The Best Colorado Hikes to Add to Your Bucket List

Last Updated on June 13, 2024 by foxintheforest

After living in Colorado for over 15 years, I’ve scoured the landscape to find the best hikes in Colorado. From jaw-dropping mountain vistas to quirky sandstone monoliths, there are all sorts of hiking to do in Colorado.

This ultimate guide to the best hikes in Colorado gives you an array of local hiking recommendations for all abilities. These hiking trails in Colorado each offer something a little different and help you build your skills as a mountain hiker.

I’ve decided to organize this post a little bit differently. I want you to have access to on-the-ground, local knowledge (hello beating the crowds), so you’ll find this list broken up so that you know which popular hikes are worth your time, and which aren’t

I’ve been on each of these hiking trails several different times. As a Colorado local and writer for the outdoor industry, I’m a total pro at hitting the most amazing hikes in Colorado without the crowds.

It’s my mission to get you out on the best Colorado hiking trails like a local, not a tourist. Inside this guide you’ll find tons of info about the most scenic Colorado hikes and how to visit them without the crowds.

The Most Scenic Hikes in Colorado That Are Worth the Hassle

There are over 17,000 named trails in Colorado and here are the standouts. But here’s the catch – EVERYONE knows these are beautiful, so they are insanely popular.

I’ve done each of these hikes multiple times over many years. I keep coming back either for the unique nature of the hike, multiple options for side trips, or simply because I love them!

However, I’m often the only one here when I go (yes, I’ve been to all of these, multiple times). Planning to arrive at the highlight of the hike usually brings fewer crowds in my experience.

Check out my exclusive video about how to beat the crowds at the top hikes in Colorado in just 3 minutes!

Garden of the Gods Loop

So the Garden of the Gods isn’t so much a hike as it is a trip to a city park, but it’s worth mentioning because this is not your average city park.

I’ve been on this trail a bunch, I have friends in Colorado Springs so I usually opt to do a quick trail run early in the morning before I go see them. Honestly, early in the morning is the only way you should see this spot. Just set your expectations correctly – this isn’t totally a hike, but it’s not a walk either.

Hiking at Garden of the Gods is one of the top-rated things to do in Colorado. These stunning sandstone monoliths inspire the imagination.

Most trails are suitable for beginners, and there are even paved trails for accessible hiking. As one of Colorado’s best hiking destinations, you’ve got to scope out the Garden of the Gods and enjoy one of the fun things to do in Colorado Springs.

Distance: 3.7 miles
Elevation gain:
416 feet
Difficulty:
easy
Red Tape and Local Tips:
Beat the crowds and go early. Dog-friendly.
Crowds: Extremely crowded. Plan for a sunrise walk or visit during the week to avoid the crowds.
Location: Colorado Springs

One of the best things to do in Colorado is go hiking. These are the best hiking trails in Colorado according to a local. Explore the most scenic spots in Colorado along these amazing hikes. This list includes hikes near Denver, Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, Great Sand Dunes National Park and more. Get amazing hiking recommendations for your vacation to Colorado. #hiking #colorado #outdoors

Fountain Valley Trail

Roxborough State Park is arguably the prettiest state park in Colorado. If you want to hike this trail, get here early because once the parking is full in the park, you’ll have to wait to get in!

When I do this hike it’s usually during the week later in spring, early in the morning. I love to run this one, but I’d never venture here on a weekend. After work isn’t a bad time to swing by either.

This trail is so lovely that is popular among hikers, birders, and cross-country skiers alike.

Along the hike, take in the Fountain and Lyons rock formations that surround you.

You’ll also experience medium elevation changes as you ascend the loop and see historic buildings created by Henry S. Persse in the early 1900s.

