22 Great Day Trails to Hike Near Denver, Colorado (all with free downloadable maps)

Denver is the State Capital of Colorado. It’s a big city with great transport links. There are mountains near Denver too: The iconic Rockies are the closest mountains to Denver and also the largest mountain range in North America, stretching from Colorado in the South all the way into Canada to the North.

The fact is that if you’re hiking near Denver Colorado, mountains are always going to be nearby and arguable the best views in Denver all incorporate the mountains.

Whilst there are plenty of mountain hikes near Denver, mountain views are not confined to the trails in the Rockies and some of the best mountain views in Denver can be had from relatively easy-going urban or suburban trails.

Colorado is an absolute paradise for hikers and outdoors enthusiasts. Some would say it’s home to the most spectacular views and landscapes in the United States with its rolling prairies and the towering Rocky Mountains.

Here, you’ll find expansive grass plains, alpine forests and mountain lakes, towering rock formations and even glaciers. This is a landscape many of us will be instantly familiar with – it’s iconically American.

It’s difficult to know where to start with hiking in Denver – there’s just so much choice – and it can be difficult to determine what’s the best hiking near Denver.

Our guide to the best day hikes near Denver lists 22 amazing hikes you can explore using Denver, the State Capital, as your base. Denver is a vibrant city with great transport links to the rest of the United States, and indeed the wider world too.

The hikes in this guide range from gentle urban walks through to challenging high-altitude routes and we think the area around Denver has something to offer hikers of all abilities.

Table of Contents

Starting points and map locations of hikes near Denver

Use this map for an approximate overview of locations of the 22 trails in this article – the numbers on the map correspond to the numbers below for the routes numbers we’ve highlighted…

About our free downloadable trail maps: We use Outdooractive map plugins for all of our hiking guides to give you an interactive map that you can download and save offline for your hike. You can save and download all of the maps below by clicking on the map. On desktop, you can save this to your profile and then save offline on a device. On mobile, you can save this straight to your profile and download straight away. You do need an account with Outdooractive for this, but you can sign up for a free account (as well as various paid plans with added features) where you can save routes and download trails for free. We’d always recommend downloading the trails to your device before your hike as reception isn’t guaranteed!

1. The Bluffs Regional Park Trail

Difficulty: Well-surfaced, wide path that’s easy to follow and relatively flat
Distance: 2.67mi/4.3km
Elevation: 400ft/ 122m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round

Hiking in Denver doesn’t mean you have to venture far to get some great views. Situated on the southern outskirts of Denver City, just off the 25 Freeway, Bluffs Regional Park offers visitors a chance to experience sweeping prairie vistas without venturing too far from Downtown and we’d say it’s one of the best hikes in Denver itself.

The park is open to visitors year-round from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset and there’s ample parking on site. The trail itself is well surfaced and clearly marked and offers a gently undulating circular route of 2.67mi/4.3km around the park with expansive panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The Bluffs Regional Park Trail is intersected by the Bluffs Overlook and Tepe Overlook Trails at points and these can be used as shortcuts if you want to make the trail shorter. Conversely, the trail also interconnects with the East West Regional trail at its southern point and it’s possible to extend the hike out much further beyond the Park’s bounds if you follow this route.

sunset view from The Bluffs Regional Park Trail near Denver Colorado

2. Red Rocks Trading Post Trail

Difficulty: Well-marked and generally well surfaced trail
Distance: 1.6mi/2.5km
Elevation: 380ft/115m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round

This is one of the best day hikes near Denver and also offers some of the best mountain views in Denver to boot. The Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre sits on the western outskirts of Denver City and is open year-round from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset.

Major events, such as concerts and movie screenings are held in the park, so it’s wise to check the events calendar as it gets exceptionally busy during some events.

As the name suggests, the park is home to a spectacular array or red rock formations set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

The Trading Post Trail is a 1.6mi/2.5km circular route around the park with a gentle elevation change of 380ft/115m all on a well-marked and generally well-surfaced trail. As you’d expect, the trail gives you the opportunity to take in some incredible views of the Park’s various Red Rock formations.

view from Red Rocks trading post trail near Denver Colorado

3. East Plum Creek Trail

Difficulty: Well-paved and easy to follow urban trail with minimal ascent
Distance: 12.1mi/19.4km there and back
Elevation: 525ft/160m ascent
When to do it: Year-round

This is a good choice for an easy-going day hike near Denver. The town of Castle Rock – which takes its name from an imposing Mesa or flat-topped hill that dominates the skyline above the town – lies south of Denver City on the 25 Freeway.

The East Plum Creek Trail is a wide, well-paved trail that broadly follows the flow of the river it’s named after as it weaves through urban and some not so urban spaces.

Whilst the route is long at 12.1mi/19.4km, there are plenty of entry and exit points on the route, so it’s easy to turn this into a shorter route if you wish. Alternatively, the trail connects with other long-distance routes, so it can easily be extended. It’s also worth noting that cyclists are welcomed on the path too and the paved surface means you don’t need a mountain bike to ride here.

