10 Hiking Trails Not To Be Missed In Colorado

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Devil's Head
Image by Ethan Beute on Flickr

Colorado equals paradise in terms of hiking and outdoor adventures. There are hundreds of different hikes available here and the most fascinating thing about it is that there are no bad hiking trails in Colorado. The most difficult thing about hiking in Colorado is actually choosing a trail you want to hike. There are Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails with a quarter-mile length and then there’s the Colorado Trail stretching for 486 miles, with all kinds of trails in between.

Depending on the season and type of the trail, Colorado gives you an opportunity to climb grand mountain peaks or just observe the majesty of towering mountains. To ease the pain of choosing, we’ve selected the top 10 hiking trails in Colorado, so that you can enjoy the beauty and majesty of this region to the fullest. 

Four Lakes & Waterfall Loop Hike 

Distance: 6.4 miles 

Difficulty: Moderate 

There are 3 trails on the list that stretch across the Rocky Mountain National Park and the first one is the Four Lakes and Waterfall Loop Hike. Colorado Rockies, as well as places surrounding them, are so beautiful that mentioning them 3 times make a lot of sense. Four Lakes and Waterfall Loop Hike is a 6.4-mile-long hike that brings you to one of the most photographed waterfalls in the park, which is Alberta Falls. Some parts of the trail are challenging, but it’s mostly not a difficult route to complete. 

This route is a popular one. For this reason, during the peak tourist season, it is advised to use the free park shuttle. Also, it’s great to start this trail early in the morning because on the one hand, you will encounter fewer people on the way, and on the other hand, you’ll be able to take magnificent photos of mountain peaks reflecting in lake waters. You’ll love this route for the section between Dream Lake and Nymph Lake contains various beautiful wildflowers during the summer.

Island Lake & Ice Lakes Basin

Distance: 8 miles 

Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous 

This hike is considered one of the most beautiful in Colorado because of the ice lake’s color, wonderful views, and waterfalls. It’s not easy, nor is it the most difficult one. There’s a parking lot and a trailhead across the street from South Mineral Campground near Silverton (where the hike starts). For safety reasons, it’s advised to sign in at the trailhead during weekdays when only a few people decide to use the trail. The first mile of the trail will lead you through a subalpine forest and a stunning waterfall. As you proceed, you’ll pass the aspen grove and reach the Ice Lake after a 2.2-mile fork. After you contemplate the bluest waters of Colorado Rockies, you may think that you’ve reached the goal of your journey, but it is highly advisable to carry on and reach the Island Lake. 

For this route, take a map or a GPS because the hiking trail is not very well marked. Also, if you plan to have leisure activities, choose the San Juan Mountains for camping and longer stays. It’s worth spending the night near the Ice Lake.

Devil’s Head Fire Lookout

Distance: 2.8 miles 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Devil's Head, Colorado Trail
Image by Ethan Beute on Flickr

It takes a little more than a one-hour drive from Denver to start the hike. Although the climb to the fire lookout will take some effort, the panoramic 360-degree views of Colorado’s Front Range that you will get on the top are totally worth your time.  

This hike starts in a glade of tall aspens, to lead you through some peculiar rock formations until you reach a meadow with a ranger’s cabin. There you will see the red steps that will help you get to the top of the Devil’s Head Fire Lookout. You may be surprised, but this fire lookout is functioning and it’s over 100 years old. In addition to this, it’s the only functioning fire lookout in the whole of Colorado. It’s a great hike both for Colorado and Denver hiking enthusiasts. 

Longs Peak

Distance: 13.6 miles 

Difficulty: Strenuous 

Longs Peak, Colorado Trail
Image by Max and Dee Bernt on Flickr

While visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, you should go to the Longs Peak hike. Longs Peak is one of the most famous “fourteeners” in Colorado. It’s a must-see if you’re visiting Colorado’s Northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountain National Park. While being a heavily trafficked hike, it’s also a rather challenging one. If you consider going to the top of the mountain, you need to be well-prepared both in terms of health and acclimatization. However, if you don’t plan to go to the top, your hiking experience will be a bit easier but you will still be able to enjoy the marvelous views. 

The best time to do this hike is from mid-July to mid-September, due to the weather. When planning the hike, you should try to complete the trail on a weekday when there are fewer crowds. Also, don’t hike the Longs Peak hike alone and don’t go with kids.