Distance: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 344 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips: It costs $4.00 per person to enter this park and dogs/bikes are not allowed.
Crowds: Extremely crowded. The park does fill up on weekends and wait times are long. Be here by 8 am to avoid crowds.
Location: Roxborough State Park

Mayflower Gulch

This is my favorite place to take out-of-town visitors on a scenic jaunt. I’ve been here probably 6 or so times during all seasons of the year. In fact, I’ve actually climbed all of the mountains you see along this hike too – so I’ve thoroughly explored Mayflower Gulch. My favorite time to go is early in the morning in July on a weekday.

Mayflower Gulch is a spectacular wildflower hike in Colorado and is home to some of the best Colorado wildflowers of them all.

The low mileage and incredibly dramatic scenery make for a great hike. Afterward, check out the sights in nearby Dillon, Frisco, and Breckenridge.

Pro Tip: If you’re into hiking up peaks, this trailhead offers access to some of the best 13ers in Colorado.

Distance: 2.6 miles
Elevation gain:
1,141 feet
Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips:
Dog-friendly
Crowds: Busy throughout the year. Start by 8 am.
Location: Near Copper Mountain

best hiking trails in colorado

Dream Lake, Nymph Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Haiyaha

I’ve done this loop probably close to 10 times at this point in one way, shape, or form. There is a lot of alpine climbing in the area and I’m usually here before the sun comes up so I can climb all the mountains that make up the backdrop of these stunning lakes.

Typically I’m passing by around sunrise, and no one is around. So if you want to see what many claim is one of the busiest trails in the country without 100s of people, sunrise is the way to go.

It’s a stunning area. My advice would be to go to Emerald Lake for sunrise, then swing back down to dream and head up to Haiyaha before returning to your car.

If that’s too much, then skip Haiyaha.

One of my favorite times I’ve ever been out hiking was when we experienced a sunrise on a windless day at Dream Lake in the winter.

For a mellow introduction to hiking in the park, hit up the 4 iconic alpine lakes – including the famous Emerald Lake along this famous hiking trail. In fact, this is one of the best lake hikes in Colorado and hiking Lake Haiyaha is a real treat for winter.

Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 864
Difficulty: easy
Red Tape and Local Tips: This trail gets crowded and if you can’t park in the Bear Lake Lot, you’ll be taking the bus in. Arrive at the TH before 7 am. No dogs. It’s $25 to enter the park.
Crowds: Extremely crowded. This is one of the most popular trails in the state and the lake of parking doesn’t stop anyone. If you want any sense of solitude, start by 4:30 am and see a sunrise here. Even still, expect people, but you’ll be hanging out with handfuls instead of hundreds.
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park

Get the inside scoop on this Colorado Classic on my YouTube Channel

Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail

The Maroon Bells is one of those places that took me far too long to see. I’ve since been back a few times for burly trail runs and backpacking trips – there’s a lot to do here.

The area is easily one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, and as such there is a confusing permit system to access the area.

We had this place to ourselves when we arrived at 5:30 am on the 4th of July. Yes, you read that correctly – totally crazy and unexpected I’m not going to lie.

Parking and figuring out how to visit is a bit of a pain, so see my guide to the various Maroon Bells hikes.

In my opinion, it’s worth it to continue on to Crater Lake and a bit beyond on the West Maroon Pass trail to get a top-down view of the lake.

Distance: 1.9 miles with options for more challenging hikes.
Elevation Gain: 49 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Red Tape and Local Tips: No dogs are allowed and you’ll need an advanced parking reservation or shuttle reservation when the road to the trailhead is open.
Crowds: Crowded with permits. The reservations make this not-so-bad, but it can be extremely crowded with tourists if you’re here in the middle of the day when the busses are running.
Location: Aspen

hiking tails maroon bells

Alderfer Three Sisters Trail

So I run this trail almost every week and I’ve probably been here close to 70 times by now. It’s in my back yard so it’s kinda strange to include it on this list, but it’s my favorite hike in Evergreen and a really great hike to do if you don’t want to go too far from Denver.

I really love checking out the rocky outcrop lookout point. You’ll get great views of the foothills here.

It’s one of the easiest hikes near Denver which makes it really accessible and great for afterward or a quick trail run!

Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
Difficulty: easy/moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: dog-friendly
Crowds: Extremely crowded. Visit during the week if you want to avoid crowds.
Location: Evergreen

South Colony Lakes

This is one of my favorite beginner backpacking trips to recommend to folks. I’ve spent many nights here, mostly to climb the nearby 14ers, but we love to soak up the views at South Colony Lakes too.

Every time I’ve been here we’ve encountered aggressive mountain sheep, so keep your head on a swivel!

What I love so much about South Colony Lakes are the views of the Crestones – which is one of the prettiest mountain cirques in the state.

South Colony Lakes holds a special place in my heart. Crestone Peak and the Crestone Needle, two of Colorado’s most famous 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet high), create a beautifully dramatic backdrop. Most people opt to backpack this trail since you’ll find it hard to leave.

Distance: 8.9 miles
Elevation gain:
2,286 feet
Difficulty:
easy to difficult depending on the trailhead you use.
Red Tape and Local Tips:
This trail mostly follows a road and requires a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to reach the upper trailhead.
Busy to crowded: If you’re backpacking here, it’s considered crowded.
Location: South of Westcliffe

Local Tip: If you can make it to the upper TH, you’ll knock off about 1,000 feet of gain and 3-ish miles of hiking round trip.

Keep in mind wag bags are required here. If you aren’t cozy pooping in a bag and packing it out, stay home.

best hikes in colorado

Loch Lake Hike

I really love the Loch – it doesn’t get enough love. Although it’s well-known and crowded, many people use it as a stepping stone to other areas of the park. But if you don’t want to hike a whole ton and still want to enjoy some of the best scenery in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Loch is the way to go.

I alpine climb (that’s climbing cliff faces with ropes) in Rocky and I frequently visit the Loch. In fact, it’s one of my favorite spots to stop and take a break later in the afternoon after a long day of climbing.

The hike to Loch Lake is quite stunning, and a must-visit for any moderate hiker. The trail varies in terrain, going from forested canyons to eye-opening alpine vistas. You can even continue on to the famous Sky Pond.

Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,072
Difficulty: Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: No dogs. It’s $25 to enter the park.
Crowds: Extremely crowded. Plan a pre-dawn hike if you want solitude. However, if you want to do this, I’d suggest linking the Loch with a few other points of interest in the neighborhood!
Location: Glacier Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park

Sky Pond Colorado
A look at the lovely views from the Loch. Don’t worry, you don’t need a helmet or ropes to reach Sky Pond, but each time I hike this trail, I’m usually climbing and have to carry my gear in.

Hanging Lake

As one of the topmost scenic hikes in Colorado, Hanging Lake is on everyone’s to-do list. There’s a good reason for it: Hanging Lake LOOKS like a place where fairies and gnomes would live.

And I’ll admit it, I actually kept this one off my list for a long time because of the crowds. Once the hike got permitted, I finally decided to check it out.

The first time I went was during a 6 am timeslot on a Tuesday in May. My friend and I had the entire place to ourselves. It was absolute magic.

I’ve been back 3 times since during different times of the year. Even when it’s busy during the day in the summer, it never really feels totally packed thanks to the permits.

Drones and dogs are NOT allowed, and there’s no swimming at the lake. You can only access this trail via a gated highway exit and you must have a permit in order to be let in the gate.

Distance: 3 miles
Elevation gain:
1,135 feet
Difficulty:
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips:
Beat the crowds and go for sunrise. There’s a $12 per-person permit required to hike. No dogs.
Crowds: Busy with permits. I’ve done this multiple times – the 6 am timeslot is best.
Location: Near Glenwood Springs

Local Tip: Hanging Lake has been experiencing temporary closures in 2024 due to trail maintenance from the 2021 landslides. Always check on the permit website for the most accurate and up-to-date info!

The best permit slot to go for if you like solitude in my video!

Cascade Creek to Mirror Lake

So this might actually be my all-time favorite hike on this list. The Indian Peaks Wilderness is stunning and nothing quite captures that like the dramatic Lone Eagle Peak.