The is definitely an urban walk, and you won’t get a sense of natural solitude, but none the less, there’s some beautiful scenery visible from the trail.

sunset view along East Plum Creek Trail Denver Colorado

4. Rock Park Loop Trail

Difficulty: Narrow, unpaved trail with steep ascent
Distance: 1.5mi/2.4km
Elevation: 335ft/102m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round

Hiking Denver doesn’t just mean heading into the Rockies. Some of the best hikes close to Denver can be found in the area South of the city. Castle Rock lies to the South of Denver along the 25 Freeway – it’s roughly a 40minute drive from Downtown Denver.

The town takes its name from a Mesa or flat-topped hill that dominates the skyline above the town and this trail gives you the perfect opportunity to see it up close. Don’t let the relatively short distance of 1.5mi/2.4km lull you into a false sense of security: this route follows an unpaved, narrow trail and has a short but steep climb included too.

There’s a risk of rockfall on some of the steep sections too. This trail is definitely more wild than the nearby East Plum Creek Trail, though you’re still never far from built-up areas. From the top of the climb, you’ll be able to enjoy fantastic panoramic vistas of the landscape around.

There’s a picnic area situated near the trail head car park which also affords visitors a great view of the rock whilst enjoying a break.

iconic red rocks formation in Red Rocks Park Denver Colorado

5. St. Mary’s Glacier

Difficulty: Steep, unpaved trail with some scrambling involved – all at high altitude
Distance: 1.4mi/2.3km there and back
Elevation: 470ft/143m ascent and descent
When to do it: Recommended April to October for hiking. Route is also suitable for snowshoeing.

A great lake hike near Denver, this takes you to the foot of a glacier – always an impressive site! Head West from Denver on the 70 and you’ll reach Idaho Springs. Just past this town you can take a right turn on the Fall River Road to bring you to the trailhead for the St. Mary’s Glacier hike.

In total, the drive is roughly one hour from Downtown Denver. There’s paid parking at the trailhead – costing $20 to be paid in cash – and from here it’s a relatively short, but still demanding hike past St. Mary’s Lake to the foot of the spectacular St. Mary’s Glacier.

Our 1.4mi/2.3km there-and-back route is plotted to the foot of the glacier, but the trail continues from here and it’s possible to extend this into a much longer route if you wish – but be aware that the trail will only get steeper and more technically challenging should you choose to proceed further.

This route is along an uneven path and there’s some light scrambling involved – be aware that there a risk of rockfall at points on the route, so stay alert to your surroundings! Also, the entire route is at high altitude (the trailhead is already at 10500ft/3200m – and the route climbs from there), so be prepared to feel the impact of the thin air and factor your time accordingly.

The best time to attempt this route is from mid/late Spring to early/mid Fall/Autumn. St. Mary’s Glacier is also a popular spot for snowboarding, skiing and sledging, though bear in mind that this is a wild place and not a developed resort and there are no lifts or safety infrastructure in place at the glacier.

view of st Marys glacier near Denver Colorado

6. Palmer Trail in the Garden of the Gods

Difficulty: Uneven, but well-marked trail. Some rough terrain
Distance: 3.9mi/6.3km there and back
Elevation: 656ft/200m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round

This spectacular route is definitely one of the best hikes near Denver and the scenery will not disappoint! The Garden of the Gods Park is located roughly 1.5hrs drive south along the 25 from Downtown Denver and on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. The Park is open from 5am to 9pm from November 01 to April 30 and 5am to 10pm from May 01 to October 31.

There’s also a visitor centre and café open 9am to 5pm in Winter and 9am to 6pm in Summer. The Garden of the Gods Park presents a spectacular landscape of towering red rock formations emerging from lush prairie and pine forest all against the breath-taking backdrop of the Rocky Mountain.

The Palmer Trail is one of the classics in The Garden of the Gods and the route presented here is a straight ‘there-and-back’. However, this trail also meets with others in the park so it’s possible to modify this route in numerous ways to make it shorter, longer, circular etc. and above all else to take in more of the Park’s phenomenal scenery.

The well-marked, but sometimes uneven trail gives you a great opportunity to see first-hand and up close some of the spectacular rock formations in the park – all offset with spectacular panoramic backdrops.

view from Garden of the Gods trail near Denver Colorado

7. Devil’s Head Trail

Difficulty: Clearly defined trail, but uneven in places
Distance: 2.75mi/4.4km there and back
Elevation: 853ft/260m ascent and descent
When to do it: Recommended June to November – but check access road conditions first

One of the best hikes near Denver, this route takes in spectacular scenery and a piece of genuine history. The Devil’s Head Campground is roughly a 1.5hrs drive south from Downtown Denver. The road to the campground closes seasonally due to snowfall and also due to excessively muddy conditions – typically from December 01 to early/mid June, though the exact dates will depend on the weather.

