What are the best hikes near Denver? This is a question that I am asked on a weekly basis through my website, Instagram and YouTube channel. In this post, I am going to dive into my version of the best hikes near Denver list. You will notice that all of them are not actually in Denver and that is because Denver is a major city. Can you find spots to “hike” in the city? Sure – but in my opinion, you need to get out of the city and its suburbs to really find quality hiking. A quick list of rules for this list: all of these hikes have to be within a 30 mile radius of Denver and for the most part, these are all quick day hikes. Without any further rambling, let’s get to the list!
Best Hikes Near Denver: South
Devils Head Lookout Tower
Devils Head Lookout is a short out and back located in Pike National forest. Compared to the length and difficulty of the trail, the hike provides fantastic views of Denver, Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak and Pike National forest. It is a heavily trafficked trail, but for good reason as the summit provides the unique opportunity to climb a fire tower. Devils Head is recommended for beginner hikers or young families. This hike is about 3 miles RT and is one of the longer drives on this list because of the dirt road access. Read more about this hike here.
Roxborough State Park
When people visit Denver, one of the first hikes that comes to mind for them is Garden of the Gods. This is a beautiful spot, but unfortunately is a very long drive from the heart of Denver to get to. However, a great alternative and one of my most recommended best hikes near Denver is Roxborough State Park. This park has a variety of trails to choose from including a mountain to summit, Carpenter Peak. Check out my full review of this park here and be prepared to pay an entrance fee to hike. Roxborough State Park is located just minutes from neighborhoods and busy shopping centers, but it’s easy to find a piece of nature here and a nice spot for the whole family.
Colorado Trail Segment 2
The Colorado Trail is a nearly 500 mile trail that starts just south of Denver in Littleton and ends in Durango in the southwestern part of the state. Why Segment 2 over Segment 1? Segment 2 of the Colorado Trail is a great option for a longer day hike while also providing a number of spots to camp along the way. For those looking for a backpacking trip that is near Denver and can be hiked almost year round (minimal snow issues on this one), look no further. Obviously for those looking to hike a bit longer, extend the hike as long as you want to continue on to segment 3, 4 etc. If you plan on hiking this one be prepared to retrace your steps or have two cars to tackle this one way hike. Learn more about this hike here.
Elk Falls: Staunton State Park
When thinking of the best hikes near Denver, Elk Falls in Staunton State Park ALWAYS comes to my mind. This is a longer hike (about 7-12 miles RT depending on where you start) that is located within a state park so you are going to have to pay an entrance fee. This hike brings those willing to put in the miles to one of the best waterfalls in Colorado and hands down the best waterfall near Denver and maybe on the entire Front Range. You can hike this spot almost all year round as well, but do expect some snow and a partially frozen waterfall during the winter and spring months. If you were looking for some other hikes in Staunton, you can’t really go wrong with many of the trails. The park is also great for mountain biking, rock climbing and trail running.
Best Hikes Near Denver: West
Visiting Denver, most people immediately think of the mountains. While you can see them from downtown and even the airport when you land, the majority of our higher peaks are tough to reach without a huge drive. To make things more complicated, many more are caked in snow for 6+ months a year and are dangerous to attempt without a lot of avalanche and snow knowledge. HOWEVER, Chief Mountain is a great solution to all of these problems. It’s close to Denver, a short hike at just 3 miles RT, can be hiked year round and has without a doubt the best views from any hike on this list. Read more about the drive to this mountain and where to park as both of those factors can be tricky depending on when you visit.
Beaver Brook and Chavez Trail
From an accessibility standpoint on the best hikes near Denver, it’s hard to beat Beaver Brook and Chavez trail. This hike is located just off of I70, about 35 minutes from downtown Denver. This 5 mile trail brings hikers down into Clear Creek Canyon and during spring and summer months has a number of smaller waterfalls and stream crossings. Admittedly, this is not the best hike on this list but it is a great option that can be tackled year round. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Buffalo Herd in the area. They are managed by the city of Denver and usually graze along the highway near this hike or right across on the Chief Hosa side of the highway.
