The Outdoors,  Travel Guides

Day Hikes Near Denver (for Out-of-Towners):

Day Hikes Near Denver | best time to visit Denver | Hiking in Denver Colorado | best Denver Hiking | Denver Colorado Hiking | trip to Denver

These days, I have midwestern visitors at least three to five times a year. Above all, I used to plan day hikes near Denver that would blow my guests away with breathtaking views. However, I quickly realized that hiking in Denver is nothing like the Midwest. Many of these hikes were probably not the safest and my guests were exhausted by the end of them. Here’s a tip: do not make your mother hike Mt. Sanitas…After all, these out-of-towners are on a trip to Denver and are supposed to be having an enjoyable vacation. Anyway, mistakes were made and lessons were learned. 

It’s no secret that many of us transplants & locals become numb to the everyday beauty of this state/city while our visitors are in awe of the subtle mountain views on the way home from the airport. It’s essential to consider this perspective when preparing for day hikes near Denver for out-of-towners. Also, consider the group or individual’s perceived skill level and interest. For example, my older sister is a fitness junkie who hopes to get a workout in, likes a rewarding finish, and has the attention span of a flea. So, I choose something moderately difficult with a view at the end that’s not too long. On the other hand, most of my friends are looking for a jaunt through the wilderness with an Instagramable view or two. Your guests’ interests and skill levels will help you determine the best Denver hiking for their individual needs.

My Method:

  • First of all, go with what you know. Choose day hikes near Denver that you’ve done yourself or that you know have been successful with past visitors.
  • Unless specifically requested, try not to drive more than 1-2 hours outside of the city. Remember, these people are on vacation and probably don’t want to wake up early and spend most of their day driving. 
  • ASK questions. I always ask what my visitors want to see, or I’ll send them a list of the best Denver hiking with descriptions so they can choose. 

Now that we have laid the groundwork for this grueling process. (I know I think way too much about it). Here is my list of 16 day hikes near Denver for out-of-towners. I have actually done all of these hikes with guests! The best time to visit Denver and try out these trails is May-October. If you’re on a trip to Denver in the winter I have safe and enjoyable hike recommendations too!

Easy Day Hikes Near Denver:

  • Red Rocks Trading Post Trail
    • Drive time: 25 minutes 
    • Length: 1.4 miles 
    • Difficulty: Easy 
    • My Recs: Spend time at Red Rocks exploring the amphitheater and the free museum then head into Golden for lunch! 
  • Fowler Trail
    • Drive time: 35 minutes 
    • Length: 4 miles 
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Advanced Planning: This trail is in Eldorado Canyon State Park, so you’ll have to pay the $10 entrance Fee
    • My Recs: Spend time in the park after your hike. As a state park, there are plenty of overlooks and picnic areas to hang out at.
  • Brother’s Lookout
    • Drive time: 40 minutes
    • Length: Depends, use this map to forge your own trail 
    • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
    • Advanced Planning: We parked at the East Trailhead and did a short version (about 1.5 miles) of Sisters Trail → Ponderosa Trail → Brother’s Lookout and then back down the same way. 
    • My Recs: Stop at Revival Brews in Evergreen for food and beers afterward! 
  • Chautauqua & Bluebell Trail Loop
    • Drive time: 40 minutes 
    • Length: 1.6 miles 
    • Difficulty: Easy 
    • Advanced Planning: There is paid parking at the trailhead, but it fills up quickly during peak seasons. There is street parking and some overflow parking nearby as well. 
    • My Recs: Stop at Mountain Sun Brewery and peruse Pearl Street Mall afterward.
  • Garden of The Gods 
    • Drive time: 1 hour
    • Length: Depends, it’s a paved walkway and you can choose how much you want to explore.
    • Difficulty: Easy 
    • My Recs: Afterward, head to Ivywild School for food, beer, and cocktails. It’s a converted Elementary school, be sure to check out the bathrooms 😉

Moderate Day Hikes Near Denver:

  • Lily Pad Lake
    • Drive time: 1 hour 20 minutes 
    • Length: 3 miles 
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Advanced Planning: The great thing about this hike, is that there isn’t much climbing because you drive so far up which makes for beautiful views without all of the work. Just be aware that you’re guests are high up and not used to the elevation…be patient with ‘em. 
    • My Recs: Frisco is just a short drive away! Head there afterward to grab some brats & German brews from Ein Prosit.
  • Lost Lake via Hessie Trail  
    • Drive Time: 1 hour 20 minutes 
    • Length: 4 miles 
    • Difficulty: Moderate 
    • Advanced planning: Unless you arrive early enough, the trailhead gets pretty packed in peak season and you may have to take their free shuttles. Volunteers will direct you on where to park and what shuttles to take. 
    • My Recs: Check out Knotted Root Brewing Company.
  • Emerald Lake
    • Drive time: 2 hours
    • Length: 3 miles 
    • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 
    • Advanced Planning: This one is in the Rocky Mountain National Park so you’ll have to pay the $25 fee. End of May through early October, RMNP uses a timed entry system so be sure to check that and reserve a spot before you head all the way up there. You can do that here.
    • My Recs: Go to Bird and Jim for wine/apps then head to the main drag in Estes Park for some souvenir shopping.  

Difficult Day Hikes Near Denver:

  • Horsetooth Mountain
    • Drive Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
    • Length: 6.4 Miles
    • Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
    • Advanced Planning: Horsetooth Mountain Open Space charges a fee to enter so bring some cash. More on that here.
    • My Recs: Spend some time by the reservoir then go to Union Bar & Soda Fountain in Downtown Fort Collins for boozy milkshakes.
  • Deer Mountain
    • Drive Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
    • Length: 6 miles
    • Difficulty: Moderate- Difficult
    • Advanced Planning: This one is in the Rocky Mountain National Park so you’ll have to pay the $25 fee. End of May through early October, RMNP has been using a timed entry system so be sure to check that and reserve a spot before you head all the way up there. You can do that here.
    • My Recs: Go to Claire’s Restaurant and Bar for a cute and cozy meal.
  • The Loch via Glacier Gorge
    • Drive time: 2 hours
    • Length: 5.5 miles
    • Advanced Planning: Also in RMNP see the note above.
    • My Recs: Following the hike, go to The Barrel for an endless draft list and a rotating food truck.

Hopefully, you found at least one day hike near Denver on this list that sounds intriguing to you. With so many options for Denver, Colorado hiking, it can feel overwhelming to choose the perfect hike. In my opinion, you really can’t go wrong with any of the above trails. Just be aware of your limits, and take in the views with the fresh mountain air. Happy Hiking!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *