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Colorado Hiking Guide: Best Spring & Summer Trails

There's a reason people come to Colorado for the winter and stay for the summer. If you are planning a trip to Colorado and are wanting to enjoy all the amazing hiking the Rocky Mountains have to offer, summer is by far the best season to visit. The warm weather during the spring and summer months (May - August) allows you to take advantage of thousands of hiking trails all across the state. From crystal clear alpine lakes to the tallest sand dunes in North America, there is adventure everywhere you look in Colorado. Having lived in Colorado for 7 years I've explored a lot of what the Rocky Mountains have to offer. Below you will find some of my favorite hikes near Denver as well as some of my all time favorite hikes from around the state.


Best Hikes Near Denver


Roxborough State Park


Roxborough State Park

Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 45 minutes.

Hike Duration: 1 to 3 hours.

Distance: Varies (trails range from 1 to 6 miles).

Elevation Change: Varies.

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Click here to explore all the trails inside Roxborough State Park.


Looking for a mellow but rewarding hike near close to Denver? Roxborough State Park offers amazing views of the surrounding red rock formations. Choose from a variety of trails, including the Fountain Valley Trail, South Rim, or Willow Creek Trail. Enjoy stunning views of the park's geological wonders and keep an eye out for local wildlife such as deer and red foxes. Roxborough is also a great place to watch sunset as the main overlooks all face west.


St. Mary's Glacier


St. Mary's Glacier

Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Hike Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours.

Distance: Approximately 1.5 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 500 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


St. Mary's Glacier is a Colorado staple and a great first hike if you just moved to Denver. Located near Idaho Springs, this hike leads you to a stunning glacier-fed lake nestled amidst mountain peaks. The trail begins with a moderately steep ascent through a pine forest, followed by a rocky scramble to reach the glacier. Expect breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness and a refreshing alpine experience.


The Boulder Flatirons and Chautauqua Park


Chautauqua Park

Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Hike Duration: 2 to 4 hours.

Distance: Varies depending on the chosen trail.

Elevation Change: Varies.

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Click here to explore all the trails inside Chautauqua Park.


The Flatirons are a Colorado classic and for a good reason. The trails in Chautauqua Park offer up close views of the iconic rock formations and challenging yet rewarding hikes. Choose from a variety of trails, including the popular Flatirons Loop Trail or the Royal Arch Trail. Expect steep ascents, rocky terrain, and breathtaking views of Boulder and the surrounding plains from the top of the Flatirons.


Dream Lake


Dream Lake Sunrise

Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Hike Duration: 2 to 3 hours.

Distance: Approximately 2.2 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 450 feet.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


The Dream Lake hike is a must do if you are visiting Colorado. Located inside Rocky Mountain National park, the Dream Lake hike leads you through stunning landscapes to a picturesque alpine lake. The trail passes through dense forests and meadows with breathtaking views of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.


Mark's Pro Tip: It's worth waking up early to arrive to Dream Lake by sunrise. As the sun rises from the east it illuminates Hallet Peak with amazing red alpenglow making for a truly magical experience.


Loch Lomond


Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Hike Duration: 3 to 4 hours.

Distance: Approximately 4-5 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 1,000 - 1,500 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


Located just outside Idaho Springs, Loch Lomond is a great location for both hiking and dispersed camping during the spring and summer seasons. This hike takes you through a dense forest and wildflower-filled meadows to a stunning alpine lake. If you are wanting to make your hike a bit more difficult, you can continue on past the lower lake to 3 upper alpine lakes. Expect a moderately steep ascent with rewarding panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.


Mark's Pro Tip: If you are wanting to camp at Loch Lomond, you will need a 4WD and high clearance vehicle. With a 4WD or high clearance, you can also cut off a good portion of the hike and begin your hike at the lower lake. If your vehicle isn't 4WD or high clearance you will have to park before the lake and hike up the road.


Lake Isabelle


Lake Isabelle Sunset

*MARK'S TOP CHOICE FOR HIKING NEAR DENVER


Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Hike Duration: 4 to 6 hours.

Distance: 6 to 8 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 673 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


By far one of the my favorite areas to hike near Denver is Brainard Lake Recreation area. The Lake Isabelle hike offers breathtaking views of alpine landscapes and pristine mountain lakes. The trail winds through scenic meadows past Long Lake and through dense pine forests, finishing at the picturesque Lake Isabelle. Keep an eye out for moose around the trail as they often frequent the area. Make sure before hiking to Lake Isabelle you visit this link to reserve your parking spot.


Silver Dollar & Murray Lake Trail


Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Hike Duration: 4 to 6 hours.

Distance: Approximately 7 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 1,500 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


Located off Guanella Pass, this hike is another one of my favorites near Denver. The Silver Dollar & Murray Lake Trail offers stunning alpine scenery and the chance to explore two beautiful alpine lakes. Expect a moderate ascent with steep switchbacks and rocky terrain. Enjoy panoramic views and the peaceful ambiance of Silver Dollar and Murray Lakes amidst a rugged mountain tundra. The parking lot here is fairly only allowing for 10-20 cars so if you are visiting on a weekend, plan to arrive early.


