The terrain in Colorado varies greatly depending upon what part of the state you're in. East of Denver, Colorado shares the features of the plains states of the Midwest and is very flat. The Rocky Mountains begin west of the plains and house peaks of various sizes, up to 14,433 feet. Colorado's mountains give it the distinction of highest mean altitude of any state at 6,800 feet. The western part of the state is defined by the Colorado Plateau, which transforms the terrain into high desert. Each area of Colorado offers a distinct hiking experience complete with incredible scenery; although the state is best known for hikes through high mountains and alpine forests.
Lengthiest Hiking Trails
Colorado offers several epic, multi-day hikes. Perhaps the most famous, the Continental Divide Trail runs through the heart of the Colorado Rockies while making its 3,100-mile journey from the Canada to Mexico. The Colorado section of the Continental Divide Trail is 800 miles long and stretches over massive Rocky Mountain peaks, including the CDT's highest point at Gray's Peak (14,270 feet). It traverses through famed parks and forests including Rocky Mountain National Park, Routt National Forest and Rio Grande National Forest. The Continental Divide separates rivers that flow west (toward the Pacific) from those that flow east (toward the Atlantic). If you aren't ready to tackle the entire Colorado section of the CDT, there are many access points providing shorter, sectional hikes.
The Colorado Trail runs southwest, connecting Denver and Durango. This 500-mile trail has 28 individual segments that can be hiked separately or as part of the full CT. Like the CDT, the Colorado Trail stretches through the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and offers incredible backcountry scenery.
Colorado has a number of hut systems that can provide for multi-day hikes, such as the tenth Mountain Division system outside of Leadville and Aspen. These systems provide a way of hiking through remote alpine wilderness while maintaining access to reliable shelter.
Colorado's National Parks offer excellent hiking trails. To the north, Rocky Mountain National Park--the origin of the Colorado River, offers spectacular alpine scenery and many individual hikes. For a completely different experience, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado offers hiking trails with views of the incredible contrast between the dunes and alpine mountains.
Nearly every town throughout the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau has access to plenty of day hike options. Many ski towns like Steamboat Springs and Aspen offer lift access to hikers, making hiking less taxing while offering the same scenic rewards.