Dubbed the Mile High City, one of the greatest parts of Denver is its proximity to the mountains. Just a quick trip outside the hustle and bustle of the city, you’re greeted with countless hiking trails and jaw-dropping views from the majestic crests of Colorado. From family-friendly hikes through evergreen forests to leg-burning conquests up picture-perfect peaks, the mountains of Colorado have a trail for just about everyone.
While the Centennial State is studded with endless places for hiking and exploring, some of the best are just a short drive from downtown Denver. Whether you’re a Denver native or just stopping through, here are some of the best trails nearby to explore on your next outing.
Best for: Expansive views of Boulder
A quick trip outside Denver is beautiful Boulder, and Mount Sanitas. At roughly 3 miles, this short yet still difficult trail is a popular one, however, there are different hike options ranging from difficult to easy. On the way to Mount Sanitas summit, you’ll pass through rolling meadows, discover dramatic rock formations, and finally, be rewarded with expansive views of downtown Boulder.
Red Rocks Trading Post Trail
Best for: Families
Less than 20 minutes from downtown, Trading Post Trail is one of the most family-friendly hikes on the list and the main attraction at Red Rocks Mountain Park. The 2.4-mile loop known for its impressive red, rocky outcroppings rising out of the foothills boasts stunning views and a great opportunity to get some exercise with the whole family. At the park, you can even visit the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Garden of the Gods
Best for: Spectacular views
Just outside Colorado Springs is this National Natural Landmark, Garden of the Gods. Known for its stunning red rock formations and remarkable landscapes, the park offers a ton of short hiking trails in every direction making it perfect for families or an easy day trip with friends. Make your way to Cathedral Valley for a spectacular view of Long’s Peak.
Coyote Song Trail
Best for: Mountain biking or hikes with furry friends
35 minutes outside Denver lies South Valley Park where you’ll find Coyote Song Trail. Studded with stunning red rock formations and fewer tourists, this easy 3-mile loop featuring wide paths is great for families, newbie hikers, mountain bikers, and even trips with canine companions.
Waterton Canyon Trail
Best for: Wildlife Encounters
A 35-minute drive from downtown Denver you’ll encounter Waterton Canyon Trail and an abundance of wildlife. From bighorn sheep and mule deer to birds of prey and on rare occasions, bears, there are many opportunities to encounter a variety of animals that inhabit Colorado. Remember to always respect wildlife and follow these safety tips if you do happen to come across a bear.
Elk Falls and Chimney Rock Trail
Best for: Waterfall views
Less than an hour outside Denver is Staunton State Park where you’ll find the tallest waterfall near Denver, Elk Falls. This scenic but challenging 14-mile trail passes by an interesting rock spire leading up to the Elk Falls Overlook for spectacular views. For a shorter Hike, start at Lazy V trailhead instead.
Bear Creek Trail
Best for: Scenic mountain views
40 minutes outside Denver at Lair o’ the Bear Park, you’ll find one of the most scenic hiking trails with spectacular mountain views. Take the 7-mile loop from Bear Creek to Panorama Point to see some of the best landscapes and vistas outside the city. The shorter 1.6 trail is great for bringing kids along and offers easy parking, a river, and areas of picnics.
Mount Falcon Castle Trail
Best for: The history buff
Located in Morrison, this hike is so close you can actually spot downtown Denver right from the trail. At nearly 7.4 miles, the Mount Falcon Castle Trail is a great workout just outside the city and an opportunity to visit historical sites passing by old castle ruins of John Brisbane Walker and even the cornerstone of a would-be summer White House for U.S. Presidents.
Best for: Adventure seekers
For adventurous hikers, Colorado offers more 14ers than any other state. While there are many to choose from, Mt Bierstadt is the closest to Denver at 1 hour and 15 minutes away. To beat the crowds go during a weekday or during the fall season and arrive just before dawn.
Remember that accidents and injuries can happen in the great outdoors, so it’s important to plan ahead, bring enough water for your trip, and pack necessary supplies and a first aid kit. Consider taking one of our Wilderness First Aid or First Responder courses to be prepared for anything out on the trails.