There is almost no end to the number of trails and backcountry treks in this part of the world, and most, if not all of them, are worthy of your attention. I am very confident that trekkers will be satisfied, nay astonished, with this top 10 hikes in Colorado.
Rain, thunder, wind, cold, heat; all of these could potentially ruin a great trek and leave you in a dangerous situation. It would be such a shame to start one of the best hikes in Colorado and have to turn back because you weren’t prepared for the elements.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen hikers with poor equipment (seriously, some have been barefoot) bail out early because the going was too tough. We’ve spent hundreds of hours testing, reviewing, and abusing a lot of gear, and have become pretty good at separating the heroes from the zeroes.
This insider guide will show you Colorado’s best hikes source: Roaming Ralph Below are a series of gear reviews that will put you in touch with everything you need to have a successful, enjoyable, and safe hiking adventure.
Don’t be a rook and bring a brand-new pair of hiking boots or use your smartphone as a flashlight. You can attempt many of them during the winter with the proper gear and preparation, but I must remind you that the Rocky Mountains are very cold at this time.
Do your part to help keep these trails clean and beautiful, and always practice leave no trace principles when camping or trekking in the backcountry. Often times there is a reason you must stick to the trails, especially in protected reserves, parks, and lands.
Pick either trail at the fork (both form the loop and lead to one another) and start walking up. Most of the time, you will have up close and very personal views of mountains like Trail Rider, Snow mass, and Maroon Peak.
There are several waterfalls along the way and, depending on the time of year, endless fields of wildflowers. There are several geologic wonders in this area so expect all sorts of hues from red to blue to green.
We’d recommend finding a nice place in Aspen to stay overnight before you start your travels. If you don’t want to drive to the pick-up point yourself, you can take the bus from Downtown Aspen directly to the Ski area.
The lake itself is worth the relatively moderate hike; throw in some spectacular wildflowers and a theater of 13ers, and you’ve got yourself a no-brainer. The hike starts near South Mineral Campground, which is located near Silverton, at a manageable grade before leveling at Lower Ice Lake.
The trail into the upper basin steepens considerably, but give it a good push, and you’ll make it soon enough. It is an extremely deep shade of blue, surrounded by a number of gorgeous peaks.
This high point offers amazing views of the surrounding landscape, but reaching it is not for the faint-hearted. From Silverton, you’ll head towards Highway 550 and drive north until the Country Road 7 turn.
The hike to Sky Pond begins at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, which is located on the extremely busy Bear Lake Road. If you’re visiting during the busy season and can’t make it early in the morning, you should probably rely on the local Rocky Mountain shuttle then.
Once you’ve started walking, the first point you’ll reach is Albert Falls. The trail becomes rough at this point, and you’ll have to do a bit of scrambling, notably at Timberline Falls, but once you overcome these obstacles, you’re gravy.
If you’re staying in Denver or Boulder, plan in 2 hours of driving until you reach the trailhead. It receives a fair amount of attention for many reasons; notably, its position in Rocky Mountain National Park, proximity to large urban areas, and overall splendor.
The climb to the top of Longs Peak is certainly one of the best hikes near Denver and arguably one of the most gratifying in the state. Avalanches, thunderstorms, rock slides, and all sorts of other dangerous unknowns can pose a fatal situation for hikers.
On that note, it is always recommended that you make an alpine start to avoid getting caught in an afternoon storm. Most people with good fitness and a fair amount of outdoor experience will be able to finish this climb.
The Keyhole, a distinct landmark, is the only non-technical way to the peak and, though there’s a fair bit boulder hopping and exposure, many still make it to the top via this route. If you should make it to the top of Longs Peak, then congratulations; you just knocked out one of Colorado’s great 14ers.
The hike officially starts at the Cascade Creek Trailhead, which is on the other side of Monarch Lake. The trail is manageable most of the time though there are some steep sections and forks that you’ll have to be aware of.
Along the way, you’ll pass waterfalls, wildflowers, and the occasional rushed day hiker. We’d recommend finding nice accommodation around Monarch Lake before you start the hike.
Depending on what your idea of a reasonable drive is, the Missouri Lakes is certainly one of the easiest hikes near Denver, at least if you’re looking for scenery like this. The Missouri Lakes is a gorgeous group of high alpine bodies set in a wonderful cirque of Rocky Mountain peaks.
The basin hosting these lakes is quite large and there is plenty of room to explore and make camp. On that note, we highly recommend staying the night here; all you need to do is fill out a free overnight permit at the trailhead.
The South Colony Lakes Trail is the most popular hike near Denver that no one has ever heard about. Infamous among outdoor junkies for its alpine scenery and the legendary Crest one Needle, there are few hikes in the state that are as complete as this one.
The Crest one Group is located near the border of New Mexico in the Sanger de Cristo Range. The South Colony Lakes Trailhead is located on a rough dirt road that may require a 4×4 vehicle.
Most camp here in order to make summit pushes to either Crest one Needle or Humboldt Peak early the next morning. Regardless if you intend to climb or not (you must be prepared to), the area is still stunning, and spending an evening here is a great experience.
Whereas many of Colorado’s hikes are about mountain vista and epic views, Lost Creek is a far more intimate experience. You’ll be trading in climbing mountains for navigating gulches, but regardless of these differences Lost Creek is still one of the coolest hikes in Colorado.
In fact, many people fall in love with Lost Creek because it offers such a different experience. Along with this trail, you’ll see lots of unique landmarks, like great stone towers, huge meadows, and winding creeks.
The closest accommodations can be found in Jefferson, CO. From here, drive 28 miles on Highway 77 until you reach the Lost Creek Trailhead on the left. Thanks to its relative proximity to Denver as well as ease, Huron Peak is also one of the best day hikes in the state.
After making a left turn, just past the old mining town, the parking area for 2WD vehicles is roughly 0.1 miles away. The trailhead is located just past the main parking area, roughly 2.1 miles from Winfield.
The Penuche Wilderness, found between Durango and Silverton, is probably the finest portion of the entire Colorado Rocky Mountains. This loop leads you through most of the Penuche’s finest portions and is not only one of the backpacking trips in Colorado, but one of the best trails in the entire USA as well.
There are lots of logistics involved with this region; getting to the trailhead (Elk Park) requires a ride on the local historical train and there is no way around this, unfortunately. Luckily, there are quite a few accommodations really close to the train station where you can rest your head before the hike.