10 Best Hikes In Colorado by Difficulty

5/31/2020 by by admin

The summer season is here, and now that the snow is (sort of) melting, it’s time to start hiking. We’ve gathered a few of the best day hikes in Colorado, as well as some of the overnight hikes in Colorado, and sorted them by difficulty. There are hundreds more to choose from, but these are our favorite hikes in Colorado. Be sure to check for updates from the National Parks Service and then get out there!

Garden of the Gods is an easy trail for beginners | PeakSeason
Garden of the Gods is an easy trail for beginners.

1. Garden of the Gods

  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Difficulty: Easy

In our opinion, the best part of living in Colorado is that there’s always a beautiful excursion to be had right in your own backyard. For the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, that’s literally the case.

This is the perfect place for an easy stroll, with more than 15 miles of trails amongst unique red rock formations all the while with Pikes Peak in the background. This is why we love Colorado and Colorado Springs.

2. Base of Lizard Head Peak

  • Location: 15 minutes from Telluride
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

There’s a good reason we said the “base” of Lizard Head Peak. To actually climb the 400 ft tower that stands at the top would require expert rock climbing skills.

To get to the base though is still a 3.5-mile excursion (7 miles round trip) with beautiful views of the San Juan Mountains and the Wilson Massif. And you’ll wonder how anyone would have the nerve to scale the tower when you get there.

Hanging Lake is perfect for day hiking | PeakSeason
Hanging Lake is perfect for day hiking.

3. Hanging Lake

  • Location: Off I-70 near Glenwood Springs
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Okay, yes, Hanging Lake is a bit of a tourist trap thanks to its convenience. But the payoff is tremendous up top, where you’ll find a beautiful canyon lake and a waterfall. This is one of Colorado’s most instagrammable hiking summits.

The hike itself is only about a mile long, but is relatively steep and rocky and thus receives a slash-moderate rating.

4. Mount Elbert

  • Location: Hwy 110, about 30 min from Leadville, CO
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you start befriending the local hiking community in Colorado, you’re bound to get asked how many Colorado fourteeners you’ve climbed. Well, why not start off with the tallest?

That’s right, Mount Elbert is Colorado’s tallest peak at 14,433 ft, but the hike is actually quite manageable with a little planning. The hike itself is only about 9 miles round trip and can be accessed from a trailhead roughly 30 min from Leadville.

The trailhead is a pretty long trek from the nearest resort area (1:45 from Aspen, 1:30 from Vail). FWIW though, the trailhead for Colorado’s second highest peak (Mount Massive, 14,420 ft) is right across the street. Find a campsite and hit that one up the next morning.

Four Pass Loop is the best hike for overnight trips | PeakSeason
Four Pass Loop is the best hike for overnight trips.

5. Four Pass Loop

  • Location: Snowmass Village, CO
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

Looking for something a bit longer? How about a 3 or 4 night trip through the Maroon Bells/Snowmass wilderness? This is one of the best overnight hikes in Colorado thanks to the beautiful Maroon Bells backdrop and the groves of Aspen trees along the way. It’s also one of the best loop hikes in Colorado as well.  

Pro Tip: The loop can be hiked going either direction, but heading towards Buckskin Pass first gets the highest climbs out of the way first.

This is a serious undertaking. Any amateurs should have an experienced hiker or hiking guide along to plan and lead the trip. And, as always, don’t forget to register at the trailhead.

6. Grays and Torreys Peaks

  • Location: Georgetown, CO
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

After you’ve climbed Mount Elbert, you’re going to want to start accumulating fourteeners. This fourteener hike is a great way to get two under your belt in the same hike.

Once you’ve made it up the road to the upper trailhead (4WD only), you’ll tackle 3,749 ft in just 4 miles. The peaks are connected by a mile long saddle, with Grays at 14,270 ft and Torreys at 14,267 ft. Head back the way you came, and spend the evening bragging at the nearest bar.

7. Royal Arch

  • Location: 2 miles SW of Boulder, CO
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

Like the Garden of the Gods, this hike is special for its easy accessibility, this time right near downtown Boulder, Colorado. There are miles of trails near Boulder; this 3.3-mile out-and-back hike just happens to be one of our favorites. The Flatirons make for a magnificent backdrop during this quick exercise jaunt that beats any gym workout we’ve ever had. A beautiful view of Boulder awaits at the end.

Longs Peak is the best hike in Colorado for serious hikers | PeakSeason
Longs Peak is the best hike in Colorado for serious hikers

8. Longs Peak

  • Location: Estes Park, CO
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Longs Peak is the 13th highest mountain in Colorado, with a summit of 14,255 ft. This is a tough hike to say the least. The National Park Service says that of the 15,000 people who try to climb it every year, only about half make it to the top. A long 15-mile hike, 5,000 ft of elevation gain, and tricky weather combine to disrupt many attempts.

9. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

  • Location: Gunnison National Park
  • Difficulty: Difficult

“Deep, Steep and Narrow” according to the National Park Service, these are some of the most dramatic views in all of North America. The formations have been forged for two million years by the Gunnison River, and the work has paid off for sure.

There are trails along the rim for all abilities, but our favorite is the North Vista Trail. The North Vista, when combined with the short spur trail to Exclamation Point is a 6.7 mile out and back hike with about a 1200 ft gain. The trail is rarely crowded.

10. Five Lake Loop

  • Location: Estes Park, CO
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Another of Colorado’s best loop hikes, the Five Lake Loop is a 12.5-mile loop that links up Bear Lake, Lake Helene, Odessa Lake, Fern Lake, and Cub Lake. The route is challenging with several up and down sections, especially between Cub Lake and Bear Lake towards the end of the clockwise loop.

This Colorado hike has it all, and although it could be done in a day, the difficulty is such that a one or two-night backpacking trip is probably the most enjoyable approach. That should give you plenty of time to take in views of each of the beautiful lakes.

mirror lake is on the trail between monarch lake and crater lake
Colorado is the premier hiking destination in the US hands down.

Colorado Is the Premier Hiking Destination in the USA

There’s just no place like Colorado for outdoor fun, and hiking is one of the biggest reasons. Does this look like the life for you? We’ll help you create one there, all you need to do is find your first job, so you can live and work the lifestyle you want! We’ll see you on the trails!