Blue Lakes Trail To Mount Sneffels

The 29 Best Hiking Trails In Colorado 2021

As an avid hiker from Steamboat Springs, I created this list after having hiked hundreds of trails in every corner of Colorado. I can confidently say that this is an extensive and accurate list of the best hiking trails in Colorado.

The Absolute Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

Planning your backpacking trip to Colorado and looking for the best trails to add to your to-do list? Look no further!

This is a comprehensive list of the best hiking trails in the state. As you go through this list, you’ll notice that there is a trail for everyone in Colorado.

Note: A small handful of the trails on my list are very popular among travelers. I’ve included these hikes because they are iconic, not necessarily because they are “the best” in the state.

1. Blue Lakes Trail

Location: Between Ridgeway and Telluride, Colorado

Length: 6.2 roundtrip to the first lake, 12 miles roundtrip to Blue Lakes Pass.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate trail to the first lake, difficult if you continue up the pass.

One of the most epic treks and clearly one of the best hiking trails in Colorado is the Blue Lakes Trail located in Mount Sneffles Wilderness.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado - Blue Lakes

This trail is quickly gaining attention thanks to the breathtakingly beautiful lake featured in the photo above. Just to put it into perspective, I’ve seen hundreds of mountain lakes around the world but none quite as blue as this one.

The trail is relatively easy from the trailhead to the first lake. If you decide to continue past the first lake, which I highly recommend, you’ll encounter more elevation gain, but a much better view of the Blue Lake below.

Blue Lakes Trail To Mount Sneffels

Further along the trail, you’ll come across two more lakes. These lakes have far fewer people.

Although these lakes don’t appear to be blue at eye level, continue up to the Blue Lakes Pass to see just how magical all three of these lakes really are.

Know Before You Go: There are plenty of places to park at the trailhead, but since this is a popular hike, I recommend getting here early to secure a spot.

There are also many dispersed camping sites along the dirt road leading up to the trailhead.

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2. Columbine Lake

Location: Silverton, Colorado

Length:
Approximately 8.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty:
This trail is difficult. Only recommended for avid hikers.

Columbine Lake is an often-overlooked trail near Silverton, but hiking to the top and enjoying the beautiful blue lake will help you understand why this is considered one of the best hiking trails in Colorado.

Columbine Lake - Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

This lake sits on the other side of the peak from the Ice Lakes Basin. While many people choose to hike up to Ice Lake, you’ll enjoy peace and quiet at Columbine Lake.

Not to mention, the blue hue of Columbine Lake and the surrounding mountains rival the views at Ice Lake, so you won’t be missing out on much.

Columbine Lake

Know Before You Go: We thought this hike was pretty strenuous. It’s not often that Mike and I have to stop to catch our breath, but we did several times on this hike.

If you want a challenge and an even better reward, this is the hike for you.

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3. Sky Pond

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park – Estes Park, Colorado

Length: 9.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: This is one of the more difficult trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of four national parks in Colorado, but it is by far the most popular.. and for good reason!

Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park

I highly suggest spending a few days hiking and exploring the Estes Park and Rocky Mountain area. There is something for the entire family in Estes Park, including one of the best hiking trails in Colorado.

Sky Pond is a popular trail and features some of the most rugged views within the park.

Best Hiking Trails in Colorado

You’ll encounter a beautiful waterfall before the final push up to the lake. The trail from the waterfall to the lake is a scramble, but if you have sturdy shoes, you should be just fine.

Know Before You Go: There will be many MANY people on this trail, even with the current pandemic. If you want to avoid crowds, I recommend hiking Sky Pond in the winter.

You’ll need spikes (and sometimes snowshoes) to reach the lake, but it’s well worth the effort to be the only person at the top.

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4. East Maroon Pass

Location: Start in Crested Butte. Finish in Aspen or Crested Butte.

Length: 14 miles roundtrip if you return to Crested Butte. Double this if you decide to descend into Aspen and hike back out the next day.

Difficulty: This is a challenging hike due to its length. The elevation gain is gradual.

