10 Best Hiking Trails in Colorado
One of the best ways to experience the Centennial State of Colorado is by hiking its many trails.
With over 9,000 kilometers of trails, each with varying terrain and difficulty, making a shortlist to visit is easier said than done.
Exhilarating Hikes in the Centennial State
If you’re planning a hiking trip to Colorado, then this article is for you. Here you’ll find our list of top ten hiking trails in the Centennial State together with information on what to expect on the trail and when you should visit.
1. Maxwell Falls Lower Trail: Day Hike Near Denver
The Maxwell Falls Lower Trail is located in the Arapaho National Forest near Evergreen, Colorado. This 4.4 mile loop trail is moderately challenging and takes about 2 hours to complete.
If you’re looking for a day hike near the Denver area, this is it. This forested trail has two trailheads and takes you by two small waterfalls as well as Upper Maxwell Falls.
The Maxwell Falls Lower Trail is very popular among hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders so you’ll likely encounter other adventurers along the way. You can take your furry friends on this trail as well, but please keep them on a leash.
The best time to visit is between March through October.
2. Geyser Spring Trail: Peaceful Hike Through Geyser Spring
The Geyser Spring Trail is found in the San Juan National Forest near Rico, Colorado. This out-and-back trail is moderately challenging at 2.9 miles long and takes about 1 hour and a half to complete.
The road to get to the bubbling water is long and rough. This is the only true geyser in Colorado and bubbles every 30 to 40 minutes.
The sulfur smell starts shortly once starting the hike, and by the geyser, you will see signs warning of the carbon dioxide and sulfur displacing oxygen, so no swimming in that area!
The Geyser Spring Trail is a beautiful hike and especially great if you’re looking to hike or trail run without encountering many people. Dogs are welcome as long as you keep them leashed.
3. Lost Lake Via Hessie Trail: Picturesque Views
The Lost Lake via Hessie Trail is located in Roosevelt National Forest near Nederland, Colorado. This popular out-and-back trail is about 4 miles long, takes around 2 hours to complete, and is rated moderately challenging.
If you’re looking for a hike with a picturesque destination, then this trail is for you. The trail’s first half mile is relatively easy but starts to get more challenging and steeper the further you go.
This hike is quite popular among hikers, backpackers, campers, and anglers so expect to find other people along the trail. The parking lot fills up quickly during the weekends so you might want to use the free shuttle service near Nederland High School.
4. Ute Trail: Punishing but Worthwhile Climb
The Ute Trail is located in White River National Forest near Aspen, Colorado. This 6.2 mile trail is quite challenging and takes around 4 hours to complete.
You start this trail at the trailhead parking area on Ute Avenue. The trail is all uphill from there until you reach the Sundeck at the top of the ski lifts where the scenery makes the punishing climbs worthwhile.
Don’t be surprised to encounter other people along the way as this trail is quite popular. It’s also dog-friendly and lets you take them whether on or off-leash. The best time to visit is between May through October.
5. Saint Mary’s Glacier: Gorgeous Views Year-round
Another famous trail in the Arapaho National Forest is the Saint Mary’s Glacier Trail. This out-and-back trail is located near Idaho Springs, Colorado, and is rated moderately challenging. It stretches 2.5 miles long and takes around 1 hour and a half to complete.
This short hike rewards you with exquisite views of an alpine lake and glacier. This trail is great year-round but you may want to visit during winter for the best snowy views.
This trail is very popular with hikers, anglers, and cross-country skiers in winter so expect to find other people along the way. Dogs are welcome as long as you keep them leashed. The best time to visit is between April to October.
6. Emerald Lake Trail: Very Popular Scenic Trail
The Emerald Lake Trail is located in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado. This moderately challenging out-and-back trail is 3.2 miles long and takes about one and a half hours to complete.
This very popular trail starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead and then goes through Tyndall Gorge before arriving at Emerald Lake. You’ll go through verdant pine forests, tranquil alpine lakes, and incredible rocky peaks.
The Emerald Lake Trail is extremely popular (one of the most popular in the Rocky Mountain National Park) so you’re highly likely to encounter other people enjoying the trail. Unfortunately, your furry friends are going to have to sit this one out as dogs aren’t allowed on this trail. The best time to visit is between June to October.
7. Royal Arch Trail: Challenging Climb to Royal Arch
The Royal Arch Trail is found in Boulder Open Space near Boulder, Colorado. This 3.1 mile out-and-back trail is considered to be challenging and takes around 2 hours to complete.
This trail starts at the Chautauqua Park Trailhead, near the ranger station, and takes you through either the Bluebell Trail or Chautauqua Trail which eventually intersects this trail at the Bluebell Shelter. The trail takes you through a grassy meadow and lush pine forest before ultimately reaching the Royal Arch.
Many hikers, trail runners, and snowshoers frequent this trail so don’t be surprised to find other people along the way. This trail welcomes dogs whether on a leash or not. The best time to visit is between March through October.
8. Rim Trail South: Easy-moderate with Great Views
The Rim Trail South is an out-and-back trail located in Snowmass Village, Colorado. This 7.4 mile long trail is moderately challenging and takes around 3 and a half hours to complete.
The trail itself is smooth but can get muddy at times, so make sure you have some waterproof hiking boots. This trail gives you great views of Snowmass Village and the valley.
The Rim Trail is frequented by hikers, mountain bikers, and birders so you’ll likely encounter other people enjoying the trail. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. The best time to visit is between May and November.
9. Mount Bierstadt Trail: Iconic 14er Route
The challenging Mount Bierstadt Trail is located in the Mount Evans Wilderness near Idaho Springs, Colorado. The trail is 7.8 miles long and takes about 4 and a half hours to complete.
This trail’s climb is known as one of Colorado’s iconic 14ers routes. It starts relatively flat then slowly gains in elevation.
This trail is quite popular so you’ll likely encounter other people enjoying the trail. You can bring your dogs as long as they’re leashed. The best time to visit is between May through October.
10. Sky Pond Via Glacier Gorge Trail: The Toughest Trail
Another popular trail in the Rocky Mountain National Park is the Glacier Gorge Trail via Sky Pond. This out-and-back trail is generally considered the most challenging trail in all of Colorado. It stretches 9.4 miles long and takes about 4 hours and 2o minutes to complete.
Whether it’s the challenging climb or the beautiful views, this trail is sure to leave you breathless. The parking lot fills up fast on peak days so you might want to take the free shuttle service at the Bear Lake area.
Expect to encounter other people while exploring as this trail is quite popular. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on this trail as of yet. The best time to visit is between June through October.