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13 best mountain hikes near Denver, Colorado

Best Mountain Hikes Near Denver: 13 Epic Trails and Summits

Colorado’s Front Range, with Denver at its heart, is a haven for mountain enthusiasts. This region is blessed with an array of trails that cater to all levels of hikers, offering everything from gentle walks to challenging ascents. The diversity of the landscape ensures that every hike is a new adventure. Whether you’re seeking the tranquility of a forest path, the thrill of a mountain summit, or the beauty of alpine lakes, the area around Denver does not disappoint.

I’ve curated 13 of the best mountain hikes near Denver, along with some safety tips, Leave No Trace advice, FAQs, and more. Check it all out below; Safe travels on the trails!





Table of Contents

Intro to Mountain Hiking in Colorado

For those new to hiking in this mountainous environment, understanding the unique challenges and preparing accordingly is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience. Colorado’s trails range from gentle foothills to rugged peaks, offering adventures for every skill level. However, the high altitude, rapidly changing weather, and remote locations require hikers to be well-prepared with the appropriate gear, knowledge of the area, and a solid plan.

Whether you’re exploring a tranquil forest trail or ascending a majestic peak, being prepared will enhance your mountain hiking experience in Colorado.

What are the best months for hiking near Denver?

Most of the best mountain hikes near Denver are snow-covered for the majority of the year. If you want to hike without microspikes or snowshoes, your window is small and uncertain (snow can fall in July in Colorado). However, visiting between late June and early September is your best chance for snow-free hiking.

That said, hiking in the snow is a magical experience and I highly recommend it. With the right gear, skills, and knowledge, you can safely explore the mountains near Denver all year-round. Always remember to be aware of avalanche danger and check the forecast when recreating in the backcountry during winter and spring.





Map: 13 Best Mountain Hikes Near Denver

This Google map shows the location of each of my favorite hiking trails near Denver. Scroll down further to for details on each hike’s distance, elevation gain, and difficulty, including links for the National Weather Service forecast and driving directions to reach the trailhead.

The 13 Best Mountain Hikes (Easy to Difficult)

Here are 13 of my favorite mountain hiking trails near Denver, from easiest to most challenging.

1. Saint Mary’s Glacier - Colorado Front Range

Saint Mary's Glacier Hike
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
  • Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
  • Distance From Denver: 55 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

Saint Mary’s Glacier is a favorite for its year-round snowfield and stunning alpine lake. A short hike with minimal elevation gain makes it accessible for all levels.

Highlight: The opportunity to see snow in the summer and the beautiful lake at the glacier’s base.

Note: Bring cash; A small parking fee is required.

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2. Red Rocks Trading Post Trail - Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Trading Post Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
  • Distance: 1.4 miles loop
  • Distance From Denver: 25 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

This easy loop offers breathtaking views of the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre and surrounding geological wonders.

Highlight: Walking amidst the towering red rock formations and enjoying panoramic vistas.

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3. Bear Creek Panorama Point - Lair O’ the Bear State Park

Bear Creek to Panorama Point - Lair O' the Bear State Park
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Distance: 2.3 miles round trip
  • Distance from Denver: 35-40 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

Ideal for families, this trail provides a gentle route with a rewarding view at Panorama Point overlooking Bear Creek. It is one of the best mountain hikes near Denver for those with children or infants. 

Highlight: The scenic overlook and the presence of wildlife along the creek.

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4. Rattle Snake Gulch Trail - Eldorado Canyon State Park

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet
  • Distance: 3.6 miles loop
  • Distance from Denver: 40-45 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

Offering views of historic ruins and sweeping vistas of the canyon, this trail is a moderate hike that rewards with panoramic views.

Highlight: The ruins of the Crags Hotel and spectacular canyon overlooks.

Note: State Park entry fee required.

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5. Herman Gulch Trail - Arapahoe National Forest

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
  • Distance: 6.3 miles round trip
  • Distance from Denver: 60-70 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

A popular trail for its wildflower meadows leading to a stunning alpine lake, with a trailhead easily accessible off Interstate-70.

