Temperatures are cooling down, leaves are beginning to change, and hikes in the mountains are getting increasingly more pleasant as time passes. These easy hikes near Denver are a wonderful way to escape the bustle of the city, reconnect with nature, and refresh your primal spirit. Grab your pooch, your pals, and a picnic and head out for an outdoor adventure achievable by hikers of all skills levels!
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. Maxwell Falls
This gentle 4-mile loop near Evergreen is a great family hike for all ages and one that your furry friend will love. There are a few options for the hike to the falls, but to get the full experience, begin at the lower trailhead and travel along the lovely wooded path past two small cascades and ultimately to Upper Maxwell Falls at roughly 2 miles. Continue onto the Cliff Loop Trail for vista views and a journey through the woodlands back to the foot bridge. (Note: Depending on the season, the cascading falls are not always visible, but the hike is enjoyable year round.)
2. Evergreen Mountain
There are a wealth of trails at Jeffco's Alderfer/Three Sisters Park outside of Evergreen, and the approximately 6-mile round-trip hike to the Evergreen Mountain summit is fairly mild and accessible to a wide range of hikers. Enjoy beautiful old forests of ponderosa pine, notable rock formations, and stunning vista views featuring 14,264' Mount Evans and Pikes Peak in the far off southern distance.
3. Meyer Ranch Open Space
Located just 30 minutes southwest of Denver, the Meyer Ranch Open Space provides three fabulous trail options offering meadows, wildflowers, woods, and wildlife, for your perusing pleasure. The Lodgepole Loop is an easy breezy 2.4 miles, the Sunny Aspen Trail is a lovely 3-mile loop, and the Old Ski Run Trail is a more lengthy 4.8-mile lollipop loop.
4. Daniels Park
This 1,000-acre historic ranch in Douglas County is one of the largest in Denver's Mountain Park system, known for its phenomenal sunsets, sweeping mountain views, roaming bison herd, historic ranch buildings, old stone shelter, and Tallbull Memorial Grounds. Start your journey at the Shelter House and hike the trails that weave along the top of the bluff anywhere from .2 to 5.4 miles. Take a picnic dinner and savor a breathtaking sunset before heading back to the city.
5. Square Top Lakes
Perched atop Guanella Pass is an easily attainable 4.3-mile tundra hike to two glacial lakes, with stunning views of surrounding mountains and wonderfully vivid wildflowers along the way. Begin your hike along the South Park Trail on the west side of Guanella Pass to lower Square Top Lake at 1.83 miles and 12,046', then on to upper Square Top Lake at 2.1 miles and 12,265'. Admire the impressive Square Top Mountain (13,794') looming above the upper lake and view of massive Mt. Bierstadt (14,065′) just across the way.
6. Lily Pad Lake
This light family-friendly 3.2-mile hike near Silverthorne travels through rich alpine forests to lovely lily-covered lakes nestled below Buffalo Mountain. Visitors will also enjoy sweeping views of surrounding peaks and the Dillon Reservoir, as well as the chance to see local wildlife, such as moose, elk, and deer, on this gentle year-round trail.
7. O'Fallon Park
O'Fallon Park in the Bear Creek area near Evergreen abounds with hiking trails for all skill levels, ranging from 1.3 to 7 miles. Grab your walking stick and a picnic breakfast or lunch and strike out on one of the following five trail options: Picnic Loop, West Ridge Loop, Meadow View Loop, Bear Creek Trail, and Panorama Point. (Note: The Picnic Loop is a super easy 1.3-mile jaunt that makes for a nice, leisurely family stroll.)
8. Spruce Mountain Open Space
Just 45 minutes south of Denver near Larkspur, lies Spruce Mountain, a tall butte with an easy trail that affords views of Eagle Mountain, Pikes Peak, and the rolling hills of Greenland and Larkspur. Choose the 1.5-mile out and back hike to the Greenland Overlook or continue on the trail to loop around the top of Spruce Mountain, for a total of 4 miles.
9. Horsetooth Reservoir
The Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins has 2.7 easy miles of trails, which include the Inlet Bay Trail (1.3 miles) and Foothills Trail (1.4 miles). Also explore the scenic 2,711-acre Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, which contains 29 miles of trails, connects to Lory State Park, and is open to visitors year round.
10. Emerald Lake
Last but certainly not least is the gloriously beautiful Emerald Lake, one of the most accessible hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, located approximately two hours from the metro area. You'll begin your hike on the Bear Lake Trailhead and enjoy Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake, before arriving at Emerald Lake after a brief 1.8 miles. (Note: The Bear Lake Loop alone is a lovely .6-mile handicap accessible trail suitable for all.)