Maybe you’ve heard of West Maroon Pass, but have you heard about the beauty of East Maroon Pass?

Although a bit long, this hike has it all. Start your hike by visiting Judd Falls, a beautiful gorge just 1-mile into this trek.

Next, you’ll pass by expansive mountain meadows and views of the Elk Mountains. This area is so picturesque it almost doesn’t seem real.

East Maroon Pass, Crested Butte and Aspen

After a few more miles, you’ll come upon Copper Lake, a large mountain lake nestled into the valley of the surrounding mountains.

Stop here to enjoy lunch, set up your tents (if you decide to camp near the lake), or just to gawk at the scenery.

The crazy part is that you haven’t even seen the best of it yet. Continue past Copper Lake up the pass to get a full 360° view of the mountains surrounding Crested Butte.

At the top of the pass, you’ll be surprised to see the Maroon Bells of Aspen in all of their glory.

East Maroon Pass

Know Before You Go: Many hikers choose to make this a multi-day trek. They hike over the pass and stay the night in Aspen (or vice versa) before returning to Crested Butte.

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5. The Zirkel Circle

Location: Near Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Length: Approximately 11 miles roundtrip. This is a loop trail.

Difficulty: This is one of the more difficult trails in the Steamboat Springs area.

If you haven’t explored Steamboat Springs, your Colorado adventures are lacking. Steamboat Springs is a charming ski town in Northern Colorado, famous for champagne powder, hot springs, and hiking.

One of the best hiking trails in Colorado can be found just outside of this town in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area.

Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Steamboat Springs Colorado

The “Zirkel Circle” as it’s called by Steamboat locals, is a loop hike that features two gorgeous mountain lakes: Gilpin Lake and Gold Creek Lake.

At the top of the pass between Gilpin and Gold Creek Lake, peer south to get a glimpse of Big Agnes. This mountain is the inspiration for the widely popular brand, Big Agnes.

Know Before You Go: If you decide to complete the Zirkel Circle during the summer months, be sure to bring an extra baggie to collect wild mountain blueberries. These tiny berries are the perfect sweet treat during a grueling hike.

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For more hiking trails in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, check out our post: 13 Steamboat Springs Hiking Trails With The Most Rewarding Views.

6. Jasper Lake Trail

Location: Nederland, Colorado

Length: Approximately 11 miles roundtrip.

Difficulty: You’ll experience a lot of elevation gain on this trail, but it is gradual. This hike is pretty moderate.

I get it… Rocky Mountain National Park can be overwhelming, especially now that you need reservations to enter.

As an alternative, check out Jasper Lake Trail in the nearby town of Nederland, Colorado. This is definitely one of the best hiking trails in Colorado and it’s a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of RMNP.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

Jasper Lake Trail not only boasts a beautiful mountain lake (Jasper Lake), but you’ll be wowed by incredible views throughout the entire trek.

The area surrounding Nederland has wild and rough mountainous terrain, so come prepared with your camera; these are sights you won’t want to forget.

Know Before You Go: Moose frequent this area along with many other areas in Colorado. Never approach a moose and keep your distance.

Most people are taught to fear bears, but in Colorado, it’s the moose you need to look out for.

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7. Handies Peak

Location: Silverton, Colorado

Length: 5.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: You’ll conquer 2,500 feet of elevation gain within 2.25 miles. This hike is difficult, but one of the easier 14ers to summit.

Do you know what a 14er is? If not, I’ll explain.

A 14er is a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet in elevation. In Colorado, there are 58 peaks that reach this standard. Handies Peak is one of them.

Handies Peak, Colorado

Summiting these 14,000 foot peaks is a pretty big deal in Colorado and many people attempt to climb all 58 of them.

If you’re looking for a good 14er to climb, Handies Peak is a great choice. Not only is it a short hike, but you’ll get insanely beautiful views of the San Juan Mountains and Sloan Lake.

Know Before You Go: The drive to Handies Peak is nearly impossible if you decide to drive through Silverton. You’ll need to have a high clearance 4×4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.

