Home / Travel / 19 of the Most Beautiful and Scenic Hiking Trails in Colorado

19 of the Most Beautiful and Scenic Hiking Trails in Colorado

By | Last Updated : 20th January 2022

Colorado is a paradise for hiking enthusiasts. There are several trails all across the state that runs through its varied topography. From green meadows and golden aspen groves to flat-topped mesas, pristine alpine lakes, and waterfalls to canyons and towering mountains, you can admire them all on your hike. With several challenging hikes requiring scrambling and steep climbing, it is ideal for a great workout and to test your skills. Even those who aren’t avid hikers can find several trails like Maroon Bells or Alberta Falls Trail that require less effort but provide stunning views.

Hiking Trails in Colorado

Best Places to Hike in Northern Colorado                                                                                                 

1. Hanging Lake Trail

Hanging Lake Trail in Northern Colorado

Hanging Lake Trail, located inside White River National Forest, is steep and rocky. Within just over a mile, you will gain an elevation of about 1200 feet. At the same time, you will also be rewarded with views of unique geological features and awe-inspiring scenery. Once you reach the trail’s end, the mesmerizing vista of the turquoise waters of Hanging Lake with splendid cascades spilling into it awaits you. Do remember that no pets are permissible here, and you will have to acquire permits in advance to enter the area. Once you complete your hike, you can have a relaxing time at Glenwood Springs.

Length: About 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: April to October

Get Directions

2. Alberta Falls Trail

Alberta Falls Trail in Northern Colorado

One of the most popular hikes within Rocky Mountain National Park is to the Alberta Falls. It begins from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and takes you through a blend of pine forests and alpine groves. It is a pretty easy hike, best for families seeking an ideal picnic spot after a day trip. Once you reach the destination, you can witness the 30-foot waterfall plunging down a narrow gorge on Glacier Creek. However, due to its popularity, do expect a crowd, especially on weekends. If you have energy left and want a serene place to hike, you can continue further up to Mills Lake or The Loch. Though the hike becomes a little strenuous, both the spots offer incredible vistas worth the extra effort. Do keep in mind that you will have to purchase an entry ticket at the national park for about $25 per vehicle or $15 per person or bicycle.

Length: About 1.6 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: May to October

Get Directions

3. Greyrock Summit Trail

Greyrock Summit Trail in Northern Colorado

This trail in Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest offers hikers a backcountry experience. It gets steeper and rockier to the point that you will have to scramble your way to the top. However, the spectacular views of the surrounding plains and mountains at the trail’s end are indeed rewarding. There’s also a refreshing pond here around which you can continue exploring or sit by to have your meals. If you wish to extend your stay, camping opportunities are available all along the trail. Do bring sufficient water as water sources here are not much reliable.

Length: About 6.3 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: April to November

Get Directions

4. Flatirons Trail 

Flatirons Trail in Northern Colorado

First and Second Flatirons Loop takes you to two of the most stunning Flatirons near Boulder. It is excellent for a day-hike, and you can either begin from Chautauqua Trailhead or Enchanted Mesa Trailhead. Despite being a short trail, you will find some challenges while hiking along the rocky and steep paths, like scrambling towards the end. Once you manage to the top, you can take your time to enjoy the sweeping views of Boulder. However, it’s best to start early to avoid the crowd if you plan to hike on the weekend.

Length: About 2.7 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October

Get Directions

5. Timberline Falls and Sky Pond Trail

Timberline Falls and Sky Pond Trail in Northern Colorado

To access this trail within Rocky Mountain National Park, you will have to start from Glacier Gorge Trailhead on Bear Lake Road. Throughout the hike, you will find several scenic wonders to give your eyes a treat. Some of them worth mentioning are the 30-foot Alberta Falls, the Loch, a sub-alpine lake, and a series of surrounding mountain peaks like the Sharkstooth, Taylor Peak, and Powell Peak. As you take the left trail from The Loch and hike along for some distance, you will get views of Timberline Falls from high above. You can spend some time at its base from where its main drop plunging from about 100 feet and the nearby valley appears enchanting.

Hiking just a bit over half a mile from Timberline Falls will lead you to the Sky Pond, an alpine lake encompassed by towering cliff walls on three sides. However, you will have to climb and scramble the rocky terrains before reaching the end, which can be pretty strenuous. The Sky Pond lies at an elevation of about 10,900 feet, boasting impressive views.

Length: About 9.2 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: May to October                                                                                                

Get Directions

6. Monarch Lake Loop Trail

Monarch Lake Loop Trail in Northern Colorado

Monarch Lake Loop Trail near Granby is relatively flat, making it suitable for hikers of any skill level. It takes you through shaded forested areas while circling the lake. The diverse views of creeks, mountains, and greenery make it an enjoyable day hike. You might even encounter a moose or two on your way and spot bald eagles flying overhead. The lake is well-known for canoeing, kayaking, or just plunging into its waters for a refreshing dip.