If you’re in doubt about whether the roads will be open or not, you can contact the US Forest Service for up to date information. The trail itself is a linear route of 2.75mi/4.4km from the Devil’s Head Campground to the Devil’s Head Lookout Tower. The Lookout Tower itself is over fifty years old and is the last of the Front Range Fire Lookout Towers still in continuous use and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sometimes, the tower is open for visitors – again, check with the Forest Service for dates and times. It sits atop a rock and is accessed by a steep staircase – as you’d expect, there’s a spectacular view from the top. The landscape on this trail is also spectacular – with almost alien rock formations jutting out through pine forests. The trial can be uneven in places, but is generally clearly defined and easy to follow.

Devils Head Trail Castle Rock near Denver Colorado

8. Emerald Lake

Difficulty: Well-maintained but uneven trail – all at altitude
Distance: 2.67mi/4.3km there and back
Elevation: 656ft/200m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round

We think this is one of the best hikes near Denver in terms of scenery and views. This is a spectacular trail in the Rocky Mountain National Park taking in four lakes: Bear, Nymph, Dream and Emerald. It is set in a spectacular alpine landscape of scree and pine forest.

The starting point is the Bear Lake Trailhead, roughly 1:45 hrs drive Northwest from Downtown Denver. You’ll need to pay to enter the National Park and once in the park, the car pack at Bear Lake often fills quickly, however a free shuttle bus service is available from the Park’s Visitor Centre.

To help address congestion in the park, a timed entry system is in operation during peak season (May 26 to October 22). Back to the trail and this route gives a great opportunity to head into the Rockies on a well-maintained and easy to follow trail.

The 2.67mi/4.3km route presented here intersects with other trails so it’s possible to extend the route should you wish – but bear in mind that the trial will rapidly become more technical depending on the route choice you take. The route is all at altitude (the Trailhead is at approximately 9500ft/2900m), so be prepared to feel the impact of the thin air and factor your time accordingly.

In Winter, this area receives heavy snowfall and this trail is also well-suited to snowshoeing. For more like this, we’d recommend checking out our full guide to Rocky Mountain National Park lake hikes. 

sunset image of Emerald lake near Denver Colorado

Related Content: Alternate Las Vegas: Our ultimate guide to the best day hikes and adventures from the Las Vegas Strip / Getting A Taste For Hiking In The Sierra Nevada, California / Alternate American Road Trip: Our ultimate 21 day itinerary

9. Rattlesnake Gulch Trail

Difficulty: Trail uneven in places with a steep ascent
Distance: 3.54mi/5.7km circular route
Elevation: 1150ft/350m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round

This is one of the great hikes in Denver for expansive views. The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail is situated in the Eldorado Canyon State Park – roughly 45min Northwest of Downtown Denver. The park is open sunrise to sunset year round and charges a $10 per vehicle entry fee at the time of writing and also operates a timed entry system on weekends between May 20 and September 10 and during Summer Public Holidays to help control overcrowding in the park.

You can bypass the timed entry requirement by making use of the ‘Eldoshuttle’ shuttle bus service. The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail follows a clearly defined, though uneven in places, path through pine forest. The trail climbs quickly near the start and soon you’ll find yourself near the ruins of the former Crags Hotel – offering fantastic views of the surrounding landscape.

The route presented here continues on to the Continental Divide overlook before looping back through the forest and re-joining the trail taken at the start of the route. If you don’t want to do the full hike, there’s plenty of opportunities to shorten this route. Be sure to check the Eldorado Canyon State Park’s website for notifications of trail closures: at the time of writing, for instance, a portion of this trial is closed to help protect nesting Golden Eagles.

rattlesnake gulch trail near Denver Colorado

Credit: Kyle Calise/Shutterstock.com

10. Mt. Galbraith Loop via Cedar Gulch Trail

Difficulty: Well-defined but rough trail with consistent ascent
Distance: 4.16mi/6.7km
Elevation: 958ft/292m ascent and descent
When to do it: Recommended May to November for hiking

This is one of the best hikes close to Denver. Mt. Galbraith Park lies approximately 30min drive West of Downtown Denver. This trail starts at the Mt.Galbraith Carpark and you begin by following the Cedar Gulch trail which eventually joins on to the Mt. Galbraith loop which circles the mountain it takes it’s name from. This trail climbs steadily from the start, but the reward is a fantastic, elevated view over the surrounding prairie and onto Denver in the distance when looking East, and into the Rocky Mountains to the West. The route here simply circles Mt. Galbraith – following a well-defined, but rough in places trail – but it’s also possible to take a detour to summit Mt. Galbraith, adding in just under 100ft/30m of additional ascent. The landscape here is rolling prairie that’s beginning to meet the mountains – it’s maybe not as wild or Alpine as what you’ll encounter deeper and higher into the Rockies, but it’s absolutely an iconic Western landscape, and the high view-points offered by the Mt. Galbraith Loop are the perfect way to take it all in.

