You spoke; we listened! These wildly wonderful trails are all suggestions from you, our readers, and we can’t wait to share them with all the other Mile-Highers just itching to get into the great outdoors. We’re so fortunate to live in a city where vast amounts of open wilderness are right at our fingertips, and you could go hiking near Denver every day for the rest of your life and never walk the same route twice. Now, that’s what I call being liberated!
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. Mountain Lion Loop Trail and Windy Peak at Golden Gate Canyon
This 7.9-mile roundtrip hike near Golden travels through uniquely diverse terrain, offers the chance to view local wildlife, and to explore historical cabins built by homesteaders around 1876. You'll wander along open hillsides, through wildflower meadows, and under a canopy of pine, aspen, alder, cottonwood, willow, and spruce. Enjoy panoramic views of the Indian Peaks, James Peak Wilderness Area, and Clear Creek as you reach Windy Peak. A lovely little loop just 45 minutes from metro!
2. Mountain Muhly Trail at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park
Near the heart of Evergreen lies Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, which provides a trail system that loops, winds, and intersects throughout the area. Here you'll find the Mountain Muhly Trail, a fairly easy jaunt that's less than 4 miles roundtrip. Travel through evergreen forests and rock formations and enjoy vista views of surrounding peaks. (You can also add on the Sisters Trail to make it around 5 miles total).
3. North Inlet Trail to Lake Nokoni and Lake Nanita at RMNP
This long, but moderate trail on the west side of RMNP is definitely one that's not to be missed. Because of the length, you MUST start early or pack it in and camp in the backcountry. Along the 9.8 miles to Lake Nokoni you'll enjoy large meadows, fishable streams, and abundant wildlife, as well as Cascade Falls, The Big Pool, and North Inlet Falls. You'll reach the pristine lake nestled at 10,773' and surrounded by rugged terrain and steep rock walls below Ptarmigan Mountain (12,324'). There are plenty of outcropping and rock slabs on which to picnic, lounge, and regain strength. Then continue on to Lake Nanita...
4. Lake Nanita at RMNP
Once you've soaked up the sun and scarfed down some fuel, climb 300 feet over the east shoulder of Ptarmigan Mountain just one mile to the unbelievably green Lake Nanita. On your ascent, be sure to pause and breathe in vista views of the magnificent Nokoni basin and valley. But, most of all, be sure to give yourself ample time to descend or, better yet, find a camping spot and settle in for the night. (Note: You can camp at many sites along the trail, but you canNOT camp on the shores of Lake Nokoni or Nanita).
5. Elk Range Trail and Travois Trail at Centennial Cone Park
Centennial Cone Park is a gem of the Jefferson County Open Space, which offers a 12-mile loop that will make you feel like you're in the backcountry, even though you're just minutes from Golden and Blackhawk. You'll get the chance to see elk and other wildlife, traverse through highland meadows, and enjoy sweeping views of Clear Creek and surrounding snowcapped peaks. (You can also choose to make this a roughly 6-mile out and back hike, by doing only one of the trails).
6. Three Mile Creek Trail at the Arapaho National Forest
This "century" hike in the Mount Evans Wilderness will wow you with over 100 species of wildflowers! The trail is just 6 miles roundtrip, with the pièce de résistance being the breathtaking "Three Mile Meadow" exploding with a colorful array of alpine flora. (For those interested in a more difficult hike, there is also the option to summit Mount Logan at 12,871 feet).
7. Elk Falls Overlook and Elk Falls (via multiple trails at Staunton State Park)
In Colorado's newest state park lies a little known secret that was not accessible to the public until the park's opening in 2013. Elk Falls is the highest waterfall near Denver and is less than an hour drive from the city. This 10.8-mile roundtrip trek will lead you through pine forests, grassy meadows, and geological formations, to Elks Overlook (with panoramic views), and ultimately to the stunning Elk Falls. (The suggested route is Staunton Ranch Trail to Bulging Elk Trail to Lion's Back Trail).
8. Mule Deer Trail to Panorama Point at Golden Gate Canyon
Another fantastically scenic hike in Golden Gate Canyon is the Mule Deer Trail, which travels through aspens groves and the vibrant Frazer Meadows to jaw-dropping views of the Continental Divide at Panorama Point. It's a moderate 11-mile trip that offers the opportunity to see wildlife, a variety of wildflowers, and also has many prime spots for backcountry camping.
9. Wild Basin Trail to Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls at RMNP
Tucked away in the Wild Basin Area of RMNP, is Ouzel Falls, which drops 40' down a narrow chute and into Ouzel Creek. Along the way, you'll pass the charming Calypso Casacades, which flow out across a steep granite cliff at the confluence of Cony and North St. Vrain Creeks. (There are additional spurs to the Lower and Upper Copeland Falls, as well as trails that continue up past Ouzel Falls to Ouzel and Bluebird Lakes).
10. Fountain Valley Trail and Carpenter Peak Trail at Roxborough State Park
Roxborough State Park has been dubbed the Garden of the Gods of Denver, and its amazing rock formations will leave you awestruck! There are many trail options, but to get the full experience, we suggest a quick loop around the Fountain Valley Trail and Overlook, then on to the Carpenter Peak Trail and its 7,160-foot summit, for a total of roughly 7 miles. (Notes: Pets are NOT permitted, and BEWARE of rattlesnakes)!
Okay, Denverites, who else has fabulous trails they love hiking near Denver!? We can’t wait to hear…and share!