The capital of Colorado, Denver is known as the gateway to the great outdoors. Within a few hours of driving from Mile High City, you can find incredible landscapes with stunning alpine lakes, green meadows dotted with wildflowers, and cascading waterfalls. With a seemingly infinite amount of incredible scenery, it’s no surprise that exploring the best hikes near Denver could take months.
Some of these spots require hours of driving, followed by hikes in high alpine terrain that might not be suitable for novice hikers. The best tip is that there are plenty of awesome hikes near Denver that you can get to with a quick drive from the city
Ask any Denver resident, and they will tell you that one of the best things about living in the city is the proximity to a great multitude of hiking trails for all levels.
Easy Hikes Near Denver
These hikes near Denver are perfect if you are visiting Colorado for the first time and need to get your bearings on a higher altitude before tackling more challenging trails. This is perhaps one of the best things to do, even if you are not planning on braving high peaks, but simply want to explore Colorado’s West Slope as part of your road trip.
The good news is that there are a variety of easy hikes near Denver that can help you to acclimatize to the change in altitude while enjoying spectacular views. Without driving too far, you can get world-class scenery, before going back to the city to grab a bite.
A quick note on hiking near Denver: whether you plan to tackle challenging trails or just starting with some easy hikes, always make sure to carry plenty of water. Denver is called the Mile High City for a reason, and you don’t want to get sick from the altitude in the middle of the hike.
Elevation gain: +700 feet
Length: 1.2 miles
Boulder is Denver’s smaller neighbor that is known as an outdoor Mecca. Many people make their way to Boulder to enjoy its scenery that offers countless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, camping, and rock climbing.
Whether you have been to Boulder or looking to visit it for the first time, you can’t go wrong with the Chautauqua Trail situated against the backdrop of the iconic flat irons. Make sure to arrive early, as this is a busy trail, especially on weekends, thanks to its location in the heart of Boulder.
If you have successfully tackled Chautauqua Trail, and are looking for more challenges, try nearby Baseline Trail, or Bluebella Mesa Trail.
Elevation gain: 1,141 feet
Length: 2.6 miles
If you are coming to Denver from a flatter location, and want to see the alpine without too much effort, Mayflower Gulch might be one of the best hikes near Denver. While this hike is located along the Continental Divide and might be much further from the Mile High City than other hikes on this list, it’s well worth the drive from Denver
This is a popular hike for many first-time Colorado visitors, so make sure to time your visit properly, as the trail can get busy.
North Table Mountain
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Length: 3 miles
Another great hike near Denver, North Table Mountain is a sprawling mesa, a steep, flat-topped ridge that gives you a great overview of historic Golden and surrounding areas. This is a very popular hike and the parking lot near the beginning of the trail often fills up quickly, so make sure to arrive early. Take a 0.6-mile trail from the parking lot to the top of the mesa and from there, continue along the North Table Loop and the Golden Cliffs trail that will bring you to the edge of the mountain.
Moderate Hikes Near Denver
If you are more confident in your hiking skills, try your hand at moderate hikes near Denver. They offer a mix of good exercise thanks to more challenging terrain, and great views of the surrounding mountains.
Compared to many easy hikes near Denver, these moderate hikes are not as crowded, as they require better stamina and more advanced hiking levels. Still, many moderate hikes near Denver have become busy in recent years, so start your trip earlier in the day, rather than late.
St. Mary’s Glacier
Elevation gain: +1,200 feet
Length: 1.9 miles
Location: Idaho Springs
One of the most popular hikes near Denver, St. Mary’s Glacier trail in the Arapaho National Forest, leads to a small alpine lake with gorgeous mountain views. Although this hike is relatively short, it features a steep ascent, as you have to go through the woods before making your way to the area above the treeline.
If you don’t have a lot of time, but want to get a taste of alpine scenery in Colorado, this is one of the best hikes near Denver that requires a quick 35-40 minute drive from the city via Interstate-70.
Mt. Galbraith Loop
Elevation gain: 930 feet
Length: 4.9 miles
A few years ago, few people knew about Mt. Galbraith Loop, but recently it’s become one of the most popular hikes near Denver. With cool views of Golden (a small historic town just west of Denver) and the sprawling eastern plains in the distance, Mt. Galbraith Loop is a wonderful adventure at the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
For a better experience, consider visiting this trail during weekdays, as it can get a bit crowded during weekends. There is a small parking lot at the beginning of the trailhead that can accommodate about 25 cars, and it tends to fill out very quickly on weekends, so it's not uncommon to have to park on the side of the road.
Elevation gain: +1,600 feet
Length: 6.3 miles
Herman Gulch is a moderate to strenuous hike that has a very steep ascent and is perfect if you want to enjoy the incredible mountainous landscape around you.
