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The best hikes & trails near Denver
July 14, 2022

The best hikes & trails near Denver

Hiking can be a great mental and physical escape — a chance to get some exercise and clear your mind while enjoying the beautiful scenery. If you live in the Denver area or are planning to visit, there are a number of unique hiking trails and bike paths nearby where you can see waterfalls, enjoy scenic views and potentially encounter wildlife. Denver is home to a range of hikes, including historic trails near downtown and more challenging mountain trails near Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Check out some of these top trails, all within a few hours from the city.

People hiking through a meadow with rocky peaks in the background.

Trading Post Trail

16.9 miles (29 minutes) from Denver

If you’re looking for a trail that’s fit for the whole family, head to the Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park. The 1.4-mile loop takes you around 10 red rock land formations. It’s gorgeous year-round, and at a lower elevation than many other trails, is not quite as tough for out-of-towners. The trail is narrow and does have some steep areas so keep that in mind if you’re bringing younger kids or strollers. Trading Post is a popular trail, so it can get busy in the afternoon. 

Clear Creek Trail 

18.7 miles (29 minutes) from Denver

Clear Creek is a 19.1-mile trail running through Golden, Colorado, popular for bird watching, hiking and biking. The trail runs right next to the South Platte River, where visitors often go river tubing and fly fishing. It connects nearby neighborhoods to schools in Golden and can be very busy in the morning and afternoon. 

Evergreen Lake Trail

29 miles (38 minutes) from Denver

Evergreen is a 1.3-mile loop trail that is perfect for families with young kids or anyone who wants a shorter and easier walk. Head to the nature center to rent a canoe or sailboat for the day, or step inside to learn about wildlife from elk to migratory birds.

Mesa Trail 

28.2 miles (41 minutes) from Denver

The Mesa Trail is a 13.2-mile out-and-back trail near Boulder. This area is very popular for fishing, hiking and horseback riding. The trail is dog-friendly and offers amazing views of the landscape of the Flatirons and foothill peaks. April through October are ideal months for visiting this trail, based on the elevation and weather. 

East Plum Creek Trail 

28.4 (48 minutes) miles from Denver

East Plum Creek Trail is a beautiful 8-mile paved trail that runs along Plum Creek, close to Castle Rock, Colorado. It’s considered an easy route but generally takes about 4 hours to complete. As you walk, you’ll find amazing views of both Castle Rock and Pikes Peak, and may even spot wildlife including beavers, jumping mice and black bears. 

Staunton State Park

39 miles (52 minutes) from Denver

Staunton Park is one of Colorado’s newest state parks, offering breathtaking views, rich Colorado history and diverse plants and wildlife. Here, you can rock climb, hike miles of trails and bike or go horseback riding to a waterfall. Elk Falls Trail is a great 12-mile roundtrip hike to do within the park and leads to a beautiful waterfall called Elk Falls. This trail is considered to be more challenging than other trails. 

Waterton Canyon

37 miles (1 hour) from Denver

The Waterton Canyon trail is another great option for both kids and adults. It’s close to Denver and full of bighorn sheep, an amazing sight if you’re not from the area. The trail is wide enough to push a stroller, making it more family-friendly than other hikes. However, there’s not a lot of shade along this trail and it can get pretty hot midday, so it may be best for early morning hikes. Waterton is 12.4 miles long and is considered easy to moderate. 

Devil's Head Lookout Trail

44 miles (1 hour 5 minutes) from Denver 

This 2.5-mile trail near Larkspur, Colorado, is classified as moderate, so it may be tough for novice hikers. The trail features beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains and culminates with a 143-step climb up to a fire tower lookout, where you can really take in the scenery. Autumn is a great time to visit when the surrounding Aspen trees are starting to change color.

Garden of the Gods

71 miles (1 hour 28 minutes) from Denver

Garden of the Gods is a registered National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs. It is renowned for enormous sandstone formations and unrivaled views of Pikes Peak. There are multiple hiking trail options to choose from, ranging from easy to moderate. This is an awesome place to take pictures, go horseback riding and climb giant rocks.

Emerald Lake Trail

78 miles (1 hour 40 minutes) from Denver

Emerald Lake Trail is a 3.2-mile hike near Estes Park, Colorado. The area is known for hiking of course, as well as snowshoeing. Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, this beautiful trail weaves through the Tyndall Gorge up to Emerald Lake and is very popular with locals and visitors year-round. Rocky Mountain National Park is home to many species of wildlife, and hikers frequently report seeing bears or elk around the trail. 

Hiking tips for Denver 

Hiking in Denver can be about more than just enjoying the scenery; it's also an opportunity for people to connect with nature. If you don’t live in an area with high elevation, you may experience headaches and lightheadedness as your body adjusts to the elevation changes. Drinking plenty of water can help you get acclimated faster. Here are a few more hiking tips before you hit the trail: 

  • Watch the weather, as storms tend to pop up in the afternoon.
  • Wear the right shoes. Harder hikes may require hiking boots instead of regular sneakers to protect your feet and ankles.
  • Eat well before your hike for some extra energy and pack snacks in case you get hungry.
  • Dress in layers to accommodate temperature changes. 
  • Hydrate before, during and after your trek.
  • Bring a backpack to store everything you need, including bug spray, sunscreen, extra water and a hat.

Avail can get you there

Traveling to Denver and need a ride to get to your hiking destination? Skip the car rental agency and check out Avail car sharing. We have locations throughout the downtown neighborhoods. Avail makes it easy to find the right vehicle for your trip. Plus, every trip is protected by Allstate insurance and includes 24/7 roadside assistance so you can hit the trails stress free.