Hiking in Colorado

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Thursday, February 25th, 2010

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Hiking is a way of life in Colorado, with trails in every direction out of almost every town. Locals and tourists alike lace up their hiking boots to explore the area as soon as the snow melts- and maybe even before! From strenuous hikes up steep peaks to meandering paths past lakes and streams, Colorado has every kind of hiking possible.

Stopping for a photo while hiking into the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area in Northwest Colorado. (Matt Inden/Colorado Tourism Office)

Read below for some recommended trails in gorgeous places like Rocky Mountain National Park, and the White River National Forest.

Glacial Gorge, in the Rocky Mountain National Park is a fantastic 9.6-mile trail that takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the state, past lakes and waterfalls high in the mountains. It has an elevation gain of 1,600 feet, so it’s a moderate to advanced hike. This is also because the trailhead’s elevation is 9,200 feet and the top elevation is at 10,600 feet above sea level. Hike this trail from June to October. Estes Park is the closest town.

Blue Lake is a great place for hikers to spend a day in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. It’s a relatively short hike, at 5 miles long, but takes you to a pristine alpine lake surrounded by Colorado Rockies peaks. It has low use, so chances are you’ll feel you have the area all to yourself. It’s a moderate hike with a 1,000-foot elevation gain from its trailhead at 10,400 feet. Nederland is the closest nearby town. Open for the hiking season, from June to October.

If you’re looking for a great moderate to strenuous hike close to Denver, try trekking to the top of Bergen Peak in Colorado’s Front Range. The summit is at 9,708 feet above sea level. To get there, you have to go 9.2 miles and 2,000 feet from the trailhead, which sits at 7,700 feet. Get there early to avoid crowds.

Another great hike/climb in the Front Range is Longs Peak, close to Boulder, Colorado. Longs Peak is located about 70 miles north east of Denver in the Rocky Mountain National Forest and one of the most famous routes in all of the state. Its 14 miles long and is only open from August to September. The alpine peak requires level 3 climbing to reach the summit at 14,255 feet. Before you even reach the climbing portion, you must hike from the trailhead at 9,400 feet across ledges and slabs. Camping is possible along the strenuous route.

Below Longs Peak, you’ll find Chasm Lake, a cirque between Longs Peak and Mount Meeker. The trail reaching the high lake is 8.4 miles long and has a gain of 2,600 feet. This highly rated trail is open from June to October and is considered a moderate to advanced hike. Make it to the lake and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sceneries in the state!

If you’re looking for an easier hike near Boulder, check out the Canyon Loop Trail in the Betasso Preserve. Take your time on this 3.2 mile path that is full of picture-perfect landscapes, wildlife and lots of wide-open space. It has an overall elevation gain of 600 feet, and is considered an easy hike. Boulder is the nearest city, but is far enough out of town that it isn’t crowded with hikers.

Mount Elbert, in the Sawatch Range of the Rockies, is the highest point in Colorado, at 14,433 feet above sea level. Hike the 8.6 mile Lake County trail to the top for an advanced hike in the central Colorado Lake County region. It has an elevation gain of 4,423 feet from the trailhead at 10,010 feet. Leadville is the closest town, about 11 miles away. The trail is steep and loose, but there are clear path directions to the summit.

The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area has over 100 miles of trails for hikers. This picturesque wilderness area in The White River National Forest is located in central Colorado. The Maroon Bells has trails ascending nine passes above 12,000 feet and may be the most photographed part of the state. Conundrum Creek is also in the area, and is the perfect place to soak your tired hiking muscles in a relaxing hot spring. Other landscapes include glittering alpine lakes at the foot of 14,000-foot peaks. The closest city to the Maroon Bells is Aspen, Colorado.

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