Highlight: Wildflowers in full bloom and the serene Herman Lake.

Note: Can be crowded on weekends.

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6. Chief Mountain Trail - Arapaho National Forest

Chief Mountain Trai
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 940 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 2.8 Miles
  • Distance From Denver: 50-60 Minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

A relatively short hike that leads to 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, including the Continental Divide. While it is definitely one of the best mountain hikes near Denver, it can get crowded, and parking is limited. Go early if you want to get a spot to park. 

Highlight: The breathtaking summit views.

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7. Lookout Mountain via Chimney Gulch - Golden, Colorado

Lookout Mountain Trail Colorado
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 5 Miles
  • Distance From Denver: 23-30 Minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

This moderate hike offers a workout with rewarding views over Golden and the Denver area. Enjoy the Buffalo Bill Gravesite and Museum at the summit (great for history lovers).

Highlight: The panoramic views from Lookout Mountain and the historical significance of the area.

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8. Windy Peak Loop - Golden Gate Canyon State Park

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
  • Distance: 6.9 miles loop
  • Distance From Denver: 45-55 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

A loop trail in a state park that offers a mix of forest, meadows, and a summit with expansive views. There are also several fantastic campgrounds in the park if you want to turn your hike into a muti-day adventure.

Highlight: The variety of landscapes and the view from Windy Peak.

Note: A state park pass is required for entry.

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9. Mount Sniktau via West Ridge - Colorado 13er

  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
  • Distance: 4 miles round trip
  • Distance from Denver: 65-70 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

Known for its accessibility and rewarding views, this hike is perfect for those looking to experience high-altitude without a long trek. It is one of the best mountain hikes near Denver that does not require any scrambling; the trail takes you all the way to the summit. 

Highlight: The panoramic views of the Continental Divide.

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10. Squaretop Mountain via East Ridge Route - Colorado 13er

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 2,150 feet
  • Distance: 6.5 miles round trip
  • Distance From Denver: 75-85 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

Just across the street from the very popular 14er Mt Bierstadt (see below), Square Top Mountain offers a challenging but rewarding hike with fewer crowds, leading to stunning views of alpine lakes and the wilderness.

Highlight: The solitude and pristine alpine scenery.

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11. Mount Bierstadt via West Slopes Route - Colorado 14er

Can I hike a 14er alone? Mount Bierstadt is a good option.
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 2,850 feet
  • Distance: 7 miles round trip
  • Distance from Denver: 75-85 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

One of the most accessible 14ers, this trail is popular among beginners and offers stunning summit views.

Highlight: The achievement of summiting a 14er with relatively less difficulty.

Note: Can be very crowded; early morning start (pre-dawn) recommended during weekends.

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12. Grays Peak and Torreys Peak - East Slopes - Colorado 14er

Grays Peak in May
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet
  • Distance: 8.5 miles round trip
  • Distance from Denver: 65-75 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

This hike allows you to summit two 14ers in one day, with incredible views throughout. However, you will need 4WD to reach the upper trailhead or the route gets substantially longer.

Highlight: Dual summit opportunity and the breathtaking scenery between the two peaks.

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13. Longs Peak - Keyhole Route - Colorado 14er

Longs Peak Weather Conditions
  • Difficulty: Very Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 5,100 feet
  • Distance: 15 miles round trip
  • Distance from Denver: 90-100 minutes
  • Weather Forecast: click here
  • Directions: click here

 

One of Colorado’s most challenging 14ers, this route is for experienced hikers seeking a thrilling adventure. It is the most challenging of the best mountain hikes near Denver. 

Highlight: The iconic Keyhole and the unparalleled sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit.

Note: A high fitness level, preparation, and an early start are critical for safety. More than 50 people have died on Longs Peak. Don’t join the list. 

