25 Best Colorado Hiking Trails

With options for all abilities, ages, and seasons, the best Colorado hiking trails show off the state’s stunning diversity. In this article, we compiled the best hikes in Colorado to inspire you to hit the trails.

Mount Bierstadt Colorado

Colorado, unofficially coined “the Mountain State,” is one of the most phenomenal hiking destinations anywhere. 

Known for its mountain ranges, desert canyons, dense forests, and four national parks, Colorado is a hiker’s paradise. To help plan your next outing, we’ve rounded up 25 of the best hikes in Colorado.

We included short, flat trails, high-altitude summits, and multi-day treks, so there’s a Colorado hiking trail here for everyone!

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Best time for hiking in Colorado

Garden of the Gods Colorado

Summer and fall are the best times to hike in Colorado. Trails are generally accessible and (mostly) snow-free from June on. However, as July and August are peak tourism season, you may prefer to visit in June or fall. 

The best hikes in Colorado are usually accessible until mid-October. Once winter sweeps away the fall foliage, many trails are subject to closure. Advanced hikers may tackle the routes with the help of snowshoes or crampons.

What to pack for hiking in Colorado

Maroon Bells Aspen Colorado
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Best Colorado hiking trails

While there are seemingly endless hiking opportunities with incredible views around every corner, we’ve rounded up a few of our all time favorites in this list of best Colorado hiking trails. 

1. Dream Lake Trail 

Dream Lake Trail Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

Starting at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Dream Lake Trail is one of the best hikes in Colorado for families. This easy trail weaves through aspens and pines, and passes Nymph Lake before reaching magical Dream Lake. 

2. Emerald Lake Trail

Emerald Lake Trail Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Distance: 3.2 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 698 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • View the trail notes 

From Dream Lake, you can extend your hike to Emerald Lake. The longer route takes you deeper into RMNP with vistas of Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak, Glacier Gorge, and Tyndall Glacier. 

Dress in layers, as this area is notorious for high winds. 

Psst! Check out some of the best hikes in Rock Mountain National Park to help you plan your visit!

3. Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail 

Maroon Bells Aspen Colorado

Short, sweet, and incredibly scenic, this loop trail in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness is one of the best Colorado hiking trails. With minimal elevation gain, larger-than-life mountains, and moose and deer sightings, this trail is ideal for everyone. 

4. Mount Cutler Trail

Mount Cutler Trail (Michele Dickinson)
Image by Michele Dickinson via Alltrails

Located in North Cheyenne Cañon Park near Colorado Springs, this short uphill hike rewards hikers with views of Mount Cutler and Cheyenne Canyon. Also considered one of the best hikes near Denver, it’s a great choice to take kiddos or a dog. Just note that there are steep drop-offs along the narrow path at several points. 

5. Perkins Central Gardens Loop Trail 

This short, easy hike offers an eyeful of White Rock and Kissing Camels in Garden of the Gods. The Perkins Central Loop is paved, making it one of the best Colorado hiking trails for wheelchair users and those with strollers. It’s also dog-friendly as long as pups are leashed. 

6. Sapphire Point Overlook Trail

Sapphire Point Overlook Trail (Sarah Mollan)
Image by Sarah Mollan via Alltrails

One of the shortest, easiest hikes in Colorado offers up tremendous views — literally. This loop through Swan Mountain Recreation Area (between Keystone and Breckenridge) sits at 9,500 ft in elevation and is gorgeous year-round, overlooking Dillon Reservoir. 

7. Hanging Lake Trail 

Hanging Lake Colorado

A stone’s throw from Glenwood Springs, Hanging Lake is arguably one of the best hikes in Colorado overall. Hanging Lake itself is a striking National Natural Monument with numerous waterfalls plunging into an emerald green pool.

Getting to it is tough, as the trail gains over 1,000 ft in just over one mile. Permits are required to hike Hanging Lake, and they go FAST. Grab one ASAP! 

8. Crystal City Road 

Crystal City Road (Lindsey Graham)
Image by Lindsey Graham via Alltrails
  • Distance: 9 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 1,391 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View the trail notes

Crystal Mill is one of the most photographed places in Colorado, and this hike gets you there. 4X4 vehicles are recommended, and there’s a $10 fee to get close to and photograph the mill.

This is one of the best Colorado hiking trails during peak fall foliage, but is also excellent for swimming in Crystal River. 

9. Saint Mary’s Glacier 

Saint Mary’s Glacier (L Digan)
Image by L Digan via Alltrails

Despite being short, this glacier hike near Idaho Springs requires a couple of hours to complete. You’ll have to navigate rocks and boulders that are particularly challenging for children. 

At Saint Mary’s Lake, you have the option to climb parts of the glacier itself or continue onto James Peak. However, the trail becomes hard to navigate and much more difficult. 

10. Rustler’s Gulch

Rustler’s Gulch (Livia Spencer)
Image by Livia Spencer via Alltrails
  • Distance: 9 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 1,496 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View the trail notes 

Carving its way through the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness near Crested Butte, Rustler’s Gulch starts with a steep incline before flattening out. Expect several water crossings before reaching the waterfalls at 3.5 miles. 

Insider tip: time this one for wildflower season (June through August).

11. Copper Creek Trail to Copper Lake

Copper Creek Trail to Copper Lake (Jeff James)
Image by Jeff James via Alltrails
  • Distance: 12 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 2,431 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • View the trail notes

Another hike near Crested Butte, this one takes you through beautiful aspen groves. It’s pretty easy for the first three quarters, but involves steep, swift elevation gain over the final two miles. 

Parts of the trail require ankle-deep water crossings, and there’s a campground on the shore of Copper Lake for those who want to overnight it.

