Denver, Colorado, is more than just a bustling urban hub; it’s also a gateway to a world of outdoor adventures. With the Rocky Mountains in our backyard and a wealth of state parks and scenic wonders nearby, Denver offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the country.
In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the ten best hikes in and around Denver. Whether you’re an experienced hiker seeking a challenge, a family looking for a fun day outdoors, or someone with limited time seeking a quick getaway, we’ve got you covered. Along the way, we’ll discuss essential tips, gear, and the beauty of these hikes’ physical and mental health benefits.
Top 10 Hiking Trails in Denver
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Length: 6 miles | Difficulty: Easy
Imagine hiking through a natural wonderland with breathtaking rock formations, and the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre as your backdrop. This trail combines exercise and music, making it one of the best hikes near Denver. The stunning scenery and the natural amphitheater’s awe-inspiring acoustics can elevate your mood and inspire creativity. This hike not only exercises your body but also nourishes your soul.
Roxborough State Park
Length: 2.3 miles | Difficulty: Moderate
Roxborough State Park’s striking red rock formations and unique geological features offer a captivating glimpse into Colorado’s geological history. Hiking here encourages mindfulness as you contemplate the earth’s ancient processes. The serenity and beauty of Roxborough also provide mental peace, reducing stress and anxiety.
North Table Mountain
Length: 7.3 miles | Difficulty: Moderate
With sweeping vistas of Denver and the Front Range, North Table Mountain is a favorite among locals. The stunning views from the top create a sense of achievement and self-confidence. It’s a great place to practice gratitude, surrounded by nature’s beauty.
Length: 2.5 miles | Difficulty: Easy
The trail leading to the summit of Lookout Mountain is as rich in history as it is in natural beauty. As you ascend, imagine you’re retracing the steps of Buffalo Bill Cody. This hike is a journey through time and space, offering history lessons, scenic rewards, and a chance to escape the daily grind.
Mount Falcon Park
Length: 7.8 miles | Difficulty: Moderate
This trail takes you through diverse landscapes, including forests, meadows, and historic ruins. At the summit, you’ll find the Walker House ruins, a relic of the past. The contrast of environments engages your senses and fosters mental flexibility while the hike’s historical element adds an extra layer of fascination.
Bear Creek Trail
Length: 4.5 miles | Difficulty: Easy
A leisurely stroll along Bear Creek is perfect for those who want to bask in nature’s tranquility without breaking a sweat. Sometimes, the best therapy is the gentle murmur of a creek and the rustling of leaves. This hike is your escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Length: Varies | Difficulty: Easy to Difficult
Home to a range of trails, Chautauqua Park caters to all levels of hikers. Whether you’re seeking a relaxed walk or a challenging ascent, you’ll find it here. The diverse terrain helps you develop physical strength, endurance, and adaptability. It’s an ever-evolving journey that keeps you coming back for more.
South Valley Park
Length: 3.5 miles | Difficulty: Easy
This family-friendly trail is a hidden gem in Littleton. The red rock formations and easy trails make it perfect for kids and beginners. Introducing kids to nature early fosters a lifelong love for the outdoors. Plus, it’s a fun and bonding experience for the whole family.
Staunton State Park
Length: Varies | Difficulty: Easy to Difficult
With over 3,800 acres of terrain, Staunton State Park offers a variety of hikes. From relaxing strolls to challenging summit hikes, this park has it all. Hiking here teaches adaptability and patience, and the diverse trail options mean you can keep things fresh and exciting.
Length: 3.1 miles | Difficulty: Moderate
Chief Mountain offers a short but rewarding hike. The panoramic views from the summit are worth every step. The sense of accomplishment after completing a short, challenging hike is invigorating. This trail helps you appreciate the beauty in life’s fleeting moments.
Family-Friendly Hiking Trails
For families with children, safety is paramount. The following trails are not only easy but also ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
- Cherry Creek Trail: A paved, 40-mile trail, perfect for biking and hiking. It’s an urban oasis that connects downtown Denver to Cherry Creek State Park.
- Waterton Canyon: A gentle 6.2-mile out-and-back trail along the South Platte River. This is an excellent spot for birdwatching, wildlife spotting, and picnicking.
- Clear Creek Trail: This 20-mile urban trail offers a mix of paved and unpaved sections, great for family walks or bike rides. It winds through Clear Creek Canyon, providing stunning views.
