Denver has a LOT happening but sometimes you just gotta get out into the great outdoors – here’s a big list of the best hikes near Denver based on distance and other details to help you get your nature on! Please note: these are mostly sorted by the driving distance from Union Station in Denver as a starting point – though some are accessible via public transportation! And as always, pack out what you pack in – don’t litter, don’t vandalize trees or any other kind of nature, leave rocks, flowers and other specimens, drown campfires, practice good hiking etiquette, follow local safety guidelines and please leave sites better than you found them!

Disclaimer: hiking is at your own risk, this is not professional advice and Color & Curiosity assumes no liability for any actions taken as a result of this information. Full disclaimer here.

Golden, CO

Red Rocks Amphitheater & Trails

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks
  • Drive distance from Denver – 25 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

When it comes to the best hikes near Denver, Red Rocks is the quintessential day trip from Denver with the added bonus of easy, moderate and more advanced trails in the area. One of our favorites is the Trading Post Trail – a 1.5 mile trail that shows you the best of the beautiful red rock formations and is great for any type of hiker (though the altitude isn’t insignificant, so it can feel like more of a workout!). You can also head over to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame exhibit and the visitors’ center to see all the amazing musicians that have performed at the venue! Pro tip: Red Rocks often closes around 2-3 PM if there is a show so be sure to check out info on their website first.

Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur Ridge overlooking Red Rocks in Colorado
Overlooking Red Rocks from Dinosaur Ridge
  • Drive distance from Denver – 18 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

One of our other favorite quintessential Colorado day trips – Dinosaur Ridge is an amazing ‘hogback’ formation (for it’s shape like a razor hogback) where you can see 160-100 billion year old dinosaur tracks! The road is paved an a pretty easy-moderate walk (though again, it’s somewhat steep, but they do actually have a paid tour bus tour that begins at the visitor center) – but there is also the Dakota Ridge trail and a few others that will take you along the ridges. Head up and along the path and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Red Rocks, Denver and the Foothills – and you’ll even spot hadrosaurus tracks and a raptor track!

Green Mountain

Green Mountain sunflowers
Sunflowers in the Foothills
  • Drive distance from Denver – 18 min
  • Public transportation accessible? Yes – W light rail to the 21 bus route
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

A beautiful vista with panoramic views of the Foothills, Denver and other points of interest – Green Mountain is a moderate to somewhat difficult hike – though really it’s just the getting up the trail that’s the tricky part, once you’ve climbed up, it’s more moderate. One of our favorites is the Hayden Trail to Green Mountain Trail loop – there are also plenty other trails in the area if you fancy a longer hike!

North Table Mountain

Green Mountain hiking and mountain biking
Foothill hikes are great for mountain biking too
  • Drive distance from Denver – 24 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

We nerd out about geology and North (and South) Table Mountain is no exception. In the best hikes near Denver, this 2-part point of interest is DINOmite! They were born out of several 65 million-year-old lava flows (with more layers on the sister South Table Mountain, which you can also hike, info below) and left behind rock called basalt. The hike isn’t super strenuous – especially once you get up to the top of the mountain – but the way up is a teeny bit steep and rocky. In 1874 a tyrannosaurus rex tooth was found (which wasn’t identified until 2003) by a student of Arthur Lakes – noted as the first t-rex tooth specimen ever found. The area was once slated to become a quarry but was saved by conservational efforts.

South Table Mountain

Green Mountain near Morrison in Colorado
Hogback formation in the distance (Dinosaur Ridge)
  • Drive distance from Denver – 23 min
  • Public transportation accessible? Yes – W light rail to the 16 bus route + walking
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

If South Table Mountain sounds familiar, it’s because we wrote about its sister mountain directly above. Ha! But really, Golden sits in the valley between these two mountains, which were created from ancient lava flows (more info above) and they each have their own distinct features and are worth checking out. South Table Mountain is the one with the ‘cap’ on it that looks like a table (which is known as a mesa). You’ll see gorgeous views of downtown Golden and even Coors Brewery! OH and fun fact – if you’re looking at Castle Rock from further away, you may see a line that looks like a trail going up the mountain diagonally – it’s a track left over from the funicular that took tourists to the top in the early 1900s. BEWARE – it’s been reported that there are rattlesnakes in this area (as well as North Table Mountain) so be sure to stay on the trails (which you should do anyway to protect the delicate ecosystem), wear close-toed shoes and don’t hike with headphones in.

