From short treks to daylong affairs, these hikes are sure to impress.

By Evie Carrick and Megan Barber
Updated July 30, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

As any Denverite will tell you, one of the best parts about living in the Mile High City is its proximity to the mountains. Just a short drive from the city, you'll find an array of well-maintained hiking trails that take you away from the bustle and up into the mountains of Colorado. 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.

To help you choose the right one, we’ve listed a few of our favorite trails. These hikes offer an idyllic mountain escape without requiring more than a few hours of drive time.

Evergreen Mountain Trail

A mere 40 minutes from Denver, and just beyond the town of Evergreen, lies the Alderfer/Three Sisters Park. The 1,127-acre park boasts over 15 miles of trails, which showcase the area’s impressive rock formations and stunning vistas. One of our favorite hikes in the park, the Evergreen Mountain Trail, is a moderate loop with a nice climb and lots of big, shady trees to shield you from the heat.

Bear Peak

One of the easiest escapes from Colorado’s capital is a trip north to the city of Boulder. In just over 30 minutes, hikers will find themselves near the base of Boulder’s Bear Creek, which tops out at an impressive 8,459 feet. There are multiple ways to reach the peak, but we prefer the less-traveled route from Shanahan Ridge, which kicks off just south of Boulder. The 5.8-mile out-and-back trail delivers a grueling, but rewarding, hike full of views — and if you time it right, wildflowers.

Chicago Lakes Trail

Just over one hour west of the city lies the mountainous municipality of Georgetown, home to the stunning Chicago Lakes Trail. This 11.3-mile out-and-back trail is rated as moderate, but even newbie hikers will be spurred on by the constant Mount Evans Wilderness views and the promise of mountain lakes at the top. Pro tip: 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.

Bear Creek Trail

If you’ll be getting out with the kids, this is your spot. Located in Lair o' the Bear Park, this 1.7-mile trail offers good parking, a river, and picnic options. If you and your crew want to take it farther, you can continue on beyond the park boundaries in either direction. The trails are also open to mountain bikers and fishing, if someone in the family wants to try for a multisport afternoon in the park.

Lake Isabelle Trail

On a hot day, not much else beats time spent near the water. This hike, just outside of Nederland (which is a little over an hour from Denver), has plenty of H20 — in the form of a waterfall and lake at the top. The Lake Isabelle Trail is approachable, good for most skill levels, and one of the most beautiful hikes in the state. Arrive early to nab a parking spot at the trailhead and to give yourself plenty of time to complete this 8.6-mile excursion.

Mount Falcon Castle Trail

Located in the nearby town of Morrison, this hike is so close to the city that you can spot downtown Denver from the trail. Clocking in at around 6.7 miles, the Mount Falcon Castle Trail delivers a quick leg-burning workout and castle ruins. Due to its proximity to Denver, the path can get busy, so to avoid the crowds — and enjoy cooler temperatures — start early.

Red Rocks Trail

A short, 20-minute drive from Denver and just east of the renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre is the stunning Red Rocks Trail, home to open meadows, vibrant red monoliths, and a cave carved into the soft sandstone. The hike is a six-mile loop that traverses through two Colorado parks: Red Rocks Park and Matthews/Winters Park.

Missouri Lakes Trail

If you’re ready to take the intensity up a notch, start early and head toward the town of Red Cliff — almost three hours west of the city. It’s a bit of a drive, but you can escape the crowds (and the heat) on this 7.2-mile out-and-back trail that ends at a beautiful mountain lake.

Fountain Valley Loop Trail

Who says the best views are found on the hardest hikes? On this easy 2.3-mile loop, located just south of Denver, you’ll walk among bright red rock formations and pass through the habitats and homes of Colorado wildlife, including foxes, golden eagles, and mule deer.

South Table Mountain Trail

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If you only have a short window of time, head to the nearby city of Golden (around 25 minutes from Denver by car) and head up the South Table Mountain Trail. This 1.4-mile expedition is the perfect place to kick back and watch the sun drop behind the hills.

Royal Arch Trail

Located in the nearby city of Boulder, the Royal Arch Trail isn’t the easiest hike on this list, but it delivers some wildly impressive views. You’ll traverse through grassy meadows and a cooling pine forest before reaching a flagstone staircase that leads you to your final destination: the Royal Arch, a beautiful natural arch formed by reddish stones.