Best Hikes Near Denver: North
North Table Mountain
Next up on my best hikes near Denver list, we head to the beautiful town of Golden Colorado and North Table Mountain Park. You may notice that I avoid a lot of other hikes in Golden on this list, but what I like the most about this 2,000 acre park is the unique views of Denver and feeling of peace and seclusion here even when you are surrounded by houses and have the Coors Plant in full view to the south. This park is popular with mountain bikers, horseback riders, runners and hikers. There are a variety of trails to choose from, but they are all about the same difficulty. North Table Mountain is good for families and hikers of all skill levels. The park offers year-round hiking with the potential of snow during the winter months (December – March). Learn more about this spot here.
Even though Boulder is a unique city in its own right, it is less than 30 miles from Denver and has a number of hikes to choose from. One of my favorites is Bear Peak, located just south of downtown Boulder. This mountain offers amazing views of Boulder and the mountains to the west. This hike is suitable for everyone, but expect a longer day for newbie hikers or younger families. You can combine a number of trails to get to the summit and back to your car so make sure you bring a map for this one, it’s very easy to get lost! Hiking Bear Peak – be sure to add on South Boulder Peak which is about another half mile of hiking away. Want an even more challenging day? Try the entire Skyline Traverse!
Green Mountain is one of the most popular spots to hike, walk your dog and trail run in Boulder. Just west of downtown, like Bear Peak, this mountain has a TON of different trails to choose from to gain its summit. On top of Green Mountain is the famous bronze plaque that shows you the identities of the mountains that surround its summit. Green Mountain can be hiked year round and is dog friendly for the most part (certain trails prohibit dogs and they are clearly marked). If you are looking for a best hike near Denver and also want to spend some time in Boulder after – look no further.
Best Hikes Near Denver: Honorable Mentions
Colorado Trail Segment 3
If you are looking for an overnight trip near Denver and want to do some backpacking, the Colorado Trail is an amazing option. Colorado Trail Segment 3 just missed my best hikes near Denver list because the end of the segment is more than 30 miles from Denver. Read a full guide about this hike here.
I hesitated to put this one on my list of best hikes near Denver because it’s more of a walk than a hike. Calling Evergreen Lake a hike would be like calling Cheeseman Park in Denver a spot to hike. However, the views at Evergreen Lake are amazing and it’s also a great spot to see elk during the summer and fall months as a herd usually takes over the golf course. This spot is for the person who wants to get outside for a nice walk but doesn’t necessarily want to spend more than an hour or two of their day hiking. Read more about Evergreen Lake, including where to park, here.
Reynolds Park is one of the number of Denver Mountain Parks that are not really located in Denver. This spot is located in Conifer and is a really nice area to hike. We often walk Juno, our husky, here and the views from the foothills are very tough to beat. On a clear day you can see 14er Pikes Peak and the unique Cathedral Spires in the distance. The reason I didn’t include this spot to hike on my list of best hikes near Denver is because the hikes here can be a bit challenging and one note for the casual hiker. All of the hikes start with a big climb to gain one of the hills in the valley and then ends with a big descent back to where you started. For some, this can take away the enjoyment of the hike.
St Mary’s Glacier / James Peak
St Mary’s Glacier is one of the most popular hikes in the Front Range of Colorado. However, although it may not seem like it, it’s quite the drive from Denver. This one landed outside of the 30 mile radius rule and is also a very long drive for such a short hike. If you have the time to visit, by all means do it! However, for those hikers looking for a longer day – it’s a no brainer to add on 13er James Peak. After hiking to St Mary’s Lake, simply head to the right and up the “glacier” to start the trail to James Peak. This is a much longer and more technical hike, but a beautiful day in the mountains.
Whether you live in Denver and are looking for a new spot to check out or visiting the mile high city, I hope this list of best hikes near Denver can help you plan your next trip. As you can tell, if you want a really nice hike – you will most likely need a car and be willing to drive a bit to access these beautiful spots. Check out my list of hikes close to Denver in addition to a map of all Colorado hikes. Did I miss a great hike that you love? Leave a suggestion in the comments below!