13 Steamboat Springs Hiking Trails with the Most Rewarding Views

(Last Updated On: November 5, 2020)

One of the dreamiest places in all of Colorado is popular ski town, Steamboat Springs. Steamboat Springs is a stone’s throw away from the Wyoming border, surrounded by national forest and irresistible mountains. After living in Steamboat for several years, I have compiled a list of 13 can’t miss Steamboat Springs hiking trails.

13 Steamboat Springs Hiking Trails

1. Devil’s Causeway

One of the most popular Steamboat Springs hiking trails is Devil’s Causeway, located an hour southwest of town in the Flat Tops Wilderness.

Devil's Causeway - Steamboat Springs Hiking

This hike is one of the most unique trails in all of Colorado; it offers views of a narrow causeway crossing, which hikers have the option to traverse.

The crossing is very dangerous as it shrinks down to three feet in width. With epic drop-offs on either side and no guard rail, this is an acrophobic’s worst nightmare.

If you do have a fear of heights, don’t rule Devil’s Causeway out.

Many hikers reach the top to enjoy the view before returning the same way they came up. It is unnecessary to cross the causeway, especially if you’re feeling apprehensive.

Devil's Causeway - Steamboat Springs Hiking

Be sure to pack bug spray, enough water, and your camera; the wildflowers in the Flat Tops Wilderness area are gorgeous and plentiful. Dogs are welcome on this trail, so be sure to bring a leash!

Know Before You Go

Many hikers venture out to Devil’s Causeway starting in June, however, making the trek in June will result in heaps of snow.

Personally, I would wait until mid-July to make this trek.

Bring your camping gear and make a weekend out of exploring the Flat Tops Wilderness area. A great campground near Devil’s Causeway is Bear Lake Campground, which is just 20 minutes from the trailhead.

Distance

The distance of Devil’s Causeway depends on whether or not you decide to cross the causeway.

If you do cross the causeway and make it a full loop, you’ll be hiking for 10.5-miles. Most people opt to hike up and back, which is approximately 6-miles roundtrip.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

At almost 1900 feet of elevation gain, this is not a hike for the weary.

Several switchbacks lead up to the causeway crossing. These switchbacks gain elevation very quickly. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend this hike for beginners.

After you’ve conquered one of Steamboat Springs’ most notorious hiking trails, head on back to town and enjoy some of Steamboat’s best activities.

2. Hahn’s Peak

Whether it’s the views or the short but steep trek up this rocky terrain, Hahn’s Peak is sure to get your blood pumping.

Find this Steamboat Springs hiking trail 45 minutes north of downtown in a small area called Clark.

With sweeping views of Routt National Forest, Zirkel Wilderness, and Steamboat Lake, this peak offers big rewards for a short 3.6-mile trek.

Hahn's Peak Hike - Steamboat Springs

Camping is popular near Hahn’s Peak. There are several places to set up camp, including a small spot about .25 miles into the hike.

Pack all of your gear for a fun night of camping before your hike to the top. Be sure to pack out everything you packed in!

Know Before You Go

Hahn’s Peak is accessible from mid-July to the beginning of October. If there is significant snow-cover on the mountain, I suggest choosing a different hike. Hahn’s Peak is known for avalanches and dangerous weather.

If a storm approaches during your hike, get below the tree line as quickly as possible.

Distance

Hahn’s Peak is 3.6-miles out and back. You’ll be hiking through the forest for the first half of your hike before ascending up the rocky peak.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

With a quick elevation gain of 1,400 feet, this hike isn’t easy for new hikers. It’s also important to know that the second half of the hike will be a scramble to the top.

3. Gilpin Lake Trail

This Steamboat Springs hiking trail is my personal favorite. Nothing compares to the hike out to Gilpin Lake. Wildflowers surround the trail and log bridges make the trek an epic adventure. Gilpin Lake is a must-do hike in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Gilpin Lake, Zirkel Circle Steamboat Springs Hiking

Find Gilpin Lake Trail in Mount Zirkel Wilderness area approximately an hour north of downtown Steamboat.

The drive out to Mount Zirkel Wilderness is absolutely stunning. Small town Clark, Colorado flies under the radar compared to world-famous Steamboat Springs.