View of Mt Galbraith area with melting snow near Denver Colorado

11. Carpenter Peak Trail

Difficulty: Well defined trail becomes more indistinct as route progresses. Consistent climbing
Distance: 6.3mi/10.2km
Elevation: 945ft/288m ascent and descent
When to do it: Open year-round but recommended May to October

One of the best hikes near Denver with mountain views. Roxborough State Park is roughly an hour drive South from Downtown Denver. The park is open 6am to 8pm and charges an entry fee of $10 per vehicle. There’s a number of trails in the park, but we’ll focus on the Carpenter’s Peak Trail, which starts at the carpark on Roxborough Drive. You start off on the Willow Creek Track, which soon meets the Carpenter Peak trail that will take you all the way to the summit from which there are expansive views over the prairie to the East and into the Rockies to the West. The trail is well defined and easy to follow, but it does become more basic as it ascends. There’s plenty of uphill in this trail and it can be strenuous in places, but the views across this iconic Southwestern landscape from the summit are the reward.

far off mountain reviews with bright blue sky near Denver Colorado

12. South Platte River Trail

Difficulty: Well surfaced and defined path that stays relatively flat
Distance: 7mi/11.2km there and back
Elevation: 425ft/129m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round

This is one of the best hikes in Denver – and we mean actually in Denver itself! This is a Denver hiking trail that you can do without leaving the city. The South Platte River Trail is a long-distance greenway trail following the South Platte River all the way from Brighton in the North East through to Sheridan/Englewood in Southern Denver. At this point, the trail becomes the Mary Carter Greenway Trail and carries on all the way to the Chatfield Reservoir, outside the city to the South. So, it’s possible to cross the full height of Denver on this trail. The circular route here is a 7mi/11.2km section beginning in Downtown Denver and heading South to the Valverde Park sports grounds. If you’re staying in Downtown, this is a great way to get in some hiking in Denver itself that won’t involve much, if any driving. The path is wide and well maintained and suitable for cycling as well as walking and running. It’s well-trafficked too, so expect to see plenty of other people. The trail follows a greenbelt, but it’s right in the heart of the city, so you will never be far from built -up areas. As mentioned at the start, this route is just a small section of a very long trail, so there’s plenty of scope to expand (or shorten) the route, or to combine it with some urban sections if you wish.

South Platte River trail

13. Waterton Canyon

Difficulty: A relatively well-surfaced dirt access road with consistent ascent
Distance: 15mi/24.1km there and back
Elevation: 882ft/269m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round, but bear in mind that snowfall can impact the trail

One of the best day hikes near Denver, this trail is a relatively short drive from Downtown. The Waterton Canyon Trailhead carpark, on Waterton RD is roughly 30mins drive South of Downtown Denver. From the carpark, you’ll soon find yourself on a dirt access road which winds its way through Waterton Canyon, following the South Platte River, the 15mi/24.1km route here will take you all the way to the Strontia Springs Dam and Reservoir. Beyond this, it’s possible to join up with the Colorado Trail if you wish to hike further. Similarly, this relatively long route can easily be made shorter simply by hiking to a point on the river and turning back. In many ways, this trail is an extension of the South Platte River Trail mentioned elsewhere in this article, but it’s very different: here, we’ve definitely left urban Denver behind and the landscape is far more wild. Following an access road, the trail is wide, well-surfaced and easy to follow – it’s suitable for bikes too. Bear in mind that this route is very exposed with very little shade, so, think twice and prepare well (bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen), if you’re planning to head out on a hot day. The Canyon is a great place for spotting wildlife – including Bighorn Sheep – and for this reason, dogs are not allowed on the trail.

night time starry sky over mountains near Denver Colorado

14. Boulder Mesa Trail

Difficulty: A lot of ascent and a route that intersects with many others, be sure to keep an eye on the map
Distance: 13.5mi/21.6km there and back
Elevation: 2740ft/835m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round, but bear in mind that snowfall can impact the trail

This is one of the best hikes very close to Denver. The official website for Boulder City, describes the Mesa Trail as ‘long, sinuous, hilly and varied’ – and that pretty much perfectly sums it up! Check out the map in detail and you’ll see that the route weaves through the landscape intersecting many other trails as it does so – be sure to keep an eye on the map as you hike to ensure you don’t wander off-trail. The route shown here starts at the free carpark near Chautauqua Park on Bluebell RD (roughly a 30min drive from Downtown Denver) and finishes at the car park on Eldorado Springs Drive (note this is a paid car park if you wish to do the trail in reverse). It is relatively long and steep – at 13.5mi/21.6km there and back and with 2740ft/835m of ascent and descent, but the fact that the trail intersects with so many others means that there’s plenty of scope to shorten the route, turn it into a loop or even extend it if you wish. The trail, which is generally well surfaced and easy to follow, passes through prairie and woodland as it weaves through the hills with the Flatiron peaks providing a spectacular backdrop.

