The Mile High City is well known for its outdoor lifestyle. However, many people are surprised to find that the best hikes near Denver actually aren’t that close to downtown. That’s okay because there are plenty of nearby areas that have plenty of Denver’s best hiking trails. All the trails listed in this guide are within an hour and a half of Denver. So lace up your boots, it’s time to hike!
What to Know About Hiking in Colorado
Before you hit the trail, it’s important to understand that hiking in Colorado requires a few special skills. First, you want to be properly acclimatized and adjusted to the higher altitude (this goes for locals too). Even as a local Coloradan of over 11 years, I still sometimes have trouble with high altitude hiking.
Also, be sure to pay attention to the weather. The last thing you want is to get zapped by lightning (eek!). The best way to avoid storms is to start early, I’m talking 6 am at the trailhead early for a long hike. Plan your route so that you’re below treeline no later than 11am. Local tip: Colorado’s hiking trails get uber crowded in the summer, avoid the conga line and bad weather with an early start.
Here in Colorado, the weather can change on a dime, and when you’re hiking in the mountains, you might not see what’s coming, since the mountains block the view. Remember, Colorado storms typically move in from the west (sometimes northwest, and sometimes southwest). Be alert when hiking and note your position.
For more, check out this Local’s Guide to Hiking in Colorado (coming soon).
Hiking Resources for the Best Hikes Near Denver
When it comes to hiking near the Mile High City, there are endless hiking trails near Denver. In fact, some of the best hikes in Colorado are right near Denver (hurray!).
Sometimes it’s tough to know where to start! If you’re new to hiking, definitely check out my ultimate guide to hiking for beginners before you hit the trail. Additionally, if you’re nervous about being in the elements, pick a hike with low mileage closer to town.
Wanna find your own hike? Check out the guide to finding hiking trails near you.
AllTrails.com is one of my favorite resources for scoping new terrain. Most of the hikes listed here require a moderate level of fitness, but don’t let that stop you from getting out there going for it! You don’t have to start on an easy trail if you feel you’re up for a challenge. Simply remember to be prepared, Leave No Trace, and acclimatize properly if you aren’t used to the thin air in Denver.
Psst: if summits are what you seek, then you’ll want to check out these posts:
- Amazing 13ers Near Denver
- The Easiest 14ers in Colorado
- Hiking Mt. Guyot in the Tenmile Range
- The best technical summit near Denver
Day Hikes in Boulder
Boulder offers an array of some of the best hiking right near Denver. Many of these Boulder hikes are within an hour from Denver, or right in Boulder. These trails make their way towards interesting geographical features without heavy mileage, making the Boulder area a great hiking destination for those looking for a quick adventure.
Mount Sanitas Valley Loop
Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,256 feet
An awesome training hike just a stone’s throw from Boulder. The climb to the top is pretty consistent, but it doesn’t have quite the incline as other hikes in Boulder. Keep in mind, this is a horse-friendly destination and they always have the right of way.
First and Second Flat Iron
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,427 feet
This is a great butt-buster for anyone who wants to get up-close and personal with Boulder’s greatest landmark. There are several different paths you can take up towards the First and Second Flat Iron. Once you reach the forest, follow signs for the First Flat Iron.
Get Your Free Hiking Gear List and Hiking Planner!
Stay organized with this easy-to-use hiking planner and checklist for your next Colorado hike. Complete with planning info, hiking packing list, emergency contact and more! Simply fill it out and send along to a trusted friend.
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,377 feet
Start in the Chautauqua Park (Chautauqua Trail) area and follow the signs towards Royal Arch. Make your way up the staircase and hike on to reach a stunning arch. This trail gets crowded, so opt to go during the week or start early.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 675 feet
This moderate hill climb offers sweet views and shady trails. Bring Fido or even opt to run Green Mountain for an easy weekday jaunt.
Best Hiking Near Denver in Golden, Colorado
Golden is an outdoor lover’s paradise located just 20 minutes west of downtown Denver. Nestled at the base of the foothills, there’s plenty of Denver hiking trails to choose from.
Mount Galbraith Loop
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 928 feet
This quick and easy day hike near Denver is perfect for a post-work hike. The way up Mount Galbraith offers plenty in the way of rocks and animals, including an awesome view of Golden – perfect for sunset.
Burro Trail Loop to Windy Peak
Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,893 feet
Located in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, this is one of my favorite Denver hiking trails for fall. It’s got enough elevation gain where you’ll feel challenged, but it isn’t too commanding. Keep in mind that Colorado State Parks require a $5 entry fee unless you have an annual pass. There are a lot of other trails in the park worth a visit.
North Table Mountain Via Rim Rock Loop
Distance: 8.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,125 feet
This trail up to the top of North Table Mountain is relatively easy aside from a moderate incline at the start. The trail itself isn’t entirely interesting (aside from some views), but it’s a great spot to bring kids since the trail is wide and well kept. Keep in mind it gets quite muddy here during the wet months.
Best Denver Hikes off of the 285
Highway 285 is the gateway to the mountains in south Denver. Although you are a ways from the Continental Divide, some of the best Denver hikes are located here. Be sure to explore Staunton State Park and the Lost Creek Wilderness.
