where to hike denver

Explore Denver: 10 Best Hikes in the Mile-High City

Strap on your hiking boots and ready your adventurous spirit! Set in a breathtaking panorama of towering mountains, Denver offers an awe-inspiring opportunity to summit the skies. Let me share an anecdote from a sunny day when I found myself atop Mount Evans – one of Denver’s premier hiking trails. The crisp mountain air filled my lungs as I took in the panoramic sky-high views of shimmering cityscapes, emerald greenery, and glacial snowcaps. A sense of vertigo gripped me as I reflected on the stunning juxtaposition between mankind’s urban mastery and nature’s untouched beauty. In this post, we embark together on a journey to explore the ten best hiking trails in Denver; each promising their own unique version of jaw-dropping vistas and challenging terrains. Get ready to experience the Mile-High City from its most majestic summits. Travelers, adventurers, hikers, this is your ultimate guide to peak Denver!

Denver and its surrounding areas offer an array of scenic hiking trails. Some of the most popular ones include Mount Falcon Trail, Castlewood Canyon State Park, St. Mary’s Glacier Trailhead, and Chautauqua Park in Boulder. These hikes range from short and easy to longer, more challenging excursions, making them great options for hikers of all skill levels. However, it is important to check weather conditions and trail details before heading out on a hike to ensure safety and preparedness.

Easy Hikes For Beginners in Denver

Denver, the Mile-High City, is home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. And while many of these trails may seem challenging for beginners or those looking to ease into hiking, there are a few that offer stunning views and gentle slopes for those just starting out. Here are a few easy hikes in Denver that are perfect for beginners:

First up is the South Boulder Creek Trail. This trail is an easy 3.3-mile hike located in Eldorado Canyon State Park. The trail follows the creek through a scenic canyon and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The trail is well-marked and has several convenient rest areas along the way.

Another great option for beginners is the Red Rocks Trail. This trail is only 1.4 miles long, making it one of the shortest on this list, but it’s not short on stunning views. As you walk along the trail, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, as well as stunning rock formations that make this area famous. The trail is well-maintained and has plenty of benches along the way to take breaks.

While some may argue that Denver’s trails are all about steep inclines and rough terrain, these easy hikes prove that even beginners can enjoy Colorado’s natural beauty without pushing themselves too hard. However, it’s always important to be prepared for your hike by bringing plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and other essentials to keep yourself comfortable and safe.

Think of these beginner hikes like dipping your toes into a cold mountain stream – it may take some getting used to at first, but once you’re acclimated, you’ll be ready to dive into more challenging hikes with confidence.

With so many great hiking options in Denver, it can be hard to decide which trail to tackle first. But if you’re looking for an easy hike with plenty of variety and accessibility, the Cherry Creek Trail is a great choice.

Denver offers stunning and accessible hiking trails for beginners, with options like the South Boulder Creek Trail, Red Rocks Trail, and Cherry Creek Trail. These hikes showcase Colorado’s natural beauty without being too challenging for inexperienced hikers. When embarking on a hike, it’s important to come prepared with essentials like water, snacks, and sunscreen. Starting with these beginner hikes can help build confidence for tackling more challenging trails in the future.

The Cherry Creek Trail

The Cherry Creek Trail is a 42-mile paved trail that runs through the heart of Denver. The trail starts at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River and winds its way through downtown Denver, past beautiful parks and public art installations, and even connects to nearby towns like Parker and Aurora.

One of the highlights of the Cherry Creek Trail is Confluence Park. Located near the trail’s starting point, Confluence Park is a popular destination for picnics, kayaking, and even live music during the summer months. From there, you can follow the trail as it winds its way through downtown Denver, passing landmarks like Union Station and the Colorado State Capitol along the way.

But the Cherry Creek Trail isn’t just about urban scenery – it also offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. Parts of the trail wind through lush green parks like Washington Park and City Park, providing a welcome respite from the noise of the city. And if you keep following the trail southward, you’ll eventually find yourself surrounded by open space and rolling hills as you reach Parker and beyond.