Matthews Winters Lollipop

Distance: 5 or 8 miles

Difficulty: Moderate 

Matthews Winters Park, Colorado Trail
Image by Gina Gibbons on Hiking Project

Matthews Winters Park offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and one of them is the Matthews Winters Lollipop hike. The fun thing about this trail is that you can make it longer or shorter, depending on your stamina and desires. It is a five-mile route that connects to various other trails. These trails include: Village Walk Trail, Red Rocks Trail, and Cherry Gulch Trail. 

Be attentive on the Morrison Slide Trail because it’s steep, rocky, and has no tree cover. Near dusk and dawn keep an eye out for mountain lions, coyotes, and rattlesnakes (especially in warmer months). Additionally, expect the most stunning views during the springtime.

Crystal Mill Hike

Distance: 9 miles 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Crystal Mill, Colorado Trail
Image by Adam Springer on Flickr

Crystal Mill backpacking is a fun thing to do as you will see one of the most photographed sites in Colorado. Although this hike is heavily trafficked, it provides an excellent example of stunning Colorado scenery. This hike runs through the Crystal River and is especially beautiful during the autumn. On the other hand, you can swim in the river during the hotter months, which makes summer a good season to go on the Crystal Mill hike too. Also, in addition to the river and the mill itself, you will also get an opportunity to contemplate the marvelous mountains of the White River National Forest.

By paying a $10 fee, you will be allowed to go under the rope and view the mill from the water. Also, you should know where you’re going before getting to Marble. This is because the cellphone service is not good in this area.

Crater Lake via Monarch Lake (Indian Peaks)

Distance: 15 miles 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Maroon Bells, Colorado Trail
Image by Steven dos Remedios on Flickr

This area has many beautiful places for travelers hungry for adventures, and one of them is Crater Lake from Monarch. The hike starts at the Cascade Creek Trailhead and on your way to the Monarch Lake, you will encounter wildflowers, waterfalls, and plenty of untouched wilderness. As you approach the Crater Lake, you will see the Mirror Lake and Lone Eagle Peak soaring above the terrain. 

To spend the night in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, you will require an overnight permit that you can get in the Denver-Boulder area or at a ranger station nearby. Enjoy the beauty of Maroon Bells from the Crater Lake. It’s one of the most photographed places in Colorado.

Sky Pond

Distance: 8 miles 

Difficulty: Strenuous 

Sky Pond, Colorado Trail
Image by Steven Bratman on Pinterest

Now, look at that picture! What it shows is that Rocky Mountain National Park has even more beauty than you can imagine. The otherworldly look of the Sky Pond simply can’t be missed! The road to the Sky Pond starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Proceed to the Albert Falls, where you will probably encounter a lot of crowds, and then go to the Mills Lake where crowds will get thinner.

After getting to one of the largest lakes in the area, The Loch, you will forget about the crowds and start absorbing the surrounding beauty. But it’s still not your destination. As you proceed with hiking, you will finally reach the Lake of Glass and the otherworldly Sky Pond. The jagged geography of the Sky Pond will take your breath away. Because of its peculiar look, it was nicknamed ‘the Sharktooth’ 

Four Pass Loop

Distance: 27.1 miles 

Difficulty: Strenuous 

Four Pass Loop, Colorado Trail
Image on YouTube

Being the longest hike on the list, it will take you three or four days to complete it. The best way to describe this hike is ‘breathtaking’, because you will see the incredible Maroon Bells, hillsides of Aspen in the fall, abundant wildflowers during summer and spring, and four passes (Buckskin, Trail Rider, Frigid Air, and West Maroon) to climb and descend, hence the name of the hike. Besides, make sure to go to the large waterfall one mile east of Hasley Basin. The panoramic view that you will see is jaw-dropping. 

It is best to self-register at the trailhead if you’re planning an overnight trip. Also, because of the summer crowds, from June through October it’s best to take a shuttle from town. Here, you can tackle the two highest passes first if you hike counterclockwise.

Hanging Lake

Distance: 2.5 miles 

Difficulty: Strenuous 

Seeing this beauty will require some effort. The Hanging Lake is located 10 miles from Glenwood Springs and the trail itself is quite short. But don’t let the length of the trail confuse you, because the road is very rocky steep and difficult. It can take you from 2 to 5 hours to get there depending on many factors, including your vitality level, time of the day, and number of people walking the trail. 

Now you know how adverse and fascinating hiking in Colorado can get. Whichever trail you decide to walk, remember to be respectful to Mother Nature. Remember that we’re all just guests in her abode.

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