You can access the trailhead of Handies Peak by taking the northern route, but you’ll still need high clearance on Cinnamon Pass.

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For more easy 14ers to summit, check out our post: 13 Easiest 14ers in Colorado To Solo Hike.

8. Mount Elbert

Location: Near Leadville and Twin Lakes, Colorado

Length: Approximately 12 miles roundtrip.

Difficulty: Since you’ll be summiting a 14er, you can expect considerable elevation gain. This Colorado hiking trail is considered difficult, but one of the easier 14ers in the state.

Speaking of 14ers, how does standing on the highest point in the state of Colorado sound?

Summiting Mount Elbert might be the coolest feat during your Colorado vacation. Standing at 14,439 feet, you’ll be high above all of the other peaks in the area.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

There are several routes to reach the top of this mountain, but the easiest is via the South Route. Be prepared for loose rock and a strenuous ridge, but the summit is worth the trek.

Know Before You Go: This is a long hike. It’s always best to start long hikes early since the weather can be unpredictable. I recommend starting this particular hike no later than 7am.

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9. Mirror Lake and Crater Lake

Location: Near Grandby and Tabernash, Colorado

Length: 16 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: The elevation gain is pretty gradual but you’ll be hiking for more than 16 miles. If you aren’t an avid hiker, I wouldn’t attempt this trail.

Some of the most epic mountain views in all of Colorado can be found along the trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake. If you’re looking for rugged mountains, serene mountain lakes, and a hiking adventure that you’ll remember for years to come, this is the Colorado hiking trail for you.

Crater Lake, Aspen

Gear up for a hefty 16-mile hike, an adventure that you can complete in one day or break up into two days. If you decide to camp along the way, be sure to get a permit or plan for a fall trip (you do not need a permit after a certain date in September).

Although you’ll be covering 16 miles, the hike itself is reasonable and gradual. If you can hike long distances, you can hike this trail.

Know Before You Go: There are tons of waterfalls along the trail. Be sure to bring your camera to snap some pictures.

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10. Hanging Lake

Location: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Length: 3 miles roundtrip; longer if you must park further away.

Difficulty: This is an easy to moderate hiking depending on what kind of physical shape you’re in.

This is one of the trails that I don’t necessarily consider the “best” in Colorado, although it is very popular among travelers.

Don’t get me wrong, Hanging Lake is gorgeous; the colors are unreal. But with the beauty comes the crowds of people. You’ll most definitely pass by hundreds of other hikers on your way to the top.

Hanging Lake - Glenwood Springs

The hike varies in distance depending on where you park. If you attempt this hike in the summer, you can expect to park down the highway from the trailhead.

My mom and I went on this hike in August and ended up parking an additional 3 miles down the road, which made our entire hike 10 miles long.

Hanging Lake - Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

I have also hiked Hanging Lake in November and the trail was a lot less crowded. Consider visiting in the offseason or start your hike early in the morning to avoid all of the other tourists.

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11. Ice Lakes Basin

Location: Silverton, Colorado

Length: 9.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: This is a difficult hiking trail. I would only attempt this hike if you’re in good physical condition because you’ll gain over 3,000 feet of elevation in just over 4 miles.

Mike and I explored the Ice Lakes Basin area in 2016. This is by far one of the best hiking trails in Colorado, not just for the sky-blue lakes at the top, but because you’re surrounded by craggy peaks in all directions.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

The Ice Lakes Basin area actually features two separate lakes: Ice Lake and Island Lake. Both of these lakes are the most brilliant shades of blue; some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen.

Keep in mind, because these lakes are so stunning and well-known, there will be plenty of other hikers on the trail. Some hikers choose to set up camp near the top and make this a two-day adventure.

It’s important to be prepared for any hike you attempt, but Ice Lakes Basin is one that you must plan for extensively.

Ice Lakes Basin

Bring more water than you think you’ll need. 2 liters of water should suffice, but Mike drank 3 liters during our hike up.

