Guest Post by Mike Miller
If you had to ask me, Colorado is hands down one of the best states for hiking.
Its central location gives you the peaks of the Rocky Mountains without the heat of Arizona or the winds of Wyoming. Also, it’s greenery makes the mountains some of the most spectacular you’ll find in the U.S.A.
To help show you this beauty, here are the top five day hikes for Colorado visitors.
These hikes are all relatively close to Denver. They’re accessible by anyone visiting the city, and I’ve given a variety of difficulties for you to explore.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Deer Creek Canyon Loop
Park: Deer Creek Canyon
Location: Littleton, CO (40 minutes southwest of Denver)
Distance: 2.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Best For: Families close to Denver
We’re gonna start this post off with a simple hike. This short trail is close to Denver but gives you plenty of hills, twists, and turns.
The distance is short (only 2.7 miles), but if you had to ask me, that’s “just right.” 2.7 miles is enough to get your heart beating, but it’s short enough that you can do it twice (in case you want to really push it).
This trail is great for families thanks to its short distance, convenient location, and accommodating picnic area as well. It’s got a solid mix of trees and views that everyone will enjoy.
Last thing. Since this is in the foothills, there could be snakes. Take care with little children
Fern Falls Trail
Park: Rocky Mountain National Park
Location: 67 miles northeast of Denver
Distance: 5.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 547 feet
Best For: Intermediate hikers who want to see all that Colorado offers
Rocky Mountain National Park is hands down one of the prettiest parks I’ve ever been to. No matter which trail you take at RMNP, you won’t be disappointed.
However, Fern Falls is one of the best all-around hikes at the park. That’s because of its moderate difficulty and distance combined with its over-the-top beauty.
A great feature is that this trail can be extended with a hike up to Fern Lake, which adds another 2 miles (and 1,000 ft up!). That makes this trail great for the beginner or expert.
Tip: this trail can get a little steeper. I recommend bringing hiking poles if you have them.
RMNP is only about 2 hours away from Denver and has a ton of options. If you can make the trip, definitely do it.
Park: Chautauqua Park
Location: 2 miles southwest of Boulder
Distance: 1.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Best For: Boulder visitors who want a quick cardio loop
This list would be incomplete if I didn’t mention a trail near Boulder, Colorado. Boulder itself is a city packed full of nightlife, restaurants, and a vibrant tourism area. But, it’s most well known for its hiking.
I added the Chautauqua Hike because, despite its low difficulty, this is a gorgeous loop. You get a great view of Boulder as well as the stunning agriculture and greenery. Plus, this trail is literally right outside Boulder.
You might balk wt the short trail length, but don’t worry, there are tons of trails connected to this loop. No matter what distance you want, this is a stellar choice for Boulder visitors.
Monument Canyon Trail
Park: Colorado National Monument Park
Location: Grand Junction, CO (4 hours west of Denver)
Distance: 11 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
Best For: Weathered distance hikers who want the full canyon adventure
For a little variety, here’s a trail in west Colorado. As you head farther west, Colorado slowly starts looking more like Utah. You’ll find fewer trees and more red rocks formations. This trail is an excellent opportunity to check out the canyons of the west without leaving Colorado.
Colorado National Monument Park is on the border with Utah. Near the city of Grand Junction, this town is 4 hours from Denver but offers plenty of places to stay overnight and eat.
This park is loved by hikers and cyclists alike thanks to its winding curves. It became popular in the 1980's thanks to the Coors Classic bike race, which attracts cyclists from far and wide.
Don’t be scared off by this trail’s distance. The park offers ample opportunity for shorter hikes. Even driving through the park will give you a taste of the spectacular sights available to you here.
Park: South Park
Location: 2 hours, 15 minutes southwest of Denver
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,100 feet
Best For: Elevation junkies who want the full Colorado experience
This list would be remiss without a 14er.
Uninitiated Coloradans might not know what a “14er” is. A “fourteener” is a nickname given to trails or peaks that exceed fourteen thousand feet in elevation. While they’re not distinct to Colorado, their prevalence in the state has made hiking fourteeners a Colorado tradition.
Mt. Sherman is hands down the easiest fourteen. It’s only 5 miles long and is also super close to Denver. This makes it extremely convenient for visitors.
To learn more about fourteeners and to find ones near you, definitely check out 14ers.com.
A few tips on fourteeners. Make sure you show up early. Their elevation makes them highly popular and trafficked, and you don’t want to be hiking during rush hour. This also gives you the chance to see the sunset from up high, which can be truly breath-taking.
Prepare yourself for changes in weather. Even if it’s warm or dry at ground level, the change in height could bring lower temperatures or torrential rain.
Considering the higher elevation, make sure you pack extra water in your daypack to keep you hydrated. The altitude difference can be savage on your body if you’re not acclimated to being so high in the sky.
There you have it, five hikes accessible to visitors. If these hikes don’t suit your fancy, don’t worry, there are literally hundreds more!
To learn about other hiking spots, a fantastic resource to check out is AllTrails. They have pretty much every hiking trail outlined and categorized on their easy-to-use website.
You can also pop by your local REI store. Most of them have in-person help from seasoned outdoorsmen, who’ll be able to give you some boots-on-the-ground tips.
I hope this helps. Happy hiking!