Ben Tyler Trail
Distance: 11.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,402 feet
The Lost Creek Wilderness was once a little-known slice of awesome offering some of the best Denver hikes. However, this area has grown in popularity over the years. The Ben Tyler Trail offers some ass-kicking elevation gain in this stunning wilderness area. The difficulty keeps a lot of folks away, but if you’re up for a challenge, be sure to explore this gem.
Distance: 16.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,931 feet
Difficulty: very difficult
So I almost didn’t put McCurdy on the list, since most would prefer to backpack this route. However, the beauty of McCurdy lies in the fact that you don’t have to do the entire trail to see beautiful rock formations. If you’re an expert hiker, this is one of the most challenging hikes in Colorado near Denver.
Staunton Ranch and Bugling Elk Loop Trail
Distance: 8.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,574 feet
Staunton State Park has some of the best hiking near Denver. It was difficult to choose just one hike in the park to highlight here – but I love the Bugling Elk Loop Trail for its awesome views and meandering landscape. It’s a great one in winter too – just be sure to bring traction, as the trail gets icy.
Know before you go. Here are a few handy resources for your next big hike:
- Leave No Trace basics
- The ultimate beginner’s guide to hiking
- The best hiking clothes for women on any budget
- Hiking footwear explained
- Tips for Aspen viewing
Day Hikes Near Evergreen
Some of the best hiking near Denver can be found just 30 minutes outside of town in Evergreen, Colorado. Evergreen captures the essence of the foothills. Rolling mountains sprinkled with rock and pine trees open up to wide valleys with spanning low-altitude vistas.
Alderfer Three Sisters Trail
Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
The Alderfer Three Sisters open space offers an endless array of hiking trails. This loop offers a good lay of the land without too much of a challenge. It’s easy to break it up into smaller chunks if you’re looking for something with lower miles. Enjoy beautiful views of the nearby foothills under the cover of the pines.
Evergreen Mountain Trail
Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 816 feet
If you’re up for a quick summit, or training hike, climb to the top of Evergreen Mountain! The short mileage and moderate gains make this gem possible during the week. The view from the top is pretty top notch.
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 593 feet
This is my go-to spot when I want to get the dog out but don’t have time for a full-blown epic. Meander the open space and enjoy the spanning meadow views. This hiking trail near Denver is great for wildflower season.
Distance: 8.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,768 feet
If you want a bit more of a challenge, connect the Elk Meadow Trail to Bergen Peak. The result is added elevation gain (and bigger views) for a satisfying workout. This trail makes a great training hike for a Colorado 14er.
Incredible Denver Hiking Trails Near I-70
Continue up I-70 past Evergreen to reach some high altitude day hikes near Denver. This bunch is a bit more committing than the other hikes on this list. Be sure to be prepared for high-alpine conditions. If you do choose to summit a peak, pack properly for a mountain climb and be sure to follow these tips.
Herman and Watrous Gulch
Distance: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,755 feet
Just to be clear, Herman Gulch and Watrous Gulch are completely different hikes. Head to the Herman Gulch Trailhead and go left for Herman or opt to explore Watrous Gulch, its lesser-trafficked neighbor to the right. Either hike is worthwhile and one of the best hikes near Denver thanks to the beautiful mountain scenery and wildflowers along thew ay.
Both trails are about the same in difficulty, the difference being that Herman Gulch is one of the most popular trails in the state – with good reason, it’s dramatic and beautiful. If you’re looking for wildflowers, you can’t go wrong with either trail and both have options to summit nearby peaks.
Grays and Torreys Peak
Distance: 7.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,582 feet
Difficulty: very difficult
Dog-Friendly: Yes – if your dog doesn’t’ mind sharp rocks
Summit two Colorado 14ers in one day along this burly trail. Even though this duo is considered an “easier” Colorado 14er pair, it is anything but. The elevation is demanding and you must take care to start your trip before sunrise in order to avoid bad weather. However, there are no special skills required and even the hike to the base of the mountains is stunning.
Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,530 feet
Mount Sniktau is a great beginner summit or an awesome spot to watch the sun set over the Colorado Rockies. Since this trail is located right off of Loveland Pass, it is not only a great hiking trail near Denver, but it is also easily accessible. If you would like a bit more of a challenge, consider hiking to the top of Grizzly Peak instead.
Be prepared for your big mountain hike with these resources:
- Tips for High Altitude Hikes
- What’s in My Pack? The Ultimate 14er Packing List
- Tips and Tricks for Your First (or 50th) Colorado 14er
- Must-Do “Easier” Colorado 14ers for Your Bucket List
- Amazing 13er Hikes Near Denver
Chicago Lakes Trail
Distance: 8.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,860 feet
Located off of the Mt Evans Scenic Byway, this hike starts out STEEP before leveling off for several miles. Then it climbs again to reach a picture-perfect alpine lake. The start of this trail is typically packed, but it thins out the further you venture. The tough gains are well-worth the effort and having a flat section in the middle of the hike makes it less of a suffer-fest than it looks. This is one of my favorite hikes in Colorado near Denver
Amazing Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the best hiking near Denver. Keep in mind that the park gets busy during the summer months, so a little pre-planning goes a long way. Also, dogs are not allowed on any hiking trails in the park.