You’ll also want to pack plenty of clothes. Although the weather might be warm at the trailhead, it will likely be near freezing at the top (or at least it will feel like it!).

Know Before You Go: Ice Lake and Island Lake will be completely ice-covered until at least mid-July, if not later.

I don’t necessarily recommend hiking this trail anytime before mid-July because you’ll find a lot of snow and you won’t be able to see the lakes.

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12. Chihuahua Lake Trail

Location: Near Keystone, Colorado

Length: Approximately 8 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: With a steep climb up to the lake, I would rate this trail as difficult.

Montezuma is a tiny town nestled in the Rocky Mountains just outside of Keystone. This area is deserted, but many Coloradans and locals come here to camp and enjoy the incredible scenery.

Montezuma is also home to one of the best hiking trails in Colorado, the Chihuahua Lake Trail.

Chihuahua Lake

This mountain lake is far less crowded than most other trails on this list. Although you’ll experience a steep climb, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Summit County and the Front Range.

Know Before You Go: Unless you have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, you’ll likely add about 3 miles to your total hike. The road to the trailhead becomes rocky and rough as you near the end.

We chose to park our car as soon as the road became unmanageable.

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13. Crystal Mill

Location: Near Snowmass, Colorado

Length: Approximately 12 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Although you’ll gain 2500 feet of elevation, this is spread across 6 miles. This is a moderate hike, but I wouldn’t suggest it to those who are new hikers or aren’t in good physical condition.

If you haven’t seen pictures of the Crystal Mill hike before, TA-DA!

Beautiful, right? It’s no wonder this is one of the best hiking trails in Colorado.

Crystal Mill - Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

There are two routes to get to Crystal Mill, both taking a dirt road to get there. One route is approximately 6 miles and the other is a 12 mile loop.

Many people choose to start in Marble and drive up to Crystal Mill in ATVs or Jeeps. We suggest hiking for the full experience.

Of course, you’ll want to hike this trail in the fall in order to see the aspens change colors. The best time to go is in late September or very early October.

Know Before You Go: This is a very popular trail. You will not be the only one at Crystal Mill.

To experience this beautiful place without the crowds, we recommend starting really early in the morning. Most people start to show up at the mill after 9am.

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14. Royal Arch Trail

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Length: 4 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Prepare for a short but steep hike. Since it’s only 2 miles to the top, I consider this a moderate hike. But the elevation gain is hefty. If you aren’t in good hiking shape, I would reconsider this trail.

Looking for a neat hiking trail close to Denver? Royal Arch Trail might be exactly what you’re looking for.

The Royal Arch Trail offers some of the best views in Boulder. The only problem?

Royal Arch Trail Boulder, Colorado

This is a strenuous hike.

You’ll need to hike at a steep incline for the first mile. Following this, you’ll climb stairs, and finally you’ll need to scramble over some large rocks to reach the top.

Although challenging, this hike is worth every step.

Know Before You Go: This trail is typically well-trodden. If you’re looking for solitude, this might not be the trail for you.

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15. Devil’s Causeway

Location: Yampa, Colorado

Length: The length of this trail depends on whether or not you cross the causeway. The full loop is approximately 10 miles. If you don’t cross the causeway, the trail is approximately 7 miles.

Difficulty: The elevation gain during this hike isn’t steep until the final push up to the causeway. I would rate this trail as moderate.

Located just 25 minutes from the famous ski town, Steamboat Springs, Devil’s Causeway is one of the best hiking trails in the state of Colorado.

Devils Causeway - Yampa

Why?

Not only will you be surrounded by the complete solitude of the Flat Tops Wilderness area, but you’ll encounter several different mountain lakes and of course, the iconic causeway.

At the top of this loop hike, you’ll find Devil’s Causeway, a small footpath that crosses over a steep ravine.

This footpath is daunting and very narrow in many places (we measured 2.5 feet wide in one area). The drop-off on either side is approximately 1500 feet.

Devil's Causeway - Steamboat Springs Hiking

If you’re not so keen on heights, you might not want to cross the causeway. I have never crossed over to the other side, but my brother-in-law has.