Mountain Hiking Adventures
If you’re an experienced hiker seeking a challenge, Denver offers a range of mountain hikes that will test your mettle. But remember, safety is paramount when hiking in mountainous terrain.
- Mount Evans: One of Colorado’s 14ers, Mount Evans offers a challenging ascent to 14,265 feet. The breathtaking views from the top are unparalleled.
- Bear Lake: Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Bear Lake Trail provides access to stunning alpine scenery. It’s a moderately challenging hike suitable for those with some experience.
- St. Mary’s Glacier: This trail, just an hour from Denver, takes you to a stunning glacier. While not a technically difficult hike, it can be challenging due to the altitude.
- Brainard Lake Recreation Area: This area offers numerous trails, from easy strolls to challenging hikes. The Indian Peaks Wilderness is an adventurer’s paradise.
Day Hikes Near Denver
For those with limited time, Denver’s proximity to remarkable natural wonders provides numerous day-hike options that don’t require an entire weekend.
- Castlewood Canyon State Park: Just a 40-minute drive from Denver, Castlewood Canyon offers a series of short hikes through unique geological formations and a hidden waterfall.
- Emerald Lake: In Rocky Mountain National Park, the hike to Emerald Lake is a short, moderately challenging trek that takes you to a stunning alpine lake.
- Deer Creek Canyon: This 13-mile trail offers a blend of easy and challenging sections. It’s an opportunity to explore diverse landscapes without a long drive.
Essential Hiking Tips and Gear
Before embarking on any hiking adventure, there are a few crucial tips to keep in mind:
- Check the Weather: Colorado’s weather can be unpredictable, so always check the forecast and be prepared for sudden changes.
- Hydrate and Nourish: Carry sufficient water and energy-rich snacks to keep your energy levels up.
- Dress in Layers: The mountain weather can vary greatly throughout the day, so wearing layers allows you to adapt to changing conditions.
- Map and Navigation: Always carry a map, and if you’re unfamiliar with the trail, a GPS device can be a lifesaver.
- Safety First: Let someone know your hiking plans, carry a first aid kit, and be prepared for emergencies.
- Leave No Trace: Follow the principles of Leave No Trace to minimize your impact on the environment.
- Appropriate Footwear: Invest in a good pair of hiking boots or trail shoes to prevent blisters and ensure stability.
Denver’s hiking trails aren’t the only things worth exploring. Combine your outdoor adventures with visits to these nearby attractions:
- Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre: Catch a concert at this iconic outdoor venue.
- Colorado Springs: Explore the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, both within a short drive from Denver.
- Estes Park: The gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park offers charming shops and beautiful scenery.
- Idaho Springs: Visit this historic mining town and soak in a hot spring after your hike.
Hiking Etiquette and Leave No Trace Principles
As hikers, it’s our responsibility to protect the environment and ensure a positive experience for others. Follow these Leave No Trace principles:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare: Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit. Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to established trails and campsites to minimize your impact on vegetation and soil.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out all trash and litter, and use established restroom facilities when available.
- Leave What You Find: Preserve the past. Examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Minimize Campfire Impact: Use a camp stove for cooking; it’s more efficient and less damaging to the environment.
- Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Keep noise levels down, yield the trail, and maintain a friendly attitude towards fellow hikers.
Enhancing Physical Fitness: The Synergy of Hiking and Gym Workouts
While the exhilaration of hiking in Denver’s natural wonders is undeniable, it’s essential to recognize how hiking can complement your gym routine, enhancing your overall physical and mental well-being. Denver residents, in particular, have access to a fantastic gym option, Chuze Fitness, with multiple locations throughout Colorado.
Combining hiking with a regular gym workout can provide a balanced approach to fitness. Hiking outdoors not only helps you build endurance and strength, but it also engages your mind, reducing stress and enhancing your mood. Chuze Fitness gyms in the Denver area offer state-of-the-art equipment, group fitness classes, and a supportive community that can help you maintain a structured workout regimen while having fun.
Whether you’re climbing the stairs of Red Rocks Amphitheatre or sweating it out at Chuze Fitness, Denver’s diverse fitness options ensure you can enjoy the best of both worlds, achieving your fitness goals and experiencing the physical and mental health benefits that come with it. So, lace up your hiking boots and head out into the wilderness, and when you’re back in the city, sign up for a Chuze Fitness gym membership to complete your indoor workouts – because balance is the key to a healthy and vibrant lifestyle.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
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