Length: About 4 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: All year long

Get Directions

7. Emerald Lake Trail

Emerald Lake Trail in Northern Colorado

You will find the starting point of this trail at Bear Lake Trailhead within Rocky Mountain National Forest. It runs through pine forests and alpine lakes on rocky terrain. All along the way, it provides incredible vistas of the encompassing mountains like Hallett Peak, Flattop Mountain, Glacier Gorge, and the Tyndall Glacier. Visitors also enjoy snowshoeing here in winter. Even if you are not up for the activity, it is best to wear spikes to get a sturdy grip of the snow if coming in the cold months.

Length: About 3.2 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: June to October

Get Directions

8. Arthur’s Rock Trail

Arthur's Rock Trail in Northern Colorado

Within Lory State Park, this trail climbs about 1100 feet to reach Arthur’s Rock. It meanders through diverse terrains offering impressive views of pine forest, meadows, and spectacular rock formations all the way. You might even spot wildlife species like deer, hawks, and turkey. The hike is a combination of steep inclines and declines, switchbacks, and rock scrambles. However, after a short but decent workout, you will get the best views of Horsetooth Reservoir and Fort Collins at the trail’s end. Do keep in mind that there’s an admission fee of about $9 per vehicle to enter the state park.

Length: About 3.5 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October

Get Directions

9. Lookout Mountain Trail 

Lookout Mountain Trail in Northern Colorado

This trail in Roosevelt National Forest traverses uphill gradually to reach the summit. It is mostly shaded, making it an ideal summer hike. Though a perfect path for a workout, the scenic vistas along the way will not make you will much weary. The views are much rewarding from the top, where on a clear day, you will witness the surrounding mountains like Greyrock Mountains, Longs Peak, and Mummy Range.

Length: About 10.5 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: June to November

Get Directions

Best Places to Hike in Western Colorado

1. Maroon Bells Trail

Maroon Bells Trail in Western Colorado

If you want to admire Colorado’s scenic beauty without much effort, hiking along Maroon Bells Loop Trail in west-central Colorado is a must. From the peaks of Maroon Bells to gorgeous waterfalls, lakes, and golden aspens, this trail has many breathtaking views that you wouldn’t want to miss. But, do keep in mind to reach here early if you wish to enjoy a peaceful time. Also, reservations for parking or shuttle passes are a must to access the trail.

Length: About 2 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: May to October

Get Directions

2. Cathedral Lake Trail

Cathedral Lake Trail in Western Colorado

Located south of the city of Aspen, this trail requires quite an effort to reach Cathedral Lake, which sits at an elevation gain of about 2000 feet. It is extremely rocky and narrow, traversing through alpine meadows and Pine Creek Valley, and has a set of steep switchbacks before you reach the end. However, the views of the mountains, streams, and cascades compensate for all the obstacles on the way. You can enjoy a relaxing time by the pristine blue lake while appreciating the mountainous backdrop.

Length: About 5.5 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: June to September

Get Directions

3. Rattlesnake Arches Trail

Rattlesnake Arches Trail in Western Colorado

This trail near Grand Junction is ideal for a primitive experience. Though a tiring hike with many steep climbs and scrambles, there’s so much to witness all around. Throughout the way, you will enjoy viewing the various geological formations like stunning arches, towering alcoves, spires, and sandstone canyons. Be sure to bring sufficient water as you won’t find any on the desert terrain. Also, as the signs on the route might be confusing, it is best to download the trail map. It is better not to bring your dogs or kids as the steep scrambles can be too challenging for them.

Length: About 14.3 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: All year long

Get Directions

4. Liberty Cap Trail

Liberty Cap Trail in Western Colorado

Liberty Cap Trail lies within Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. You will have to start your hike from Wildwood Trailhead and then head to Liberty Cap Trail. It offers a spectacular view of the monument, Independence Rock, and the surrounding valley. The initial route is a combination of steep ascents and descents and then continues along relatively flat terrain. Along the way, you can witness the impressive geological formations and wildflowers and might even get to see bighorn sheep. You will have to spend $25 per vehicle, $20 per motorcycle, or $15 per person or bike as an entry fee. 

Length: About 13 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to October

Get Directions

Best Places to Hike in Central Colorado

1. Devil’s Head Lookout Trail

Devil’s Head Lookout Trail in Central Colorado

This trail takes you to Colorado’s only fire lookout tower, recorded on the National Register of Historic Places. From its trailhead at the picnic area near Devil’s Head Campground, you will begin your hike. It meanders through a route that alternates between aspen and pine forest. With an elevation gain of 950 feet, you will have to ascend a set of about 150 steps to reach your destination. If you feel tired midway, you can rest for a while on one of the shaded benches that you will find all along the way. At the trail’s end, you can climb up to the tower to get splendid panoramic views of the Rampart Range which is a part of the Rocky Mountains.