Drive through the subtle mountains of northern Colorado alongside the raging Elk River to get to the trailhead for Gilpin Lake.

Once on trail, you’ll make the steady climb up to Gilpin Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Colorado.

With clear skies, Gilpin Lake will shine a magnificent sapphire blue. And if you’re brave, be sure to pack your swimsuit. Can you handle the chilly Rocky Mountain water? (I can’t!)

Stay a night or two at Seedhouse Campground, located just 20 minutes from the trailhead.

Gilpin Lake, Zirkel Wilderness

Know Before You Go

This hike can be done from either side of the Zirkel Circle. When the trail splits, stay to the left and approach the lake from the south or take a right toward Gold Creek Lake and approach the lake from the north. Both of these routes have fantastic views.

Distance

Gilpin Lake Trail is a 9-mile out and back trail. Take caution when crossing the river; the log bridges can be quite slippery!

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

With nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain, getting to Gilpin Lake is not easy. However, I do recommend this hike for active families with higher levels of endurance. The views at the end are worth every bit of effort.

More fun things to do in Colorado:

3 Irresistible Steamboat Springs Hot Springs to Explore

5 Easiest 14ers in Colorado to Solo Hike

The 29 Best Hiking Trails in Colorado

4. Mica Basin Trail

Another Zirkel Wilderness gem goes by the name Mica Basin Trail. The less-traveled sister trail of Gilpin Lake, Mica Basin offers sweeping views of Routt National Forest and the surrounding mountains.

Although the lakes near the end of this trail aren’t comparable to Gilpin Lake, they offer their own charm and beauty.

Steamboat Hiking - Mica Lake Trail

Many hikers attempt to conquer Mica Basin starting in June, but heavy snow makes it nearly impossible to complete until the end of July. Even at the end of July, expect muddy trails.

Bring your pup for this hike; dogs are allowed throughout Mount Zirkel Wilderness.

Know Before You Go

On trail, you will encounter one river crossing that doesn’t have a bridge. I suggest taking your shoes and socks off for this river crossing so your feet aren’t wet for the entire hike. Wet feet = blisters!

Distance

Mica Basin is an 8-mile out and back trail. Bring your camera because you’ll be enclosed in wildflowers for the entire 8-mile duration.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

You’ll be tackling 2,200 feet of elevation, a strenuous uphill climb to the basin. The hike back to the parking lot is an easy downhill.

5. Mount Zirkel Loop Trail

Complete the entire Zirkel loop with this Steamboat Springs hiking trail.

Mount Zirkel Loop Trail will bring you past Gilpin Lake, up over the ridge, and down the other side to Gold Creek Lake. Find the best views of Gilpin Lake and Mount Zirkel Wilderness at the top of this trail.

Gilpin Lake, Mount Zirkel Wilderness

Make this hike a backpacking trip and bring your camping gear. There are several areas to stop and camp in the backcountry along this trail.

Know Before You Go

There are many river crossings with log bridges for foot traffic. It’s unnecessary to get wet, but be careful on these bridges as they may be slippery. Taking a plunge in the river might put a damper on your hike.

Gilpin Lake - Zirkel Wilderness

Distance

The entire Mount Zirkel Loop Trail clocks in at 10.5 miles.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

The elevation gain for this trail is 2,500 feet. The climb up to Gilpin Lake is rather steady but quickly becomes strenuous as you make your way up and over the ridge.

6. Gold Creek Lake

The last hike from Mount Zirkel Wilderness on this list is Gold Creek Lake.

This is a great hike for the entire family. Find this hike along the same path as Mount Zirkel Loop Trail, but instead of completing the entire circle you’ll turn back after reaching Gold Creek Lake.

Steamboat Spring Hiking - Gold Creek Lake

An awesome part about this trail is the opportunity to stop and camp for the night. There are many primitive campsites along the way so you can stop and spend a night surrounded by Routt National Forest beauty. Bring your hammock; trees are plentiful!

Note: Please pack out whatever you pack in!