typical Colorado mountain scene

15. Herman Gulch Trail

Difficulty: Sometimes uneven trail with substantial ascent – all at altitude
Distance: 6.4mi/10.3km there and back
Elevation: 1770ft/539m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round – treat as a snowshoe trail when there has been heavy snow fall

A great hike up to a lake in the mountains near Denver. The Herman Gulch Trailhead is situated off the I 70 highway roughly one hour’s drive West from Downtown Denver. There’s ample parking at the trailhead. This hiking route is all at altitude – the trailhead is at 10300ft/3140m and the trail climbs from there so expect to feel the impact of the thin air and plan accordingly. UV exposure is also stronger at high altitude, so be sure to wear high-factor sun screen (and keep it topped up!), even if the weather isn’t sunny. The trail broadly follows the flow of the Herman Gulch – a mountain stream – and is a well-defined, but at times uneven path through pine forests and open meadows, eventually emerging through the tree line into a more desolate alpine landscape where the route meets the Herman Lake. The landscape here is spectacular and gives a true flavour of what the Rocky mountains can offer. In Winter, the trail receives heavy snowfall and is a perfect place for snowshoeing. The Herman Gulch Trail forms a tiny section of the 3028mi/4873km Continental Divide Trail, so it’s absolutely possible to extend this trail if you wish to explore further.

alpine mountain views near Denver Colorado

16. Mohawk Lakes via Spruce Creek Trail

Difficulty: Uneven trail with substantial ascent – all at altitude
Distance: 8.2mi/13.2km there and back
Elevation: 2126ft/648m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round – treat as a snowshoe trail when there has been heavy snow fall

A great lake hike in the mountains near Denver, this trail leads to series of beautiful alpine lakes. This trail starts near the town of Breckenridge – approximately 1.5hrs drive West from Downtown Denver. Aim for the Crystal lakes or Spruce Creek trailheads where you’ll find parking. Note that at the time of writing, road closure means you will need to park roughly 0.5mi/1km further down the road from the trailhead. The Spruce Creek Trail starts at high altitude – the trailhead is at 10370ft/3160m and the route climbs form there, so be aware that you’ll very likely feel the impact of the thinner air and progress may be slower than you expect and also be sure to bring along (and use!) high factor sunblock as UV exposure is increased at altitude too. The trail follows a well-defined, but at times uneven path through pine forests that eventually emerges above the trees into a rocky, open alpine landscape and on to the Mohawk lakes – a series of small, but beautiful mountain lakes. The high mountain scenery here is spectacular and is a great reward for the work of this hike at high altitude. In Winter, the trail is blanketed with snow and is well suited to snowshoeing.

Mohawk Lakes from higher vantage point near Denver Colorado

Credit: Canvan-Images/Shutterstock.com

17. Mount Bierstadt

Difficulty: Steep and rough trail at high altitude – recommended for those with high mountain experience
Distance: 7.2mi/11.6km there and back
Elevation: 2677ft/816m ascent and descent
When to do it: Recommended from May to October with July to September optimum for general hiking. Only recommended for advanced mountaineers at other times, especially during Winter.

Mount Bierstadt is the closest 14er to Denver. A ‘14er’ is a mountain over 14000ft/4267m – in other words, a seriously tall mountain! The mountains near Denver get very tall very quickly and the city is uniquely positioned so hikers can quickly get access to some massive peaks. The Mt. Bierstadt trailhead lies roughly 1:15hrs West from Downtown Denver in the Mount Evans Wilderness. You are required to self-issue a free permit at the trailhead. During heavy snowfall, the road to the trailhead may be partially closed, but it may still possible to hike in from the Guanella Pass Campground. You can expect stunning, panoramic views of the Rockies and a glimpse of one of America’s most iconic wildernesses on this hike. There’s no two ways about it, this is a demanding mountaineering route where the aim is to reach the summit of Mt. Bierstadt at a dizzying 14064ft/4287m. For reference, Mt. Whitney in California is the highest mountain in the lower 48 states at 14505ft/4421m, so this peak is not far behind! This is certainly not a route for novice or inexperienced hikers and we would only advise you attempt this if you have previous high mountain experience – certainly the final ridge section to the summit could be dangerous in poor weather. The trail is generally easy to follow but becomes indistinct as you near the summit. Be sure to bring the right equipment: plenty of layers, weatherproof clothing and snowshoes and/or traction devices like crampons if attempting this whilst there’s snow on the ground. If you do attempt this hike, be sure to check the weather forecast first and assume it will take a full day, including an early start. This hike is all at high altitude and the impact of the thin air will definitely be noticeable. Also be aware that UV exposure is higher at altitude, so bring high factor sunblock and use it!

black and white image of Mount Bierstadt viewed from the trail near Denver Colorado

18. Chasm Lake

Difficulty: Uneven trail with substantial ascent – all at altitude
Distance: 8mi/12.9km there and back
Elevation: 2404ft/733m ascent and descent
When to do it: Recommended June to October for hiking. In Winter, snowshoes or traction devices are advised