While many people describe this hike as moderate, a significant elevation gain is enough to qualify it as strenuous. Herman Gulch is a perfect hike if you want to see incredible alpine wildflowers, and the best time to go is from late June through early August.
Once you reach the top of the hike, you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of the Arapaho National Forest and the mountains around it. Make sure to put on some layers and wear good hiking shoes, as portions of the hike take you through the woods with little to no sun.
Strenuous Hikes Near Denver
Now let’s talk about strenuous hikes near Denver. Although the Mile High City is located near the Front Range, (and not in the mountains, as many mistakenly think), you are never too far from a challenging trail. You will meet fewer people and enjoy uncrowded space, as you will be surrounded by untouched rugged scenery. But along with that, you need to have solid orientation skills as well as be prepared to handle potential emergencies when no help is readily available.
Before you decide to put your hiking skills to a real test, make sure to do a combination of easy and moderate trails to get used to the altitude and make sure you can handle more advanced physical challenges.
Elevation gain: 2,900 feet
Length: 7.9 miles round-trip
Location: Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
If you are a flatlander coming to Colorado to get some bragging rights, climbing Mt. Audubon might help to earn them. At the altitude of 13,229 feet, Mt. Audubon is a perfect place to get your training before tackling one of Colorado’s famed fourteeners (or mountains with an altitude of at least 14,000 feet). The trailhead to the top of Mount Audubon is about a 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Denver and requires a $12 parking permit that has to be paid in cash.
A trail leading to the top of Mt. Audubon is pretty straightforward, however, come prepared with plenty of water and snacks because of the altitude change. Once you reach the top, you will have an incredible view of Indian Peaks Wilderness right below you.
A quick note on hiking Mt. Audubon: If you are going to do this hike in early spring or summer, get on a trail early, as afternoon storms are common in Colorado during afternoons. In addition, it will help you to have this spectacular trail to yourself, as you will be there before all the crowds arrive.
Elevation gain: 5,240 feet
Length: 15 miles
Location: Estes Park
Located within Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak is one of the most popular “fourteeners” in Colorado with hundreds of hiking enthusiasts attempting to summit it every year.
Like any fourteener, Longs Peak presents a host of challenges that range from a high elevation to the treacherous rugged terrain that requires good orientation skills and sound judgment. This is one of those hikes near Denver that is great for avid adventurers and hikers that have a fair level of experience with altitude hiking.
If you are a newbie or intermediate hiker, and want to try your hand at summiting Longs Peak, consider conveying with more experienced hikers who can help you navigate the trail and make sure you don’t keep pushing forward if you start showing signs of altitude sickness.
Elevation gain: over 2,000 feet
Length: 1 mile
Location: Colorado Springs
The Manitou Incline is considered one of the most challenging hikes near Denver and is popular with Olympic athletes, military, and advanced hikers thanks to its rapid elevation gain of 1,000 feet in just over one mile. While this is not the most stunning hike on the list when it comes to scenery, it's mostly known for a good dose of workout, as you have to make your way up 2,768 steps.
Depending on your level of fitness, it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to over one hour to climb to the top of Manitou Incline.
Elevation gain: 1,635 feet
Length: 5 miles
Location: Loveland Pass
Located about one hour from Denver near the town of Dillon, Grizzly Peak and its sister mountain Sniktau, are some of the most well-known thirteeners near Mile High City.
After a short easy ascent, the trail becomes steeper and brings you to a high tundra. If this is your first hike above the treeline, make sure to stay on the trail at all times: this is a very fragile ecosystem, and by wandering off trails, you could damage delicate wildflowers and other plants critical for this habitat and its animals.
At one point, the trail will split and you will have a choice to continue toward Mt. Sniktau, an easier trail that requires no scrambling, or continue toward Grizzly Peak. If you continue making your way toward Grizzly Peak, you will descend the trail along the ridge before having to climb up and then conquering a series of switchbacks and finally scramble up the 13,427 feet summit.
Plan to arrive early because the parking lot at the beginning of the trailhead has a capacity for only 25 vehicles and can fill up very fast.
Tips for doing hikes near Denver
– Whether you plan to do easy or challenging hikes near Denver, make sure to carry plenty of water at all times. While this is especially relevant for out-of-state visitors who need to get used to the altitude change, this is important for anybody. You won't want to get altitude sickness and have to turn around.
– Always check the weather. Summer is the most popular time for many hikes near Denver, however, this is also the time when hiking conditions tend to get affected by afternoon storms.
– In case you plan to do moderate or challenging hikes near Denver, start as early as 7 a.m., because if you start too late, there's a good chance you will need to turn around because of a storm on top of the mountains.
– Wear good hiking shoes. Leave your sandals and flip-flops at home, and bring comfortable hiking shoes with a good grip. While this might not be too relevant for easy hikes near Denver, it's super important for moderate and challenging hikes that often take you through rough terrain where rock scrambling might be required to get to the top.