We started at 5 am from the trailhead and had this place to ourselves. Moose are frequent visitors on the trail – I’ve seen up to 5 in one day here – so if you do bring your dog, make sure they are on a leash.

When we went early we got to see that perfect reflection on the lake before the morning breeze picked up. There were quite a few people heading up when we left.

One of the best hikes in Colorado is the iconic Mirror Lake. Head up early to catch a perfect reflection of the stunning Lone Eagle Peak on Mirror Lake. The trail to the lake isn’t particularly difficult, but it is long.

Distance: 14.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,375 feet
Difficulty: moderate/difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: Dog-friendly. Permits are required for an overnight.
Crowds: Busy to crowded. Start by 8 am.
Location: Indian Peaks Wilderness

things to do in Colorado in the summer

Mount Bierstadt Trail

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mt Bierstadt. This was my first Colorado 14er (almost a decade ago – wow!). It’s also a beautiful hike. If you want to beat the crowds, start at 3 AM or go for a sunset summit. Super awesome!

Don’t be like me – I forgot to pack gloves and a hat. It was well below freezing at the top – in July!

I’ve done every route on Bierstadt and they are all great, but the standard route is a classic hiking summit.

Located a little over an hour away from Denver, near Silver Plume, Colorado is this amazing trail. It’s a popular, but challenging, 7.5-mile, out-and-back hike that will take you through the gorgeous, Mt Blue Sky (formerly Mt Evans) Wilderness area.

It’s also an iconic beginner Colorado 14er so if you can, come early (6 am to hike safely and avoid summer storm cycles).

Local Tip: The road to the trailhead closes every winter, so check conditions before heading out. Typically the trail is snow-free from mid-June through mid-October.

Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation gain: 2,782 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: Dogs allowed on a leash
Crowds: Extremely crowded. In my opinion, Bierstadt is better than Quandary overall as a 14er, but this peak boarders on over-rated.
Location: Guanella Pass

beautiful colorado hikes

Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail

I’ve climbed a lot in the Sky Pond basin and it still never ceases to amaze me. Lots of people don’t know it, but the spires that make up that iconic view? Home to some of the best alpine rock climbing in the country.

The hike can be a bit slick towards the top, but if you take your time, it’s very doable. Don’t stop at the first lake – keep going. Once you get to the second lake that’s Sky Pond!

Nearly every hiker who visits Rocky takes on the challenge of reaching Sky Pond. This is by far one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Living up to its namesake, this beautiful alpine lake hosts an array of skyscraping rock formations that seem to defy gravity.

Distance: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,870
Difficulty: Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: This hike becomes impassible in winter due to avalanche terrain and steep ice. No dogs. It’s $25 to enter the park.
Crowds: Extremely crowded. Start at 3:30 am if you want solitude (and parking). The early start is for parking, the lot will fill, then you’ll be forced to wait for the bus or start at the Bear Lake Trail, which adds quite a bit of mileage.
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park

best hikes in colorado

Colorado Trail

I included this trail here because if you’re hiking many of the mountain ranges in Colorado, chances are you’ll spend at least a little bit of time on the CT (Colorado Trail).

I’ve actually hiked over 130 miles of this 486-mile-thru hike. In fact, I have a tattoo of the trail symbol. Inside the symbol, I have a scene of my dog and I hiking the trail together. It’s a great way to remember her.

Most segments should be done as a backpack or shuttling cars. It’s a pretty cool way to see the state, so if you’re an intrepid hiker, you can tick off segments, take it on in full, or backpack chunks of this trail.

Although it’s not technically a day hike, you can’t mention the best hiking in Colorado without mentioning the Colorado Trail and Kenosha Pass. This 486-mile trail stretches from Denver to Durango and is the highest thru-hike in America.

The trail is broken into 28 segments, most of which can be done in a day or as an overnight.

