A spectacularly diverse terrain propels hiking to the top of favorite outdoor activities in Colorado. From alpine lakes and waterfalls to dense forest and open meadows, no single view is like another. With 42 state parks, 13 national forests and grasslands, and 58 mountain peaks that rise over 14,000 feet above sea level, the landscape abounds with trails waiting to be explored. Whether you’re looking for an easy amble through a field of wildflowers, or a challenging trek up a slope, this roundup of the best hikes in Colorado has you covered.
Visit These 7 Beautiful Hiking Trails In Colorado
1. Crater Lake
Source: Flickr/Patrick McKay
Located in the rugged West Needle Mountains, Crater Lake is a part of the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Crater Lake Trail is an easy to moderately difficult trail that is the only path through this segment of wilderness. From a rolling terrain of meadows and forests to the panoramic saddle above Crater Lake, the trail spans about 12 miles round trip. Photographers delight in the picturesque beauty of the North Twilight Peak reflected in the still waters of the lake. A trek up the east ridge of the peak gives hikers a bird’s eye view of the Needle Mountains and the Grenadier Range.
2. Four Pass Loop
A challenging loop that takes at least three days to complete, the Four Pass Loop takes you through the Maroon Bells wilderness. It’s a well-marked and easy to follow trail with some of the most photographed spots in Colorado along the way, such as Maroon Lake, for its view of the Maroon Bells. The full hike will take you over four mountain passes, across breathtaking wildflower fields, beautiful lakes and stunning waterfalls. Trekkers will span a total distance of just over 27 miles, and an elevation gain of 8,000 feet. Though it’s not the easiest hike on the list, each moment of the journey will be worth it.
3. Three Sisters Trail
Source: Flickr/Rob Lee
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park has almost 15 miles of trails across 770 acres of land. The park itself offers a variety of experiences, from bouldering on rock formations to challenging rides to the top of Evergreen Mountain. But the beautiful landscape is also known for having the most trials per acre of any foothills park. The area bounds with landmark rock formations, meadows bursting with wildflowers and plenty of winged creatures for bird watchers. The trails are family friendly, with a variety of choices that vary in difficulty. Two trailhead access points are located off Buffalo Park Road in the east and west.
4. Chautauqua Park
Source: Flickr/Scott Ingram
Located on the southwest edge of Boulder, this extension of Boulder Mountain Park is a favorite among locals. This National Historic Landmark draws crowds for hosting community concerts and festivals, while the numerous paths and gardens attract hikers, bikers, picnickers alike. The park offers guided walking tours, perfect for ambling along while learning more about the history of Chautauqua. Among the most popular trail is the Chautauqua, which extends just up the meadow toward the flatirons. The hike is about 0.6 miles with an elevation gain of 440 feet. The Royal Arch and First-Second Flatiron are also options. Despite Boulder’s other hiking spots, Chautauqua is always popular for its accessible location and awe-inspiring views.
5. Longs Peak
Source: Flickr/Bryce Bradford
Scale the tallest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park for a true challenge. The hike is about 14 and a half miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 5,100 feet. Generally considered one of the top ten most difficult peaks over 14,000 to ascend, Longs is a serious undertaking that nevertheless draws a wide variety of hikers. An average 15,000 people attempt the climb each year, according to the national park. But the 47% success rate speaks for the difficulty of the trek. Still, despite the mountain’s imposing reputation, the impressive summit block and its place in Colorado’s climbing history makes it one of the best adventures in the Rockies.
6. Hanging Lake
Popular among short hike destinations in Colorado, Hanging Lake is a state gem. The site sits suspended on the edge of Glenwood Canyon’s cliffs. The majesty of the surrounding waterfalls add just as much majesty to the site as the hanging garden plants that thrive around the lake. The trail is just over a mile and takes an average of two to four hours. The terrain can get a bit steep and rocky, but there are plenty of resting spots along the way. Handrails also line the tricky parts of the trail, aiding hikers to the top.
7. Garden of the Gods
Source: Flickr/Tee La Rosa
If the name of this public park is any indication, the Garden of the Gods is out of this world. Located in Colorado Springs, the National Natural Landmark attracts more than two million visitors a year. It’s the city’s most visited park, not just for the annual events throughout the year, but also for its 15-plus miles of trails. The main trail is Perkins Central Garden Trail, which goes on for just over a mile through the heart of the park’s most scenic red rocks. The trail is wheelchair accessible and begins at the North Parking Lot. Other great hikes among the rocks include the Ridge Trail, a moderate 0.5 mile loop, and the Siamese Twins Trail, an easy 1 mile. For a moderate loop, try the Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail, a 3-mile hike, or the Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trail, which loops through the park.
This article was written by Hanna Choi.