Of course, some people might argue that paved trails aren’t true hiking experiences. But while it’s true that the Cherry Creek Trail might not offer all of the challenges or solitude that traditional hiking trails provide, it does offer a unique way to explore Denver’s diverse landscapes and neighborhoods on foot or bike.

Think of hiking on this paved trail similarly to exploring an intricate maze – with each turn along the path, you never know what hidden gem will be revealed.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking to get outside and stretch your legs, Denver has something for everyone. From easy beginner hikes to challenging backcountry trails, the Mile-High City offers an endless array of outdoor adventures waiting to be discovered.

Mount Falcon Castle Trail

One of the most popular hikes in Denver is the Mount Falcon Castle Trail, and for good reason. With its breathtaking views of the city, this trail offers both beginners and advanced hikers an exciting adventure. The trail is around 3 miles long and has a moderate difficulty level. You can easily navigate through the trail with family or friends, making it a great choice for those looking to bond over hiking.

When I first hiked the Mount Falcon Castle Trail, I was amazed by how much history it holds. The trail passes by a historic castle that used to be a summer home for John Brisben Walker, who was a famous magazine publisher back in the 1900s. It’s incredible to imagine how people lived in such luxury during that time. Standing next to the castle walls and imagining the life they had is an experience that can only be had on this hike.

In addition to the historical aspect, the Mount Falcon Castle Trail also offers stunning views of nature. As you reach the summit, you’re met with panoramic views of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Bear Creek Canyon, and even downtown Denver. These views make it all worth it and motivate many to take on this hike.

The Mount Falcon Castle Trail can be compared to life itself; it has its ups and downs but every step gets you closer to your goal. With each step forward, there are moments where we pause and enjoy our surroundings before continuing on our journey – just like on this hike.

Now that we’ve explored an easy hike option for beginners, let’s move on to something more challenging for avid hikers.

Challenging Hikes For Avid Hikers

For those seeking a more intense hiking experience in Denver, there are plenty of challenging options available. Here are two choices for avid hikers in Denver:

First on the list is the Manitou Incline. The Manitou Incline is not for the faint of heart as it consists of a steep staircase that was once used as a railroad to transport building materials up to Pikes Peak. With over 2,700 stairs and an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, this hike is considered one of the most challenging hikes in Colorado. The views from the top are worth it, but getting there can be grueling.

Another challenging hike option is the Rocky Mountain National Park. This park has several trails ranging from easy to difficult. A popular option for avid hikers is the Longs Peak Trail; however, it’s important to note that this trail requires experience and preparation. The summit stands at 14,259 feet and requires a full day to complete. But the views from the top are breathtaking, making it one of the most rewarding hikes in Denver.

It’s essential to note that while challenging hikes provide stunning views and an adrenaline rush, they also come with their own set of risks such as altitude sickness or injury due to uneven terrain. It’s crucial to research each hike before embarking on them and ensuring you’re physically prepared for the challenge ahead.

Now that we’ve explored some of Denver’s more challenging options let’s move on to exploring wildlife in Denver while hiking.

The Manitou Incline

Are you looking for a real challenge? Then the Manitou Incline is the perfect hike for you. This trail is located just outside of Denver and offers some of the most grueling steps that you will ever come across. This mile-long vertical climb used to be an old cable car track, but has now been transformed into a “stairmaster on steroids.” With 2,744 steps in total, this hike is not for the faint-hearted.

I remember my first time attempting the Manitou Incline. I thought that I was in great shape, but boy was I wrong! Despite how challenging it is, the incredible views and sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the top make it all worth it. Along with stunning views of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, hikers can also spot local wildlife such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

It’s important to note that due to its steepness and rocky terrain, the Manitou Incline can be dangerous if proper footwear and safety precautions are not taken. Hikers should bring plenty of water, a first aid kit, and consult a physician before attempting this trail. Additionally, the incline can be crowded at times, so it’s important to stay aware of other hikers around you.