Distance: 8.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,765 feet
Arguably the most iconic day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Sky Pond has it all. Plenty of elevation gain, waterfalls, and an unbeatable view of one of Colorado’s best alpine lakes. The surrounding peaks bring a special drama to the place.
For more incredible alpine lakes, check out these 29 incredible lake hikes in Colorado.
Loch Lake Trail
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,072 feet
Unlike it’s cousins at the Bear Lake Trailhead, Loch Lake has a bit more breathing room than Lake Haiyaha and a little less challenge than Sky Pond. Located at the same trailhead as Sky Pond you can opt to carry onwards towards the lake in the sky or spend your time enjoying Lock Lake instead.
Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 864 feet
One of my favorite day hikes near Denver is Lake Haiyaha. This 3.6-mile trail passes by Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake. It’s a great winter snowshoe (just be cautious of a bit of avalanche terrain) and an excellent spot for sunrise. The Bear Lake Parking Lot in Rocky Mountain National Park fills up fast, especially in summer, so get there early unless you want to take the shuttle.
Morrison Area Day Hikes
Right at the base of the mountains near I-70 there are a variety of hikes near Denver. The town of Morrison has a few staples worth exploring if you don’t want to climb into the mountains.
Red Rocks Trading Post Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 357 feet
Red Rocks Amphitheater is one of Colorado’s favorite landmarks. But did you know there are hiking trails near Denver located right near Red Rocks? If you want a simple, flat hiking experience (somewhat rare in the Rocky Mountain State), check out Red Rocks. This family-friendly trail is perfect for small children.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,873 feet
Dog-Friendly: Yes – but some rock hopping is required
Mount Morrison offers a great spot to train for bigger hikes and 14ers. The hike itself pretty much continues to climb uphill until you reach a small section where you’ll need your hands. The danger of falling isn’t great, but if you’re new to scrambling, this is a great spot to learn. The hike tops out with awesome views of Denver.
Day Hikes Near Denver: South
Head towards Castle Rock for a more desert-plains feel. Hikes in these foothills give you great views without boatloads of burly elevation gain.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 885 feet
Hike up to the Devil’s Head Fire Tower in the Rampart Range. This moderate hikes boasts stellar views – on a clear day you can see all the way to Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.
Rim Rock Trail to Creek Trail Loop
Distance: 4.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Castlewood Canyon State Park offers some canyon exploration and hiking near Denver. This short loop is perfect if you want to explore the streem and canyon rim. The views down the canyon are quite spectacular, look for hawks riding the thermals. $5 entry fee to the park.
Roxborough State Park
Elevation Gain: 777 feet
Roxborough State Park offers some excellent terrain for hiking. Most of the trails here are either easy or moderate and all of them offer amazing views, especially in early summer when the green grass contrasts against beautiful red rock formations. There are several trails worth linking to create your own hiking route based on your ability and mileage. The South Rim to Willow Creek to Fountain Valley Loop offers a bird’s-eye view of the park. The trail itself winds its way around the park giving you access to some incredible red-rock vistas. Since Roxborough is a state park, there is a $5 entry into the park and during nice days, the park does fill up, so get here early.
Want more outside time in Colorado? Check out these posts
- Fantastically Free Camping Near Denver
- How to find free camping
- Fantastic fall hikes in Colorado you’ve probably never heard of
- A women’s guide to winter hiking
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Located just west of Boulder, Indian Peaks Wilderness boasts some of the best hikes in Colorado near Denver, without the traffic of I-70. However, everyone knows this, so don’t expect to find solitude here. Regardless, it’s a beautiful spot for hiking among classic Colorado scenery.
Lost Lake Via Hessie Trail
Distance: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 869 feet
It’s easy to see why this trail sees so much traffic. it’s a beautiful trail with plenty of wildflowers, but doesn’t take too much effort. Opt to start early to beat the weekend rush. Bring a tasty snack or lunch to enjoy the epic beauty of Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Cascade Creek to Mirror Lake
Distance: 14.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,375 feet
This is the furthest day hike from Denver on the list. However, it’s one of best hikes in Colorado. The hike itself isn’t hard, but it’s long. I would certainly recommend obtaining backpacking permits for this area – it’s that drop-dead gorgeous. However, if you’re short on time and an able hiker, opt to start this hike right before sunrise. Lone Eagle Peak reflects perfectly off of Mirror Lake in the morning light.
Lake Isabelle Trail
Distance: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,030 feet
Lake Isabelle is a beautiful alpine lake situated among a few dramatic peaks with permanent snow fields. The winter trail adds an additional three miles to what’s listed here. Despite this, Lake Isabelle is a fantastic day hike near Denver perfect for any season.
This extensive list of the best day hikes near Denver offers perfect hiking experiences for any tastes or abilities. Get out there and hike these fantastic trails this season!