Colorado is known for its snow-capped mountains and breathtaking landscapes. So there is no wonder why it attracts dedicated hikers to its peaks every year.
Hiking has been a popular Colorado activity since the Colorado Trail was created back in the 1970s. Today, outdoor enthusiasts continue to visit from all over the world to find the best hikes in Colorado.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported that the state is home to over 1,700 trails. These top hikes in Colorado are scattered all over the state, some in sought-after mountain towns.
Don't know where to start with finding the right one for you? We've got you covered. Here are the 20 best hikes in Colorado that you don't want to miss!
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Mt Sherman is one of the fifty-two Colorado 14ers. A 14er is a mountain peak that sits over 14,000 feet in the sky!
Climbing a 14er when in Colorado is a bucket list for many and luckily, Mt Sherman is rated one of the easiest 14ers in Colorado. With an elevation gain of 2,150 feet and 5.0 miles long, this trail is rated one of the best 14ers in Colorado as well.
Mt Sherman Trail via Four Mile Creek Road is a special hike since you are literally hiking in the clouds.
At 14,035 feet, you will see the Pike National Forest mountains. The hike starts from the parking lot and has you gradually climbing over rocks and boulders to the summit. The views from the top make the hard incline worth it!
Afterward, stop by the town of Buena Vista, an adorable mountain town known for its white water rafting. Buena Vista is filled with yummy restaurants, coffee shops and even a local brewery.
Located in the heart of Telluride is one of the most beautiful hikes in Colorado. Bridal Veil Falls Trail is a 4-mile hike with 1,368 feet of elevation gain. The hike is an out and back trail that is rated as moderate.
Bridal Veil Falls is one of the tallest free-falling waterfalls in Colorado making it a true accomplishment for any hiker who climbs it.
Start your adventure at the parking lot, then follow the windy dirt road all the way to the bottom of the falls. Keep trekking upward until you reach the top of the falls at the Bridal Veil Power Station.
The Bridal Veil Power Station is a landmark in Telluride that was built back in 1907. It was the primary power source to the Smuggler Union mine and mill.
Climbing Bridal Veil Falls is one of the best hikes in Colorado due to its remarkable views.
Once you're back down, make a stop by the town of Telluride on your way out. Telluride is one of the most loved mountain towns in the entire state.
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Colorado
One of the coolest hikes in Colorado is technically not a hike at all. Located in Manitou Springs is the Incline Trail.
The trail is made up of 2,768 wooden steps that take you straight up the side of a mountain.
You are probably wondering how this miraculous staircase got here. It was originally a cable car that was used to carry materials for pipeline building on Pikes Peak.
Once the reconstruction was complete, they decided to turn it into a tourist attraction. They then removed the rails and turned the railroad ties into a humongous staircase.
The hike is very rewarding for a few reasons. Climbing over 2,000 feet of elevation gain in less than one mile is one of them. Secondly, the views during the whole climb are breathtaking. Take in the scenic surrounding mountains and the city lights of Colorado Springs.
Keep in mind, this hike is not for the faint of heart and it is rated as hard. It is important to take your time and remember to breathe while hiking. Don't let the one mile fool you! Afterward, stop by Manitou Springs, an adorable mountain town with many dining options.
Did you know that Colorado has castle ruins? The best part is, they are located on the top of a mountain. Mount Falcon Castle Loop Trail is a 2.3-mile loop hike that brings you to these historic castle ruins.
The ruins are from John Brisben Walker's Castle, which was built in the 1800s. In the summer months, it was meant to be a White House for US Presidents.
There is even a wooden lookout tower, which hikers can climb for views of the surrounding landscapes, making it one of the best hikes in Colorado.
This hike is only forty minutes from Denver and is easily accessible. The castle ruins are located at the top of the mountain, where the area flattens out.
There are also picnic grounds, which allow you to pack a lunch to enjoy at the top. Mount Falcon Castle Loop Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in Colorado.
Take in the history of the ruins while enjoying the scenery of the mountains and the city of Denver in the distance.
One of the top hikes in Colorado is located in the Garden of the Gods. This Colorado Springs tourist attraction is home to twenty-one miles of trails.
