Denver is a great place to visit. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and Lonely Planet has named it in its Best in Travel List 2020. However, once you’ve taken a free walking tour of Denver, checked out the street art in RiNo, and revelled in the nightlife of LoDo, you might feel like a change of scenery. If that’s the case, how about getting out into the nearby foothills and mountains?
With that in mind, our Denver Walking Tours team is here to help you out. Read on for our team members' top picks for the best hiking adventures in and around Denver (That's our awesome DWT team member, Cami, in the photo above, at her favorite hiking spot). Some of these are within just 30 minutes of the city center to really make the most of your Colorado adventure! Also,if you don't have accommodations yet, check out these affordable AirBnBs in Denver, Colorado that are some of the best places to stay and relax at under $50 after a day’s hike and other adventures.
Bear Creek Trail, Lair O’ The Bear
Part of the reason to do Lair O’ The Bear’s Bear Creek Trail is the name! But it’s not the sole reason. This beautiful trail is an easy introduction to hikes around Denver, and it you should be able to conquer it no matter what your fitness level or previous hiking experience is. The super accessible 1.6-mile trail is less than half an hour from the center of Denver, making it very easy to do in half a day. Make sure you take a picnic to enjoy under Bear Creek’s Aspen trees.
Distance: 1.6 miles
Duration: 1hr 15min
Castle Rock Trail
You have to leave Denver properly to enjoy the Castle Rock trail, but you should still be able to find this slightly more difficult trail less than 40 minutes away from downtown Denver. The trail will take you to the base of a massive rock formation which the trail is named after. From the top of Castle Rock, you can enjoy panoramic views of both Pike’s Peak and Long’s Peak. This looped trek takes just over an hour, so you can do it in a half-day trip from Denver.
Distance: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate (can be difficult over rocks)
Meadow and Forest Loops, Lookout Mountain
Duration: 30 mins from Denver, there are few better trails than the Meadow and Forest Loops by Lookout Mountain. It’s at a nature center , so there’s no chance of getting bored as you take these short loops that are less than a mile long. You’re likely to come face to face with squirrels (which may swipe your food if you’re not careful) and deer among many others. If you’re looking for something longer and more challenging, the Lookout Mountain Trail is connected to others in Jefferson County Park. Lookout Mountain is just 30 minutes from Denver.
Distance: 0.6 – 0.8 miles
Galbraith Loop Hike
A little further north of Lookout Mountain, you’ll find the Galbraith Loop Hike. This is the most difficult of the hikes we’ve introduced you to so far. That shouldn’t scare you off though – it’s still pretty easy. Just a bit longer at almost 5 miles! From this trail you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of Denver, while escaping from the fast and frenetic lifestyle there. The trail has increased in popularity and can be quite busy, so it’s best to do this in the early morning. Partly because there’s no-one around, partly because it can get really hot!
Distance: 4.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Trading Post Trail, Red Rocks Park
Just 20 minutes from downtown Denver, you’ll come across the town of Morrison which is home to one of the most unique concert venues in the states. Red Rocks National Park and amphitheatre is an incredible place to see a gig, but it also boasts some great hikes! One of these is the Trading Post Trail – a 1.4 mile loop where you can take advantage of some beautiful views. Just make sure you go there early – the trail closes around 2pm if there’s a concert on!
Distance: 1.4 miles
A little further away but absolutely worth the trip…
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs
This one is more than one hour away from Denver! However, it’s well worth the journey. The Garden of the Gods is in Cathedral Valley and this easy hike is a loop which most families will be able to complete with no problem at all. You’ll be spellbound by the red rock formations! The entire hike is about 4 miles long.
Distance: 4 miles
Duration: 1hr 30mins
Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
No trip to Colorado is complete without heading out into Rocky Mountains National Park. And at just 2 hours from Denver, it’d be rude not to! This 3.6 mile trek will get you above 10,000 feet in elevation, so take it slowly if you’re not used to being up so high! The lake is fed by the Tyndall Glacier, one of five in the park, giving the lake its distinctive green colour. It’s a beautiful place to stop for lunch or simply to take photos of this natural phenomenon.
Distance: 3.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Grays and Torreys Peaks, Arapahoe National Forest
We’ve kept it pretty easy so far but let us round off our list of the best and most beautiful hikes in Denver with two that are pretty tricky! First of all is the Greys and Torreys Peaks trek. These are two of the most accessible mountains above 14,000 feet in the states (also known as 14ers) and the extra difficulty is well worth it for the panoramic views. The Stevens Gulch Trailhead starting point is about 80 minutes from Downtown Denver.
Distance: 7.9 miles
Last but not least is certainly the highest hike near Denver! And almost the entire United States. In the lower 48, only Mount Whitney’s peak dwarfs Mount Elbert! This is a tough day hike – although the trailheads are quite straightforward, you’ll ascend at least 4,000 feet whichever one you take! Don’t wait around for too long at the top either – bad weather can knock you off kilter from about 1pm. It’s a 3 hour trip to Mount Elbert, but it’s well worth the long journey!
So, now that you know more about the best and most beautiful hikes in Denver…
You’ll want to plan more of your trip. To get more useful tips and tricks on visiting Denver, check out our Denver Free Walking Tours. You can also find a number of other cool ways to see and explore our Mile High City on foot, including early evening tours, ghost tours, and art tours!