We Denverites certainly love to venture outdoors on the weekends, but we don’t always have time to venture all the way to the mountains. And frankly, sometimes we’d rather enjoy a nice, easy loaf through the woods and foothills rather than an epic, strenuous alpine adventure. If you’re looking for family-friendly excursions, hit these scenic, fairly easy trails for hiking in Denver and the surrounding area. They are sure to please everyone in your clan. Now go have all the fun in the sun!
1. Buffalo Bill Trail and Lookout Mountain
Want a quick, easy jaunt just 30 minutes from Denver? Try this slightly different route to Lookout Mountain by starting at the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave near Golden. Take the Buffalo Bill Trail to Lookout Mountain Trail, ending at the Nature Center and Preserve, and enjoy lovely views of Clear Creek Canyon and downtown Denver just miles away. Take your time to explore the kid-friendly activities at the Lookout Nature Center, and afterward add the short Meadow and Forest Loop Trails, for a chance to see local wildlife and the opportunity to picnic under the towering pines.
2. Clear Creek Trail in Golden
Another lovely little family-friendly trail (that qualifies more as a stroll than a hike) follows the Clear Creek in downtown Golden. Grab some coffee or breakfast in town and meander beside the creek, perhaps picnic in one of the many parks along the way, then finish up by exploring downtown. (Note: This is also a great trail for kids to ride their bikes. Just be wary of other bikers along the way).
3. Bear Creek Trail at Lair O' the Bear
This is certainly one of the most popular hiking spots near Denver, with plenty of parking, picnic tables, shaded areas, fishing holes, and a number of trail options running along Bear Creek. You can do the standard 1.7 mile loop, but the trail continues on in both directions if you'd like to explore further or into neighboring parks.
4. Panorama Point Trail at Corwina Park
One of the lesser frequented hidden gems of the Jefferson Co. Open Space (and neighbor to Lair 'O the Bear) is Corwina Park. The Panorama Point Trail winds along a babbling brook before making its way to the top for sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. This out-and-back trail is more of a medium-diffculty hike if you have children in tow, but at roughly 2.4 miles roundtrip it's still a breeze for most.
5. Sisters Trail at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park
Another family favorite near Evergreen is Alderfer and Three Sisters Park, which offers 18 trails and hiking options anywhere from 1 to 10 miles. The Sisters Trail takes you through meadows and woods to three interesting rock outcroppings (North, Middle, and South Sisters) and ultimately to the summit of The Brother at 7,805' where you can enjoy views of the town of Evergreen, as well as Mount Bierstradt and Mount Evans on the horizon. (Note: There are many trails and many intersections, so be sure to grab a map at the parking area before you hit the dirt.)
6. Evergreen Mountain Trail at Alderfer/Three Sisters
Also at Three Sisters Park is another fairly easy summit hike. Take the Evergreen Mountain Trail to the rather expansive summit at 8,527' and enjoy a picnic with fabulous panoramic views of surrounding areas and plenty of room to explore. (But again, take the map and stay on course, as there are many trail intersections and also private property within this area of the park.)
7. Waterton Canyon Trail
This out-and-back hike near Littleton is great for families because you can hike as little or as long as you'd like, and being that the trail is a wide dirt road, it's even a nice hike with a stroller. If you go all the way to the end point at Strontia Springs Dam, it's 12.4 miles roundtrip, but you may choose to stop at one of the many fishing holes, dams, and picnic spots along the way, then call it a day. Keep your eyes peeled for the potential to see bighorn sheep and their lambs along the canyon walls or golden eagles soaring high above. (Note: In order to preserve the wildlife, there are NO DOGS allowed.)
8. Coyote Song Trail at South Valley Park
Just 30 minutes from Denver is the perfect little escape at South Valley Park with almost 1000 acres of meadows and towering red rock outcroppings. Combine the Coyote Song Trail with the Swallow Trail to make about a 3 mile easy family-friendly loop and enjoy stunning views of the dramatic red sandstone formations.
9. Deer Creek Canyon Loop
Just next door to South Valley Park is Deer Creek Canyon Park, and you can actually combine hiking trails in both parks if you want to make more of an extensive hiking route. There are a number of hiker only trails (Meadowlark, Homesteader, Golden Eagle, and Black Bear Trails), as well as Plymouth Creek Trail and the Red Mesa Loop, which are also open to bikers and horseback riders. The trails provide magnificent views of the rolling hills of Deer Creek Canyon, the potential to see local wildlife, and plenty of prime picnic spots. (Notes: This hike can get pretty muddy in the spring so wear appropriate footwear. And in the summer, BEWARE of rattlesnakes!)
10. Flatirons Vista Loop
Near Boulder are the beautifully striking Flatirons, and while you can explore them up close, it is also nice to take them in at a distance (especially if you want to take your little ones). The Flatirons Vista Loop offers two options for hikes of 1.9 miles or 3.3 miles. Be on the lookout for bobcats, mule deer, and coyotes along the way, and bring your sunscreen because this hike is super exposed.
11. Lake Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Commerce City, spans about 8,000 acres and is home to more than 330 species. If you want to escape but don't have time to do it in the mountains, this roughly 2 mile loop is a (super) easy walk that affords views of the grasslands, the metro area, and the Front Range, with definite potential for experiencing many wildlife sightings, including bison, deer, rabbits, prairie dogs, and birds. (Note: In order to preserve the wildlife, there are NO DOGS allowed.)
What are some of your family’s favorite trails for hiking in Denver and the surrounding area? Share your suggestions in the comments!