Best Loop Hikes Colorado  by Steve Johnson & David Weinstein

Best Loop Hikes Colorado Guide Book

by Steve Johnson & David Weinstein (The Mountaineers Books)
Best Loop Hikes Colorado  by Steve Johnson & David Weinstein
Looking for a short, easy stroll, or a challenging multi-day trek? Longing for solitude, or trails that are kid-friendly? How about an ambitious full-day scramble with a high fourteener along the way? You’ll find all these and more in Loop Hikes: Colorado. This is no-repeat scenery at its finest – no retracing your steps or shuttling a car to trail’s end. Wandering in circles has never been so much fun! Regions represented include Front Range, Central Mountains, Southwest Mountains, Western Slope and Canyonlands, Northern Mountains, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

© 2006 Steve Johnson and David Weinstein/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Loop Hikes Colorado" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 60.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 60.

Deep in the mountains of Italy, Riva Ridge posed a formidable line of defense for Mount Belvedere, a major German stronghold during World War II. One night in February 1945, American soldiers scaled the 1500-vertical-foot ridge to surprise a lone German battalion before going on to successfully capture the peak: 1500 vertical feet lugging full combat gear in ice-cold winter darkness—tough hombres, without a doubt. Today’s hike takes us to the 10th Mountain Hut, a small cabin near the Continental Divide honoring the heroic men who trained at Camp Hale as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. In 1980, the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association was founded and two backcountry huts were built to provide shelter for cross-country skiers. Today there are twelve huts available for winter and summer use in some of Colorado’s most beautiful environs.
Mitchell, CO - Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 7.3
This is an excellent hike in Lory State Park in the foothills west of Fort Collins. Lory, one of forty Colorado state parks, includes more than 2400 acres of diverse terrain providing 20 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. This hike explores a scenic gulch, climbs through mountain meadows, and brings us up high to Arthurs Rock, with breathtaking views of Horsetooth Reservoir, Fort Collins below, and the expanse of the eastern plains beyond.
Bellvue, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.9
Relating his views of honking geese at his Wisconsin farm, Aldo Leopold said, “ . . . and in this annual barter of food for light, and winter warmth for summer solitude, the whole continent receives a net profit of a wild poem dropped from the murky skies upon the muds of March.” At Barr Lake State Park, this wild poem is heard throughout winter, and there is much, much more. Geese, eagles, hawks, owls, and cormorants make up five of the 350 species of birds that have been spotted within this park. A bird-watcher’s paradise, this hike takes an 8.8-mile journey around the lake, through a wildlife refuge, across an elevated dam with endless views, and provides shelters for bird-watching and picnic areas, too.
Denver, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.8
Colorado’s Front Range, extending nearly the entire distance between the state’s borders north and south, offers a wonderful prelude to the rugged peaks of the higher mountains farther west. Arid slopes, hogback ridges, deep canyons, and areas of dense forest provide an ideal setting for great hiking, like this route in the hills near Boulder. Our hike begins in the midst of this striking range, at the southern reaches of Boulder and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Perched atop Table Mesa in the shadow of the Flatirons, NCAR is a renowned think tank researching complex happenings such as climate change, atmospheric composition, and weather formation and forecasting.
Boulder, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.2
Here is a fun hike in the 27,000-acre Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area. Rugged mountains, an incredible diversity of plant and animal life, and a beautiful rushing creek highlight this loop. The trail offers big climbs and long descents, and the end of the trail quietly follows a gulch filled with huge trees, high canyon walls, and a peppering of wildflowers. This area also boasts one of the richest wildlife habitats in Colorado, including one of the greatest concentrations of mountain lions in the state. Keep your eyes peeled for the likes of bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, black bear, and bobcat, as well. Skies above are graced with peregrine falcons, hawks, and eagles.
Adelaide, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.9
Bear Lake is one of the most popular destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park, and big crowds pour into the area by the busload. We typically avoid this type of scene at all costs, but the scenery here is so spectacular, we can’t pass it up. Huge mountains flank a deep green valley, and cold, clear streams mosey through the woods. Bierstadt is a nice little trail conveniently located nearby where we can leave the tourists behind and explore a small part of Glacier Basin, and there is direct access to the Little Matterhorn hike, too.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.5
This gentle and fun loop is located in the Boulder Valley Ranch open space north of town. Extremely popular among Boulder’s fittest, these trails are packed with runners, bikers, and horseback riders. This trail is perfect for a great trail run or an excuse to take lunch outdoors. Four different trails take us through prairie dog colonies, past a natural wetland, and offer some of the best views of Boulder in the area. The counterclockwise direction of the hike makes for a manageable ascent and a leisurely cruise on the return. It can get crowded here, though, so come out early.
