Hiking in Colorado: 9 Beautiful Mountain Views
Whether you are a current resident of Colorado, or a visitor exploring the area for a short time, there are many unique hiking opportunities for you to experience.
According to The Official Site of Colorado Tourism, there are over 41 Colorado State Parks, 12 national parks and monuments, 13 national forests and grasslands, and 58 14ers, which are peaks that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Given the wide variety of options, you can always venture off to a place that satisfies your hiking needs.
If you are looking for a fitness expedition, a leisurely walk with your dog or family, or a view to sit back and reflect on this beautiful earth, there is a place for you. When planning your next hiking trip to Colorado, you must take a look at these nine beautiful trails that provide beautiful mountain views.
Tombstone Nature Trail – Steamboat Lake State Park (Clark, Colorado):
Distance: 1.1 Miles
Permitted Use: Walking Only
Pets: Leash Only
Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation High: 8,173 feet
Ascent: 157 feet
Descent: -158 feet
If you are not looking to walk an extremely long distance, the Tombstone Nature Trail is a great place to start. Located at Steamboat Lake State Park, it is one of the best short trails in Colorado. It is a self-guided interpretive trail that offers a gorgeous walk, especially at dusk or sunset. But make sure you bring a headlamp if you are going in the evening, as the sun sets quickly behind the mountains.
Before you begin your journey on this trail, make sure to pick up a brochure from the visitor’s center. It corresponds to 10 numbered posts throughout the hike that explain the key sites. Included along the way is the tombstone of the family that originally inhabited the area in the 1900s.
Often used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding, the Tombstone Nature Trail boasts calming views of Steamboat Lake as you make your way around the loop. Hahn’s Peak is always worth stopping to appreciate and look out over the lake, especially at sunset.
There’s a journal and coloring book left on a bench for you to make a note and leave your mark on the trail for future hikers who experience it as well.
The Tombstone Nature Trail itself is open and consists of a dirt path, and the approximate 1-mile distance makes for a short and easy hike. In addition to pleasant nature views, there are always opportunities to see deer, bald eagles, flowers, and other wildlife. This trail is a must-see, especially if you are staying at the nearby Steamboat Lake State Park.
Canyon View Nature Trail – Castlewood Canyon (Castlewood, Colorado):
Distance: 1.2 Miles
Pets: Leash Only
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Elevation High: 6,400 feet
Ascent: 49 feet
Descent: -49 feet
Canyon View Nature Trail, located on the western edge of Castlewood Canyon, provides a nature walk for the less-serious hikers and adventurers. While the entire hiking trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park is 5.6 miles long, this shorter trail is only 1.2 miles. It is an excellent opportunity to see wildlife, and it weaves through ponderosa pine and a unique variety of wildflowers.
The Canyon View Nature Trail is one of the best handicap accessible trails near Denver. It is a great place to take the whole family, especially if you have older grandparents and elderly who may not be suited for the hardcore hiking loops.
The trail consists of a concrete walkway, accessible to wheeled chairs. Hikes in the Castlewood Canyon can be very exposed to sunlight, so if you are going on a sunny day, make sure to bring your sunscreen.
Throughout the walk, you will catch many scenic views of Castlewood Canyon, and it can be enjoyed even more because of the less strenuous nature of the trail. The best time of year to experience this route is in late June and early July because this is when the wildflowers are in full bloom.
The trail ends at the Bridge Canyon Overlook, which is a perfect last view before you go pick up your post-hike coffee at Crowfoot Valley Coffee.
Wapiti Trail – Heil Valley Ranch (Longmont, Colorado):
Distance: 5.3 Miles
Permitted Use: Walking and Biking
Pets: None Allowed
Degree of Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation High: 6,712 feet
Ascent: 813 feet
Descent: 0 feet
The Wapiti Trail offers you a diverse collection of habitats, displaying the various plant and animal life through three life zones on Pikes Peak. While there is no spectacular view at the end of the trail, there is plenty of beautiful, peaceful scenery along the way for hikers to admire. You can usually find deer and mountain lion tracks throughout the trail, as well as wild turkeys on the side of the trail.
The trail starts on a dirt road for the first half-mile, then the single track starts and turns into a steady climb for about 2.5 miles. Unlike the Canyon Nature Trail, the Wapiti Trail runs through a heavily forested area of pine groves and offers plenty of shade. The ground is extremely rocky and covered with many softball-sized rocks.