So you are probably wondering, which one should I choose? The Palmer, Buckskin-Charley, Niobrara, and Bretag Trail Loop is hands down the top-rated hike in the Garden of the Gods.
This 4-mile loop brings you through the center of the park while looping back out to the east side. It is a combination of three separate trails, The Palmer Trail, The Buckskin-Charley Trail, Niobrara Trail and the Bretag Trail.
This hike will give you the full Garden of the Gods experience. Pass by the Siamese Twins Formation, one of the most infamous rock formations in the area.
It is famous for its 'window' that is located in the center of the rocks. Through the 'window' sits Pikes Peak, America's favorite mountain! A popular photo opportunity that many take advantage of when visiting the park. Colorado's hikes are already unique, but the Garden of the Gods takes it to another level.
Spend your whole day at Garden of the Gods! Stop by the visitor center to learn about the history of the park or pack a picnic to enjoy on the grounds. Garden of the Gods spotlights some of the best hikes in Colorado!
Mount Bierstadt is one of Colorado’s best hikes! Another Colorado 14er that peaks at 14,065 feet in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.
This hike is a great 14er for beginners and is rated one of the easiest 14ers in Colorado but be sure to follow some guidelines before hiking.
Hiking 14ers are recommended in the summer months due to snow and extreme weather in the fall and winter.
Be sure to start very early in the morning when taking on this summit. Setting your alarm for a 5 AM start is needed due to unexpected afternoon thunderstorms.
The trail itself is spectacular and is one of the best 14ers in Colorado. With 7.8 miles of Rocky Mountain Views and vibrant wildflowers, Mount Bierstadt is located outside of Idaho Springs in the Mount Evans Wilderness.
Stop by this old mining mountain town; it has tons of dining options and is only a short drive from Denver.
Hike around the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre! A Colorado Music Venue that is home to live music and mountain views. This short and easy hike will bring you around the amphitheatre.
It is only 1.5 miles long with an elevation gain of 357 feet. Take in the beautiful scenery of the red clay rocks while getting in a workout. Red Rocks Trading Post Trail is one of the best hikes in Colorado for those wanting to explore the trading post area.
Afterwards, stop by the Red Rocks Amphitheatre Museum to learn about the history of the area.
If you visit in the morning before shows, you will see the sound team setting up and testing out the system—a fun way to get the Red Rocks experience without seeing a show.
Sitting in Northwest Colorado is a 4.7-mile hike that will get your heart pumping. Fish Creek Falls Trail is a hard-rated hike that gains 1,450 elevation gain.
The uphill trek brings you to the base of the cascading waterfall that is Fish Creek Falls. The falls are a great area to enjoy some lunch while feeling the refreshing mist on your face.
This hike is located in Steamboat Springs, a winter ski destination. In the summer months, the town is known for its summer activities and hiking destinations.
Visit downtown to grab some hard-earned grub. Afterward, tube on the Yampa River! A famous local activity that allows you to enjoy the rapids while passing along downtown Steamboat Springs. For this reason alone, Fish Creek Falls Trail is one of the best day hikes in Colorado!
The unique and rugged Flatiron Mountains are located in the foothills of Boulder. The rocks are reddish-brown sandstone visible from points all over the city, which is why it is an infamous mountain for the area.
Boulder is a sought-after destination for travelers visiting Colorado. Take a stroll down Pearl Street, which is lined with restaurants, shops and street performers.
The First and Second Flatirons Loop is one of the most popular hikes in Colorado, drawing over six million visitors a year.
This hike is recommended for solo hikers due to the constant crowd on the trail. It is a 2.7-mile loop with an elevation gain of 1,427 feet. The climb near the top is what makes it so challenging.
The rocky and pointy terrain needs to be taken on slowly. But, the view at the summit is worth the climb. View the city of Boulder to one side and the surrounding mountain ranges on the other.
Do you want to hike to a glacier? If yes, then this Colorado hike is for you. Located in Idaho Springs is Saint Mary’s Glacier.
A favorite in Colorado that is not only taken on by hikers but Skiers and Snowboarders as well. These winter enthusiasts flock here as they hike up the glacier with their gear and ride back down.
