10 Reasons to Visit Colorado: The Best Hiking Spots Near Denver

SK Parfait Boulder, Colorado, Denver, Health & Wellness, Hiking, Lifestyle, Travel, Travel Tips, United States Leave a Comment

here are many reasons why you should hop on a plane to visit Denver, but the hiking and Rocky Mountain views alone are most convincing. Here are ten of the best hiking excursions near or within a few hours drive from Denver, including some you may have never heard of.


1. Isabelle Lake & Glacier

Trail Length: Lake Isabelle: 4.5 miles/Isabelle Glacier: 10.8 miles

Elevation: 10,515 -12,049 ft

Pets Allowed: On a leash

Tips: Even in June the road may be closed at the start of the Lake Isabelle trailhead, adding on another 2+ miles if you have to park at Brainard Lake parking lot. The hike to Lake Isabelle itself is flat and not too far, easily accessible by all. Past the lake, towards the glacier the hike becomes more difficult, climbing over rocks and steep paths.

Facts: The hike lies within the Indian Peaks, specifically the Apache and Shoshoni Peaks. This is a favorite hike, with the glacier easily accessible (not really easy, fairly difficult) in late summer/fall with wildflowers as far as the eye can see. The trail has a completely different look in spring/early summer with snow surrounding most of the lake, and ice within. I would suggest going in June and again in September or October.


2. McCullough Gulch Trail 

Trail Length: 3 miles

Elevation: 11,105 -11,915 ft

Pets Allowed: Yes

Tips: In early summer the road can be closed adding another 2 miles to reach the trailhead.

Facts: This hike lies on the northern side of Quandary Peak, with cascading waterfalls, and steep elevation.


3. Alberta Falls/Bear Lake

Trail Length: 1.7 miles

Elevation: 8,500- 9,370 ft

Pets Allowed: No

Tips: If not taking the bus from the Estes Park Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, be sure to map out the turn off to park at Bear Lake as cell service may not work and the road is easy to miss.

Facts: You can do a short hike around Bear Lake and view Long’s Peak and continue down the marked trail to Alberta Falls. Snowshoeing this trail is also fun in winter.


4. Loch Lake

Trail Length: 5.7 miles

Elevation: 9,240- 10,190 ft

Pets Allowed: No

Tips: If you enter Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park, you can park at the information center and grab a bus which will take you to the trailhead at Glacier Gorge, and you save on the $20 admission fee per car.

Facts: You pass Alberta Falls on the way to the lake for this hike, and once at the lake, a beautiful mountain view and Andrew’s Glacier is visible.


5. Ouzel Falls/ Calypso Cascades

Trail Length: 5.4 miles

Elevation: 8,500- 9,370 ft

Pets Allowed: No

Tips: The trailhead is at a smaller Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, about 12 miles south of Estes Park that also requires a sticker or $20 fee to enter.

Facts: You’ll see multiple waterfalls along the path, then after a moderate hike uphill, you’ll see the more impressive Ouzel falls. It’s really a great hike, a favorite for a not too strenuous day of hiking in the mountains. You’ll probably make a few friends along the way too.

6. St. Mary’s Glacier

Trail Length: 1.5 miles

Elevation: 10,428 – 10,848 ft

Pets Allowed: Yes

Tips: The parking lot is a bit hard to find but will be on your left. Since it is privately owned there is a $5 self-serve parking fee.

Facts: You may see skiers hiking to the top of the glacier and attempt to ski down, and there are many cave-like spots where the glacier is receding. There are a lot of loose rocks, so weak ankles take extra care. The view is amazing for such a quick, moderate hike.


7. Maroon Bells

Trail Length: 1.5 miles

Elevation: 9,500-10,000 ft (the actual peaks are over 14,000 ft)

Pets Allowed: On a leash

Tips: The parking lot right at the entrance of the lake and most scenic view of the bells is extremely small, so I’d recommend getting there 7am or sooner. The cost is $10 per car. If the lot is full, you’ll need to take a bus from Hwy 82 for $6 per adult and $4 per child.

Facts: On the hike once you are past the main lake, you can cross a river to another smaller lake and begin to see views of a waterfall. Sometimes the only way to cross the river after the second lake is via a log, not a bridge, so depending on water levels/time of year, take caution and have fun!

8. Hanging Lake

Trail Length: 2.8 miles

Elevation: 6,135-7,200 ft

Pets Allowed: No

Tips: The parking for this hike is right off of Hwy 70 before you reach Glenwood Springs. Get there early in the morning or later in the day to avoid waiting for parking as there is not a secondary lot to park.

Facts: Bridal Veil Falls is the name of the falls that empties into hanging lake. It’s a delicate ecosystem so please refrain from going into the water.


9. Paint Mines

Trail Length: 3.6 miles

Pets Allowed: No

Tips: This area is somewhat sheltered and definitely a hike you can save for a cool day.

Facts: After a drive that appears to be heading nowhere, you’ll bank a hill and come to the parking lot on your left. You’ll walk briefly uphill then back down a fairly steep hill where the Paint Mines will be visible. You’ll feel as if you stepped into Bedrock City.


10. Manitou Incline 

Trail Length: 3.6 miles

Elevation: 6,500-8,590 ft

Pets Allowed: No

Tips: If you plan to attempt the incline in early spring or winter please wear crampons or spikes for ice as the steps can get quite slippery. There is nothing to hold onto aside from the steps themselves and there are various metal rods sticking out here and there. This is a tough climb!

Facts: The incline was previously the track from an old cog railway and it is privately owned so it is technically illegal to climb. So go ahead, break the law at your own risk, I did!

-Stephanie Krubsack

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