Instead, I turn around once I reach the causeway. This doesn’t take away from the hike in anyway, so don’t feel compelled to cross if you don’t feel comfortable.

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16. Long’s Peak

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park – Estes Park, Colorado

Length: Reaching the summit via the Keyhole is approximately 15 miles roundtrip.

Difficulty: This is a class three 14er. I would only recommend this hike to advanced hikers with some technical hiking experience.

Remember when we talked about 14ers? Here’s another one to add to your bucket list.

Notoriously known for being a long and difficult hike to the summit, Long’s Peak is one of the most sought-after peaks in Colorado. People from around the world come to conquer this mighty mountain.

Long's Peak - Rocky Mountain National Park

To reach the summit, you’ll need to plan accordingly. Hit the trail by at least 4:30am in order to reach the summit with plenty of time to descend safely.

Long’s Peak is one of the deadliest peaks in Colorado with several deaths reported each year. But, I don’t want to scare you. This is an extraordinary hike and anyone with the capabilities should attempt it.

If you can conquer the boulder field, pass the keyhole, and scale the side of the peak, you’ll instantly understand why this is considered one of the best hiking trails in Colorado.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

If you’re not in the position to tackle the entire mountain, consider hiking to Chasm Lake, which is located just below the summit. Here, you won’t encounter any technical climbing and you’ll save yourself at least 5 hours of hiking.

Know Before You Go: Although Long’s Peak is located in Rocky Mountain National Park, you do not need to enter through the park entrance to get to this trailhead.

That means, even if you need reservations for RMNP, you won’t need reservations to climb Long’s Peak.

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17. Booth Falls

Location: Vail, Colorado

Length: Approximately 4 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: The elevation gain can be steep in some parts of this hike, but it’s manageable. This hike is easy to moderate.

I completed the Booth Falls hike in 2016 and loved how accessible and easy it was. Although I love strenuous hikes, I also like hikes that are calm and steady.

Booth Falls is located just outside of Vail, Colorado and it’s a great day hike for anyone vacationing in the area.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

We highly recommend completing this hike in late spring or early summer. This is when the water levels will be high and the waterfall will be roaring.

Although the colors of the aspen groves are magical during fall, the waterfall itself will be pretty weak.

Know Before You Go: This is another popular trail. You’ll likely see many, many hikers along the route. Consider starting very early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the crowds.

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18. The Loch and Lake of Glass

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park – Estes Park, Colorado

Length: Approximately 10 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: The end of this trail can become difficult, but overall it’s a pretty moderate hike.

Near Sky Pond is another amazing lake and hiking trail known as The Loch and Lake of Glass.

The Loch And Lake of Glass

Situated within Rocky Mountain National Park, this is a must-do hike featuring rugged mountain tops and crystal clear water.

If you’re up for it, scramble up the last push to reach the beautiful waterfall nearby, too. This hiking trail truly has it all.

Know Before You Go: Since this hiking trail is located within Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll need reservations to enter.

For very experience hikers, I recommend attempting this trail in the winter to avoid the crowds. Be prepared with spikes and snowshoes.

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19. Bridal Veil Falls

Location: Telluride, Colorado

Length: Depending on where you stop, this hike could be just over 2 miles in length or up to 5 miles if you complete the entire trail.

Difficulty: Anyone in good physical shape should be able to complete this trail. This is an easy to moderate trek.

As you drive into the small mountain town of Telluride, you’ll probably think to yourself, “can Colorado get any prettier?”

As it turns out, it can!

Bridal Veil Falls, Telluride

Bridal Veil Falls Trail is located just down the road from the gondola in Telluride and this waterfall is the epitome of natural beauty.

Not feeling a long hike? No problem.

It’s totally possible to drive most of the way up this trail and walk just a short distance to the base of the waterfall. Since the main destination of this hike is the waterfall itself, it isn’t entirely necessary to continue past the falls.

Know Before You Go: As with most places in Telluride, expect a lot of people on the trail.