Apex Park

Apex park Pick n' Sledge trail
Apex Park trails
  • Drive distance from Denver – 19 min
  • Public transportation accessible? Yes – W light rail to the Jefferson County Government Center + 25 min walking
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

As far as best hikes near Denver go, Apex Park is a really unique destination for hiking that is also great for trail running and mountain biking. In fact, some of the trails alternate even and odd calendar days to be either hike-only or bike-only (for example, Magic Mountain is hiking only on odd-numbered days, biking only on even-numbered days – so check out maps of the area (we’re BIG fans of AllTrails) and plan your route accordingly! There are also rattlesnakes and black bears cited in the area so be aware, alert and wear close-toed shoes (and don’t hike with both headphones in!). Pick n Sledge is a more advanced hike but the views are incredible and the trail evens out once you make it past the steep switchbacks at the beginning, approx 2 miles in.

Mt Falcon

Mt Falcon Castle Trail Turkey Trot Loop
  • Drive distance from Denver – 24 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

Mt Falcon is another great hiking area in the foothills – steep inclines at times, but they result in breathtaking views of Red Rocks, Denver and even the Rockies! One of our favorites is Turkey Trot Trail – a moderate, 3-ish mile loop. There’s usually a bit of loose rock and there can be some steep cliff drop-offs, so be mindful with pets and kids. Turkey Trot is great because it’s for hikers only (Mt Falcon attracts a lot of mountain bikers). If you’re feeling like a bit more of a workout, Castle Trail loop is a steep ascent that switchbacks up the mountain and eventually joins up with Turkey Trot for the descent. If you’re short on time but want to get your blood pumping, this is a great option! (But again, it’s a more ‘moderate’ trail – can feel like climbing up a stair stepper at times!

Bear Creek State Park

Mount Carbon Loop/Fisherman’s Trail

Bear Creek State Park - best hikes near Denver, Colorado
  • Drive distance from Denver – 24 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? Yes – $10 day pass (they take credit card too)

Bear Creek State Park is an awesome spot for moderate hiking, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, biking, camping and beautiful views of the Foothills, super close to Morrison and Red Rocks. There IS a $10 day pass rate if you don’t have their park-specific pass. This area is home to both easy and moderate trails – one of our favorites is the Mount Carbon Loop / Fisherman’s Trail loop, an easy hike that goes around the perimeter of the lake. AllTrails says the loop is about 4 miles, but it’s actually more like 5 or so. Be sure to stop and take in the views near the fishing area!

fishing at Bear Creek State Park

Windy Saddle Park

Beaver Brook Trail

Lookout Mountain and Beaver Brook Trail - best hikes near Denver, Colorado
Lookout Mountain and Beaver Brook Trail
  • Drive distance from Denver – 27 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

Windy Saddle Park is a gorgeous area near Lookout Mountain that is absolutely worth a drive if you can make it. Beaver Brook trail is a pretty difficult hike but the views you are rewarded with make it all that much sweeter. It’s a 10-mile one-way hike that has steep cliff drop-offs, areas of scree (fragments of rock and boulders) and is definitely one of the harder trails on this list. About 2 miles in, if you start off Stapleton Road, you’ll make it to a beautiful lookout point where you can see Beaver Brook winding through the mountains. Signage says this trail generates a lot of lost/injured hikers so prepare with a map, compass, water, food, etc. Tip: if you’re entering off Stapleton Drive, get there early because there’s not a lot of parking!

Lookout Mountain Trail

Lookout Mountain trail views near Windy Saddle Park - hikes near Denver, Colorado
  • Drive distance from Denver – 27 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? No – unless you want to explore the historic Bottecher Mansion

If you head to Beaver Brook trail, you’ll also see Lookout Mountain Trail. You can access this trail either from the top of the Colorow ‘peak’ or from the Windy Saddle Park trailhead lot. It’s not as hard as the Beaver Brook trail, but it still has some significant incline and cliff-like drops off the sides.