12. Crested Butte to Aspen via West Maroon Pass

Maroon Bells Aspen Colorado
  • Distance: 10.3 miles, point to point  
  • Elevation gain: 2,241 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

Teeming with summer wildflowers or glowing aspens in fall, this hike offers unforgettable views of the peaks framing West Maroon Pass. 

You can also do this hike in reverse, starting at Aspen and concluding at Crested Butte. At either end, a shuttle is available to bring you back to the start, or you could turn it into an out-and-back camping excursion.   

13. The Keyhole and Longs Peak via Longs Peak Trail

The Keyhole and Longs Peak (Zack Patterson)
Image by Zack Patterson via Alltrails
  • Distance: 13.3 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 4,960 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

This is one of the best Colorado hiking trails in RMNP for pros with rock climbing experience. You’ll deal with narrow ledges, steep drop-offs, and loose rock, but once at the Longs Peak summit (14,259 ft), the lookout from the keyhole makes you want to do it all over again!

14. Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail 

Sky Pond via Glacier Gorge Trail (Andrew Ward)
Image by Andrew Ward via Alltrails
  • Distance: 9.4 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 1,759 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

Widely regarded as having some of the best views in RMNP, this trail takes you past Alberta Falls, Loch Vale, and Lake of Glass. You’ll even scramble up through Timberline Falls at one point! Start early, as this trail can take anywhere from 4.5 to 7 hours. 

15. Grays and Torreys Peak

Grays and Torreys Peak (Liz Sariñana)
Image by Liz Sariñana via Alltrails
  • Distance: 8.1 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 3,606 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

Grays Peak (14,275 ft) and Torreys Peak (14,272 ft) constitute two of Colorado’s 50+ 14ers. As they’re adjacent, you can check both off together with one of the best hikes in Colorado for experienced mountaineers. 

Most hikers opt to tackle Grays first, then hike across the saddle, but you can do either.

16. Grays Peak

Grays Peak (John Sender)
Image by John Sender via Alltrails
  • Distance: 7.3 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 3,005 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes 

Grays Peak is considered a “beginners” 14er (as if there were such a thing!), so many people tackle this summit instead of both. Conditions are still very challenging, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit, but this is a great peak to start with.

17. Ice Lake Basin

Ice Lake Basin (Lauren Burycka)
Image by Lauren Burycka via Alltrails
  • Distance: 8.3 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 2,877 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

Heading into the pines and alpine tundra of the rugged San Juans, the views are non-stop on this scenic hike. Highlights include creeks and waterfalls before finishing at high-altitude lakes the colors of emerald and sapphire. 

18. Isabelle Glacier Trail Full Loop

Isabelle Glacier Trail Full Loop (Heather Colt)
Image by Heather Colt via Alltrails

The trail to Isabelle Glacier is one of the best hikes in Colorado, especially in the summer when the meadows are covered in wildflowers. The glacier rests in a saddle between peaks, with the route passing Lake Isabelle. 

19. Pikes Peak via Crags Campground 

Pikes Peak via Crags Campground  (Megan Greener)
Image by Megan Greener via Alltrails
  • Distance: 14.5 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 4,402 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

This route up to iconic Pikes Peak is more manageable than the more popular Barr trail (and less crowded, with better views!). Being a 14er, there are of course some aggressive sections and the final leg is a steep, rocky scramble. 

20. Mount Bierstadt Trail 

  • Distance: 7.8 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 2,766 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

Near Idaho Springs, this demanding trail is another of Colorado’s iconic 14ers. From the summit of Mount Bierstadt, you’ll experience the full might of the Rockies with views of Grays and Torreys Peak, and Mount Evans.

21. Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake 

Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake (David Martin)
Image by David Martin via Alltrails
  • Distance: 16 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 2,322 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

One of the best hikes in Colorado overall, this route includes waterfalls, alpine lakes, aspen groves, glaciers, and sheer cliffs. At Crater Lake, you can turn around or spend a night in the lakeside campground. 

22. Four Pass Loop

Four Pass Loop (Iam MBB)
Image by Iam MBB via Alltrails
  • Distance: 25.7-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 7,753 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes 

Given the length, this loop trail near the Maroon Bells requires an average of 3-4 days to complete. While the counter-clockwise route is more common, the loop can be tackled in either direction. 

23. Mount Sanitas Loop Trail

Mount Sanitas Loop Trail (Joseph Falcone)
Image by Joseph Falcone via Alltrails

For its steep elevation gain in a short distance, this is one of the best Colorado hiking trails. From the Centennial Trailhead, this loop hike deposits you at the summit of Mount Sanitas with panoramic views over Boulder. Parking is notoriously limited, so arrive early.

24. Royal Arch Trail

Royal Arch Trail (W P)
Image by W P via Alltrails
  • Distance: 3.4 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 1,479 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes

Another short, challenging Boulder hike, Royal Arch, is in Chautauqua Park. It starts off following the Bluebird Trail, but pay attention to the trail split near the flagstone staircase. It gets noticeably tougher here, but is worth it for the scenery – particularly during wildflower season.

25. Mount Audubon Trail 

Mount Audubon Trail (Kevin Wolff)
Image by Kevin Wolff via Alltrails
  • Distance: 7.4 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain: 2,670 ft
  • Difficulty Rating: Challenging
  • View the trail notes 

Another 14er to wrap up the best hikes in Colorado! This is typically the first trail to open in the spring west of Brainard Lake. The elevation gain is gradual, with a couple of steep bursts as you approach the summit, and wildflowers are fantastic in the summer.

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Best Colorado hiking trails | Go Wandering Soles
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Have you done any of the best Colorado hiking trails on this list? What was your experience like? Are you planning a trip to the Rockies and want more advice? Comment below and let us know!

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