike the Venable-Comanche Trail, which starts just south of Westcliffe. The moderately difficult trail combines two trails to form a 12-mile loop that passes several lakes and an old cabin, all the while enjoying views of magnificent surrounding peaks such as the Comanche, Venable, and Spring Mountain peaks. Experienced hikers recommend starting on the easier Venable Lake Trail and returning downhill on the much steeper Comanche Lake Trail.
Bonito Pass Trail
The Bonito Pass Trail is a gap in Rio Grande County, Colorado, at an elevation of 11,257 feet . The Bonito Pass Trail is only 0.59 miles long and starts near South Fork, Colorado, in the Rio Grande National Forest. It stretches between the end of Forest Road 388 and Continental Divide Trail 813, through valleys filled with wildflowers and patches of densely forested areas. This high-altitude trail is short and not difficult and offers magnificent views in all directions. Once it reaches the Continental Divide Trail, it connects to a number of more demanding hikes.
Lower Mohawk Lake and Mohawk Lake are located just above the tree line on the south slope of Mount Helen in a magnificent glacial valley in the Ten Mile Range mountain. The trail starts near Breckenridge in Colorado and heads west, crossing Spruce Creek and climbing through a dense forest of aspen, spruce, and fir. Look for moose and elk, this area is rich in wildlife.
The Ribbon Trail
The Ribbon Trail is a fairly difficult 7-mile return trail in the BLM Bangs Canyon Management Area. It starts at the Lower Ribbon Trailhead and climbs steadily, mostly on sandstone slickrock, with an elevation gain of 2,173 feet. After the trail comes out of the wash, there is a steep rocky section that takes a good scramble to cross. Enjoy the views when you get above Echo Canyon.
Hell Roaring Trail
The Hell Roaring Trail is a difficult 7-mile one-way trail in the Maroon Bell-Snowmass Wilderness, about 14 miles from Aspen. The elevation gain is 3,000 feet. The trail starts at the Hell Roaring trailhead and passes by Hardscrabble Lake before continuing straight on to Williams Lake. After that it starts to climb steeply. It ends at the Avalanche Campground, or you can make a loop trail by continuing on the Avalanche Creek Trail.
The Kroenke Lake Trail is a fairly difficult 8.2-mile out and back trail that starts close to Buena Vista, Colorado. While the elevation gain is 1,797 feet, the hike is pleasant and shaded, and the trail often crosses creeks, climbing steadily until reaching the lovely lake with plenty of camping places. The way down is gradual and much easier.
Piedra River Trail
The Piedra River Trail is a well-marked and well-maintained 7.9-mile out and back trail with the trailhead near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. This lovely trail starts at a green lush meadow before heading through the Amazon River Gorge. You can see the river from the trail and there are several places you can use to go down to the water for a swim. The elevation gain is 948 feet.
Mounts Democrat Cameron Lincoln and Bross Trail
Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross Trail is a difficult 7.6-mile loop trail accessible through the Kite Lake Trailhead near the town of Alma, Colorado. With an elevation gain of 3,490 feet, this trail will take you high up above 13,000 feet, so be prepared for wind and cold and difficult slippery talus, especially on the way down. The views are breathtaking.
Judd Falls Trail
The Judd Falls Trail is a popular 2.2-mile fairly easy, kid-friendly out and back trail near Crested Butte, Colorado. The elevation gain is only 551 feet and once you reach the falls you will be able to see them in all their glory from the trail. Keep an eye on the birds while hiking, there are plenty of them in the area. There are also interesting informative signs along the trail.
Birthday Peak is a moderately difficult 9.2-trail near the town of Buena Vista. While the trail crosses a number of streams, it is well maintained and pleasant. It gets crowded on weekends. Some hikers are even camping along the trail. Once you get to the base of Birthday Peak, it opens up into a lovely flowery meadow surrounded by snow-covered majestic mountain peaks.
Major Creek Trail
The Major Creek Trail is a moderately difficult 7.0-mile trail between Forest Road 964 and the Forest Boundary in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is a nice hike that passes massive old aspens and several beaver ponds until it reaches a high valley that connects you with trails to Lakes Peak, Electric Peak, and Mount Niedhardt. Major Creek is known for excellent trout fishing in its lower section.
Eccles Pass is a 10.2-mile trail in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Although the elevation gain is 2,760 feet, the trail is considered moderately strenuous due to its length. The trail passes through dense forest and open, large meadows and affords fantastic views of the Gore Range. During the summer, the trail is surrounded by flowers. Once you reach Eccles Pass, the views of Red Peak open up and you can clearly see the trail that continues over Eccles towards Red Buffalo. It is a very popular backpacking area, so do not expect any solitude.
The McNeil Trail is a 6.3-mile very popular and moderately difficult hiking trail near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The elevation gain is 1,653 feet, so the trail goes up steadily and, if you wish, will take you all the way to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain. Expect the part close to the summit to be much more strenuous, with some large boulders and fallen trees, but the views from the top are fantastic.
East Marvine Trail
The Marvine Loop Trail is a 21.4-mile loop trail about 35 miles from Meeker, Colorado, with an elevation gain of 3,946 feet. It is considered difficult and recommended only for experienced hikers and climbers. The trail passes by many streams, lakes, and ponds and is not well marked, so bring a map and compass. Once you reach the flat tops, you will lose the trail completely. There are lot of fallen trees to cross and the going gets a bit rough, but the trail runs a few hundred feet above a river and the views are magnificent.