In the summer, you can pack a picnic to enjoy at Saint Marys Lake, which sits at the bottom of the glacier. Enjoy the 360 mountain views while soaking your feet in the glacial water.
The trail to the glacier is 2.4 miles long with an elevation gain of 1,030 feet. The hike is rated moderate since it provides a steady uphill incline.
The trail starts in the parking lot and then brings you through the gorgeous forest. Here you will follow the trail until you reach Saint Mary's Glacier.
This hike is great for winter hiking as well! Strap on your snowshoes and enjoy one of the best hikes in Colorado.
If you only have one weekend in Denver, this is one for you. Located only one hour outside of Denver is the Chief Mountain Trail.
To get there, take the curvy mountain road of Squaw Pass to the trailhead. The drive is stunning and brings you through a lush alpine forest with endless mountain views. The trail itself is 2.8 miles total, with an elevation gain of 941 feet.
Chief Mountain Trail sits in the middle of the Arapaho National Forest which makes the hike itself impressive, but just wait until you get to the top.
The summit showcases full mountain views of some of Colorado's most famous mountains, Pikes Peak & Longs Peak. Colorado's hikes are typically more mileage for the view you get at Chief Mountain.
This hike is perfect for those who only have a short time but want to get the full Colorado hiking experience. Chief Mountain is one of the easiest and prettiest Colorado hikes.
Planning a vacation to Denver? Be sure to check out our list of top attractions in Denver, Colorado!
If you are looking for a gorgeous lake hike, then look no further. Lake Isabelle in Ward is one of Colorado's most scenic hikes.
Nestled in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, this hike is 5.8 miles long with an elevation gain of 551 feet.
The best part of this area is that wildlife is commonly found here. Spotting a moose along your journey is completely tangible.
Afterwards, stop by the town of Nederland, Colorado. A quirky town that celebrates the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival annually.
Legend has it that when Bredo Morsoel, aka "Grandpa", died in 1989, he was frozen and stored on private property. Today, visitors like to venture out to find Bredo.
The Frozen Dead Guy Days is a celebration honoring Bredo’s life that takes place every March. Join the celebration by indulging in the live bands, vendors and ice activities!
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to 355 miles of hiking trails. The park was opened in the early 1900s and is still a top-rated Colorado destination.
Located in the park is the Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail. This hike is rated as hard, but it is worth every gasping breath.
Enjoy hiking the 9.4 miles, which brings you past some of Rocky Mountain's best lakes, including The Loch, Dream Lake and the Lake of Glass.
This hike can be attempted in both the winter and the summer. When the ice is thick enough in the winter, you can walk across the Lake of Glass.
Eventually you will reach the miraculous Sky Pond. Spend time at the pond, take in the beautiful views and be proud of yourself for mastering the climb. Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail is one of the best Colorado hikes!
When you are ready to leave the park, stop by Estes Park, Colorado. A mountain town known for its moose sightings and snowy winters.
In the fall, the town gets ready for Halloween. A popular holiday here since Stephen King stayed at the Stanley Hotel and based his book The Shining on his experience.
An easier hike that is also located in Rocky Mountain National Park is Dream Lake. Dream Lake is one of the most beautiful hikes in Colorado.
The hike starts at the Bear Lake Parking area. Prepare to arrive early, as the parking lot fills up in both the summer and the winter.
Dream Lake is one of the most sought-after destinations in the park by photographers and hikers. This short hike is only 2-miles long, with an elevation gain of 426 feet. It is recommended for all skill levels and perfect for families.
The lake itself is absolutely breathtaking. Pack some lunch to enjoy by the water and take in the reflection of the Rocky Mountains behind it.
This trail is recommended for those looking to snowshoe in the winter. With mild elevation and high snow totals, Dream Lake is a Rocky Mountain National Park favorite!
Every year in the fall, the Aspen trees in Colorado change from a bright green to a vibrant yellow. The change only lasts a few weeks before the leaves fall off and snow enters the state.
During this time, hikers and visitors flock to the mountains to witness the event. Raccoon Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of the greatest places for leaf-peeping.
This 3.4-mile loop will bring you on a dirt trail through the golden Aspens. With a small elevation gain of 754 feet, it is rated as moderate.
