I’m Jill – a hiker, traveler and dog mom living in Denver, Colorado. Welcome to my article on the best hikes in Colorado! I was born and raised in a small town in Iowa and lived in Iowa until I went to college in Springfield.
Growing up we always took vacations every year to a different part of the United States. My parents weren’t hikers and we never really hiked on our trips, but we were able to see a lot of amazing places around the country.
That is what instilled in me a passion for travel and experiencing new places. Colorado was one of the places where we vacationed on a pretty regular basis, so when I graduated from college my plan was to make Colorado my home. When I first moved to Colorado, I moved to Fort Collins.
Fort Collins is a beautiful town right along the foothills. My first hike there was one that is very popular called Horsetooth. It’s a nice little summit just outside of town with beautiful views. I didn’t get super involved in hiking when I lived in Fort Collins other than a few hikes up Horsetooth.
I then left Colorado and traveled as a flight attendant. I remember doing some hikes on a layover in Montana, but it wasn’t until I moved back to Colorado in 2016 that I really invested in hiking here. After moving back to Denver I decided to take my first hike up Mount Bierstadt – one of Colorado’s best beginner fourteeners – and I have been addicted ever since.
Colorado, A World-Class Hiking Destination
Colorado is one of the best places in the world for hiking because it just has it all! You can experience amazing hikes and scenery year round and never get bored with all of the amazing options on offer. You can summit a 14,000 peak one day and hike through the bottom of a canyon the next.
Colorado truly is incredible for hiking. I also might be biased, but I believe another thing that makes hiking here so great is the hiking community. I have met the most amazing people on trail and everyone feels like family.
My favorite hiking adventures in Colorado are sunrise hikes. You get the opportunity to be away from crowds and get to experience real solitude. I also don’t know of a sunrise that didn’t change me in some small way.
This past summer my friend and I started to climb to the summit of Grays and Torreys Peaks – two fourteeners close to Denver. We started this climb at around 3am. At one point we turned off our headlamps and just stared at the sky above. I swear you could see every single star and the Milky Way (Colorado is a great place to go stargazing and see the Milky Way).
It was definitely a moment of perspective and peace. We hit the summit to Grays right as the sun was coming up and I really don’t know if there is a better feeling than watching that from 14,000 feet – simply sensational!
5 Best Hikes in Colorado
1. Blue Lakes, San Juan Mountains
It’s hard to pick the number one hike in Colorado but if pressed I would go with Blue Lakes in the San Juan Mountains. I believe this is the best of the best for alpine lakes. I don’t know if I have ever seen water so blue in my life. It features three different lakes and each one is more beautiful than the next. You can even continue on and summit Mount Sneffels from here, which is said to be one of Colorado’s prettiest fourteeners.
2. Crested Butte to Aspen via West Maroon Pass
This is the best hike in Colorado to see wildflowers in July/August. Crested Butte is the wildflower capital and this hike felt like I was in a different world. I will never forget walking on this trail surrounded by all different kinds of wildflowers in every direction, and the only thing I could hear were hummingbirds and bees. I don’t know if it gets better than that!
3. Island Lake via Ice Lakes Trail
This is another Colorado hike that is amazing during peak wildflower time. For part of this hike you walk through flowers up to your waist and enter a valley surrounded by waterfalls. You then get to Ice Lake which has the brightest blue water – it’s hard to believe what you are seeing! You continue on to Island Lake which is turquoise/ice blue and beyond beautiful.
4. Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Chasm Lake is a popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park at the base of Longs Peak. People had always told me this hike felt otherworldly and it’s true. I started this hike at 3:30am and caught the sunrise at the top. It was one of those moments that brought tears to my eyes. It was also great to do at sunrise to beat the crowds. We had the place to ourselves!
5. High Dune Trail, Great Sand Dunes National Park
After my hike on the High Dune Trail all I could think was how Great Sand Dunes National Park was incredibly underrated! I don’t know where else you can experience climbing the tallest sand dune in North America and stare at 14,000 feet peaks at the same time.
How the Different Seasons Compare
Every season is amazing in Colorado! This is one of the reasons why Colorado is one of the best hiking states in the country, because of the opportunity to go year-round hiking. Winter hiking is beautiful with the snow and I love introducing people to snowshoeing. I have never been a skier/snowboarder, so this is how I enjoy the mountains during winter.
Autumn is beautiful with the aspen trees and the weather being nice and moderate. Spring is fun, however it’s also known as the muddy season with melting snow. It’s still great for hiking but can sometimes be a mess!
Summer is usually everyone’s favorite season to go hiking in Colorado and it’s probably my favorite time as well. Summer doesn’t last long in the Centennial State but I try to make the most out of every weekend I can.
Tips for Experiencing the Best Hikes of Colorado
I love for people to explore and experience new trails, but taking on the trails also means taking on the responsibility of their care so we can all enjoy them for generations to come. Some of the easiest ways we can take care of our mountains is by leaving no trace, packing out every single thing you bring in, picking up your dog waste bags (which has become a huge issue here!), staying on trail and camping/parking in designated areas.
Another important tip is just to do your research and be prepared! I research every trail in-depth before I ever step foot on it. It’s so important to know what you are getting into and to be sure you are equipped physically and with the proper gear to do it. I always download a trail map!Even the most experienced hikers can get off trail. I like to use Instagram a lot too and ask people about conditions who have recently done a trail.