The entire trail takes around 1 month to complete as a thru-hike. Keep in mind that you’ll need to shuttle cars from point A to point B if you’re section hiking. Most segments fall within the moderate to upper end of difficult. Some notable segments are:

  • Segment 1 near Denver (no dogs allowed)
  • Segment 6 over Kenosha Pass
  • Segment 7 in the Tenmile Range
  • Segment 11 at the Mount Massive Trailhead
  • Segment 24 at Stony Pass
  • Segment 25 at Molas Pass

Crowds: Varies GREATLY. Anything that’s near the Front Range is busy to crowded. Most of the trail is at least busy, especially anything within the day-tripping range.
Location: Denver to Durango

best places to hike in colorado

Lesser-Known Hikes I Love

These are still pretty popular trails, but they aren’t always on the tourist radar or they have far more popular counterparts nearby.

(If you’re looking for a list of secret hikes in Colorado, I’ve got you covered though).

Gem Lake via Lumpy Ridge

This one has gotten busier over the years, but I still love a good hike to Gem Lake. Yet another spot frequented by my climbing antics, I’ve been here a few times.

Fun fact: My partner proposed to me not too far from Gem Lake.

It’s a great alternative to the main area of RMNP, Lumpy Ridge – where you’ll find Gem Lake – has a different feel.

Made famous for being one of the best rock climbing areas in Colorado, this area is also home to some amazing hikes. Check out the famous Gem Lake for stunning views of strange rock pinnacles and mountain vistas.

Distance: 3.1
Elevation Gain: 990
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: No dogs. It’s free, but you need a timed entry.
Crowds: Crowded. Plan to start your hike by 7 am if you want to avoid crowds.
Location: Lumpy Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park

hikes in rocky mountain national park

Mount Sniktau

So long-time locals might roll their eyes at me saying Mt Sniktau is lesser-known, but compared to nearby Grays and Torreys, this one sees less traffic.

I hike Sniktau every year. I’ve done it in all of the seasons, but a late summer sunset jaunt is my personal favorite. We love to pack a picnic burrito and head up here to watch the sunset. It’s worth it to ramble around on the other side of Loveland Pass too if this hike isn’t enough for you.

If you’re just getting into summiting mountains, then head up to the top of Mount Sniktau. Even seasoned mountain hikers will love the glorious views.

Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,530 feet
Difficulty: moderate/difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: dog-friendly.
Crowds: Busy to crowded. It can be packed at the start of the trail, but most people are just venturing a few hundred yards from their car. If you want some solitude, consider a sunset jaunt.
Location: Loveland Pass

Here’s a look at my all-time favorite summit hikes in Colorado that DON’T require special gear!

Ptarmigan Lake

People do know about Ptarmigan Lake, but it doesn’t show up on many best-of lists, which is why I included it here.

We stumbled across this gem of a hike and it was such a beautiful discovery. One of my fondest memories was from this hike – the water color and the dusting of snow made for a magical scene!

This is one of the best fall hikes in Colorado that doesn’t get smashed with people. The beautiful scenery passes by a few small lakes and ponds before the final push to Ptarmigan Lake.

Distance: 6 miles
Elevation gain:
1,469 feet
Difficulty:
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips:
Dog-friendly
Crowds: Busy to crowded. Plan an 8 am start.
Location: Sawatch Range

best hikes in colorado

Devil’s Canyon

I actually bumped into Devil’s Canyon by accident, but I’m glad I found this diamond in the rough. We hiked this after a snowy night and seeing the red sandstone cliffs dusted in snow was just magic.

Devil’s Canyon is one of my favorite Winter hikes in Colorado because it’s a break from dangerous, cold, snow-filled mountains. We try to come out here at least once a year.

The canyon itself features gorgeous sandstone formations and plenty of beautiful scenery. Seeing it dusted in snow is a true treat.

Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation gain:
764 feet
Difficulty:
Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips:
dog-friendly
Crowds: Busy
Location: Outside of Grand Junction

best winter hiking in colorado

Classic Colorado Hikes that Appear on Best-of Lists, but Aren’t Worth the Hype

Alright – admittedly, these are pretty hot takes since this is a bit subjective, but hear me out. Each of these hikes often appears on other generic “best of” lists you’ll find on the internet, but I think that there’s something seriously lacking in each one.