A great lake hike near Denver with spectacular views including one of the closest 14ers to Denver. The Trailhead for the excellently named Chasm Lake is at Longs Peak Campground – roughly 1.5hrs drive Northwest from Downtown Denver. This is in the Rocky Mountain National Park, however, you won’t pass an entry gate on the way to the trailhead, so there is no fee payable. This trail starts at high altitude – the trailhead is already at 9383ft/2860m, so you can certainly expect to feel the impact of the altitude and increased UV exposure – be prepared! The trail proceeds through a high-altitude alpine landscape comprising rocky scree fields punctuated by pine forest. There are stunning views of Mt. Lady Washington and Longs Peak. The trail is uneven at points and the as such, when considered alongside the altitude, we’d say this is a route best tackled by hikers with prior alpine experience. The final section is a steep ascent to Chasm Lake, and this is particularly challenging. The trail is still accessible through winter, and snowshoes or traction devices are recommended.

view of Chasm Lake with snow and blue sky near Denver Colorado

Credit: Dr. Alan Lipkin/Shutterstock.com

19. Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks

Difficulty: A steep and rough trail at very high altitude – recommended only for those with high mountain experience
Distance: 7.9mi/12.7km
Elevation: 3474ft/1059m
When to do it: Recommended June to October for hiking

One of the best mountain hikes near Denver giving you the opportunity to summit two 14ers – this is also, as you might expect, a very demanding hike. The trailhead for Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks lies roughly 1:15hrs West of Downtown Denver on Steven’s Gulch RD – off the I 70 past Silver Plume. Season road closures can impact access to this trail. This is a challenging route and, whilst it follows a generally well-marked path, the trail is also uneven and there is a steep ascent to the two summits – Gray’s and Torrey’s Peak. Both of these summits are just over 14270ft/4350m and this route requires 3474ft/1059m of ascent to complete. These aren’t trivial stats and the thin air at this altitude will certainly be felt. With this in mind, we recommend this route for experienced hikers with prior high-altitude experience. Be sure to check the weather forecast and bring appropriate gear. If there’s snow on the ground, snowshoes and or traction devices like spikes or even crampons are a smart addition to your kit. None the less, the views through the Rockies from this trail are spectacular and you’ll be treated to panoramic views over an expansive wilderness at the higher points.

typical alpine scene towards sunset near Denver Colorado

20. Mount Falcon Park Trail

Difficulty: Trail can be narrow and uneven, and is subject to closure due to weather
Distance: 3.3mi/5.3km circular
Elevation: 863ft/263m ascent and descent
When to do it: Year-round, but muddy conditions can lead to closure of trails

This is a great hike near Denver city. The trailhead for this walk is situated just outside the town of Morrison, roughly 30mins West of Downtown Denver. There’s a fantastic network of trails in Mount Falcon Park, but here, we have a route combining the popular Turkey Trot Trail with a section of the Castle Trail to form a circular route of 3.3mi/5.3km. If you want a longer walk, it would be easy to extend this route to include some of the park’s other trails. The trail follows a well-defined, but at some points narrow and uneven path, weaving through pine forest and offering fantastic views of the surrounding prairie and some spectacular red rock formations (and even Denver in the distance). The first section of this route – on the Turkey Trot Trail – is only open to hikers, but the rest of the trials in the park are also open to horse riders and cyclists. The trails can and does receive snow fall, and it can sometimes be closed if the conditions are excessively muddy – Jefferson County, who manage the park, post updates on any closures on their website, so be sure to check in before making the journey.

silhouettes of typical mountains in Colorado towards sunset with orange sky

21. Bergen Peak

Difficulty: Uneven trail with substantial ascent – all at altitude
Distance: 9.6mi/15.5km there and back
Elevation: 2110ft/643m ascent and descent
When to do it: Recommended March to October for hiking

This trail is a great way to explore the mountains near Denver, Colorado. The starting point for this hike is the Elk Meadow Lewis Ridge Trailhead – roughly a 40minute drive West from Downtown Denver, following the I 70 for most of the journey. This trail gives the hiker a quintessential experience of the Colorado landscape as weaves through a mix of prairie and pine forest with the mountains looming in the background. The objective is to summit Bergen Peak. The trailhead is already at just over 7545ft/2300m and Bergen Peak tops out at 9701ft/2957m, so whilst this isn’t the highest hike in this round up, it still all takes place at altitude and you should absolutely be aware that you’ll likely feel the impact of the thin air – so be sure to allow plenty of time to complete the hike. The trail is also uneven at times. This trail intersects with a number of other routes in Bergen Park, and it’s easily modified. One option would be to convert the linear route here into a circular route by carrying onto the marvellously named ‘Too Long Trail’. It’s also possible to skip summiting Bergen Peak itself to reduce the total ascent by roughly 515ft/157m – at altitude the final steep push to the summit can be particularly punishing so this adjustment will surely be welcome by many and you can still expect some great views.

