Our Guide to the Best Hikes in Colorado
Make the most of Colorado’s diverse landscapes by hiking across the western US state.
Whether you plan to hike the snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains, stroll past alpine lakes or clamber up rocky outcrops in search of the best views in the state, Colorado’s mountainous landscape makes it an excellent destination for hiking in the US. Luckily, Plum Guide has done the hard work for you to uncover the best hikes in Colorado, and the best vacation destinations for reaching them, so that you can really make the most of the Centennial State’s great outdoors.
The colourful shop fronts of Breckenridge’s delightful Main Street date back to the Victorian era, and are now protected as the Breckenridge National Historic District. But it’s what’s behind the main strip that draws hikers to the area each year: the five peaks of the Tenmile Range, which provide plenty of opportunities for getting out into nature. You'll find some of the best hikes in Colorado here. Arguably the most impressive hike starts from the Colorado Trail trailhead, winding through forests and meadows with views of the Copper Mountain before climbing Peak 6 to catch a glimpse of the Gore Range in the distance. For an easier walk that will also allow you to get an insight into the area’s history, follow the Iowa Hill Loop from town to stumble upon a mining site from the Gold Rush era and an old boarding house. For something a little more challenging, start at the Spruce Creek Trailhead to walk to Mohawk Lakes, following rocky terrain punctuated by moss and lush spruce, pine and fir trees before reaching alpine lakes and the dramatic Continental Falls. You’ll also spot an old mining cabin on the route, and the rusty remains of a historic cable car.
Telluride, which is named after a gold-bearing mineral, found fame during the Gold Rush, but was actually a silver mining camp. Alongside the former mines lie the tall mountains that now make Telluride an excellent base for hiking in Colorado. Visitors can ramble to the spectacular Cornet Creek Falls along the trail of the same name, or to the 365-foot-high Bridal Falls. Hikes in the area take in a number of stunning alpine waterways, including Hope Lake, the beautiful cobalt-coloured Blue Lake and the San Miguel River. Along the area’s picturesque walks, you’ll pass the colourful wildflowers that cover Telluride’s slopes in dappled shades of yellow, green and lilac in the summer.
Aspen is well known for its ski resort, but its outdoor activities don’t stop when the snow melts. In the warmer months, go hiking across its mountainous trails for awe-inspiring views across verdant valleys. There’s a rocky outcrop overlooking town that can be accessed by following the Ute Trail, while the Spiral Point lookout along the southern section of Rim Trail, which starts near Snowmass Village, takes in Bush Creek Valley and the captivating twin peaks of Maroon Bells. Alternatively, for a fairly easy-going hike that doesn’t take you too far out of town, follow the three-mile Smuggler Mountain Trail, stopping at the viewing deck halfway along to take in the alpine vista. Luckily, Aspen’s excellent restaurants are there to welcome you at the end of an active day’s walking.
In winter, this enchanting ski town takes on a fairytale-like quality, thanks to its Austrian-inspired architecture. But in summer, as the temperature heats up, its surrounding slopes transform into lush wildflower fields perfect for hiking. Luckily, two of the gondolas that are packed with skiers and snowboarders in the colder months are still in use, meaning walkers and bikers can swoop up the mountain to its most scenic locations. Take the summer lift from Vail Village to follow the Meadow’s Loop trail for a moderate hike with beautiful views over the mountains below, or start from the bottom, following Strawberry Lane before connecting with other trails for a well-deserved lunch at one of the restaurants up the mountain.
With the Rocky Mountains rising majestically above the city, Boulder is spectacularly located for embarking on some of the best hikes in Colorado. From the university town, you can reach Bison Peak, where an unusual collection of boulders, seemingly piled precariously one on top of the other, create a truly unique sight. There’s also the equally intriguing Flatirons – huge slabs of rock that were lifted and tilted out of the earth millions of years ago. You can reach these from the Gregory Canyon Trailhead, ascending Green Mountain, Bear Peak – from which Denver can be seen on clear days – and South Boulder Peak. As if that weren’t enough to keep you occupied, the 13,000-foot high James Peak is also within easy reach of Boulder, and boasts one of Colorado’s only glaciers – St Mary’s Glacier.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The incredibly varied scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park makes it arguably the best vacation destination for hiking in Colorado. Hiking here means discovering placid mountain lakes backed by snowy peaks, climbing up pine-covered hills, clambering onto rocky outcrops, and stumbling down grassy banks. Hike Mount Ida for panoramic views over the national park – from the top, you’ll be able to spot Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake to the south, with the Rockies lying to your east. Or try the more challenging route to Flattop Mountain and Hallet Peak, which is lined with wildflowers and has views of Keyhole Route and Longs Peak. Stay in the nearby town of Estes Park for easy access to the trails.