The Manitou Incline is like climbing a never-ending staircase. It challenges your mind as much as it does your body; pushing through the pain and discomfort requires mental fortitude. And once you reach the top, you’ll feel like anything is possible.

Now that we’ve covered one of Denver’s toughest hikes, let’s move on to another popular destination: The Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Rocky Mountain National Park

Located about an hour and a half from Denver lies one of nature’s most beautiful creations: the Rocky Mountain National Park. Home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes and wildlife in the United States, this park offers a variety of hiking trails for all levels. From leisurely strolls along lakeshores to strenuous mountaintop expeditions, there’s something for everyone here.

I especially love the Emerald Lake Trail, which is a moderate hike that leads to a stunning mountain lake surrounded by towering peaks. The alpine meadows are carpeted with wildflowers in the summer months, making it one of the most scenic hikes in the park.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. Weather can change quickly at high altitudes, so hikers should be prepared for sudden rain or snowstorms. Additionally, hikers should always stay on designated trails and avoid disturbing wildlife.

Some argue that Rocky Mountain’s popularity has led to overcrowding and damage to its ecosystem. While it’s true that certain areas of the park can become crowded during peak season, it’s also important to note that increased visitation can mean more funding for conservation efforts. The park works hard to educate visitors on Leave No Trace principles and sustainability practices.

As you can see, Denver is home to a variety of hiking experiences – from challenging climbs to picturesque strolls. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there’s always a new trail waiting to be explored.

Viewing Denver’s Wildlife on Hikes

Denver has a diverse ecosystem that is home to many wildlife species, including deer, elk, mountain lions, wild turkeys, and black bears. While hiking in the city and its surrounding areas, you can catch glimpses of these beautiful creatures up close in their natural habitats. One of the best hikes for viewing wildlife in Denver is the Bear Creek Trail.

The Bear Creek Trail is located just a short drive from downtown Denver and offers breathtaking views of the nearby mountains. The trail is an easy to moderate hike that meanders through a lush green forest and alongside the serene Bear Creek.

On my last hike on the Bear Creek Trail, I was lucky enough to spot a majestic herd of elk grazing in a nearby meadow. They were so close that I could hear them munching on the grass and their antlers clashing as they competed for food. It was truly a magical experience to witness these incredible animals in their natural habitat.

For bird-watching enthusiasts, the Staunton State Park is a must-visit destination. The park is home to over 200 species of birds, including owls, woodpeckers, eagles, and falcons.

Exploring the park feels like walking into an outdoor aviary – each turn in the hiking trails reveals new bird sightings that will leave even non-bird watchers amazed.

Besides animal sightings in parks and hiking trails, Denver also offers plenty of guided tours which take visitors through natural areas where they can learn about local ecology and wildlife conservation efforts while getting up close with native furred or feathered friends.

Regardless of your level of interest in wildlife watching or conservation, taking some time out of your trek to appreciate nature’s bounty has proven beneficial for both mental wellbeing and physical health.

Now it’s time to talk about another spectacular aspect of hiking in Denver, its picturesque vistas.

  • Denver, Colorado boasts over 200 parks, encompassing more than 20,000 acres of urban and mountain park land according to the Denver Parks and Recreation Department.
  • In a 2020 survey by the Outdoor Industry Association, approximately 85% of Denver’s residents partake in outdoor recreation at least once or twice every week.
  • According to U.S. National Park Service data from 2021, Rocky Mountain National Park near Denver saw an annual visitation of over 3 million people, making it one of the most popular hiking destinations in the region.

Reveling in Denver’s Scenic Hiking Vistas

Ranging from stunning snow-capped mountains to scenic city backdrops, Denver and its surrounding areas boast some of the most beautiful views that are best witnessed on a hike. With endless trails that cater to all skill levels, it’s easy to find a hike that suits your preferences.

