9 of Colorado’s Top Hikes

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From easy walks to downright dangerous peaks, Colorado’s hiking scene provides something for trekkers of all skill levels. Whether you’re looking for a short, family-friendly trail or a leg-burning peak to ascend, the state’s diverse landscape, snow-capped mountains, and hoards of aspen trees serve as an awesome backdrop. We hand-picked nine of our favorite trails in the Centennial State and listed them below, beginning with the easiest and working our way up to the most difficult.

Zapata Falls: Sangre de Cristo Range

An easy hike, especially by Colorado standards, the Zapata Falls trail is short and rewarding. During the warmer months, you’ll have to cross some slippery rock to get the best view of the falls, but visit in the winter and you’ll be privy to a gorgeous ice sculpture. No matter when you visit, you’ll see Insta-worthy views of valley and sand dunes.

Hanging Lake: White River National Forest

Hanging Lake Trail is one of Colorado’s most popular hikes—and for good reason. The short walk takes you past small falls on the way to the clear, turquoise water of Hanging Lake. Navigate 2.6 miles of rocky terrain and a steep jaunt to the top before you reach a boardwalk that leads you directly to the lake.

Booth Creek Falls: Vail

Vail may be known for its skiing, but its hiking trails make it a worthy destination during warmer months, too. The out-and-back trail to Booth Creek Falls is one of the area’s most memorable. Leading to a charming waterfall and just 3.8 miles in total length, this hike is short, but not one to take for granted. The trail is strenuous, with an elevation gain of nearly 1,400 feet. Along with the falls, you’ll get a sweeping view of Vail Valley, which turns golden in October when the aspen leaves are changing.

Bear Peak: Chautauqua Park

Make it to the top of Bear Peak—arguably the most distinguished among the foothills of Boulder—and you’ll find 360-degree pannorama from a rocky and exposed mountaintop setting. With an elevation gain of over 2,700 feet, the 5.7-mile trail is hard, requiring some hand-over-foot scrambling near the peak.

Arapaho Glacier Trail: Indian Peaks Wilderness

Arapaho is Colorado’s largest glacier, and the hike to it makes for a serious workout. The natural trail is exposed and rocky. At almost eight miles long, with a 3,000-foot elevation gain, you’ll spot neighboring peaks and valleys in clear view as you ascend to the top.

Handies Peak: Lake City

Grizzly Gulch Trail is the most scenic and popular on Handies Peak—it’s also the longest at eight miles. You’ll hit just over 14,000 feet at the peak, so the hike is challenging in terms of elevation. The trail itself, however, is fairly uncomplicated and allows easy access to a small alpine lake. Aim to hike this one in July or early August for ample wildflower viewing.

Castle and Conundrum: Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Nestled in the White River National Forest, both Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak are two of the Elk Range’s easiest 14ers. Check out marmots and pika, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some bighorn sheep and mountain goats on your way up the steep, rocky terrain. Note: The trails are not well marked, and the 12 miles go right up to 14,000 feet, making this a full day’s worth of challenge for most hikers.

Grand Mesa Crag Crest Loop: Grand Mesa

Crag Crest Trail traces the Grand Mesa, surrounded by a landscape dotted with fields of wildflowers that hit full bloom in July. The 10.9 miles make up a classic Colorado loop. On your way to the top, you’ll be immersed in true Colorado splendor: clear lakes and thick evergreen forests. If you happen to cross the three-mile long Crag Crest on a clear day, you’ll be greeted with a view that stretches for over 100 miles.

Longs Peak: Central Rockies

The infamous Longs Peak is considered one of the most difficult 14ers to hike in the area. As the highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, this keyhole route is over 14 miles and could take up to 15 hours to complete. Expect difficult terrain and plenty of scrambling. Above the treeline, storms and dangerous lightening are common, and there’s potential for fatal falls. (Sixty people have died attempting this summit.) Cross alpine brooks and take a well-earned rest at Peacock Lake and Falls. It’s a bucket-list hike but one that demands respect.

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