It’s best to complete this hike when the waterfall is rushing in early summer, but the immaculate colors that surround Bridal Veil Falls in the fall are to die for.

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20. Garden of the Gods Loop

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Length: Approximately 3.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: With no real elevation gain, this is an easy hiking trail.

A trip to Colorado would be incomplete without visiting Garden of the Gods national landmark in Colorado Springs.

This park is filled with exotic landforms that will make you feel like you’re exploring another planet. Bring the whole family for this excursion; the majority of the hikes in this area are kid-friendly and they’ll love the jutting rock formations.

Garden of the Gods - Colorado Springs

Complete the loop hike to spot the most scenic parts of the park. The best part of this trek is that you’ll be experiencing natural wonders throughout the entire loop, which is why it’s rated as one of the best hiking trails in Colorado.

Know Before You Go: Since this is a popular park, many of the trails are paved. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path kind of adventure, this isn’t it.

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21. Devils Thumb Pass to King Lake Trail

Location: Nederland, Colorado

Length: Approximately 16.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Not only will you gain 3500 feet in elevation, but you’ll hike more than 16 miles. This is a difficult trail and shouldn’t be attempted by those who aren’t avid hikers.

Want to experience part of the Continental Divide Trail? Perfect! We recommend the Devils Thumb Pass to King Lake Trail loop in Nederland.

You can choose to make this a multi-day hiking adventure or you can conquer all 16 miles in one day.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

If you choose to complete it in one day, start your trek early in the morning. Not only will you avoid the crowds, but you’ll miss any dangerous weather that might roll-in as afternoon approaches.

If you choose to make this hike a multi-day adventure, you’ll need to get a permit to camp.

This is one of the most incredible hiking trails in Colorado and you’ll be able to experience out-of-this-world scenic views throughout the entire trek.

Know Before You Go: Moose are common in Nederland. If you come across a moose on the hiking trail, keep your distance. They are territorial and aggressive animals.

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22. Emerald Lake

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park – Estes Park, Colorado

Length: 4 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: This is an easy hike in Rocky Mountain NP with very little elevation gain.

Emerald Lake is one of the busiest hiking trails in Colorado, but it is definitely one of the best.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake offers mind-blowing views for very little effort compared to other hikes on this list. With very little elevation gain, this is a great day hike for the entire family.

In order to avoid crowds, I highly recommend visiting Emerald Lake in the winter.

Not only will you have the lake to yourself, but you’ll have the unique experience of walking across the frozen tundra with out-of-this-world views of the snowy peaks surrounding you.

Estes Park Hiking in Winter

Know Before You Go: There are several other lakes in the area including Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. Take the entire day to explore each of these unique places.

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23. Dunes Trail

Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park – Mosca, Colorado

Length: 4.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: You’ll gain nearly 1000 feet of elevation while hiking on sand. This “trail” is considered difficult because of the conditions you’ll be hiking in.

An often-overlooked national park in Colorado is Great Sand Dunes National Park located in the southern part of the state. This park is an absolute must-visit during your trip to Colorado.

Add Dunes Trail via Pinyon Flats to your itinerary to experience one of the best hiking trails in Colorado. This hike will take you up and over some of the highest sand dunes in North America.

Dunes Trail

The uniqueness of this national park is difficult to find anywhere else in the world. Here you have ginormous sand dunes bordered by snow-covered mountains; a truly exceptional experience.

Although there are many hiking “trails” in this national park, I suggest Dunes Trail via Pinyon Flats because you’ll really get to experience the remoteness of this area.

Know Before You Go: Hiking through sand is a very difficult activity. If you’ve never done this kind of hiking before, I suggest starting with an easier hike in this park; there are plenty of other trails to choose from.

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24. Mesa Verde Point

Location: Mesa Verde National Park – Mancos, Colorado

Length: Approximately 2 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Be prepared for some switchbacks, but they won’t last long. I would rate this as an easy to moderate hike.

As I’ve mentioned, there are four incredible national parks in Colorado, but few people know about them all.