Bergen Peak view near Denver Colorado

Credit: CO Hikes/Shutterstock.com

22. Elk Falls and Chimney Rock

Difficulty: Uneven trail with substantial ascent – all at altitude
Distance: 13.4mi/21.6km there and back
levation: 1978ft/603m ascent and descent
When to do it: Recommended March to October for hiking

There are waterfalls near Denver and this challenging route take you to a spectacular one! It could be one of the best day hikes near Denver. The trailhead for this route is close to the entrance to Staunton State Park off South Elk Creek RD – roughly 45mins drive Southwest from Downtown Denver. There’s a $10 day-entry fee for vehicles and it’s also possible to camp in the park for an extra fee if you wish. This trail can be considered challenging – not just because of its long length but also because the whole hike is at altitude: the trailhead is at around 8333ft/2540m and the trail only climbs from there – so you’ll certainly feel the impact of the thin air and increased UV exposure. The trial itself is regarded as one of the best waterfall hikes near Denver – the ultimate goal is the spectacular Elk Falls and the route also takes in the free-standing natural tower that’s Chimney Rock (As can be seen on the map, it’s possible to cut out the detour to Chimney Rock to make the route a little shorter). The route combines the classic Rocky Mountain landscape of meadows and pine forests with impressive rock formations as a backdrop. The trail is rough and indistinct at points so, coupled with the length and altitude we’d recommend this as a route for experienced hikers.

view of golden larches and Chimney Peak near Denver Colorado

Credit: Sean Xu/Shutterstock.com

Things to Know About Hiking Near Denver and FAQs

It’s contentious, and this opinion might start some arguments, but a lot of people will tell you that Colorado has some of the most spectacular scenery in America, if not the world and Denver is a great choice of base from which to explore it. Denver is surrounded by lush prairie land – one of the iconic American landscapes – and to the West, it’s flanked by the mighty Rocky Mountain, where you’ll also find numerous ski resorts including the iconic resort town of Aspen – and indeed skiing and winter sports are a huge part of outdoors culture in Colorado. California’s Mount Whitney might hold the title of the tallest mountain in the lower 48 States, but peaks in Colorado comprise most of any list of tallest mountains in the lower 48. This is certainly spectacular land! All of the hikes listed in this guide are accessible within two hour’s drive from Downtown Denver, so you can combine spectacular nature experiences in the day with all the amenities of a major city and State Capital by night. If you’re happy to travel a little further, there’s a lifetime of exploration awaiting in the nature around Denver. But, as with all wild place’s there a few things you should be aware of in order to keep your hiking safe and above all else enjoyable!

Check out our FAQs below for more information:

What’s the closest mountain to Denver?

The suburbs of Denver reach right into the mountains, and places like North Table Mountain can be reached by car in as little as 20 minutes from Downtown. However, from Downtown Denver, the foothills of the Rockies are just a short drive to the West and we think that heading further out towards the Rockies is well worth the extra distance and this is where some of the best hikes around Denver can be found.

What’s the closest 14er to Denver?

A 14er is a mountain over 14000ft/4267m and many hikers understandably want to bag a 14er! The good news is that Denver, Colorado has mountains and they are very close to the city. The closest 14er to Denver is Mt. Bierstadt – and it’s just 1:15hrs drive from Downtown. There are plenty of other 14ers too including Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks which we’ve also included a route for. Climbing a 14er is going to be a challenge even for an experienced hiker. Altitude will be a factor and you can expect any of these routes to be tough. We would not recommend attempting a 14er unless you already have a decent amount of mountain hiking experience.

Can I experience a 14er without hiking?

Yes you can! The highest paved road in North America goes all the way to the summit of Mt. Evans which, at 14264ft/4347m is the 14th tallest 14er in Colorado… oh, and the one-way drive is 14 miles long too (are you spotting a pattern!). This scenic drive opens-up the high mountains to people who might otherwise never get a chance to experience them. The drive is not open all year round and exact opening dates depend on the weather. It’s also necessary to book a timed entry ticket and there is a modest fee too (waived on certain days). Full opening info and online ticket booking is available on the recreation.gov website. Remember that even though you’ll be driving, the thin air at altitude will definitely still have an impact. If you feel disoriented, or like you can’t fully control your vehicle, be prepared to stop and turn back if necessary.

What’s the weather like for Hiking Near Denver?

As with anywhere with tall mountains, you can expect the weather to be changeable and prone to extremes when hiking near Denver. What does this mean? Well, in Summer you can expect very warm desert conditions with highs exceeding 86F/30C and in Winter temperatures can and do drop below freezing. This brings snow, which, as you ascend into the Rockies can be very deep – leading to some roads being closed seasonally – and can be accompanied by biting winds too. We always advise checking the weather before heading out on a hike, and this is especially important if you’re planning a hike around Denver. Preparation is always key so be sure to know what weather you can expect and bring appropriate clothing – from waterproof hiking shoes to best hiking poles. Remember too, that if you are hiking in the high mountains that weather can change very quickly, so it’s essential to carry layers and weather-proof garments.