During the winter months, it is better to begin this trail earlier in the morning when the ground is frozen solid, and you can avoid the hidden rocks under the snow.
This trail was once tough to experience because of fallen trees and debris. But the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance and others have done a lot of work to clean up the trail. Taking advice from the locals and experienced hikers, the best time to use this trail is from March until October.
Alberta Falls Trail (Rocky Mountain State Park, near Estes Park, Colorado):
Distance: 1.6 Miles
Permitted Use: Walking, Hiking, Horseback Riding
Pets: None Allowed
Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, Kid-Friendly
Ascent: 252 feet
The Alberta Falls Trail will provide you with an opportunity to get a close look at one of the more scenic waterfalls in Colorado, Alberta Falls. It is worth the rock scramble at the end to leave the crowds behind and get a close look at the water. Here at the onlook of the waterfall, there are plenty of spots to relax and take in everything.
Throughout the hike, you will experience beautiful falls and view of surrounding peaks. For those who are worried about getting sunburnt, this hike is well-shaded from the sun and is an excellent walk for first-time hikers. Perfect for horseback riding, nature trips, snowshoeing, bird watching, and picnicking, you can do it all here.
To get to Alberta Falls, park at the Bear Lake Trailhead and then follow the signs south for Glacier Gorge and Alberta Falls. The trail heads south from the Glacier Gorge Junction trailhead, and then it intersects with the Bear Lake Trail, where you turn left. It will then open up to a ledge, which offers an overlook of Glacier Gorge and eventually Alberta Falls.
Because this trail is so accessible to the rest of the park, it can be quite crowded, especially during the weekend. But the hike is short and easy and one of the most scenic hikes in the entire Rocky Mountain State Park. The best time to go here is during the afternoon when the parking starts to open up.
Beaver Creek Overlook Trail – Beaver Creek Village (Avon, Colorado):
Distance: 3.02 Miles
Permitted Use: Walking only
Pets: Dogs on Leash
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate to Moderately Difficult
Elevation Gain: 2,162 feet
The Beaver Creek Overlook Trail is a beautiful, challenging trail. It is an out and back trail that goes straight up and is steep for about 90% of the hike. For those of you who want a good workout, but do not have a lot of time, this is a great place to experience a great hike with breathtaking scenery. There are plenty of Adirondack chairs on the hillside to take a rest for your legs, enjoy your refreshments, and take in the beautiful views.
Once you get to the top of the mountain, you will find the Spruce Saddle Lodge, where you can enjoy a refreshing beer and some disc golf. If you don’t feel like walking back down the trail, a free ride on the gondola is available to the tired hikers.
There is also a centennial lift up the mountain for the people who want to hike downwards only. The trail is well-marked and mostly shady with Aspen scattered among Evergreens, and there are occasional lookouts with four slope crossings, displaying a mix of wildflowers.
Fountain Valley Trail – Roxborough State Park (Littleton, Colorado):
Distance: 2.7 Miles
Permitted Use: Walking, Cross Country Skiing
Pets: No Dogs
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate to Moderately Difficult
Elevation: 6,273 feet
The Fountain Valley Trail is known as one of the main attractions at Roxborough State Park in Littleton, Colorado. This lollipop-shaped trail is a perfect route for those who want to enjoy magnificent views on the Dakota Hogback without having to worry about tricky footing. It is well-groomed throughout the entirety of its length.
As you progress on this trail, you can fix your eyes on many views of the Fountain Valley with the towering red rock cliffs to the west. The trail heads counter-clockwise around the looped part of the path, but you can enjoy it any direction you would like.
The trail begins on the valley floor, where you should work your way up to the high trail that stares down and across the fountain formation. Here you will experience the great Fountain Valley Overlook, where this view gives you a glimpse of what is to come for the rest of the hike.
Although you can hike this trail at any time of the year, the best time to go is late fall, especially mid to late October. During this time, the cottonwoods in the valley are showing their vibrant yellow colors, and the scrub oaks turn a brighter red. If you enjoy birdwatching, this hike offers a variety of different birds, and you are likely to see many whitetail deer.
What is great about this trail is that it provides lovely views, but the low elevation is excellent for people who don’t have the time or capacity to get up into the mountains. This route is popular because Roxborough State Park is usually busy, but it never feels crowded. The first part of the path is handicap accessible, but then it soon becomes a narrower dirt trail. Poison ivy is common in this area, so be on the lookout because of how close the walkway is to the wooded area.
