Just because the temperatures and the snowflakes have started to fall, doesn’t mean your hiking days have to end. In fact, during the winter months our nearby mountain parks are transformed into scenic wonderlands that are utterly breathtaking and awe-inspiring. From frozen lakes and majestic red rocks formations to magnificent valleys and meadows, here are the best winter hikes near Denver, promising fun and fascination for the whole family.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Roxborough State Park
One of the most magical settings for a winter hike is Roxborough State Park, also known as Denver's Garden of the Gods.
The towering red rocks against the soft white snow are truly stunning and will make you feel as though you've stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia.
The 2.3-mile Fountain Valley Trail and the 1.4-mile Willow Creek Trail are perfectly picturesque family-friendly loops on which to explore the park. (Note: NO pets allowed at Roxborough State Park.)
2. Bear Lake
Want to feast your eyes on four frozen lakes in under 4 miles? Traveling the trail from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park will give you just that.
For an extra special experience, start your trip at Bear Lake at sunrise and breathe in the beauty of Long's Peak, the highest point in the park, in the distance. (Note: This is one of Colorado's most accessible trails to snowshoe, and if you don't own a pair, you can rent them for a fair price in Estes Park at The Colorado Mountain Shop. Also, there are NO dogs allowed at RMNP.)
3. Dream Lake
Half a mile up the trail you'll reach Nymph Lake then continue on to Dream Lake, which lies at 1.1 miles, where you'll enjoy spectacular views of Hallett Peak and Dragon's Tail Couloir.
4. Emerald Lake
After just 1.8 miles of traversing through a winter wonderland, you'll reach the grand finale, Emerald Lake.
Keep your eyes and ears peeled for elk along the way, and be sure to warm up with coffee, grub, and a hot toddy in the charming town of Estes Park before trucking back to Denver.
5. Alberta Falls
Another lovely short destination hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is the 1.6-mile round-trip jaunt to Alberta Falls. Park at the Bear Lake Trailhead, follow signs for Glacier Gorge and Alberta Falls, snowshoe your way to the frozen falls, and be prepared to be amazed!
6. Mount Falcon Park
Located just 30 miles from Denver, Mount Falcon Park is riddled with trails that offers stunning vistas of Denver, Red Rocks, the Front Range, and Mount Evans.
You can combine a few trails to make a 3.7-mile loop that hits all the scenic highlights by taking the Tower Trail to the Meadow Trail North and on to the Castle Trail, which culminates at the hauntingly beautiful Walker Castle Ruins.
7. Alderfer/Three Sisters Park
Another fabulous nearby park with a vast network of family-friendly trails is the Alderfer/Three Sisters Park near Evergreen. You'll enjoy spacious meadows, quaint forests...
...vista views of the Rockies...
...and the impressive and interesting rock formations for which the park is known. (Note: There are 18 trails ranging from .2 to over 10 miles, so be sure to grab a map from the trailhead, as the network can get quite confusing along the way.)
8. South Valley Park
South Valley Park, located just 30 minutes southwest of Denver, is the perfect place to escape the city and explore the nearly 1,000 acres of meadows and towering red sandstone outcroppings. For a gentle, 3-mile loop suitable for the whole family, combine the Coyote Song Trail with the Swallow Trail and enjoy stunning views of the dramatic geological formations.
9. Deer Creek Canyon Park
Just a stone's throw from South Valley Park is the picturesque Deer Creek Canyon Park, with miles of trails and magnificent views of the surrounding woods and valleys. (Pro Tip: You can combine trails in both parks to create a lengthy route and make a day of it.)
10. Lair ‘O the Bear
Located in the foothills of Jefferson County in a beautiful canyon is Lair o' the Bear Park, one of the most accessible family-friendly hiking spots near the metro area. You can travel the 1.7-mile Bear Creek Trail along the waterway, with the option of continuing further onto additional trails and even on to neighboring parks.
11. Red Rocks Park
After a fresh snowfall, there is nothing better than walking amongst the wonderfully unique red sandstone outcroppings at Red Rocks Park.
The peaceful yet powerful rock formations are utterly awe-inspiring and provide a pristine setting in which to reflect and gain some perspective on our massive metropolis sprawling in the distance.
12. Mount Sanitas
This popular hike near Boulder has a few trail options ranging from a simple stroll through the valley to a trail that leads you up to the tip top of the mountain.
The 3.1-mile Mt. Sanitas Loop will give your quads a run for their money but will also give you fantastic views of the Front Range and beyond. For more leisurely options, meander along the Sanitas Valley Trail or the Dakota Ridge Trail.