Historic Bottecher Mansion on Lookout Mountain trail in Colorado

We love this one because it gives you GORGEOUS views of the Rockies as well as downtown Golden and Denver, and you’re also rewarded with access to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center, the historic Bottecher Mansion (one of the best examples of Arts & Crafts architecture style in the whole state), lots of wildlife and also access to Buffalo Bill’s grave site (which funnily enough, is actually the trail that takes you to the peak of Lookout Mountain – not the Lookout Mountain trail). If you want to check out the grave site and museum, you’ll need to take the ‘Buffalo Bill trail’ fork.

Chimney Gulch Trail

Views of beautiful downtown Golden, Colorado from Chimney Gulch trail on Lookout Mountain - hikes near Denver, Colorado
  • Drive distance from Denver – 20 min
  • Public transportation accessible? Yes, via the W LightRail and the 16 bus + other options
  • Pass/reservation needed?

Chimney Gulch trail is a workout, for sure, but it is definitely rewarding! The trailhead (if you choose to start from the very bottom) starts right off of Hwy 6, across from the Colorado School of Mines athletic complex, on the other side of the highway. The ascent is slow but turns into some switchbacks once you start transversing up the mountain. You’ll need to be careful crossing Lookout Mountain Road (cars are usually going pretty slow, anyway, because of the hairpin turns) but be careful and wear reflective gear! The trail winds up through the mountain and ends up at Windy Saddle Park – where you’ll get rewarded with beautiful views of the Rockies and Clear Creek (pictured above). One of the coolest things about this trail is that the bottom trailhead is a landing site for the many paragliders flitting around Lookout Mountain – so you may get a chance to spot some! There’s also wildlife along the route (and as always, be aware of your surroundings – possible mountain lions, coyotes, rattle snakes, etc.).

Paragliders near Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado
Can you spot the paragliders?!

Boulder, CO

Flatirons – Royal Arches, First and Second Flatirons Loop

Woman hiking near Chautauqua Trail in Boulder Colorado - things to do
The Flatirons in Boulder, CO
  • Drive distance from Denver – 33 min
  • Public transportation accessible? Yes – FF1 bus route + park to park shuttle + walking
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

Chautauqua Park and the Boulder area is worth spending a lot more than just a few hours in, but if you’re in search of the best hikes near Denver and only have time for a day trip, don’t worry because there are still a ton of hikes you can do in the area! One of our favorites (and a tad more difficult) is the Royal Arches trail – which unfortunately is closed for maintenance as of July 2021 (but check out AllTrails or another app or website as conditions change frequently). Another great hike is the moderate first and second flatirons loop trail, which is just under 3 miles round trip. The Flatirons are one of the area’s most iconic peaks: the five ‘faces’ or individual flatiron rock formations are nearly 300 million years old and are the result of essentially a lot of fault line pressure that pushed 1000-feet thick layers of sediment to ~50-degree angles. As far as Boulder Colorado things to do, you won’t want to miss Pearl Street, or any of the nearby breweries. And don’t forget about the beautiful college campus grounds!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake

Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Bear Lake with Mountain Views
  • Drive distance from Denver – 115 min
  • Public transportation accessible? There is a shuttle to Estes Park from Union Station, but no purely public transportation route without taxi or shuttle
  • Pass/reservation needed? Yes + park pass

This is such a gorgeous area of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), it’s no wonder you need a timed entry reservation (and a park pass like the America the Beautiful pass – which is kind of confusing, so we wanted to point it out). Bear Lake is a very moderate trail loop that clocks in at just under a mile and doesn’t have too much elevation change. RMNP recently began a timed entry system – between mid-May to mid-October (check their website for more specific info) you’ll need a timed reservation to enter the park between 9 AM and 3 PM. Before that or after that, you can enter as long as you get into the park before or after those times – and the line can be long, so plan accordingly. The only caveat is that you need to enter the Bear Lake Road corridor before 5 AM (woof!) in order to skirt around the timed entry requirement for that section.

Much like Lake Isabelle, reservations for the area will open a specific time in advance, so it’s best to visit that specific trail on or the app to figure out when you need to book a reservation. In addition to the reservation, you’ll also need a park pass – we personally really like the America the Beautiful pass, which is ~$80 for a full year, good through the last day of the month you purchased it the year prior, regardless of what day in the month you got it. You can order them directly from the NPS or you can also purchase through REI, or pick up in store!