Boulder, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
In the 1840s, settlers moved into the present-day site of Golden Gate Canyon State Park in search of gold, but it was some 6 miles southwest in Blackhawk and Central City where the gold was to be found. The Golden Gate Toll Road was constructed to bypass this beautiful area in order to reach the prosperous towns. While no gold has ever been found within the park, there are plenty of other treasures hidden here, and the Burro Loop is no exception. This hike offers a variety of landscapes to hikers and scenery ranging from sheltered riparian corridors to the entirety of the eastern plains or massive snowcapped mountains.
Golden, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.4
This short hike is close to Boulder, but tucked far enough west to offer seclusion. Located in the Betasso Preserve, home to a wide variety of plant and animal life and age-old geological formations, this 3.2-mile loop is maintained by Boulder County Parks and Open Space, which ensures a well-maintained and easily accessible trail all year long. From dense trees and gullies to open meadows and sweeping vistas, this rolling landscape offers the beautiful views and mellow climate that is so characteristic of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Boulder, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
Mueller State Park boasts more than 55 miles of trails laced throughout its 5000 acres of rolling woods and meadows. With the immense west face of Pikes Peak as a backdrop, hikers can get way out there and wander remote areas of the park, or take a quiet stroll on a short loop near the campground. Elk, black bears, eagles, hawks, and a lot of other wildlife are commonly seen throughout the park. This trail starts right out with panoramic views of Pikes Peak, follows rolling terrain through meadows and aspen glades, and concludes with deep woods in secluded valleys. Highlights of the hike are the original Cheesman Ranch property and buildings along the trail, and great views of the Sangre de Cristo Range.
Midland, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 12
This is one of the shorter hikes in the book, but the setting is so exquisite it is difficult to even begin walking. The view right at the trailhead is one of the most unforgettable in Colorado. After a short stroll past Maroon Lake, we’ll take off on a trail through aspen and spruce to Crater Lake for an up-close experience of the stunning Maroon Bells. Come here in the fall when the aspen and the Bells try to outdo each other’s beauty. It is an absolutely fabulous hike and an all-time author favorite.
Snowmass Village, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
This hike takes place in the gorgeous Winter Park–Fraser Valley area. With high-alpine views and densely walled stands of lodgepole pine nestled below the Vasquez and Byers Peak Wilderness Areas, this is a perfect place to strap on snowshoes for some winter fun. Located between Interstate 70 and Rocky Mountain National Park, the Fraser Valley is made to order for outdoor lovers, and this trail is one of its highlights. If you are looking for solitude and an opportunity to break some fresh snow, plan on making the Deadhorse Creek Loop one of your destinations.
Fraser, CO - Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 7
The unmistakable Devils Backbone on the outskirts of Loveland is a unique geologic treasure in Colorado. Impressive even from a distance, this row of vertical rocks is best seen up close to truly appreciate its rugged beauty. This path, a loop with tails on both ends, gets within spitting distance of the backbone and is a great trail for a quick hike or run. The Devils Backbone area includes more than 2100 acres of open land obtained with support from area cities and landowners. As with Boulder County and its Parks and Open Space program, Larimer County has also enjoyed success setting aside lands for recreation and heritage uses.
Loveland, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 4
On the extreme western side of Colorado, there is a primeval desert land of astounding beauty. With painted canyon walls, massive columns of rock, and open red valleys dotted green with sage, juniper, and piñon pine, these colorful canyonlands take hikers into a world of desert splendor. The Devils Canyon Loop follows a narrow river gorge full of terraced waterfalls, cupped sandstone cliffs, and slickrock ledges en route to a world of head-high junipers and rabbitbrush set against red and purple walls rising hundreds of feet above. Nourished by the nearby Colorado River, the bowels of the canyon are home to panthers, bighorn sheep, rabbits, and peregrine falcons. This area is also home to some of the harshest weather conditions in the state. During the summer, the temperature often climbs above 100 degrees. The Bureau of Land Management recommends carrying a gallon of water per person per day. Conversely, during the winter, temperatures can dip below freezing and snow is common. Enjoy this spectacular area, but be prepared for the elements.
