5 Best Hikes Near Denver
I’ve lived in Denver nearly 20 years and one of my favorite escapes from city life is heading to the Foothills to hike and be in nature. Hiking is a year-round activity in a place where the sun typically shines 300 days a year. Here I’ve gathered a few of the best hikes near Denver including places to refuel after your hike.
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Things to do in Denver
Before hiking: Check the conditions of the trail, apps like AllTrails can be helpful for real time information. Consider the weather forecast, dress in layers with as few cotton layers as possible. Windproof and rainproof outer layers are recommended. Temperatures can drastically change, so please be prepared. Bring a sufficient amount of water, hiking at elevation can cause altitude sickness and staying hydrated can help. Review maps and routes before proceeding. Follow Leave No Trace ethics. The hikes below should take you roughly 2-3 hours to complete depending on your pace.
Fountain Valley Loop Trail (2.6 miles) and Willow Creek Trail (1.4 miles) - Roxborough State Park
This hike is particularly enjoyable in winter because there isn’t much shade cover and it can get quite hot in summer. At Roxborough you’ll find abundant geological wonders, and you will almost always see a family of Mule Deer, many birds including Hawks, Spotted Towhees and Western Scrub Jays. Check out the Welcome Center ahead of your hike and grab a trail guide, there are marked posts along the trails to point out specific things. The booklet costs a few bucks and is especially fun for kids.
Estimated Drive Time/Parking Situation: 40-45 minute drive from Denver. Parking can be tight on the weekends in summer, it’s a bit easier in the Winter and you can go in the afternoon to take advantage of the warm sunlight. This is a State Park so you need a daily pass, $10/day.
Where to Refuel: On your drive back to Denver, stop at The Post Chicken & Beer on South Broadway for some seriously good fried chicken. My family loves the sides like green chile mac-n-cheese and their porky, vinegary collard greens.
Rattlesnake Gulch Loop (3.6 miles) - Eldorado Canyon State Park
A great hike anytime of the year, observe rock climbers scaling the enormous canyon walls. While climbing up the trail you have spectacular views of the rock formations and there is a scenic overlook of the Continental Divide that is not to be missed. Occasionally a train will come through the elevated train track tunnel and can be visible from the trail.
Estimated Drive Time/Parking Situation: 45 minute drive from Denver. For this trailhead, park at the second parking lot. This is a State Park so you need a daily pass, $10/day.
Elkhorn trail and Eagle’s View Trail Loop (4.5 miles) - Reynolds Ranch County Park
A true loop hike with a good amount of shaded woods with meadows in between. Hike to a ridgetop with expansive views, in the summer find an abundance of wild raspberries and wildflowers. Recommended to take the trail clockwise to go up through the gorge (it’s a bit of a steep climb) and down in the sun.
Estimated Drive Time/Parking Situation: 40-50 minute drive from Denver. Parking is very limited, you will likely need to park on the road or arrive very early.
Where to Refuel: Snowpack Taproom & Pizzeria in Green Valley. They have a huge outdoor space, with live music. Large selection of local, craft beers on draft.
Evergreen Mountain Trail (4.2 miles) - Alderfer Three Sisters Park
Starts in a meadow. Nice mix of shade and sun, mainly even gradation, no extremely steep switchbacks. Scenic overlooks and a loop of the top before coming back down. Opportunities for spotting fungi and wildflowers. Be warned there are lots of mountain bikers on this trail.
Estimated Drive Time/Parking Situation: 35 minute drive from Denver. This is a busy park, particularly in the summer so get there early. Make sure to go to 2nd parking - West Lot. The trailhead is across the street from the lot, you can park on the side of the road as well.
Where to Refuel: Lariat Lodge, this is a large place with a good amount of parking, nice for weekend crowds. Solid pub food, they brew their own beer, I recommend a Michelada with their Mexican Lager. Family-friendly.
Upper & Lower Maxwell Falls (1-4 miles - varies depending on route) - Arapaho National Forest
The trail highlight here is obviously the waterfall, this is a nice hike for pets and kids particularly in the Summer. There are a few different options, depending on how much you want to hike. You can start at the Upper Trailhead and do a mile round trip to the falls. Another loop starts at the Upper Trailhead, follow signs for the Cliff Trail and head back to the Upper lot. Starting at the Lower Trailhead, you can complete a 4 mile hike, hiking up the valley by the creek for about 2 miles.
Estimated Drive Time/Parking Situation: 45 minute drive from Denver. The Upper and Lower Trailheads have different parking lots, make sure you’re going to the correct one.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Katherine Ferguson’s guide, Elevated Escapes: Discovering Colorado's Summer Trails.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Denver.