Of course, you may enjoy them and that’s totally okay, but my experiences here weren’t great. I’ll explain why each of these is over-rated in their descriptions, but I definitely encourage you to get out there and see for yourself. These are still beautiful hikes.

Star Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park

So my idea of a good time is NOT walking up a giant sand hill. Personally, I think that the Great Sand Dunes National Park is stunning, but Star Dune is a huge pain in the ass. In my opinion, there are better ways to enjoy the dunes. But if you REALLY like suffering, this one is for you.

The Great Sand Dunes rise almost randomly out of the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As a sacred site for nearby Native Americans, these sand dunes boast magical scenery. Star Dune is the largest of them all.

Distance: 3 miles
Elevation gain:
629 feet
Difficulty:
Difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips:
This isn’t so much of a trail, as it is walking up a steep, squishy sand hill – hence the difficulty. This trail is dog-friendly, but dogs are not allowed past this point.
Crowds: Not too busy. Climbing sand hills kind of sucks.

hiking trails in colorado

Herman Gulch

Herman Gulch used to be really great like 6 years ago. Again, another hike I’ve had plenty of experience with (I’ve climbed the Citadel and the other nearby peaks you see along the hike). But with such easy access from Denver, this place is PACKED with people year-round at all hours of the day.

I’m talking about expecting to park on the highway off-ramp, even early in the morning. The throngs of folks have REALLY ruined this place. Not to mention, people love to pick the wildflowers (don’t, it’s horrible for the alpine environment) and act disrespectfully.

Herman Gulch is one of the most accessible high-alpine hiking trails in Colorado. This trail offers amazing hiking year-round. One of the best times to go is for the July wildflower bloom, but you’ll be dealing with hordes of humans.

Distance: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,755 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: Don’t pick or prance around in the wildflowers. Enjoy the scenery from the trail to avoid tramping this beloved environment. Dog-friendly.
Crowds: Extremely crowded (year-round at this point). This is one of the most crowded trailheads in all of Colorado. Plan a pre-dawn hike if you want a sense of solitude, otherwise this trail is over-rated.
Location: Near Silver Plume

best hiking trails in Colorado

Ice Lake in the San Juan Mountains

Okay, so I’m probably going to catch a lot of hate for this one, but I thought Ice Lake was overrated. Yes, it’s gorgeous – not going to argue that at all.

BUT Instagram has completely ruined this spot. First, you’re not allowed to camp at the lake and lots of people do.

I saw so much trash on the trail, people ignoring signs, going unprepared, people influencing everywhere, etc. It was just awful and it ruined the experience for me. Personally, I prefer nearby Columbine Lake.

It’s probably worth doing once but get to the trailhead by 4 am to miss the riff-raff.

The unbelievable electric blue waters of Ice Lake are impressive to see.

Climb your way up to Island Lake (another 15 to 20-minute walk) for a scene that is simply jaw-dropping.

Distance: 8.1 miles
Elevation gain:
3,093 feet
Difficulty:
Difficult
Red Tape
and Local Tips: This is a well-known spot. Opt to get their early or make it an overnight to get more time.
Crowds: Extreme crowds. Honestly, it’s a shame. It’s a lovely hike – super beautiful, but the Insta-hungry, disrespectful visitors make this hike pretty overrated. We started at 6 am and the parking lot was almost full. Plan to start before dawn if you want to miss the bad behavior.
Location: Near Ouray

Ice Lake Basin in Colorado

First and Second Flatiron

I do NOT see the appeal of the Flatirons. First, you hike up to get a view of Boulder – which is a sprawling suburb with a university campus in the middle of it.

Second, I really hate that Boulder makes you pay to park at all of their parks unless you’re from Boulder. It’s really not a great look.

And third, it’s stupidly crowded here. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve climbed, soloed, trail ran, etc here and I just can’t get into it.