Length: About 2.8 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to September

Get Directions

2. Mohawk Lakes Trail

Mohawk Lakes Trail in Central Colorado

This picturesque trail leads to Mohawk Lakes, located just outside Breckenridge. As you hike through the pine and aspen forests, you will come across gorgeous mountain streams and a lovely waterfall. After a steep ascent, you will first reach the lower lake sitting at an elevation gain of about 1500 feet. You can spend some time here sitting on a rock and taking in the beauty and serenity of the place. Once done, you can continue hiking along the steep path for about half a mile to reach the upper lake to witness additional stunning views.

Length: About 6.8 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: July to September

Get Directions

Best Places to Hike in Eastern Colorado

1. Incline Trail

Incline Trail in Eastern Colorado

The Incline Trail in east-central Colorado is the ruins of a Cog railroad that takes you to the summit of the Manitou Mountains. What makes it challenging is climbing a set of steep, rocky, uneven stairs for about a mile along with an elevation gain of about 2000 feet. However, you will surely not regret it once you reach the top. The sweeping views of Colorado Springs are indeed breathtaking. Once you soak in the surrounding vistas, consider returning via Barr Trail that would seem easier after the steep incline. Also, though it has multiple switchbacks, the incredible views along the way down make it an interesting hike. Remember that a free reservation is necessary to access the trail.

Length: About 4 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: May to October

Get Directions

Best Places to Hike in Southern Colorado*9+63

.

1. Blue Lakes Trail

Blue Lakes Trail in Southern Colorado

Driving up to Blue Lakes Trailhead is challenging, with extremely rocky terrains filled with potholes. Hence, coming here in a high clearance vehicle is highly recommended. Once you start your hike, the trail will traverse you through alpine meadows and Mt. Sneffels Wilderness before reaching the glacial basin, featuring three turquoise lakes. You will have to hike a pretty strenuous and steeply inclined route. However, the views of valleys, waterfalls, and mountains throughout the hike make it one of the best trails in Colorado. Though it can be tiring, be sure to make your way to the upper lake for a breathtaking experience.

Length: About 8.2 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: All year long

Get Directions

2. Mt. Wilson Trail

Mt. Wilson Trail in Southern Colorado

Though there are numerous ways to reach the summit of Mt. Wilson, one of the well-known ones is via the Rock of Ages Trail. It begins from Navajo Lake Basin Area. It goes past several meadows via many switchbacks before reaching the destination. In addition, this trail also takes you to Wilson Peak and El Diente Peak along the way. It gets steeper with rock scrambling, particularly towards the end, making it a pretty challenging hike. The view of the surrounding peaks like Mt. Sneffels from the mountain top is indeed jaw-dropping.

Length: About 9 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: All year round

Get Directions

3. Ouray Perimeter Trail

Ouray Perimeter Trail in Southern Colorado

You will find this scenic trail in the mountainous town of Ouray, also known as the Switzerland of America. Though it has several access points, one of the most common is the Ouray Visitors’ Center. Many hikers recommend hiking it from the clockwise direction as it is easier to navigate. It has numerous steep inclines and drop-offs, but the views of the surrounding mountains, gorgeous waterfalls, and streams with baby bathtubs provide a lovely experience. Wearing a decent pair of hiking shoes is advisable as the trail gains an elevation of about 1600 feet. You will be able to complete the whole hike within 5 to 6 hours.

Length: About 6 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October                                                                                                 

Get Directions

TOP PICKS

Best Mountain Hikes: Greyrock Summit Trail, Ouray Perimeter Trail, Incline Trail

Best Waterfall Hikes: Alberta Falls Trail, Timberline Falls and Sky Pond, Mohawk Lakes Trail

Best Fall Hikes: Maroon Bells Trail, Devil’s Head Lookout Trail, Flatirons Trail

Best Day Hikes: Flatirons Trail, Rattlesnake Arches Trail, Monarch Lake Loop Trail

Best Winter Hikes: Emerald Lake Trail, Incline Trail, Arthur’s Rock Trail

Prettiest Hikes: Maroon Bells Trail, Hanging Lake Trail, Alberta Falls Trail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

    • Hola!

      Hello there! My name is Jay and I run this website. I'm a full-time traveler and freelance writer. This is where I share travel advice and help people pursue their traveling dreams.

      You can learn more about me and my mission on the about me page.

      It's nice to have you here :)

  • Connect with me:

    I LOVE connecting with fellow travelers. Hit me up on social media!