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Vail | © Mariamichelle / Pixabay
Vail | © Mariamichelle / Pixabay
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A Hiker’s Guide to Colorado

Picture of Stephanie Harper
Updated: 5 November 2017
With its lush forests, picture-perfect views, and fresh mountain air, Colorado is a hiker’s paradise. With 12 national parks and monuments, 41 state parks, and 100,000-plus acres of other wild areas, there are hiking opportunities for every skill level and interest. Check out our hiker’s guide to Colorado for all the best spots.

Colorado Parks

Outdoor enthusiasts can find some of the best hiking in Colorado in the many state and national parks. Visitor Centers in each park will provide trail maps, as well as information about hiking trails. Many parks are just a short drive from major cities such as Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs.

Enjoy ample trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most popular national parks in the country. View the wildflowers on a hike to Gem Lake or Bridal Veil Falls, or enjoy the panoramic views of Ute Trail. Relish the stunning meadows in Vega State Park or the red rock formations of Roxborough State Park. Explore limestone caves in Rifle Falls State Park, and visit the only 80-foot (24.3-meter) triple waterfall in the state.

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Sprague Lake, RMNP | © Esther Lee / Flickr

Fourteeners

Colorado also boasts 53 mountains over 14,000 feet, referred to as “fourteeners,” providing ample opportunities for scenic views and high-altitude adventure. Some of the mountains are more suitable to summit than others. Mount Elbert, the highest peak in the state, has several well-maintained trails with views of the Sawatch Range, perfect for a first fourteener. For serious climbers, Longs Peak is a challenging hike, complete with the Keyhole rock feature and a full-on crawl to the final summit.

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Mt. Elbert Summit | © Tom Miller / Flickr

Resorts

The many resorts and resort towns in Colorado offer some of the best access to hiking trails in the state, making them a perfect vacation spot. A stay at Aspen-Snowmass will provide hikers access to the Roaring Fork Valley, including a multi-day hike across the Four Pass Loop. Visit Breckenridge for the chance to hike the Hoosier Pass Loop, Mohawk Lakes, and Quandary Peak. A trip to Crested Butte will bring you to some of the best hiking through the Elk Mountain Range.

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Hiking in Aspen | © mark gallagher / Flickr

The Colorado Trail

For the ultimate hiking experience, visitors can explore the Colorado Trail, which stretches 500 miles (894.6 kilometers) from Denver to Durango through the breathtaking Rocky Mountains. If hiking the entire trail, you’ll experience six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges. Thru-hikers should plan to spend four-to-six weeks on the trail, starting no later than late June and finishing by early September. Day hikers will find 28 separate segments, each with their own access points.

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Colorado Trail | © Jesse Palmer / Flickr

To find the perfect trail for you, check out the Colorado Trail Explorer, which allows you to view 17,099 trails as well as 1,431 trailheads. And remember, when hiking in Colorado, make sure to bring at least two quarts of water per person, as well as plenty of sunscreen and clothing layers for unpredictable weather.