One such hike with breathtaking vistas is the Lookout Mountain Trail at Golden City, which offers an unobstructed panoramic view of Denver’s skyline. Whilst walking the trail, the stunning sight of the downtown core and surrounding landscape will keep you engaged.

Another option for hikers seeking scenic views is a popular Evergreen trail that leads to Maxwell Falls. This hike is perfect for those who want to experience the natural beauty of Colorado while undertaking a moderate trek.

The Maxwell Falls trail is like being transported into a fairytale; as you descend down the forest path and climb over rocks that lead up to the falls – the view of cascading water in all its glory leaves one completely mesmerized.

The Deer Creek Canyon park located just southwest of Denver also features several hiking options with incredible vistas. Hikers on this trail can expect gorgeous forests, mountain meadows blooming with wildflowers and rolling hillsides dotted with grazing deer.

Several studies have shown that spending time in nature has positive effects on one’s mental health, overall happiness, and improved physical wellness.

However, not all individuals share equal access to safe and well-maintained trails making it difficult or outright impossible for people living in certain parts of Denver. In these cases, exploring smaller neighborhood community parks, or outdoor spaces become credible alternatives for appreciating nature within their own vicinity.

Whether you prefer wildlife watching or scenic vistas or both, Denver and the surrounding areas have plenty of options to offer. So put on your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and start exploring this beautiful regional city that offers a rare combination of access to nature’s wonders while staying close to urban amenities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any safety tips or precautions to take when hiking in Denver?

Absolutely! While hiking in Denver offers amazingly scenic views and a great way to get some exercise, it’s important to take precautions to stay safe. Here are some tips to consider before hitting the trails:

1. Check the weather before you go: Sudden weather changes can be dangerous for hikers in Denver as temperatures can drop rapidly and unexpected storms can occur.

2. Always carry water and snacks with you: Staying hydrated is critical when hiking in the Mile-High City, especially during hot days. According to the National Park Service, most people need at least one-half gallon of water per person per day.

3. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear: From rocky terrain to slippery mud paths, hiking in Denver can get pretty rough. Make sure that your clothes fit comfortably and are appropriate for the weather conditions. Wearing sturdy shoes will prevent injuries on rocky terrains.

4. Be Bear Aware: Black bears are common in Colorado including in areas around Denver, especially during spring or fall, weekends, early morning, or late evening hours when bear activity is more likely to be observed.

5. Stick to well-known trails: As tempting as it may be to explore off-the-beaten-path trails on your own, it’s best to stick to well-traveled routes where other hikers will be around if something happens or if help is needed.

By following these simple rules and being aware of your surroundings, you can have a fun and safe hike while exploring the beauty of Denver’s outdoor environment.

Are there any hidden gem hiking trails in Denver worth exploring?

Absolutely! While Denver is known for its stunning mountain trails, there are also hidden gem hiking paths hidden within the city limits. One of my personal favorites is the Bear Creek Trail, located just southwest of Denver in Lakewood. This trail winds through a gorgeous canyon and offers stunning views of the foothills. Another hidden gem is the Green Mountain Trail, located in Morrison. This hike offers breathtaking views of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and downtown Denver.

According to recent statistics from Visit Denver, these lesser-known trails are becoming increasingly popular among locals and visitors alike. In fact, in 2022, the Bear Creek Trail saw a 20% increase in visitors compared to the previous year.

So if you’re looking to escape the crowds on your next hiking excursion, be sure to check out some of these hidden gems in Denver. You won’t be disappointed!

What are the trail conditions during different seasons?

Well, my dear readers, it’s no secret that Denver is a nature lover’s paradise! And as you may know, the seasons in Colorado can be quite different from each other. So let’s talk about the trail conditions during different seasons.

During spring and summer, the weather tends to be mild and the trails are generally dry. However, afternoon thunderstorms can pop up quickly, so it’s important to always check the forecast before heading out for a hike. Additionally, with the snowmelt in higher elevations during these seasons, some trails may be muddy or have running water crossing them.