Read More





How to Stay Safe on Mountain Hikes

The mountains are a dangerous place and search, and rescue teams are a long way away. All of the best mountain hikes near Denver require vigilance and caution to avoid hazards. Here are some tips and best practices to manage your risk and stay safe while exploring the mountains.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Before you set foot on the mountain, take the time to thoroughly plan your trip. This means researching the area you’ll be exploring, understanding the terrain, weather conditions, and any potential hazards. Ensure you have a map and compass (and know how to use them) and familiarize yourself with the local regulations and permits required.
  2. Take Time to Acclimatize: Altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of fitness level. Spend a few days at a moderate elevation to let your body adjust before ascending to higher altitudes. Symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, and dizziness, so if you feel unwell, descend immediately.
  3. Bring the 10 Essentials: The 10 Essentials are items you should carry with you for safety in the outdoors. These include navigation tools, sun protection, insulation (extra clothing), illumination (headlamp/flashlight), first-aid supplies, fire-starting tools, repair kit and tools, nutrition (extra food), hydration (extra water), and emergency shelter.
  4. Know Your Limits: It’s important to have a realistic understanding of your physical and technical abilities. Avoid taking on routes that are beyond your skill level, and don’t push yourself too hard, as fatigue can lead to accidents.
  5. Make a Plan and Share It: Before you leave, make a detailed plan of your route, including where you plan to start, the path you’ll follow, and your expected return time. Leave this plan with someone you trust and check in with them upon your return.
  6. Don’t Go Alone: Whenever possible, hike or climb with a partner or group. Having someone with you can be invaluable in the event of an emergency. If you must go alone, ensure someone knows your plan and expected return time.
  7. Check the Conditions: Weather in the mountains can change rapidly, so it’s crucial to check the forecast before you go and be prepared for all conditions. Also, consider the time of year and how conditions such as snow, ice, or rain could affect your route.
  8. Research the Route: Familiarize yourself with the route you plan to take. Look for any known hazards, difficult sections, and escape routes in case you need to turn back. Understanding the terrain will help you prepare mentally and physically for the journey.
  9. Start Early, End Early: Starting your hike or climb early in the day can help you avoid the afternoon heat and storms that often occur in mountainous areas. It also gives you plenty of daylight to complete your adventure and return safely.

 

To learn more about safety best practices, read our comprehensive mountain safety guide for the backcountry.

Remember to Leave No Trace: 7 Principles

Because these trails are some of the best mountain hikes near Denver, they get visited by more than 100,000 people each year. The Leave No Trace principles are a set of guidelines that help protect the outdoors by inspiring changes in behavior. Follow the 7 principles while visiting the mountains and other public lands near Denver:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Do some research before you go to learn about the area, weather, terrain, and any regulations or special concerns. This can help you prepare for emergencies and minimize resource damage.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to established trails and campsites to minimize your impact on the environment.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. In certain areas, you may also need to pack out human waste.
  4. Leave What You Find: Take only photos and leave only footprints. Don’t disturb plants, rocks, historical artifacts or other natural or cultural features.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impact: Use a camp stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light. If you must have a fire, use established fire rings, keep fires small, and burn only sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  6. Respect Wildlife: View wildlife from a distance and never feed animals. Store food and trash securely to avoid attracting wildlife to your campsite.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. Keep noise to a minimum and let nature’s sounds prevail.

 

Remember, Leave No Trace is all about respecting and protecting the outdoors so that it can be enjoyed by generations to come. Learn more tips on LNT.





Mountain Hiking Gear Checklist

Here’s a checklist to use while preparing for your future mountain hikes near Denver. Remember, even though you don’t use something once or twice does not mean you should leave it home. For example, an emergency shelter may go unused for many trips, but could still save your life when you eventually need it. Better safe than sorry!

