The Best Hikes Near Denver That Locals Will Tell You About
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Living in close proximity to the Rocky Mountains gives Denverites access to some of the best hiking in the world. But, with the overwhelming growth in the state’s population, locals have become increasingly reluctant to share some of their favorite hiking trails.
Their fear is that those favorite spots will be overrun with hikers and so with that in mind, I’m sharing five of my favorite hikes and why these hikes are so amazing.
Before you decide on your next hike in Colorado, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Colorado is a high altitude location and all activities that take place in Denver and beyond are happening a mile or more above sea level.
Familiarize yourself with altitude sickness and the symptoms that may occur. I’ve had a couple of friends who are relatively young and fit get stricken with altitude sickness while visiting me in Denver and each time it’s an awful thing to witness.
Don’t freak out!
But, it would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t bring up the fact that hiking in Colorado is a high altitude activity.
Best Hikes Near Denver
One of the best places to hike near Denver, in my opinion, is the city of Boulder. If you don’t have access to a car, Boulder is easily reached by public transit. You will take the FF1 or FF2 (Flatiron Flyer) bus from the RTD Bus Station which is connected to Denver’s downtown Union Station.
Please note that the FFF2 bus is the express route with no stops in-between Denver and Boulder. This route runs frequently during the normal morning and evening commute times. But, either bus will get you to Boulder quickly.
Then, you can get off at the Broadway and Baseline stop (there is a Starbucks on the corner) and walk to Chautauqua Park via Baseline. If you’re heading towards the mountains you’re going in the right direction.
Woods Quarry Loop Trail
Located in Chautauqua Park in the city of Boulder, Woods Quarry Loop Trail is one of my favorite hikes of all time. I love that it’s a nice steady climb that doesn’t have the sharp altitude gains of many hikes in the park.
It’s a short hike clocking in at 2.5 miles, but it’s a hike that people at varying abilities can enjoy. If you have that cousin who hates exercise, this is the hike you take them on.
The terrain includes some flat stretches and a couple of slow and steady climbs until you reach a rock quarry. What I love about this hike is that people have created couches and chairs out of rocks that you can sit on and enjoy the view that faces east. I’ve spotted hawks and other giant birds while sitting there and you can even see Denver’s skyline from that location.
Royal Arch Trail
This 4-mile trail is also located in Boulder’s Chautauqua Park and is a moderate to difficult hike. If you like using a stair climber, steep inclines, and dramatic scenery this is a great hike for you. The last time I explored this trail, it took me almost three hours to complete the entire loop. What makes this hike so incredible is the giant stone arch that the trail is named after.
Every year I hike Royal Arch Trail at different times of the year and each time the hike feels totally different.
What doesn’t feel different each time I hike it, the last 20 minutes of the hike when I keep wondering if I’m there yet. It’s always tough until I see the Royal Arch.
One of the quirkiest towns in Colorado is Nederland. Known for its Frozen Dead Guys celebration and Eldora Ski Resort, Nederland has too many trails to choose from. But, the one that I strongly recommend for hikers new to Nederland is the Hessie Trailhead.
There is limited parking at the actual trailhead so it’s recommended that you park at the RTD Park-n-Ride in Nederland and take the free shuttle to the trail.
We ran into moose and bear the last time we hiked Hessie within a half a mile of the trail! Definitely stay aware of your surroundings. Hessie Trailhead is a 4.1-mile hike that has a little bit of everything. Majestic views of the mountains, streams, Aspen trees, and steep climbs. Because it was so snowy towards the end of spring there still were significant amounts of snow along the trail during the summer. I brought my microspikes and I ended up using them.
Once you’re done hiking the trail enjoy a nice meal at Kathmandu Restaurant that specializes in Nepalese food.
Whenever I get the chance, I hang out in Estes Park, Colorado. It is a small town nestled at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park.
On any given day it’s highly likely that you will run into a giant herd of elk in town.
Don’t touch them. Or, try to take a selfie with them. Or, get close to them. Coloradans will shame you and if the animals attack you, Coloradans will mock you. And, your picture will be shown on the news.
Don’t mess with the wildlife.
The hiking in Estes Park is world-class and for you intermediate to advanced level hikers, Sky Pond via the Glacier Gorge Trailhead is almost 13 miles of pure intensity. This hike is located in Rocky Mountain National Park two hours from Denver.
This hike is the best hike that I’ve done in the past 5 years. The day we tackled this was gray and misty and we found ourselves walking in an unrelenting mist for hours. Eventually, we broke through the clouds and it was sunny with blue skies and one of the most incredible hiking experiences I’ve ever had.
If you like dramatic landscapes, steady climbs, scrambling over rocks, and views that make you question everything about life and your place in the Universe, then Sky Pond is a hike that you must do the next time you feel the urge to spend 8 or 9 hours on a mountain.
Green Mountain Loop
If you’re looking for another advanced-level hike, Green Mountain Loop in Chautauqua Park in Boulder should be added to your list.
I was 35 pounds overweight when I did this one and it was so painful. We ran into bears and I thought my group would push me in front of them and keep hiking.
It was almost 6 miles of sheer climb to the top of a mountain. Weirdly, enough, I had no idea about this trail even though I grew up in Boulder. There’s another trail that people tend to mention more.
Despite the struggles I had on this hike, I can’t wait to explore the trail again. Don’t forget your microspikes if you decide to tackle this hike during the winter months.
Which one will you choose?
There you have it! Five incredible hikes near Denver that locals are still willing to tell you about.
I hope to hear about your next hike when you’re in Denver.
Actually, let us know in the comments which one you end up choosing!
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Michelle Jackson is passionate about getting outdoors and normalizing POC faces in outdoor spaces. She grew up in Colorado and jokes that she’s a Colorado cliche. With a love of hiking, biking, camping, walking, and snowboarding you can find her doing one of those things throughout the year. She shares her love of Colorado via her blog and podcast Square State.