The Out-of-Towners: 10 Great Trails Close to Denver

The summer guests are here—now, where to take them hiking? We found 10 perfect trails that are close to Denver, not too steep (mostly) and short on mileage.

roxborough-state-park

ROCK STAR Red sandstone adds to the beauty of Roxborough State Park. Photo by Ken Papaleo

IF YOU WANT: BIG GEOLOGY
HIKE: Fountain Valley Trail in Roxborough State Park near Littleton
LENGTH: 2.3 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 373 feet
WHAT IT’S LIKE: It’s like having the Garden of the Gods in your own backyard. The wide trail through this National Natural Landmark, with its red slabs of sandstone jutting into the blue sky, is a photo op waiting to happen.
BONUS POINTS: The meadows between the rock formations are home to mule deer, fox, eagles and hawks (but no dogs allowed).

IF YOU WANT: VIEWS WITHOUT A BIG CLIMB
HIKE: Meyers Homestead Trail, off Flagstaff Road in Boulder
LENGTH: 5.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: About 800 feet
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Also called the Meyers Gulch Trail, this out-and-back route starts high above Boulder in the Walker Ranch Open Space, and includes wetlands, a stream, stands of aspen and ponderosa pine, as well as the ruins of old ranch buildings.
BONUS POINTS: In late spring/early summer, expect to see lots of wildflowers and bluebirds; in the spring and fall, elk and deer.

IF YOU WANT: A HIKE FOR KIDS
HIKE: The CSU Environmental Learning Center Loop in Fort Collins
LENGTH: 2.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: Minimal
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Enjoy this easy trail through the cottonwoods along the Cache le Poudre River; you’ll see waterfowl and shorebirds. Pack a lunch to eat at the picnic tables.
BONUS POINTS: Afterward, visit the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program’s raptor center, which houses a variety of wounded raptors (eagles, hawks, turkey vultures and owls).

IF YOU WANT: VIEWS OF BOULDER AND THE FRONT RANGE
HIKE: Mount Sanitas Trail, starting at Sunshine Canyon in Boulder
LENGTH: 3.3 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,350 feet
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Arrive early for this popular loop hike, perfect for visitors who want a true workout and great views at the top.
BONUS POINTS: If you get there and decide the main trail is too much, you can try the much easier Mount Sanitas Valley Hike.

IF YOU WANT: A SHORT HIKE IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
HIKE: Bierstadt Lake Loop
LENGTH: 3.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 700 feet
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Though there’s a somewhat steep ascent to the lake, visitors will experience ever-changing mountain scenery and a nice flat circumnavigation around the lake.
BONUS POINTS: Rest your guests’ legs afterward by driving Trail Ridge Road.

IF YOU WANT: A WATERFALL
HIKE: Lower Maxwell Falls near Evergreen
LENGTH: 4.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,000 feet
WHAT IT’S LIKE: Sylvan and cool, this hike follows Maxwell Creek for almost 2 miles to the falls (not Niagara, but still very pretty).
BONUS POINTS: Want a shorter hike? There are 1- and 3-mile versions to the falls.

IF YOU WANT: A ROCK ’N’ ROLL EXPERIENCE
HIKE: Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park, Morrison
LENGTH: 1.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 450 feet
WHAT IT’S LIKE: If your guests want to see Red Rocks but don’t have the time to catch a show there, try this trail, which winds by 10 of the amazing tilted rock formations.
BONUS POINTS: Afterward, tackle the amphitheater steps, an experience in itself.

IF YOU WANT: SUPER-FLAT WITH MOUNTAIN VIEWS AND WILDLIFE
HIKE: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Commerce City
LENGTH: .3 up to 10 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: Minimal
WHAT IT’S LIKE: The refuge has 10 miles of trails through short-grass prairie, where you can see deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, bald eagles and songbirds, so you can take your pick how long you want to hike. (Bring binoculars.)
BONUS POINTS: Bison! After your walk, rest your legs by taking the Wildlife Drive (no foot traffic allowed) to see these creatures.

IF YOU WANT: SOMETHING TODDLER-FRIENDLY
HIKE: Bear Creek Trail, Lair o’ the Bear Park near Morrison
LENGTH: 1.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: Minimal
WHAT IT’S LIKE: The shady, mostly flat path through the woods along Bear Creek is a great way for the whole family to stretch their legs before a creek-side picnic.
BONUS POINTS: Bring junior fishing poles for your own little tadpoles to use in the creek.

IF YOU WANT: TO DO LUNCH, TOO
HIKE: Chautauqua Trail, Chautauqua Park, Boulder
LENGTH: 1.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 500 feet
WHAT IT’S LIKE: This is the perfect hike for guests who want to hit Boulder, and do a tiny bit of hiking under the glorious Flatirons without making a huge commitment (although you can always add on mileage if you want).
BONUS POINTS: Book lunch on the porch of the historic Chautauqua Dining Hall.

GEAR GUIDE
Enhance your hike with these items

wallaroo-hat

Wallaroo “Casual Traveler” UPF 50-plus hat, $40

mhm-slay

MHM “Slay” day-hiking backpack, $120

topo-rain-jacket

Topo Designs women’s “Mountain” waterproof jacket, $289

north-face-shoes

The North Face women’s “Verto Approach III” hiking shoes, $120

salomon-mens-hiking-boot

Salomon men’s “X Ultra Mid 2 GTX” hiking boots, $165

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