Best Hikes Near Denver and Boulder  by Sandy Heise and Maryann Gaug

Best Hikes Near Denver and Boulder Guide Book

by Sandy Heise and Maryann Gaug (Falcon Guides)
Best Hikes Near Denver and Boulder  by Sandy Heise and Maryann Gaug
Hikers in the Denver and Boulder area, rejoice! Within about an hour’s drive, you can experience every facet of hiking in Colorado except western canyon country. From open prairies to old ranches preserved as parks in the foothills, to crystal clear mountain streams and lakes, you can select a terrain and hike length to suit you on any given day. With such beautiful public lands so close, you have no excuse to stay at home. Time to take a hike!

© 2017 Sandy Heise and Maryann Gaug/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Hikes Near Denver and Boulder" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 40.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 40.

As you walk up the Arapaho Glacier Trail past treeline, a spectacular sight unfolds before your eyes. Jagged peaks on the spine of the Continental Divide suddenly appear above the rounded curve of the alpine tundra. Far below to the right is Boulder’s beautiful Silver Lake Watershed, with its string of pristine lakes. The alpine tundra, rich with colorful wild?owers, stretches to the horizon. At the 2.5-mile viewpoint turnaround, you catch a glimpse of the remains of the Arapaho Glacier. Two additional options are o?ered here, depending on the weather and your preference.
Nederland, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 5.6
The Beaver Brook Trail travels like a roller coaster through a variety of ecosystems and interesting rocky sections. Starting in Genesee Park on the west, the trail drops 840 feet to Beaver Brook in a wild, primitive area close to Denver. It then climbs 1,200 feet until leveling out, before descending 880 feet to Windy Saddle above Golden. Viewpoints look down into Clear Creek Canyon, where semitrailer trucks look like ants. Although sections are open and dry, little oases and a small waterfall provide surprises along this trail through the ?rst Denver Mountain Park and two Je?erson County Open Space parks.
Golden, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.8
Wander through tallgrass and mixed-grass prairie where cattle still graze, then hike up into the foothills thick with vegetation, in view of spectacular rock formations. In spring, the wild?owers and ?owering bushes send sweet-scented fragrances wafting across the air. Fall brings colorful leaves and berries, which bears eagerly eat to fatten up before winter arrives. Devil’s Thumb and The Maiden rock formations poke their heads into the sky as the land rises abruptly from the Mesa Trail. Sample the various ecosystems of Boulder’s Open Space & Mountain Parks while hiking this scenic, moderate loop.
Boulder, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 6.8
Deer Creek Canyon Park is a close-to-home escape for residents of the south Denver metro area. With Plymouth Mountain and Bill Couch Mountain separated by Plymouth Creek, the hike winds through both open meadows and a cool narrow canyon. This out-and-back journey climbs up to a rocky point where views of South Valley Park’s ?atirons and hogback contrast with Denver’s skyscrapers beyond. Over half of the hike is on hikers-only trails. Colorful wild?owers and shrubs burst forth in spring. Deer Creek Canyon Park is a great place for a hike and picnic.
Littleton, CO - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 7
Constant surprises and interesting twists occur along this trail as it climbs up toward Ralston Roost and then drops through an aspen forest and flower-filled meadows. Backcountry sites offer a close-to-home camping opportunity in this area. A side spur takes you to the remains of John Frazer’s barn and the beautiful meadow where he grew vegetables. This area is close to Denver, yet seems so remote while you are hiking here. The rocky ridges around Ralston Roost provide views of the Continental Divide and fun hiking. Different seasons bring new varieties of flowers and colors to the meadows.
Golden, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.4
Twist and turn up and down along the pleasant Blackmer Loop on the toe of Cheyenne Mountain. After passing a group of car-size boulders, you’ll come upon one with a ponderosa pine growing out of it. The trail generally travels in ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forest, but occasional openings present expansive views of Fort Carson and the eastern plains and of rugged Cheyenne Mountain to the west. Rustic remnants of ranching lie unused in fields along the north section of trail. Interpretive signs along Blackmer Loop and Zook Loop explain different park features.