Distance

Gold Creek Lake is 6.5 miles out and back. The perfect distance for a day hike.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

You’ll gain 1,200 feet of elevation during this hike, however, Gold Creek Lake is an achievable hike for nearly all fitness levels.

7. Emerald Mountain

Want the best view of Steamboat Springs? Enter Emerald Mountain.

The trailhead for Emerald Mountain is located at the north end of town just past Bud Werner Library. An easy two-minute drive from downtown makes this hike very popular among visitors and locals alike.

One of the best parts of Emerald Mountain is that it can be accessed year-round. The hiking fun doesn’t have to stop in winter, unlike most other trails.

The trail up to Emerald Mountain is well maintained and the snow is quickly packed down by cross country skiers and snowshoers.

View from Emerald Mountain - Steamboat Springs

Know Before You Go

Mountain lion activity is high in this area of Steamboat. Although it is highly unlikely for a mountain lion to ever attack a human, it’s important to know what to do if you’re ever put in the situation.

If you encounter a mountain lion, don’t run. Slowly back away while keeping eye contact with the lion. If you’re hiking with a small animal or child, pick them up.

Distance

Emerald Mountain is approximately 4-miles out and back. This makes it the perfect distance for a quick hike before jumping into the Yampa for an afternoon of tubing.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

From the trailhead to the summit of Emerald Mountain you’ll climb 900 feet in elevation.

This is an easy hike for people of all fitness levels. In fact, I had a friend who nannied for a family and she would regularly take the two-year-old hiking up this mountain. The two-year-old would hike the entire way by herself!

8. Rabbit Ears Peak

An iconic symbol of Steamboat Springs is Rabbit Ears Pass. While driving north from Kremmling, you know you’re almost to Steamboat when you see those two ears poking out on the summit of the pass.

Note: Unfortunately, one of the “rabbit ears” broke off in recent years due to erosion. A sad day for Steamboat-dwellers.

If you’re looking for the perfect Steamboat Springs hiking trail, I recommend Rabbit Ears Peak.

This hike will make you feel like you’re on top of the world when you reach the top and see the entire Yampa Valley sprawled out below you.

You’ll encounter some of the most incredible colors on this hike whether you choose to go in the summer or fall. Wildflowers coat the meadows during the summer months and the aspen trees turn a brilliant orange in the fall.

Rabbit Ears is also a popular area for camping, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and backcountry skiing.

Rabbit Ears Hike in Steamboat Springs

Distance

Hiking to the peak of Rabbit Ears is a 5.5-mile out and back journey.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

Rabbit Ears Peak has an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. You’ll find that the trail steadily rises until the very end. The last 200 meters is a scramble to the top. Watch your footing on this last stretch; it’s easy to slip on the gravel and loose rock.

9. Fish Creek Falls

Another popular Steamboat Springs hiking trail among locals is Fish Creek Falls. This trail is very versatile and can accommodate hikers of any fitness level. Fish Creek Falls has three different destinations, all with varying terrain and distance.

The trailhead for Fish Creek Falls is just steps away from downtown Steamboat.

First Waterfall

The walk to the first waterfall is not much of a hike at all. The roundtrip distance is approximately half a mile. This is a great short walk for families with small children, but be sure to watch your little ones near the raging waterfall.

Second Waterfall

The hike to the second waterfall gets gradually more difficult. With a roundtrip distance of 5-miles, the second waterfall at Fish Creek Falls is a great day hike for active families.

Steamboat Springs Hiking - Fish Creek Falls

Long Lake

Hiking to Long Lake completes your Fish Creek Falls trek. This hike is approximately 12 miles out and back. If it has been a snowy winter, expect the trail to be a bit muddy and wet until mid-July.

Know Before You Go

Bring $5 cash for parking! There are two parking lots. If the first parking lot is full, drive back down the road to the second parking lot. These parking lots fill up quickly during the summer; I suggest getting here early for a good spot.

10. Thunderhead Hiking Trail

Thunderhead Hiking Trail is located on Mount Werner, the ski resort mountain in downtown Steamboat Springs.

This is the perfect hiking trail for tourists who don’t have a car. Take the local free bus to the base of the mountain and jump on the trail from here.