Waterton Canyon Trail – Chatfield State Park (Littleton, Colorado):
Distance: 12.4 Miles
Permitted Use: Walking, Mountain Biking, Trail Running, Fishing
Pets: No Dogs (To protect common wildlife in the habitat)
Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 688 feet
Waterton Canyon Trail, located at Chatfield State Park, is a scenic out and back trail that allows for all types of skill levels. Throughout the hike, you will have prime access to the river. This is a great trail for kids because of the different treasures they will find along the terrain and the opportunity for various activities along the river.
There is room for horseback riding, mountain biking, and fishing because the elevation gain is not too strenuous at one time.
This trail is known for getting crowded and warmer as the day goes on, so make sure to get there as early as possible. By about 9:30 A.M., the sun is high enough that the canyon no longer provides shade for the hikers. Make sure you bring your sunscreen, as Waterton Canyon is close to 100% exposed to the sun by the time noon rolls around.
As you make your way through the trail, you will see the high population of Bighorn Sheep, which is also why you are not allowed to bring dogs with you. It is also a great area to admire the different species of birds, and you will most likely see rabbits during the evening.
If the trail is clear, be ready to maneuver your way around rattlesnakes, which will sometimes be sitting in the middle of the trail while you are hiking or biking. If your goal is to fish in the Waterton Canyon, you can ride your bike about 6 miles up toward the dam and then gradually work your way back down.
The path consists of a wide dirt road, and when you get to the top of the canyon, it will give access to the Denver Water, which operates the Strontia Springs Reservoir and Dam. In addition to vast views of the canyon, you can also absorb glimpses of the South Platte River.
Long’s Peak: Keyhole Route – Rocky Mountain National Park (Boulder County, Colorado):
Long’s Peak is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park and Colorado’s 15th highest summit, and the path up to it is not an easy one. This hike is one of the more challenging treks on the list, so it wouldn’t be the best challenge to tackle on your first trip to Colorado.
You need to make sure you start around 3 A.M., which allows you to be back below the tree line by 2 P.M. or early afternoon to avoid the possibility of thunderstorms. When budgeting time, anticipate about 10-15 hours to complete this trail.
The keyhole route is best suited for the more experienced hikers because you could face unpredictable weather and powerful winds, especially during the summer months. Best used from April until November, this trail offers a variety of different activity options. This trail consists of a rocky path, especially near the boulder field, so make sure you bring sturdy shoes.
The difficulty of the trail intensifies at the keyhole because of the cliffs, narrow ledges, and loose rock. While this part of the trek is a grind, it offers one of the main highlights of the trip, the beautiful Glacier Gorge with its beautiful lakes. Along with this view, the 13,000’ peaks come into view accompanied by a 3,000-foot drop.
Trading Post Trail – Red Rocks State Park (near Morrison, Colorado):
Distance: 1.5 Miles
Permitted Use: Walking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking
Pets: Yes (On Leash)
Degree of Difficulty: Easy/Intermediate
Ascent: 320 feet
Descent: -313 feet
High Elevation: 6,252 feet
Low Elevation: 5,932 feet
The Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks State Park is perfect if you are visiting the historic amphitheater and have an opportunity to kill some time before a show. It is a hike that is great for all skill levels, and it offers a variety of activity options.
It will be a busy trail, but also a fun one because you can take in the scenery, like rock formations and diverse wildlife, while cruising on a relatively flat path. The trail may not be suited for experienced hikers because of the crowded pathways and tourists taking pictures of the many surrounding views.
While the path is straightforward, the sand and gravel surface can cause tripping, so make sure to take your time on this trail that is designed for a leisurely walk anyway. There is not much shade on this hike, so make sure to bring your sunscreen. The rattlesnakes enjoy bathing in the sun at Red Rocks, and there may be a few within range, but they are harmless if you mind your own business.
Regardless, if you are going to a show at the amphitheater or not, it is worth a walk up so that you can take in the magnificent view of Denver.
Final Tips Before You Go on Your Hiking Adventure
As you can see, there is a beautiful hiking experience waiting for you no matter the difficulty or type of scenery you are seeking. You can sit down and eat your lunch by a waterfall. You can endure a daylong trek up Longs Peak for an endurance workout.
You can also sit back on many overlooks and admire the canyons, mountains, and wildlife that Colorado has to offer. But there are important things to remember wherever you decide to go.
Here are some final takeaways before you begin your excursion through the mountains:
Featured Image: Unsplash