Take your time when doing this hike; stop and listen to the Aspens shake in the wind.
There are also plenty of picnic areas around the park to enjoy a snack afterward. Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a beautiful place to explore in September and October.
Located near Aspen is Colorado's most photographed mountain, Maroon Bells. The Maroon Bells are actually two separate peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak.
The half-kilometer separation creates stunning architecture. The mountain of Maroon Peak is a Colorado 14er that is only attempted by experienced climbers since it can be deadly. Don't worry; you can still see the beauty of the area with a different hike, Crater Lake.
Crater Lake is a 3.5 mile out and back trail that is located in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness.
The lake is set in front of the peaks, providing a scenic backdrop. The hike is only 668 feet of elevation gain and is rated moderate.
Walk through the White River National Forest until you reach the lake. Take in the famous peaks while dipping your toes in the lake. Crater Lake is one of Colorado’s best hikes.
This unique and quirky hike is one of the best hikes in Colorado. The Paint Mine Trail is located in El Paso Country, Colorado.
The Paint Mines are an interpretive park that is off the beaten path. It is located in the valley rather than the mountains.
The Paint Mines is named for the colorful clays that were once collected by American Indians to create paint. The clay was also used for pottery and ceremonial usage. Today, the park is visited by archaeologists, geologists and hikers.
The park itself is made up of four miles of trails and 750 acres. The Paint Mines Trail is a 3.4-mile loop that showcases wildflowers and views of the clay formations.
The hike is rated as easy, with an elevation gain of 334 feet. Spend the day exploring the park and learning all about the history of the area.
One of the prettiest hikes in Colorado is located in Climax, Colorado. The Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Trail is a 6.1-mile hike that showcases the old and abandoned mining area of Colorado.
The mining huts still stand today and have become a staple of the area. The hike itself brings you through a forest and along a creek.
The surrounding mountains of the snow-capped sawtooth peaks will take your breath away. The hike is rated as moderate because of the high elevation gain of 1,548 feet.
Due to its history, Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse Trail is one of the best hikes in Colorado.
On your way back, visit the notorious town of Breckenridge. A ski resort town that has galleries and restaurants.
Stop by for an ice-cold beverage at Breckenridge Brewery. A favorite spot by locals that has delicious meals and fine Colorado ales.
One of the best hikes in Colorado is the Crested Butte Upper and Lower Loop. A 4.6-mile hike with an elevation gain of 335 feet.
Walk along this rocky dirt trail that provides views of the surrounding peaks of Crested Butte. This trail is used for mountain biking and hiking.
Share the trail with the mountain bikers and be aware of your surroundings. Crested Butte is infamous for its mountain biking scene, so hitting the trail for a ride is common.
Visit the downtown of Crested Butte. The streets are lined with restaurants and shops for you to explore. If you visit on the weekend, stop by the Crested Butte Farmers Market! A fun activity where you can buy local food and art.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is a real-life sandbox. The preserve is filled with natural sand dunes that sit next to the San Luis Valley.
This national park is not only unique but is home to the top hikes in Colorado. The High Dune Trail is a 3-mile hike that is rated as hard. The elevation gain of 629 feet may not seem difficult, but the texture of the sand makes the climb slow.
Trek your way through the heavy sand to the top of the dune! You can even rent a sandboard to surf your way down to the bottom.
You can even have a beach day at this National Park. Once a year, in April, the Medano Creek begins to flow near the Dunes Parking Area.
The creek flows when the snowpack starts to melt. By the summer months, the creek should be at its prime. Lay down on a towel, pack some cold drinks and even a boogie board!
Hiking is the number one outdoor activity in Colorado. With 41 State parks, 12 National Parks and Monuments and 13 national forests, it is no wonder why.
The state encourages everyone to take advantage of their landscapes. But, it is very important to be prepared before hitting the trail.
There are ten essentials for hiking that should always be in your backpack. They include Navigation, Headlamp, Sun Protection, First Aid, Knife, Fire, Shelter, Food, Water and Clothes.
Let's dive into why these essentials are important and where you can find them!
Buy a headlamp and pack extra batteries. Getting off trail or lost can be an easy mistake. As daylight gets shorter in the winter months, a headlamp could save your life.