Should I Check for Route Closures on Hiking Trails Near Denver?

As well as checking in on the weather forecast, it’s worth checking in on the website for the park where the trail you intend to hike is situated. These parks post up to date information on trial closures and it’s good practice to check these before you travel to save wasting a journey – we’ve provided relevant links in as many of the individual route write-ups as possible. For example, at the time of writing, one of the trails in our round up was part-closed to help preserve Golden Eagle nesting sites!

What about the Altitude when Hiking Near Denver?

Denver itself sits at an altitude of roughly 5279ft/1609m. That’s relatively high up for a major city, but this altitude won’t cause any problems for the routes listed that are either in Denver or in the surrounding lower elevations. However, the Rocky Mountains get very tall and some of the trails we’ve listed here have their trailheads already above 10000ft/3048m and only go up from there! High altitude brings its own set of unique challenges to hiking, and the Rockies are certainly high enough for these challenges to present themselves! On the flip side, hiking at altitude also opens up a new frontier of spectacular alpine environments to explore. If you’re unfamiliar with the challenges of altitude, be sure to check out our guide to Training for Altitude Adventure (part one and part two), but, in short, at altitude you can expect to feel fatigued more quickly and, in the worst case scenario, you can become physically sick. If you have no altitude experience, throwing yourself into a trail that starts at 10000ft/3048m is not a smart move! Even if you do have altitude experience, you would be very wise to work up to a hike at such high altitude. Remember too that temperature will drop and UV exposure will increase as you go higher – so even if it’s a warm day in Downtown Denver, the trial head at 10000ft/3048m will likely be a lot colder and you should always wear high factor sunblock at altitude too.

What are the Camping Options when Hiking Near Denver?

Many of the Denver hikes we’ve listed in this round up are within parks and many of these parks accommodate campers. Even though the trails in our round up are all easily accessible from Downtown Denver, if you’re planning on hiking several trails in broadly the same area, the driving time can add up and camping is a great way to not just cut back on driving time, but also to have a more all-encompassing experience of nature (and a great way to save some money too!). Check out the links to the various Parks around Denver where applicable in each route write up for more info on the camping options that are available and also be sure to check out our guide to the best small 2 person tents if you need somewhere to sleep on the trail.

Is Snow or Winter Hiking Near Denver Possible?

Snow transforms Colorado and many of the hiking trails in Denver we’ve listed here make for great snowshoeing routes. If you are going to hike in the snow, be aware that it can be more fatiguing than regular hiking and ensure you’re familiar with the gear you’re using. Snowshoeing isn’t difficult and unlike skiing doesn’t require any special skills to be learned, but a little time familiarising yourself with fitting, adjusting, walking in and especially turning in snowshoes is time well spent. For hikes where there might be snow or ice on the ground, but where you don’t think snowshoes will be required, traction devices such as microspikes or crampons can be helpful for keeping your grip. Also, if you’re planning to hike in mountains in snow, it’s wise to familiarise yourself with avalanche safety.

Essentials for Hiking Near Denver

We want you to enjoy your hikes safely and there’s a few basic steps you can take and equipment you can carry to ensure things go smoothly:

  • Hike in a group, or, if you are going to hike solo, ensure someone knows where you’re going and knows when to raise an alarm if you don’t’ check in.
  • Know your route. Carry a map and someway to determine your location – and know how to read and use it. You can use a paper map and compass or, you’re going to use a navigation device or app, be sure the map is accessible offline and that your device is adequately charged and ideally bring a backup.
  • Carry food and plenty of water – water is especially important if you’re hiking in the heat.
  • Check the weather in advance and be mindful of changing conditions on the day.
  • Remember that many of the mountain hikes near Denver are at considerable altitude – this can impact your progress, so factor time accordingly
  • Bring appropriate clothing and equipment – layers are key!
  • Plan to spend longer on the trial and assume you might need to hike in the dark – so, carry a charged head torch just in case.
  • Be sure to practice the principles of Leave No Trace.
  • Don’t get consumed by ‘Summit Fever’. It can be a difficult decision to turn back, but if you’re struggling on a trial, it can often be the best and safest choice.
  • Check out our gear guides for our reviews of a range of hiking essentials

Enjoy Exploring the Hiking Trails Near Denver, Colorado

The options for hiking and backpacking near Denver Colorado are incredible. Without a doubt the area is home to some of the most spectacular trails in North America – if not the World. Our guide to the best places to hike near Denver only scratches the surface. We think you could truly spend a lifetime hiking here and never hike the same trail twice. Whilst the summer and early Fall/Autumn season are the best for most routes, winter hiking is also absolutely a possibility and many of these routes are accessible on snowshoes. The options are vast and we hope you enjoy your time on the trail!

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