Best Hikes In Colorado


Blue Lakes


Lower Blue Lake shot from above ridge

Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 4 hours.

Hike Duration: 4 to 6 hours.

Distance: Approximately 8.7 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 1,800 to 2,500 feet.

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


Blue Lakes might be my favorite hike in the entire state of Colorado. There's something about the lakes and surrounding peaks that make this place truly special. When hiking Blue Lakes, you can stop at the lower lake, but I highly recommend putting in the extra effort to visit the upper lake as well. The Blue Lakes hike takes you through lush forests and alpine meadows to a series of stunning blue-hued lakes nestled in Mount Sneffels Wilderness. Expect a gradual ascent with rewarding views of wildflowers, waterfalls, and pristine mountain scenery. This trailhead has gotten a lot busier in the past few years so if you plan on visiting on a weekend, I recommend getting to the trailhead as early as possible. This area is also a great spot for an overnight backpacking trip allowing you to enjoy the scenery during sunrise and sunset.


Ice Lake and Island Lake


Ice Lake

Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 6 hours.

Hike Duration: 6 to 8 hours.

Distance: Approximately 7.7 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 2,680 feet.

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


If you're looking for the bluest lakes in Colorado, Ice and Island Lake might take the cake. In recent years Ice Lake and Island Lake have gained a lot of recognition because of their vivid turquoise waters and towering mountains. The hike begins with a challenging ascent through forests and meadows scattered with wildflowers. Once you reach Ice Lake, marvel at its striking color set against the backdrop of rugged peaks. If you are feeling up to the adventure, continue on to Island Lake to enjoy yet another turquoise colored lake surrounding a small island.


Sky Pond


Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 2.5 hours.

Hike Duration: 6 to 8 hours.

Distance: Approximately 8.5 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 1,750 feet.

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


The Sky Pond hike offers a thrilling adventure through Rocky Mountain National Park's stunning landscapes. Trek past cascading waterfalls, serene alpine lakes, and verdant meadows as you ascend toward the majestic peaks. Cross a rugged boulder field and scramble up a steep section to reach the breathtaking Sky Pond, nestled beneath some of the most uniquely shaped mountains in Colorado.


Chasm Lake


Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 2.5 hours.

Hike Duration: 4 to 6 hours.

Distance: Approximately 8 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 2,490 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


The Chasm Lake hike is a challenging yet rewarding trek that offers unparalleled views of Longs Peak and its dramatic surroundings. Begin by ascending through pine forests and meadows, with occasional glimpses of towering peaks. Traverse switchbacks and rocky terrain before reaching the breathtaking Chasm Lake, nestled beneath the sheer cliffs of Longs Peak. Enjoy a peaceful moment by the lake before retracing your steps back to the trailhead.


Great Sand Dunes


Great Sand Dunes

Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 4 hours.

Hike Duration: Varies.

Distance: Varies.

Elevation Change: Varies.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.

Trailhead: Click here for my favorite sand dunes trail.


Home to the tallest sand dunes in North America and one of the most unique landscapes in Colorado is Great Sand Dunes National Park. The Great Sand Dunes offer a unique hiking experience amidst towering sand dunes that rise against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As far as trails go, there aren't many defined trails, but you can choose an easy stroll along Medano Creek that passes through the lower portion of the dunes or a more strenuous hike to the top of the dunes. This is also a great spot to camp during spring and summer months. Piñon Campground is the only area that allows camping so make sure you reserve your campsite ahead of your trip. You may also opt to get a permit for backcountry camping in the dunes. If you are looking to add onto your adventure you can visit Zapata Falls which is only 15 minutes away from the dunes.


Scarp Ridge


Drive Time from Denver: Approximately 4.5 hours.

Hike Duration: 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Distance: Approximately 4 miles round trip.

Elevation Change: 1,500 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous.

Trailhead: Click here for trailhead directions.


Possibly one of the most under rated hikes in Colorado is Scarp Ridge. The Scarp Ridge hike offers panoramic views of the Elk Mountains and the surrounding wilderness. Begin with a steady climb through forests and meadows, with occasional glimpses of wildflowers. Although steep, the views from the top of Scarp Ridge are some of the best in Crested Butte.


Mark's Pro Tip: Hike Scarp Ridge and arrive to the summit by sunrise to watch alpenglow paint the surrounding mountains.


Now that you know all the best hikes in Colorado it's time to hit the trails! Remember before hiking always make sure to check the weather forecast and road closures. Make sure to bring proper layers as the weather is always changing in the mountains. Hiking shoes aren't required but are highly recommended when hiking anywhere in Colorado. Last but not least, make sure to remember to practice Leave No Trace principles when visiting any of these locations to help preserve the amazing beauty of Colorado!


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