  1. Hiking Boots/Shoes: Choose waterproof and supportive footwear to handle rocky terrain.
  2. Backpack: A comfortable backpack is essential to carry your gear.
  3. Map and Compass: Even if you plan to use a GPS, always carry a physical map and compass as a backup.
  4. Water and Purification System: Stay hydrated and be prepared to purify water from natural sources if needed.
  5. High-Calorie Snacks: Pack lightweight, high-energy food to fuel your hike.
  6. First Aid Kit: Include bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, medical tape, pain relievers, and any personal medication.
  7. Multi-tool: Useful for a variety of situations, from gear repair to food preparation.
  8. Flashlight or Headlamp: Useful for late returns or emergencies. Don’t forget extra batteries.
  9. Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Dress in layers and carry rain gear. Remember, temperatures can drop significantly at higher altitudes.
  10. Sun Protection: Include sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen.
  11. Emergency Shelter: Carry a lightweight bivvy or emergency blanket.
  12. Personal Locator Beacon (PLB): In case of emergency, a PLB can send your location to rescue services.
  13. Bear Spray: If hiking in bear country, bear spray is a must.
  14. Trash Bags: Remember to pack out all your trash to adhere to Leave No Trace principles.

 

Learn more about packing for mountain hiking in my 14er Beginner’s Guide chapter on gear and packing.

Best mountain hikes near Denver, Colorado

FAQ: Best Mountain Hikes Near Denver

Below are common questions related to mountain hikes near Denver. If your question hasn’t been answered yet, leave a comment and we will get back to you with an answer and more information as soon as we can.





Q: What is the closest mountain hike to downtown Denver?

A: The closest mountain hike to downtown Denver is Lookout Mountain in Golden. Just a short drive from the city, it offers trails suitable for all skill levels, with panoramic views of the Denver area and the Front Range.

A: From downtown Denver, you can see a range of mountains including Mount Blue Sky, Pikes Peak, Longs Peak, and the Front Range. On clear days, the views can be quite spectacular, offering a glimpse of Colorado’s rugged beauty.

A: Outside of Denver, there are numerous hiking options. Some popular destinations include Boulder’s Flatirons, the trails around Evergreen like Elk Meadow Park, and Roxborough State Park. Each area offers a unique hiking experience with beautiful natural landscapes.

A: Yes, Denver has excellent hiking options that cater to all levels of experience. From urban trails within the city to challenging mountain hikes in the nearby Rockies, there’s something for everyone. The accessibility of diverse trails makes Denver a great place for outdoor enthusiasts.

A: The best months for hiking near Denver are from May to October. During these months, the weather is generally warmer, and most of the snow in the lower elevation trails has melted, making the trails more accessible. However, higher elevation trails might still have snow until June or even July.

A: While subjective, many consider the Rocky Mountain National Park area, with its vast network of trails and stunning alpine scenery, to offer some of the best hiking in Colorado. Additionally, the areas around Aspen and Telluride are also highly regarded for their beautiful trails and mountain vistas.

A: Mount Blue Sky is often cited as one of the prettiest mountains near Denver. With its accessible summit via the Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway and the opportunity to see mountain goats and bighorn sheep, it’s a favorite for both its natural beauty and wildlife viewing.

A: For hiking mountains near Denver, essential gear includes a good pair of hiking boots or shoes, a backpack, water and snacks, a map and compass or GPS, weather-appropriate clothing (including rain gear), sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. For higher elevations or longer hikes, additional gear like trekking poles, a first-aid kit, and extra food and water might be necessary.

A: Some of the top peaks to hike in Colorado include Mount Elbert, the highest peak in the state, Longs Peak for its challenging terrain, and Mount Bierstadt, which is one of the most accessible 14ers. Other popular peaks include Mount Sneffels for its stunning views and Pikes Peak, which can be reached by a well-maintained trail, a scenic drive, or even a cog railway.

The Best Mountain Hikes Near Denver: Now You Know!

Denver’s proximity to the Rockies makes it a starting point for countless outdoor enthusiasts, whether you’re a seasoned hiker looking for your next challenge or a newcomer eager to explore the tranquility of the outdoors. This guide has aimed to highlight the diversity of hiking experiences available, showcasing trails that cater to every level of skill and interest.

As you set out on these trails, remember the importance of leaving no trace, respecting the natural habitat, and ensuring that these beautiful places remain unspoiled for future generations to enjoy. Always be prepared with the right gear, respect trail etiquette, and consider the impact of your visit on the environment and wildlife. Safe travels on the trails!

Additional Resources









Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.





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