However, it is only about a 30-minute drive away from Denver and has bus access so I get why people come.

As one of the classic Boulder hikes, you’ll get an up-close view of the famous Flatirons, which are cool, but not worth the crowds in my opinion.

The trail starts mellow and quickly builds up to steep elevation gains. Therefore, be prepared to do a bit of scrambling before savoring the incredible views all around you.

Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,446 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Red Tape and Local Tips: Dog-friendly and very crowded. Hike in the morning on a weekday for some solitude.
Crowds: Extremely crowded. I really don’t get the hype for this one, but people love it! Don’t expect to find any solitude here as it’s pretty much always got plenty of people on it.

Chicago Lakes Trail

I can name about 15 alpine lakes in Colorado that are prettier than Chicago Lakes. I’ve hiked this trail in the winter and the summer and found it to be mediocre.

I much prefer heading to Crystal Lakes one basin over. Father Dyer is an awesome peak, and it’s a quieter experience, which is saying something because there’s a 4×4 road that goes to the lakes.

But a TON of people love this one, so check it out and see for yourself.

Chicago Lakes starts off steep and mellows out as it meanders down a valley toward the backside of Mount Blue Sky. When it comes to hikes in Colorado, Chicago Lakes delivers varied scenery.

Combine this hike with one of the most scenic drives near Denver for an epic day outside.

Distance: 8.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,860 feet
Difficulty: moderate/difficult
Red Tape and Local Tips: dog-friendly.
Crowds: Extremely crowded. Start by 6 am.

Tips for Hiking in Colorado: Important Safety Info

Hiking safely and responsibly in the mountains is your responsibility. I have a complete guide to hiking in Colorado that gives you the inside scoop on everything you need to know, including when it’s safe to hike, how to time your hike, and more. So certainly check that out if you’re new to hiking in Colorado (yes, other mountains are different).

But if you’re too lazy to read another post, here are a few quick tips:

Start early! Afternoon thunderstorms are dangerous and kill hikers each year. Not to mention, if you start before the sun rises, you’ll have these popular Colorado hikes to yourself.

Acclimatize properly. Hiking at altitude is tough work. Plan on resting more and drinking water often.

Follow Leave No Trace and pick up after yourself (bonus points if you pick up other’s waste too!).

Don’t poop above treeline. Waste does not break down this high up. Carry a wag bag and pack your poop out or stay below the trees!

Check and double-check the weather. Storms come in quickly and the weather changes on a dime here. Always understand that the weather generally comes from the west, and keep an eye on storms.

Map of Colorado Hikes You’ve Got to Check Out

Since I organized this post in a way that helps you choose which trail is right for you, I wanted you to get oriented. Here’s a may of the top Colorado hikes I’ve mentioned in this post, and a few extras.

Colorado hikes map
Check out the interactive map to save locations that interest you.

What to Bring

Don’t get caught unprepared, here’s what you should bring with you:

What to wear:

  • Sunshirt
  • Noncotton socks
  • Hiking footwear with good traction that you are comfortable wearing all day. 
  • Non-cotton shorts for hiking
  • Or non-cotton, pants for hiking. Convertible pants are great too!
  • Non-cotton shirt for hiking

What to bring:

amazing hiking in colorado

Planning a trip to Colorado? Check out these kick-ass resources:

One of the best things to do in Colorado is go hiking. These are the best hiking trails in Colorado according to a local. Explore the most scenic spots in Colorado along these amazing hikes. This list includes hikes near Denver, Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, Great Sand Dunes National Park and more. Get amazing hiking recommendations for your vacation to Colorado. #hiking #colorado #outdoors
One of the best things to do in Colorado is go hiking. These are the best hiking trails in Colorado according to a local. Explore the most scenic spots in Colorado along these amazing hikes. This list includes hikes near Denver, Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, Great Sand Dunes National Park and more. Get amazing hiking recommendations for your vacation to Colorado. #hiking #colorado #outdoors

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Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.