Nymph Lake to Dream Lake to Emerald Lake

Nymph Lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park
Nymph Lake

If you finish Bear Lake and are hungry for more, head to the Nymph/Dream/Emerald Lake loop – 3.2 miles in and back total from the Bear Lake trailhead. Nymph is the smallest of the 3 and the first lake you’ll come across – with Dream being the second and Emerald being the last. There are areas of moderate terrain gain – plus a couple of creek crossings and other points of interest, so plan accordingly for any mobility issues. This area is so worth visiting – it’s almost like a fairy tale!

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Dream Lake

Ward, CO

Indian Peaks Wilderness – Lake Isabelle

  • Drive distance from Denver – 90 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? Yes

This is a bit more of a complicated hike to plan for when it comes to best hikes near Denver, but oh boy is it worth it. Lake Isabelle is a subalpine lake that is near the Brainard Lake area, along with Long Lake and Mitchell Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Lake Isabelle is most accessible via the Long Lake trailhead, but it can be tough to get a timed entry pass, so plan ahead! To access this area, you’ll also be driving through steep, windy (but gorgeous) mountain roads, so take care to plan for whatever season you’re visiting during. Usually passes for this trailhead open up about 2 weeks before – but you can check (or get the app) to see what day exactly they will open. The trail has some steep parts and begins up around 10,500 ft or so, so be sure to plan for that, pack water and food as necessary. This area is also home to mountain lions, bears and moose, which are frequently seen in the area – please read up and plan accordingly!

Indian Peaks Wilderness near Ward, Colorado
Windows XP-worthy views at Lake Isabelle!

Grant, CO / Guanella Pass

Abyss Trail

Horses on Abyss trail - best hikes near Denver, Colorado
Horseback riding on Abyss Trail
  • Drive distance from Denver – 80 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? Yes

This area is amazing any time of year, but it really pops in the fall, when the plentiful Aspen groves turn bright yellow and orange. It’s also a great destination for dispersed camping! You’ll definitely want to leave plenty of time for a scenic, leisurely drive but it’s also worth planning ahead to try to get to the Abyss trail head early because it fills up QUICK. You can also park down the road (but take care to leave space for passing cars, so don’t double-line the road). The signal is really bad around this area so you’ll want to be sure to download maps for off-line navigation and use Waze to get there – as it archives your saved trips so even if you don’t have signal you can backtrack your way out.

Camping near Georgetown, CO
Georgetown, Colorado area

Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods Park

Garden of the Gods park near Colorado Springs
Near Siamese Twins trail in Garden of the Gods
  • Drive distance from Denver – 80 min
  • Public transportation accessible? No
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

If you love the Mars-like red rock formations of Morrison and Red Rocks park, you’ll definitely love Garden of the Gods! It’s a great spot for hikers of all ages and abilities, and is family friendly too. The visitor and nature center has a lot of great exhibits and fascinating facts. Enjoy easy to moderate hikes that take you around as well as through the impressive monoliths – the ‘Outer Loop’ (basically a bunch of different trails that all run into each other to form a loop) is a great way to see all the formations and will clock you in around 6-9 miles depending on where you park. The Central Garden paths are great for seeing some of the major formations in the middle! Be sure to download off-line maps because signal can be fairly spotty.


Sawmill Reservoir Trail

Sawmill Reservoir in Breckenridge hiking
Enchanted forest vibes in Breckenridge
  • Drive distance from Denver – 90 min
  • Public transportation accessible? Yes – W Light Rail to the West bus line with a transfer to the Frisco/Breckenridge Line + the Swan Mountain Flyer shuttle (approx 3.5-4 hrs)
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

Breckenridge? For hiking? Heck yes! While the happenin’ ski town has a snowy reputation for winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and more, you bet you can also hike up the mountains. One of our favorites is a moderate hike called Sawmill Reservoir, which winds through pine tree groves and pays off with a beautiful reservoir just begging to be photographed. Careful to stay hydrated, keep an eye on conditions (they can change fast – bring layers and wear shoes with traction/treads because even in the fall it can snow!) and don’t bite off more than you can chew; the town of Breckenridge sits at 9,600 feet and hiking will take you higher, so the hikes can certainly be more strenuous than level ratings might lead you to believe.

Photographing at Rocky Mountain National Park
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