The Best Hiking Trails in Colorado - AdventureTripr

The Best Hiking Trails in Colorado

Spenser Czuleger · May 17, 2021

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The best hiking trails in Colorado
The best hiking trails in Colorado

With high mountains, beautiful alpine lakes, sand dunes, and unique rock formations, Colorado has some of the best hiking trails you’ll find. Plus, Colorado gets 300 days of sun each year, so you’ll likely have a sunny hike! 

One word of caution, if you’re not used to hiking in Colorado’s altitude, it can hit you hard. You’ll want to be prepared with extra water and whatever gear is needed for the season/weather when you’re there. Keep on reading below for some of the best hiking trails in Colorado. 

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake, one of Colorado's best hikes
Emerald Lake, one of Colorado's best hikes

Mileage: 3.2 miles

Elevation: 698 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

We’ll start out with what is probably the best hike in Colorado. In Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll find this gem (pun intended) of a hike. When you hike to Emerald Lake, you’ll pass two other lakes on your way. The tall mountains on the lake shore, the lakes, and everything around you is just magical. You can also make a quick detour to Bear Lake nearby which is easy to add on to your itinerary. They share a parking lot and it only adds .7 miles to your trip. 

Heads up though! The parking lot for Emerald and Bear Lakes fills up fast.

Royal Arch

Royal Arch in the Rocky Mountains foothills of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado
Royal Arch in the Rocky Mountains foothills of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado

Mileage: 3.1 miles

Elevation: 1,394 feet

Difficulty: Hard

Nestled into the foothills of Boulder you’ll find some great hikes with wide views, unique rock formations, and stunning scenery. Here you’ll be able to hike the Flatirons, named so for their resemblance to metal flat irons which were heated and used to iron clothing by women in the 1800s. This hike is close to town and rewards you with amazing views. 

St. Mary’s Glacier

St. Mary’s Glacier, Colorado
St. Mary’s Glacier, Colorado

Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation: 1,030 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

This stunning hike is short but one of the best hiking trails in Colorado. It rewards you with a beautiful alpine lake up against a glacier. There’s a defined path until you get to the glacier and from there, you find your own way. It’s about an hour outside of Denver, so it’s easy to get to and there is a $5 parking fee. 

The Loch via Glacier Gorge

The Loch, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The Loch, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Distance: 5.4 miles

Elevation: 1,056

Difficulty: Moderate

Another stunning alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, this Colorado hike will amaze you. There are two different parking lots you can park in and leave from, one is the same as the one for Emerald and Bear Lakes above so it can be hard to find a spot. 

This hike takes you onto the other side of the mountain from Emerald Lake to another large alpine lake. It’s a stunning hike in both winter and summer, and a perfect spot for a picnic or a swim. 

Star Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park at Sunset
Great Sand Dunes National Park at Sunset

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation gain: 629 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

The Great Sand Dunes seem to rise out of nowhere at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Know that this isn’t so much of a hiking trail, as it is walking up a squishy sand hill. It's a great area to explore though! Dogs are allowed on this hike, but can't wander past it.

Mount Bierstadt

Mount Bierstadt, Colorado
Mount Bierstadt, Colorado

Distance: 7.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,729 feet

Difficulty: Hard

Finish this hike and you’ll have hiked one of Colorado’s 14ers, one of the 58 mountains in Colorado taller than 14,000 feet. Many people will make it a goal to hike all of them! This hike rewards you with panoramic views and is a great first 14er if you want to start hiking them. 

Chavez and Beaver Brook

Distance: 5 miles

Elevation: 1,122 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Hike this loop and enjoy the elevation changes as you walk alongside a creek. Take a swim in the summer, and enjoy the leaves changing colors in the fall. It’s located just 30 minutes outside of Denver so easy to head out for a quick, refreshing hike in the outdoors.

Hanging Lake

Hanging Lake Waterfall, Colorado
Hanging Lake Waterfall, Colorado

Distance: 3.1 miles

Elevation: 1,187 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

By some miracle, Hanging Lake survived last year’s wildfire. This popular hike has a permit system, so be sure you get one before you go. This hike takes you to beautiful waterfalls falling into a lake. Because it’s such a fragile ecosystem, visitors aren’t allowed on the logs or in the lake. It’s a bucket list hike in Colorado, so if you have the opportunity to go, be sure to!

Four Pass Loop

The Four Pass Loop is typically done as a two night backpacking trip
The Four Pass Loop is typically done as a two night backpacking trip

Distance: 26 miles

Elevation: 7,752 feet

Difficulty: Strenuous (best for experienced hikers and backpackers)

Located in the Maroon Bells Wilderness near Aspen, this 26-mile-long trek leads you over four separate mountain passes in the span of four days. Along the way you'll pass through the rugged high peaks of the Elk Mountains, traverse gorgeous meadows decorated with wildflowers, and visit beautiful alpine lakes including Creater Lake and Snowmass Lake.

Herman Gulch

Snowshoeing Herman Gulch
Snowshoeing Herman Gulch

Distance: 6.3 miles

Elevation: 1,738 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

This hike is a small section of the famous Continental Divide Trail (CDT) which is a 3,028 trail running between Mexico and Canada. On this gorgeous hike, you’ll hike through meadows, pass by mountains, and get above the treeline to a lake under a mountain peak. Depending on when you go, you may run into thru-hikers completing the CDT. Some may be going for the triple crown of thru-hiking the CDT, Pacific Crest Trail, and Appalachian Trail.

Ice Lakes Basin

Ice Lakes Basin is a stunning Colorado hike
Ice Lakes Basin is a stunning Colorado hike

Distance: 9.2 miles

Elevation gain: 2,600 feet

Difficulty: Strenuous

Ice Lake has some of the bluest water a high alpine lake has to offer! The color comes from rock flour, or glacial flour, which is fine-grained, silt-sized particles of rock, generated by the grinding of bedrock by glacial erosion. This hike starts at 9,900 ft and the lake sits at 12,500 ft so be prepared for the elevation! This trail has an offshoot over to Emerald Lake you can take.

The Incline

The Incline, an infamous Colorado hike
The Incline, an infamous Colorado hike

Distance: 3.8 miles

Elevation: 1,922 feet

Difficulty: Hard

No Colorado hiking list is complete without the infamous Incline. This difficult hike gains about 2,000 feet of elevation in a mile with an average grade of 45%. There’s a great view of Colorado Springs at the top but many people use this as a training trail. You’ll likely see trail runners and people who do this hike regularly trying to break their own personal records. Due to Covid-19, free reservations are required to do this hike. 

Lost Man Lake

Lost Man Lake 12,482 feet is an alpine lake
Lost Man Lake 12,482 feet is an alpine lake

Distance: 5.4 miles

Elevation gain: 1,525 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

The Lost Man trail provides instant gratification to anyone who loves traversing high alpine terrain with sweeping views. The trail will pass Independence Lake before topping out at panoramic Lost Man Pass. Beyond the pass, the trail drops to Lost Man Lake and then descends through beautiful meadows with great views of the Williams Mountains to Lost Man Reservoir!

With so many different beautiful and stunning hikes in Colorado, you’ll get hooked on hiking there. Hopefully this list of Colorado hiking trails helps you pick which adventure to go on next! Be sure to tag AdventureTripr on your posts! We love seeing which alpine lakes, meadows, and mountains you hike to. 

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