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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

South Table Mountain

  • Drive distance from Denver – 23 min
  • Public transportation accessible? Yes – W light rail to the 16 bus route + walking
  • Pass/reservation needed? No

We nerd out about geology and 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 North Table Mountain, which you can also hike) 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.

Windy Saddle Park

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!

Boulder, CO

Flatirons – Royal Arches, First and Second Flatirons Loop

  • 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.

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 Recreation.gov (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!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake

  • 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 Recreation.gov 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

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!

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