Colorado Springs, CO - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 4.7
The nonmotorized Buchanan Pass Trail 910 takes you gently uphill through thick forest north of Middle Saint Vrain Creek and into high meadows with beautiful vistas of the Continental Divide. This hike is featured as access to explore the area. Past the 4.5-mile turnaround, you can hike any of several di?erent trails to the Saint Vrain Glaciers—Red Deer Lake, Saint Vrain Mountain, Beaver Creek Trail, or Buchanan Pass-that traverse the Divide. As a day hike, you can enjoy big rock outcroppings at mile 2.1 and the broad meadows and creekside stops just before the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary.
Lyons, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9
The trails of Caribou Ranch Open Space not only wind through excellent wildlife habitat, but also take you on a historic journey into the mining era of the 1870s, past an old homestead, and along a scenic railroad route of the early 1900s. During your hike, you’ll circle a beautiful meadow and learn about willow carrs and wetlands from interpretive signs at different overlooks. About 1.2 miles of the trail follow the gentle old railroad bed of the Switzerland Trail of America.
Nederland, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 4.6
This beautiful ?gure-8 hike drops down to Cherry Creek and the remains of the Castlewood Dam, which provided water for irrigation and recreation for over forty years. The dam broke in 1933, leaving tattered remains and scars in the canyon downstream. You’ll walk past big hunks of Castle Rock Conglomerate, full of imbedded rocks and pebbles. Watch for birds of prey like turkey vultures and various hawks while you amble through four ecosystems in this canyon on the plains. The Visitor Center o?ers two excellent movies to help you appreciate this amazing state park.
Franktown, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.2
“Wow!!” comes to mind as a ?tting description for this popular hike! The trail winds up through lodgepole pine forest, then climbs through limber pines and krummholz to the alpine tundra. On clear days, you can see for miles across the eastern plains. Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, and Mount Lady Washington loom to the southwest. Along the shelf trail, Peacock Pool, Columbine Falls, and colorful wild?owers captivate your eyes. Chasm Lake, snuggled beneath the shear East Face of Longs Peak, can’t be beat for scenic beauty. Glaciers quarried and sculpted this gorgeous land through which you hike.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 8.6
Bobcat Ridge Natural Area opened to the public in 2006, with new trails added in 2007. Starting in prairie between a hogback and Green Ridge (the beginning of the foothills), the hike follows the Valley Loop Trail to a spur trail leading to an old cabin built in the early 1900s. Then it follows the D. R. Trail, which climbs through a ponderosa pine forest to Mahoney Park, a beautiful meadow ringed with hills and granitic rock formations. You’ll hike through the scars of the 2000 Bobcat Gulch Fire, an area that is recovering with new trees and colorful wild?owers.
Loveland, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 8.4
Hike up and down hogbacks and along the distinctive Devil’s Backbone rock formation, experiencing the interesting geology ?rsthand. The area’s human history is explained on several interpretive signs and in a trail guide available at the trailhead. Red-tailed hawks, ravens, swallows, and a great horned owl nest in the niches of the Backbone formation. The views are great, too! From prairie to rocky ridges to a lush little gully, the trail constantly changes. With three possible loops, you can ?nd a short or long hike to suit your fancy. The trail system winds for over ?fteen miles through Devil’s Backbone Open Space, up to Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and Lory State Park. About midway, it connects with Coyote Ridge Natural Area to the east.
Loveland, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 4.4
With a little luck, you might see a golden eagle soaring above Rabbit Mountain, looking for a tasty lunch. The cli?s of Rabbit Mountain are one of the few places in Boulder County where the magni?cent birds still build their nests. The trail climbs through a variety of shrubs, grasses, and patches of ponderosa pine where Native Americans once lived and hunted. Views extend to Longs Peak and Mount Meeker, the Indian Peaks, Boulder’s foothills, and down along the southern Front Range. They include a panoramic view of the plains to the north, east, and south. Spring brings colorful wild?owers to this peaceful island in the sky.