The most commonly overlooked national park is Mesa Verde National Park, located in the southwest corner of the state.

Mesa Verde

This national park highlights the cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people. It’s one of the most unique places in the US.

To get the most out of your visit, be sure to take the Mesa Verde Point Trail that leads to a scenic lookout over the park.

On this trail, you’ll need to push through some switchbacks to reach the outlook point, but once to the top, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

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The Best Hiking Trails In Colorado Featuring Waterfalls

Along with Booth Falls, Mirror and Crater Lake, and Bridal Veil Falls, which I have covered in the above list, here are the best hiking trails in Colorado that feature waterfalls:

1. Fish Creek Falls – Steamboat Springs

Fish Creek Falls is located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and this hiking trail boasts several different waterfalls.

To keep things short for those that don’t want a long hike, you can reach the first waterfall in 5 minutes. It’s located near the trailhead and it’s perfect for exploring or setting up a picnic.

Fish Creek Falls

The second waterfall can be found 2.5 miles down the trail. The hike to the second waterfall is a bit more strenuous, so I would only continue if you’re in decent physical condition.

You can even continue past the second waterfall to Long Lake. This lake is located 6 miles from the trailhead, making it a great hike to fill the entire day.

2. Chasm Falls – Rocky Mountain National Park

For an easy waterfall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, consider Chasm Falls.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

With very little elevation gain, this hike is accessible for people of all fitness levels, including families with small children.

Although you won’t find a monstrous waterfall, you’ll be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of Rocky Mountain National Park on this hiking trail.

3. Mystic Falls – Telluride

This off-the-beaten-path waterfall can be found in Telluride and it’s the perfect alternative if you want to avoid the crowds at Bridal Veil Falls.

Mystic Falls, Telluride

The hike to reach this waterfall is very short, but it will require a bit of off-trail adventuring. I wouldn’t recommend visiting this waterfall with small children.

Note: You’ll need a 4WD and high clearance vehicle to reach Mystic Falls.

4. King Solomon Falls – Clark

My favorite waterfall in all of Colorado is King Solomon Falls, located an hour north of Steamboat Springs in the small town of Clark.

This waterfall is the perfect place to go for a day-long adventure filled with hiking, swimming, and cliff-jumping. If extreme sports are right up your alley, consider King Solomon Falls for your next trip.

5. Seven Falls – Colorado Springs

This list would be incomplete without highlighting one of the most well-known waterfalls in the state of Colorado: Seven Falls.

Seven Falls Colorado Springs

Although this isn’t my favorite hike due to commercialization, many others enjoy it. You’ll hike by several beautiful waterfalls on your journey up to Inspiration Point but be prepared for a lot of stairs.

Tips For Hiking The Best Trails In Colorado

If you’re an avid hiker, you’re probably familiar with all of the important things to know about hiking in Colorado. But, if you’re new to this activity, here are some things you should know before embarking on your hikes in Colorado:

1. Water

Always pack plenty of water. In fact, you should pack more water than you think you’ll need.

Since Colorado sits at high elevation, you run the risk of getting altitude sickness. To combat and avoid this illness, be sure to drink PLENTY of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

On a typical hike, I drink at least 2L of water. I bring a water bladder and a backpack to haul this amount of water with me on every hike.

2. Snacks

Similar to drinking enough water, you’ll also want to eat enough food along the way. This will also help you fight off any altitude sickness.

I like to bring a sandwich and at least 3-5 other snacks to tide me over. If the hike is longer than 10 miles, I bring two sandwiches.

Note: Try to pack food that is high in sugar and protein.

3. Wildlife

Colorado has three different types of animals that can be considered dangerous: bear, moose, and mountain lions.

The chances of running into a mountain lion in Colorado are extremely slim; the chances of being attacked by a mountain lion are even smaller. I never worry about mountain lions as a threat when I’m hiking.

Most people believe bears are of great risk to human life, but the black bears in Colorado are typically tame and will keep their distance from you.