Thunderhead Hike, Steamboat Springs

At the top, you’ll be able to enjoy views of downtown Steamboat Springs, Emerald Mountain, and Sleeping Giant (Elk Mountain). My favorite part about hiking to Thunderhead is being able to take the gondola down (for free) after an exhausting hike to the top.

Another fun activity to incorporate into your Thunderhead hike is Sunset Happy Hour.

In Steamboat, Sunset Happy Hour is a party at the top of the ski mountain. Thunderhead lodge hosts excellent live music and serves awesome local beers and cocktails, all while the sun sets over Yampa Valley.

Schedule your Thunderhead hike for a Sunday or Thursday evening to catch a Sunset Happy Hour!

Distance

Thunderhead Hiking Trail is a short 3.3-miles roundtrip. Cut this distance in half if you plan to ride the gondola down.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

With 2,200 feet of elevation gain in 1.6 miles, this hike is not for the faint of heart. Also, take note that shade is very limited on this trail. Wear sunscreen, bring a hat, and drink plenty of water!

11. Keener Lake Trail

Head back out toward Yampa for this last Steamboat Springs hiking trail. Keener Lake Trail is one of the best places to surround yourself with wildflowers.

At the end of the trail, you’ll find a great spot to relax beside the lake before heading back to the parking lot.

Keener Lake is situated in a basin with the Flat Top Mountains in full sight. It is accessible from late spring to the end of fall, however, these dates are subjective based on snowfall.

Gold Creek Lake Trail - Zirkel Wilderness

Like any trail in Colorado, I advise you to bring extra mosquito repellant. Nothing ruins an amazing hike like being eaten alive by bugs.

Distance

Keener Lake Trail is a 7-mile out and back trail.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

You’ll be gaining 1,500 feet in elevation during this hike, however, the climb is steady. I recommend this hike for active families with at least a moderate fitness level.

12. Three Island Lake Hike

The Three Island Lake trail quickly became one of my favorite treks in the Steamboat Springs area thanks to incredible views, accessibility, and of course.. wild blueberries!

Three Island Lake Mount Zirkel Wilderness

Located in Mount Zirkel Wilderness, just north of Steamboat Springs, you’ll find this hidden gem that should be experienced by the entire family.

Be sure to pack a few baggies so you can fill them with delicious “huckleberries”, also known as wild blueberries. We spent many water breaks diving into these sweet treats and we even brought some home to enjoy in our ice cream.

Blueberries Along The Hiking Trail In Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Note: The best time to collect wild blueberries on the Three Island Lake trail is the last week of July.

Distance

Three Island Lake trail is just over 6 miles round trip (this is an out-and-back trail), but you can add an additional 3 miles to your trek if you want to continue past Three Island Lake to Beaver Lake.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

On this trek, you’ll gain just over 1,500 feet in elevation, but I highly recommend this hiking trail to anyone visiting Steamboat Springs.

We saw people from all walks of life completing this hike; if you’re in decent physical shape, you’ll be able to enjoy this trail.

13. Windy Ridge

Here’s another Steamboat Springs hiking trail that the entire family can enjoy.

Windy Ridge is located atop Rabbit Ears Pass and features some of the best wildflowers you’ll see in the entire Yampa Valley.

Steamboat Springs Hiking - Windy Ridge

You’ll also end at an ancient Native American artifact site, a place where they collected rocks and made them into arrowheads. At this site, you’ll be able to look over the entire pass and see Lake Agnes in the distance.

Windy Ridge Rabbit Ears Pass

Distance

This is an out-and-back trail and it is about 5.5 miles roundtrip.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

Windy Ridge is one of the easiest mid-distance hiking trails in Steamboat Springs. You’ll gain just 700 feet in elevation, which means you can take the entire family on this easy hike.

There are many spots on the trail where you’ll encounter water crossings or muddy conditions. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

The Wrap-Up: Steamboat Springs Hiking

If you’re planning a trip to Yampa Valley, be sure to add one of these Steamboat Springs hiking trails to your to-do list.

Whether you’re traveling with your family, as a solo adventurer, or a beginning hiker, there is a trail for everyone in the quaint town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

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    11 Can't Miss Steamboat Springs Hiking Trails

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