Best Hikes Near Denver

July 18, 2013 by

North America, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Denver has become an increasingly popular destination for everyone from families to adventure enthusiasts to those somewhere in between. Already known for its world-class skiing in places like Vail and Aspen, Colorado has a lot to offer in the summer, too! Located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Denver has plenty of trails within miles of downtown, giving visitors the ability to get out of the city and get their blood pumping.

Denver hikes

Before heading out on one of the recommended trails below, there are some things to keep in mind, especially if you do not live at elevation. First, be sure to take it easy and take plenty of water with you on your adventure. If you are feeling lightheaded or dizzy, you should stop and take a break, or even consider turning around. If possible, give yourself a couple days to acclimate to the altitude before heading out to the trail.

On the day of your hike, start as early as possible; storms usually roll into the mountains in the afternoon, and you certainly don’t want to be stuck out there in one! Ultimately, you are responsible for your health and safety while in the wilderness. Be aware that while every effort has been made to accurately represent the areas below, be sure to check local weather and know your own limitations before heading out for any hike.

With the Rocky Mountains so close, it is difficult to narrow down the hiking to a short list, but for visitors who are looking for a sampling of what the greater Denver area has to offer, there are some great options out there!

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park. Photo credit: alans1948 via Flickr.

Red Rocks is both an outdoor amphitheater, which regularly features concerts and movies, and a with park gorgeous rock formations, great views of Denver, and lots of trails. When there isn’t an event going on, visitors can exercise on the amphitheater steps. There are also regular boot camps held here. The 1.4-mile Trading Post trail is fun for all level hikers, and there is the Red Rocks trail that links up with Matthew/Winters park for a 6 mile trip.

Good for: Everyone. The elevation isn’t much higher than Denver and the trails are fairly easy.

Distance from Denver: 15 miles west in Morrison

Matthew/Winters Park

Matthew/Winters Park

Matthew/Winters Park. Photo credit: Vaquero Cooper via Flickr.

Part of the Jefferson County Open Space, Matthew/Winters Park has mostly shorter trails, but can be steep and narrow. Since it’s close to Denver, it’s a great place to get a serious little hike in when you have limited time. If you are looking for something a bit longer, check out the Morrison Slide Trail. At 4.8 miles, this trail has wildflowers, the potential for seeing wildlife, some open space, as well as great views of both Red Rocks and Denver.

Good for: Those up for a bit of a challenge. Most of the trails are on the shorter side (less than a mile to just under three miles), but have some steep and narrow sections.

Distance from Denver: 14 miles west in Morrison

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

Bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Photo credit:
U.S. Army Environmental Command via Flickr.

There are three different habitats with walking trails throughout the wildlife refuge – grassland, wetlands, woodlands. Many of the trails are less than a mile, but can be linked together for a longer walk or run. There are also nature programs, guided tours, and a viewing blind for birdwatchers. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the Visitor Center is only open Tuesday – Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Good for: Families, those who want an easy walk, bird watchers.

Distance from Denver: 10 miles northeast in Commerce City

Chautauqua Park

The Flatirons near Boulder

The Flatirons

Chautauqua Park is in south Boulder, and is at the foot of the famous Flatirons. This is a very popular park, so get here as early as you can. For families, or those who may still be acclimating to the altitude, there are trails that are less than a mile long and a huge meadow that is perfect for a picnic or letting the kids run around. Visitors can hike up to the Royal Arch, or up to any of the Flatirons. For those looking to get some distance in, the Mesa Trail is almost 7 miles round trip.

Good for: Families, moderate hikers

Distance from Denver: 29 miles northwest in Boulder

Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park. Photo credit: Mark Land via Flickr.

Roxborough State Park is a Colorado Natural Area and National Natural Landmark with amazing rock formations and tons of wildlife. The short (less than half mile) Fountain Valley Overlook trail is easy, giving visitors a big payoff for a small effort. While Colorado is famous for all of its 14,000-foot peaks, you can get a taste of a peak for yourself on the Carpenter Peak Trail. This trail is a round-trip of 6.4 miles of moderate to steep terrain, and reaches 7,160 feet in elevation at the peak. The state park has a daily pass fee of $7.

Good for: Everyone from families to hikers who have more time and are looking for a challenge.

Distance from Denver: 26 miles southwest in Roxborough Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Photo credit: Brian via Flickr.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park has 12,000 acres of forests, peaks, and meadows – a little bit of everything. Just about all of the trails here are considered moderate to difficult, and range from just a couple miles to the 6.7 mile loop Mountain Lion trail and the 7.4 mile loop Mule Dear Trail. The state park has a daily pass fee of $7.

Good for: Moderate to Advanced hikers.

Distance from Denver: 29 miles northwest in Golden

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo credit: Madeleine Holland via Flickr.

Thousands of visitors come to Colorado every year to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, and it is well worth it. The park is great for families, or serious hikers looking to get perhaps their first 14,000-foot peak. It is almost guaranteed that visitors will see elk, and the town of Estes Park is fun to explore as well. There are miles and miles of trails, and if the 14-er is what you are after, Longs Peak is one of the most popular in the state.

Visitors should only consider Longs Peak if they are advanced hikers, well-acclimated to the altitude, have done the research, and are fully aware of the preparation and potential hazards that are involved in climbing such a mountain. The national park has a pass fee of $20 that is good for 7 days.

Good for: Everyone from families to advanced hikers.

Distance from Denver: 66 miles northwest in Estes Park

Have you been hiking near Denver? What trails would you recommend?

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– Abbie Mood

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