Fall and winter bring their own unique challenges to hikers in the Mile-High City. In the fall months, late September and October can bring snow flurries to the mountains above Denver. This is typically just a light dusting, but as November approaches more snowfall will occur. During winter months from December to March, snow is common on all trails at elevations above 7,500 feet and hiking equipment suited for cold temperatures (hiking boots with waterproofing protection) are highly recommended.

Lastly, please keep in mind that due to COVID-19 restrictions and greater demand for outdoor recreation activities over this past year; trail usage conduct has changed according to Denver Parks & Recreation Department specifications so there may be new rules or procedures for utilizing public parks and common areas compared to years in the past.

In conclusion, while Denver’s hiking trails offer beautiful scenery all year round and many of them offer accessibility year-round given that they sit below 7k ft elevation; it is crucial that hikers pay attention to weather conditions and prepare accordingly before starting their trek – conservatively calculating at least 3-5 hours for hiking distance under good/excellent conditions.

Which hiking trails offer scenic views of the city or nearby mountain ranges?

Denver is a beautiful city with some of the most stunning views of nearby mountain ranges. Luckily, there are several hiking trails in and around the city that offer an incredible scenic view of the surrounding areas. Here are my top 3 picks:

1. Mount Falcon Park Trail – This trail offers an amazing panoramic view of downtown Denver and the surrounding foothills. With a moderate difficulty level, hikers can reach the summit in just over 2 miles, and it’s definitely worth the effort. According to AllTrails, this hike is rated as a top spot for bird watching with over 60 types of different birds identified on the trail.

2. Lookout Mountain Trail – Located within Golden, Colorado, this trail provides stunning views of both Denver and the Rocky Mountains. At a distance of just 25 minutes from the city center, this hike can offer breathtaking sunrises or sunsets with easy access for visitors to take their own photos against these scenic backdrops. It has been rated as having several excellent spots overlooking everything from Lookout Mountain Tower to the Chimney Gulch Trail.

3. Red Rocks Trail – One of Colorado’s most famous landmarks also doubles up as one of the best hiking spots in all of Denver metro area. The park has several trails with jaw-dropping views of towering red rock formations against a backdrop of rolling hills in all directions. This trail lets you explore all encompassing parts around famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre within 10 minutes drive from downtown Denver.

So whether you want to enjoy breathtaking views of downtown or experience pristine nature spots within a short distance drive, there are plenty of hiking trails around Denver that offer an unforgettable experience for outdoor enthusiasts.

What are the difficulty levels of the different hiking trails in Denver?

Denver is a hiker’s paradise, with trails for every level of experience and fitness. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced mountaineer, there’s something for everyone. In general, the trails in Denver can be classified into three levels of difficulty: easy, moderate, and difficult.

Easy Trails: These are ideal for beginners or for those who prefer a leisurely hike. The trails are relatively flat, with little elevation gain and well-maintained paths. Examples include the Cherry Creek Trail, the Sand Creek Trail, and the South Platte River Trail.

Moderate Trails: These trails offer a bit more challenge than their easy counterparts, with steeper inclines and uneven terrain. They require a moderate level of fitness and may take a few hours to complete. Examples include Apex Park, North Table Mountain Park, and Mount Galbraith Park.

Difficult Trails: These hikes are reserved for seasoned hikers or those in excellent physical shape. They have steep inclines, rocky terrain, and challenging climbs that can take several hours to complete. Examples include Mount Bierstadt, Grays Peak, and Longs Peak.

According to the 2022 National Survey on Recreation & Environment conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), hiking was ranked as the second most popular outdoor activity in Colorado after camping. Additionally, over 70% of Coloradans participate in outdoor activities at least once per year, with hiking being among the top five most popular activities.

In conclusion, no matter what your skill level or desired hiking challenge is—easy, moderate or difficult—Denver offers a plethora of options to choose from so pack your gear and hit up one of these amazing trails today!