From short treks to daylong affairs, these hikes are sure to impress.
As any long-time Denverite will tell you, one of the best parts about living in the Mile High City (one of our best places to travel in 2016) is its proximity to the mountains. Just a short drive from the city you'll find an array of well-maintained hiking trails. Whether you're looking for an easy, shady hike in an evergreen forest, or a leg-burning climb that will leave you breathless, the nearby hills have something for everyone. We've narrowed down seven of our favorites that will help you get outside and get moving.
1. Alderfer Three Sisters Park
A mere 40 minutes from Denver and just past the town of Evergreen, the trails at Three Sisters will make you feel like you are hours away from the city. A myriad of options exist at the 770-acre park, including more than 15 miles of trails. We love the Evergreen Mountain loop for a good climb, but other loops (like the Hidden Fawn Trail) and lots of big, shady trees make this higher-altitude area good for beginners, people looking to beat the heat, and even trail runners.
2. Bear Peak
There are multiple ways to reach Boulder's most iconic mountain top, Bear Peak, but we prefer the less-traveled route from Shanahan Ridge. This gorgeous trail is 6.8 miles of grueling hiking not for the faint of heart. But the out-and-back challenge is worth it and once you reach the top, the views will make you forget the 2,490 feet of climbing.
3. Chicago Lakes
It will take you most of the day to tackle this nine-mile climb near Idaho Springs to the trail's upper lakes. But the views in the Mount Evans Wilderness Area are top-notch, and the high-altitude climb (you start around 10,600 feet) is an amazing workout. Pro tip: make sure to check out the trail in the spring and early summer when the wildflowers peak. Looking for more of a challenge? You can continue hiking to Summit Lake or even to the summit of Mount Evans.
4. Lair o' the Bear
Families looking for an easy hike near Denver, this is your spot. Good parking, a river, and picnic options make the shaded 1.7-mile trail a perfect choice. Have a budding alpinist on your hands? Several trails make it simple to add on more mileage. Lair o' the Bear is also a great mountain biking spot if someone in the family wants to give that a try.
5. Lake Isabelle
Just outside of Nederland, the Lake Isabelle Trail is approachable, good for all skill levels, and one of the most beautiful ones in the state. This 4.5-mile loop is especially appealing in the spring, thanks to the wildflowers and a waterfall adjacent to the lake at the top. Arrive early to nab a parking spot at the trail head, and know that dogs are welcome but must be kept on leash.
6. Mt. Falcon Park
There are plenty of trails at Mount Falcon, but we prefer the 3.7-mile Castle Trail option that provides city views, a quick leg-burning workout, and even castle ruins. Note that this popular trail can get very busy, but it's a perfect after-work hike in the spring and summer.
7. Red Rocks Trail
A short 20-minute drive from Denver, the well-known Red Rocks Amphitheater offers more than just epic concerts. Try one of the many trails at the Red Rocks Park, where you'll see the aforementioned geological formations and wide open vistas. We like the 1.4-mile Trading Post trail; it's a perfect hike if you're trying to make happy hour back in town.