Fruita, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.5
The Indian Peaks Wilderness Area northwest of Denver is one of the most popular in the state, and this loop is a big reason why. Hikers can look forward to two long, verdant valleys, a couple of outrageously beautiful mountain passes, a stretch along the Continental Divide Trail with all-over views, and three lakes strung out along the hike like pearls, each offering a number of great campsites. Add in some plump hillsides glowing with colorful wildflowers and this wilderness is a beauty indeed, but it is also heavily used due to proximity to swelling population centers along the Front Range. Camping requires permits, and a late start, especially on weekends, will guarantee some additional mileage just hiking to the trailhead from a distant parking place. So choose a beautiful weekday, get here early, and discover why this area is such a Colorado gem.
Eldora, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 14.7
Long summer days in Colorado are made to order for outdoor enthusiasts, with a lot of sun and reliable weather for exploring our favorite hideaways. And the lingering evenings entertain us with warm, colorful sunsets on a sky that reaches into forever. Dowdy Lake is the perfect location to absorb such evenings. Tucked away in northern Colorado, Dowdy is the biggest of a handful of lakes known as the Red Feather Lakes. This is a great family destination with camping, fishing, hiking, canoeing, bird-watching, and picnic grounds. Whether you’re strolling in and out of ponderosas, floating gently past the chimney rock formations jutting from the lake, or setting up camp beneath the aspen leaves, the Red Feather area is a Colorado gem.
Red Feather Lakes, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.2
Boulder County’s Parks and Open Space program has done a tremendous job of preserving area lands from the relentless crush of sprawl that is devouring the Front Range. Nearly 70,000 acres have been set aside to protect critical wildlife habitat, ranches, and agricultural land, and to provide recreation opportunities for area residents and visitors. With the help of an extensive volunteer list, more than 80 miles of trails have been set aside for the enjoyment of multiple user groups. This is a short loop with fine views of Longs Peak to the west, the Indian Peaks and Flatirons to the south, and Loveland and the plains to the east. The multiuse trail (hikers, horses, mountain bikes) follows a ridge through grasslands and pine forests that are important habitat for wildlife like deer, hawks and eagles, and many species of songbirds. Rabbit Mountain, which this hike circumnavigates, is an ideal close-to-town destination and a popular choice for a quick getaway.
Longmont, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
This one has it all. Damp, dark underbellies of lush pine forests, open, soft expanses of aspen groves, and unobstructed views of some of Colorado’s gnarliest peaks, all nestled in the Eagles Nest Wilderness north of the Gore Range. Even better, this area is full of hidden treasures cached amidst a range of mostly unnamed peaks.
Heeney, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.3
At the far eastern fringe of the bustling college town of Fort Collins, the Colorado State University Environmental Learning Center (ELC) offers more than 200 acres of forest, wetlands, a scenic river, and even resident raptors. These lands are rich in history, dating to the 1800s. The Arapaho Indians hunted here and tribal councils were held on the center’s grounds. Later, ELC land was the site of the Overland Trail stagecoach stop. This place is a wonderful asset for the town and is ideal for wildlife viewing or taking a quiet stroll. This short hike explores some of the 2.5 miles of trails visiting several distinct ecosystems. The small building adjacent to the parking area houses the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, a university-based resource dedicated to providing medical care, rehabilitation, and release for injured birds of prey. Walk over and take a gander at these striking avians—bald and golden eagles, great horned owls, hawks, and other birds native to the area.
Arrowhead, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.8
Here is a short and scenic loop in Alderfer/Three Sisters Park. Located in Jefferson County Open Space near the scenic town of Evergreen, and easily accessible from Denver, too, this hike provides a nice getaway from the busy city. This 770-acre park is an ideal destination for a quick hike, with broad vistas of rolling, forested foothills, secluded trails, and glimpses out to the high reaches of the Continental Divide. Alderfer is home to the unmistakable rock formations dubbed “The Three Sisters” and “The Brother,” situated in the north side of the park. Today’s trail wanders through the southern section up to Evergreen Mountain.
Evergreen, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.3