I wouldn’t worry about a situation where you come in close contact with a bear because they will likely run away before you have a chance to react. But, if it makes you feel more comfortable, bring bear spray with you.

The animal you should be wary of is moose. Although they may look cute, they are aggressive and can cause serious bodily harm in a matter of seconds.

If you find yourself in a situation with a moose, keep your distance. I even recommend going off-trail to avoid the situation at all costs.

What To Pack For The Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

So you’ve decided which trails you want to hike in Colorado, but now it’s time to prepare. Here is what you should pack for any Colorado hike:

1. Water and Snacks

As I mentioned above, it’s so important to pack enough water and snacks for your journey. This will keep your body hydrated and fueled for the entirety of the day.

2. A Rain Jacket

The weather can change at the drop of a hat in the mountains of Colorado. Come prepared with a rain jacket just in case you find yourself stuck in a storm.

3. Warm Clothes

Regardless if you plan your hike for the winter or summer, you should always pack warm clothes for any Colorado trek.

Sure, it might be 90° when you start your hike, but by the time you reach the summit, you’ll likely encounter near-freezing temperatures. It’s always best to bring an extra layer of clothing with you, just in case.

The Best Time to Hike in Colorado

From Pagosa Springs to Steamboat Springs, you can’t go wrong by booking your hiking trip for Colorado. But what’s more important is choosing the right time to visit.

So, wanna know when the best time to hike in Colorado is? Here’s a brief synopsis of every season:

Spring

Spring in Colorado is typically snow-covered and/or muddy. Although you’ll start to see wildflowers blooming in late spring, this isn’t an ideal time to go hiking.

If you decide to go hiking in Colorado in the spring, be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes and possibly some snowshoes.

Summer

Summer is an awesome time to explore the mountains of Colorado. Wildflowers will be in full bloom and you’ll get the chance to see waterfalls at their strongest.

The only problem with hiking in Colorado during the summer is, of course, the crowds of other hikers.

To avoid the crowds, I suggest hiking during the week and finding trails that are off-the-beaten-path.

Fall

My absolute favorite time to go hiking in Colorado is fall. Not only will you dodge the summer-explorers, but you’ll be wowed by the changing of colors.

The only issue with hiking in the fall is that the weather is unpredictable. It’s not uncommon to trudge through the snow while hiking in fall in Colorado

Winter

Hear me out.. although you’ll face a lot of snow while hiking in winter in Colorado, you’ll also have the trails completely to yourself.

Winter hiking is one of my favorite things to do. Pack some snowshoes, crampons, and warm clothes and you’ll be on your way to a perfect adventure.

Of course, there are implications and risks that tie into winter hiking. You’ll need to be well aware of avalanche danger and you’ll also want to be comfortable navigating the trail (since the trails will be snowed in).

For a list of great winter hikes in Colorado, check out our post: 6 Incredible Winter Hikes In Colorado.

Hiking Responsibly In Colorado

There are 3 important rules you should know as a hiker in Colorado. Here are the things you should practice as you adventure through the mountains:

1. LNT

LNT stands for Leave No Trace. This is a common practice among hikers and it simply means that you leave the area exactly how you found it.

This includes picking up and hauling out your trash, staying on the designated trail, and treating nature with respect.

2. About The Animals

Another important detail you should know before you head out onto the Colorado trails is that it’s illegal to feed the animals.

Sure, you’ll find many cute rodents running around, especially on heavily trafficked trails, but please please PLEASE do not feed them.

3. How To Hike On Colorado Trails

And the last thing you should be aware of is that there are “rules of the road” when it comes to hiking.

As you approach others on the trail, always step aside for the hikers going up. In other words, if you’ve made it to your destination and you’re heading back to the trailhead, you do NOT have the right of way.

Remember this rule and let others pass when necessary.

The Wrap-Up: The Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

Now that you’ve read about the 29 best hiking trails in Colorado, you can add these trails to your bucket list. Whether you’re an avid mountaineer or you’ve just started hiking, there is a trail for everyone in Colorado.

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