How do you spend your days off? If your answer includes winding trails, rewarding climbs, and unforgettable views, you’re living life right. Colorado is home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. Whether you want to unwind on a casual meadow stroll or challenge yourself at 14,000 feet above sea level, you can find exactly what you’re looking for in the miles of trails throughout and beyond the Rocky Mountains.
Even better, Colorado offers endless opportunities for hikers of every experience level. The easier trails are great for beginners, young families, or those exploring the wilderness with man’s best friend. Harder trails, on the other hand, offer a thrilling challenge for outdoor enthusiasts working their way toward bagging every 14er in the state. Which trail will you tackle next? We highly recommend one of these best hiking trails in Colorado.
Longs Peak Keyhole Route–Hard Difficulty
This challenging and technical route up one of the most popular mountains in the state attracts thousands of visitors annually. Longs Peak itself stands at 14,255 feet, making it a worthy endeavor for any hikers looking for a challenge. "Challenge” is the perfect word for it, too, as the Keyhole Route offers a technical, exhausting climb that only 50 percent of visitors manage to complete. The 5.5-mile approach takes you through forests and boulder fields, but the trail transforms into a true mountain experience as you pass through the jagged Keyhole—a natural rock formation that marks the beginning of the difficult part of the trail. On the other side of the Keyhole, you’ll face exposed, narrow ledges and steep, technical scrambles up to the summit. If you can make it to the top, the reward is a rush of triumph as you look out at the Front Range. Tackling this trail will definitely make you feel like a King of the Mountain.
Mount Bierstadt–Moderate Difficulty
Of course, tackling technical hikes like Longs Peak without any experience is a foolhardy idea. If you’re new to your hiking journey, you should build up endurance and expertise before you hit the big challenges. The good news is that easier hikes don’t have to be boring. Even some of the 14ers—like the 14060-foot Mount Bierstadt—offer easy to moderate trails that anyone can try. Visitors to Mount Bierstadt can explore a six-mile round trip along a well-maintained trail. Throughout the trip, you’ll pass willow trees and steep, boulder-covered paths near the summit. At the mountain’s summit, hikers with a little more experience can challenge themselves along Sawtooth Ridge, a mile-long stretch that connects Bierstadt to Mount Spaulding and Mount Evans.
San Luis Peak–Moderate Difficulty
San Luis Peak paints an idyllic picture of Colorado summers. The vibrant trail features pine forests, ponds, streams, and sweeping fields of wildflowers—all before you even see the sweeping views from the summit. Unlike many other 14ers in the state, San Luis is a non-technical trail that requires no climbing. The trail gradually ascends over 13.5 miles of mellow terrain. While the hike itself isn’t difficult, it’s definitely a day-long effort to travel to the summit and back. Fortunately, the colorful beauty and peaceful isolation of the mountain make every hour worth it.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison–Moderate to Hard Difficulty
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is an imposing and dramatic landscape in western Colorado. Unlike your typical mountain trail, the hiking opportunities in Black Canyon of the Gunnison will take you down to the canyon floor. The trails in the park vary in difficulty, but even the easiest one has tricky sections that rely on handheld support chains. What the canyon lacks in developed paths, it makes up for in thrilling scrambles as you follow the steep canyon down to the bottom. The adventure doesn’t stop there, either. When you reach the canyon floor, you can start exploring the 53-mile gorge. The shadows of the canyon walls transform a land of deep rivers and rich forests into an intriguing realm of unique Colorado adventure.
Star Dune–Easy Difficulty
As part of Great Sand Dunes National Park, Star Dune represents another unique entry on this list of best hiking trails in Colorado. Instead of scrambling up mountains, give yourself an unforgettable experience as you make your way to the top of a 750-foot-tall sand dune. The view is as incredible as any summit and lets you look out over 30 square miles of massive dunes. If you miss the mountains, don’t worry! Star Dune features a backdrop of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Peaks. While you’re in the park, you can also enjoy sledding, four-wheeling, and sandboarding through the dunes. Plus, Star Dune and the other trails in the region are a perfect off-season activity. While the mountains are too cold or snowy to hike, you can enjoy the warmer fall and winter weather of the desert.
Devil’s Head Lookout–Moderate Difficulty
This popular trail is an hour outside of Denver. The trail leads to a fire lookout that offers a complete panoramic view of the area, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Front Range. Hikers can make their way up a steady uphill trail to the base of the lookout tower. The lookout itself is over 100 years old and is one of the only fire lookouts still in service today. When the tower is staffed between May and September, visitors can take the set of 143 stairs up the side of Devil’s Head to reach the top. From there, you have a 360-degree view of the area, including iconic summits like Pikes Peak and Mount Evans.
Quandary Peak Trail–Moderate to Hard Difficulty
Another popular 14er, Quandary Peak contains one of the most-hiked mountain trails in Colorado. Hikers must prepare for the over six-mile round trip up Quandary Peak with plenty of water, food, and proper hiking gear. Start with a steep climb through sparse forests before the trail becomes rockier toward the top. If you need a breather, stop and enjoy the colorful wildflowers and occasional wildlife that surround the trail. The final rocky climb will prove slow going, but the view from the top is a worthwhile reward.
Are you ready to tackle your next trail? Make sure you have the proper gear, like our Colorado hoodie. Our cozy sweatshirts and jackets are perfect for layering in higher elevations. Be sure to grab one of your own so that you can stay comfortable no matter which parts of Colorado you explore.