With hiking weather officially here, it’s time to tie on your sneakers and take to the trails in and around Denver. Whether your weekend hike involves little kids and newly-minted walkers, friends recovering from an injury or someone who just can’t hike a 14er (yet), these easy Denver-area hikes are the perfect way to get out in nature without overdoing it.
Pack a backpack with plenty of snacks and water and plan a relaxing day in or near the mountains. Each of these spots is within 60 minutes of Denver, and some are right in the Mile High City’s backyard.
And, if you want something even closer and/or easier, check out these shady strolls in Denver.
Deer Creek Canyon Loop Trail
Spend a morning or afternoon enjoying this 2.7-mile loop. This jaunt is a combination of two trails. To make the loop, start at Meadowlark Trail and then go left on the Plymouth Creek Trail. Technically the trail is located in Littleton, so it’s only about 30 minutes from Denver.
Highlights: This is a great spot to peep some fall colors. The rest of the year is perfect for immersing oneself in quiet nature. Bring a picnic and make a day out of this outdoor adventure.
Best for: Children and any slow-moving adult who wants to enjoy the great outdoors without much of a challenge. The elevation gain is only around 500 feet, which makes easing into the thin mountain air painless.
Things to know: The Meadowlark Trail is for hikers only, but once you’re on the Plymouth Creek Trail, watch out for bikes.
Find it: In Deer Creek Canyon Park (13388 Grizzly Dr., Littleton).
Lair o’ the Bear
I’ll be honest, this is one of my kids’ favorite places to hike. It’s mostly flat, easy to navigate, and there are enough spots to stop and enjoy nature and a snack or two. But, it’s also popular with everyone else who has little kids.
Get here early to secure parking, and then enjoy the trail for as long as you want. The official 1.5-mile trail is in Idledale, just 30 minutes from Denver.
Highlights: Bear Creek runs along this trail, and there are plenty of spots to sit by and watch if flow while littles throw rocks into the water. The path is pretty smooth, so this trail is easy to navigate for new walkers and those unsteady on their feet. While hiking, keep an eye out for beavers in the river and deer.
Best for: Little kids, unsteady walkers and those who want to take it slow. The trail is wide enough that you won’t feel pushed over if other hikers want to pass you.
Things to know: The parking lot fills up fast, so it’s best to get there early. Dogs and mountain bikes are allowed here too, so make sure everyone in your party is aware. If you have little kids it’s best to keep them close so they don’t get mowed over by a mountain biker.
Find it: Lair o’ the Bear is part of Jeffco Open Space (22550 CO-74, Idledale).
Alderfer and Three Sisters
One of the best things about this spot in Evergreen are the options. With 1,135 acres and over 16 miles of trails, there are so many paths to take. That means you can go multiple times a month and still have plenty to explore.
It’s around 30 to 45 minutes from Denver, but once there it feels like you’re deep in the mountains of Evergreen.
Highlights: Take the Three Sisters trail if you want to climb around on boulders. The same rock enclaves are great for a picnic, just don’t be surprised if a chipmunk or two boldly try to join you.
Best for: Amateur rock climbers, little kids and adults who want a good hike but not a huge challenge. There are some up hill parts and rocky terrane, but mostly it’s a steady path.
Things to know: Take a picture of the trail map before you begin. While most of the trails loop and intersect each other, this is a good way not to end up on a longer hike than you anticipated. This spot can get busy, so if you see cars already lining the side of the road, start looking for a spot to park.
Find it: There are a few different trailheads, but for easy access plug the address into Google Maps (30357 Buffalo Park Rd., Evergreen).
Crown Hill Lake Trail
This jaunt is less of a hike and more of a really nice walk around a beautiful lake.
Located in a 242-acre area of Wheat Ridge operated by Jeffco Open Space, the 3-mile stroll is completely paved, making it great for those who need a steady path either for walking and/or to push a stroller.
Head off the lake trail for even more adventure, which can all be had just 15 minutes from Denver.
Highlights: There are spots to break off the path and head to the water for fishing (with a permit) and exploring. If you want more trail to follow, leave the lake and walk around the open space.
Best for: All ages of bird watchers and nature lovers. As well as early walkers and those pushing walkers or strollers.
Things to know: Visit the Crown Hill Park Wildlife Sanctuary, which is just north of the trail. But keep in mind it’s closed from March 1 through June 30 in order to protect nesting waterfowl. Parking is free but limited (the app Lot Spot is a great way to check the parking status here and at other parks). No swimming or water crafts allowed.
Find it: 9357 W 26th Ave., Wheat Ridge
Chautauqua Loop Trail
The best part about this trail system in Boulder is it can go on as long as your group wants it too. This 3.6-mile loop is littered with sprawling meadows, towering Ponderosa pines and the base of Boulder’s Flatirons.
Check out the map online or by visiting the Ranger Cottage right at the trailhead.
Highlights: Look out for the historic Bluebell Shelter, which was built in the early 1900’s and is a great place to have a picnic.
Best for: Kids who want to run while hiking and people who want to enjoy a good hike without a lot of uphill portions or difficult trails.
Things to know: There are only 58 parking spots, so get there early to score one. Or ride your bike and secure it on of the racks at the trailhead. From Denver it takes about 30 minutes to get here by car.
Find it: The trailhead for Chautauqua Park is located right downtown in Boulder at Baseline Road and 9th St. You can also pick up the free shuttle from various spots in Boulder.
Clear Creek Trail
This hike might be more of a stroll, but since the 1.8-mile jaunt boarders the Clear Creek and is surrounded by trees, we think it counts.
Bonus, it’s one of the only trails that’s handicap accessible, so truly anyone and everyone can enjoy this Golden stop.
Highlights: Look for the cliff swallows who have built nests along the 6th Avenue bridge. Also check out the activity on the water, from kayaks to water rescue training to people riding on giant tubes down the river.
Best for: Small children, strollers and slow walkers.
Things to know: Choose between hiking into town or picking up the Grant Terry Trail and avoiding downtown Golden. Pack a picnic and/or snacks and enjoy it at one of the many parks along the trail. There’s also plenty of shade.
Find it: Park in the 6th Avenue lot right next to the Golden Visitor’s Center (1010 Washington Ave., Golden) and pick up the trailhead here.
Of all the spots mentioned, this one in Nederland is the furthest from Denver. It takes about 60 minutes to get there, and the road is full of twists and turns. But once there, Caribou Ranch is a beautiful spot for an easy hike, complete with birds, moose, chipmunks and other wild creatures roaming the area.
A lot of the 1.2-mile DeLonde Trail takes place where a railroad bed used to lie, so it’s wide, flat-ish and easy to navigate. This trail meets up with the Bluebird Loop, a 1.8-mile moderate trail that takes hikers around some historic buildings.
Highlights: Go in the fall to peep the changing leaves. Look out for moose too (from a distance), they like the low shrubs and thick foliage, was well as the small ponds that litter the area.
Best for: New walkers, those who like to take it slow, children and people recovering from an injury that want a good hike without much of a challenge.
Things to know: The spot is closed from April 1 through June 30 to protect spring migratory birds and elk calving. It opens to the public on July 1. Because of the large moose population, no dogs are allowed.
Bikes are also restricted here. There are only 25 spots in the parking lot, but parking is allowed on the south side of CR 126 when lot is full.
Find it: Caribou Road and Highway 126 in Nederland.
Bear Canyon Loop Trail
Next to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, find this sprawling 3.5-mile trail that takes hikers along the Flatirons. It’s only about 40 minutes from Denver, but feels like a whole other world once you’re out there.
The Bear Canyon Loop Trail does take a little finesse to find, and hikers will need to start on the NCAR Trail and meet up with the Table Mesa Trail before getting on the loop. This does add a bit of adventure to the hike, even while the actual jaunt isn’t too strenuous.
Highlights: Keep an eye out for mule deer who like to eat in the meadow area. This trail also offers an array of terrain from meadows to forest to mountain scapes.
Best for: Trail runners, school-age kids, those who want a hike with small challenges.
Things to know: The starting path leads to the Table Mesa Trail, which can be found by going either direction when you come to the fork in the road. The left fork is shorter and easier.
Once at the Table Mesa Trail, take turn south to find Bear Canyon Loop Trail. This area has a healthy black bear and mountain lion population, so remain alert and don’t let little kids or dogs wander far behind or in front of you.
Find it: Park in the NCAR parking lot and pick up the trail just west of building’s main entrance, at 1850 Table Mesa Dr., Boulder.
Evergreen Lake Trail
If you want a quick hike with your family and/or dog that’s not far from Denver, this 1.3-mile trek in Evergreen proves perfect. There’s a lot of wildlife around the lake to take in, including deer, elk and migratory birds. Pack a picnic and spend a little more time in the designated eating area after your hike.
Highlights: Go for a later hike to catch the sunset over the lake. Or, plan the hike so you can visit the Warming House, which houses the Nature Center that is operated by the Evergreen Audubon Society. Add another layer to the trip and rent a boat to cruise around the lake after your hike.
Best for: Kids of all ages and skill and those who want a nature walk without any physical challenges or major time commitment. Parts of the trail are handicap accessible too.
Things to know: When walking clockwise around the lake, make sure to take the high path that’s along the road. Keep in mind no one, human or pet, can swim in the lake.
Find it: Park at the Evergreen Boat House (29612 Upper Bear Creek Road, Evergreen).
Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park
Just about any out-of-town guest asks to see the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater, and this hike is a great way to see it and get some time in nature. The trail is only a 1.4-mile loop, and since most of it proves flat, it’s not too hard for those inexperienced with hiking.
The trail does get narrow in some spots, which can be difficult to maneuver when it’s busy. Want a little more? Add on the uphill trek to the amphitheater itself.
Highlights: The views found at Red Rocks can’t be beat, and the natural red rock formations make this hike stand out. Keep an eye out for red foxes and mule deer, but also rattlesnakes.
Best for: School age kids, visitors who want to hike but don’t have experience, and those looking for a somewhat challenging, but not too hard hike that’s short.
Things to know: Bring the family dog on a leash to enjoy this hike. The trail doesn’t necessarily take you to the amphitheater, but you can choose to hike up a harder trek to get there or just visit after. Keep in mind, rock climbing is illegal in the spot.
Find it: Park at the Red Rocks Trading Post (17900 Trading Post Rd., Morrison) and find the trail head right off the road.