Lyons, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 4
At 8,830 feet and surrounded by granitic boulders, ledges, and cli?s, Gem Lake is a small gem of a rain-?lled lake with no inlet or outlet. The trail travels along south-and east-facing slopes, wandering in and out of a couple of narrow canyons between granitic outcroppings. Interesting rock formations inspire the imagination, and several sections o?er spectacular views of Estes Park, Twin Sisters, Longs Peak, and the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorful wild?owers grace the trail from mid-June to early July. This trail is a good early and late season hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 3.5
This short but steep trail is good training for those aspiring to climb higher mountains. For others, the view of Boulder and the eastern plains beyond is worth the e?ort. Plus there’s a great view of the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park peaks to the west and north. The rumble and whistles of trains traveling above Eldorado Canyon to the south waft through the air. The trail traverses through the Western Mountain Parks Habitat Conservation Area, which requires on-trail travel unless you obtain an o?-trail permit. Staying on-trail helps protect and preserve sensitive or rare plants and animals.
Boulder, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.8
The old wagon road (nonmotorized) to the 7:30 Mine climbs steadily above Silver Plume, past relics of the silver boom of the 1880s. Bristlecone pines, lodgepole pines, and aspens line the trail. After 1.5 miles, the trail becomes narrower, and occasionally you’ll have to negotiate a side-sloping, slippery route. Local residents have been working hard to improve and maintain the trail, which is not easy at this altitude on steep terrain. The Gri?n Monument obelisk stands on a rock outcropping below the 7:30 Mine Road near the upper mouth of Brown Gulch. A little farther up the narrow trail are two rusting boilers from the 7:30 Mine, the remains of which lie across the creek.
Silver Plume, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 3.7
The popular hike to Herman Lake starts on an old sawmill road through thick forest. The trail then wanders through ?elds of colorful wild?owers, with spectacular views of the Continental Divide. Most of the trail doubles as a section of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. A last steep pitch takes you to treeline, where the trail mellows on the ?nal stretch to Herman Lake, nestled in a bowl at 12,000 feet with Pettingell Peak towering above.
Dillon, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 6.7
Starting at an old homestead, this trail takes you over Cherry Creek and then through a great example of shortgrass prairie before heading up the mesa. You wander through a juniper ecosystem with some ponderosa pine and prickly pear cactus on this mesa rimmed by Castle Rock Conglomerate, with its cemented cobbles. Views from the top start at Pikes Peak to the south and follow the Front Range to Longs Peak in the north. The Black Forest around Franktown pleases the eye to the east. This 1,224-acre open space buffer between Castle Rock and Franktown protects prairie dogs, pronghorns, mule deer, elk, and many raptors.
Castle Rock, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 6.9
Several hiking options allow you to explore the peaceful and quiet remains of different farms and ranches in Homestead Meadows National Historic District (including one with a sunken bathtub!). Old relics like stoves and cars lie abandoned in the flower-filled meadows. Cattle ranching, farming, and logging provided income to the families who settled here. A newer and easier access to this outdoor history museum is through Hermit Park Open Space, opened in 2008 by Larimer County. The USDA Forest Service manages Homestead Meadows, a unique property that provides an insight into the past as well as critical winter habitat for elk. Homestead Meadows today is quiet and full of flowers and wildlife. Trying to visualize life as a farmer or rancher here in the early 1900s without electricity, plumbing, high-speed cars on good roads, cell phones, and computers challenges the imagination.
Estes Park, CO - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 7.9
Mount Goliath Natural Area contains subalpine and alpine ecosystems along Mount Evans Road. The M. Walter Pesman Trail winds and climbs through an ancient bristle-cone pine forest (some trees are over 1,500 years old) in the Natural Area. It crosses alpine tundra with fantastic tiny wild?owers (peak bloom is in mid-July) to the upper trailhead. To return, hike a little higher on the Alpine Garden Loop 49 for spectacular 360-degree views, then rejoin the Pesman Trail. End your hike by exploring the Bristle-cone Loop Trail and Interpretive Gardens by the Dos Chappell Nature Center.
Evergreen, CO - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5