Sun Protection is needed when going above the treeline. The mountain breeze can make you forget how intense the sun actually is. Even if you do not feel like you are getting burnt, you most likely are since you are so close to the sun at that elevation.
A First aid kit can not only save your life but someone else you pass on the trail. Injuries happen when hiking and most of them happen in areas without service. Allergic reactions to plants or elevation sickness are just a few common scenarios. The best thing you can do is be prepared in case you find yourself in that situation by having a first aid kit on you at all times.
A Knife can be a game changer when hiking, not only for protection but also to be able to cut gear off you if needed.
Being able to start a fire can save your life if you end up stranded. This includes matches, lighters or stoves. For longer trips, you should always pack a stove, so you have the option to make meals. Matches and lighters are good in case you have to make a fire for warmth.
Packing a light emergency blanket for shelter is a small but recommended item to add to your pack. The emergency blanket reflects up to 90% of your body's heat back to you. It is even a bright orange color, so rescue operations are able to spot you easily.
Extra food and extra water go hand in hand. You should always bring more than you think you will need. Small high protein foods such as nuts, beef jerky, dried fruit and granola are great to throw in your pack. You can also get freeze-dried meals that can be made with just water added.
Hydration Packs are a great way to carry water without all the water bottles. Even if you have a hydration pack, bringing extra water in a bottle or pouch is a smart idea just in case your hydration pack breaks or leaks.
Being prepared for weather changes is very important when getting ready for your hike. In the summer months, the sky could be a bright blue. But, when the afternoon hits, so do the thunderstorms.
Thunderstorms can come very rapidly on mountain peaks. If you are above the treeline, you need to be extra cautious. If you hear one rumble or see a dark cloud in the distance, it is best to turn around.
There are a few ways you can prepare for rain. Having the proper gear is one of them. The Marmot Rain Jacket is a top-rated rain jacket for hiking. It is a waterproof and windproof jacket that will help protect you once the weather turns.
Snow is the other weather issue you will run into when hiking in Colorado. Most visitors think that once winter is over, so is the snow forecast. It is common in Colorado that mountains get snow all the way until May or even June.
It could be eighty degrees and sunny at the start of your hike but then snowing and 30 near the top. The climb in elevation is what makes the weather so unpredictable.
The hiking essentials you need for snow are layers and more layers. The first layer should always be your base layer, both pants and top.
MeriWool Midweight sells top-rated base layers that are made out of micron. Your second layer should be a fleece of some sort to protect your base. The North Face has an extensive list of fleece that will help keep you warm on your winter adventures.
Lastly, make sure to spend a little more on a heavy-duty winter hiking jacket. The quality of the coat needs to be good since this will shelter you from wind and wet snow.
A recommended winter coat is the Columbia Puff Jacket. This jacket will keep you warm and protected. It will be great for taking on the best Colorado hikes.
Waterproof boots with extra toe room will be saving you from bruised and sore feet after a weekend of hiking.
Hiking socks are also important; lightweight socks such as Coolmax are great for summer hiking. In the winter, upgrade to wool to keep your feet warm.
Smartwool is a fantastic brand that is known for its warmth and durability. Also, bring two pairs of extra hiking socks with you in your backpack. If, for any reason, your socks get soaked in the winter months, change them immediately. This will help you risk the possibility of hypothermia.
Thinking of these situations when preparing for a hike should not scare you. Even though they are uncommon, they still do happen. It is better to be over-prepared than underprepared when it comes to saving your own life or others around you. The best thing you can do is make sure your pack has everything you would need for a possible emergency in the backcountry.
Colorado is a beautiful state, home to river canyons, cascading waterfalls and a variety of hiking trails. So it is no wonder why it is one of the most visited states in the whole country.
Explore the adorable mountain towns and, most importantly, take on the best hikes in Colorado.
Whether you want to summit a 14er or hike around the National Parks, these Colorado hikes are for every traveler. Just remember to be prepared.
Pack your ten essentials and check weather forecasts before hitting the trail. Most importantly, enjoy the stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. What are you waiting for? Lace up your hiking boots and visit Colorado!