The 5 Best Hikes in Colorado


Colorado is a hiker’s dream as there are around 17,099 distinct hiking trails in the beautiful state of Colorado. It is known for its towering mountain ranges, pristine lakes, bright wildflowers, and amazing rock formations. 

If you plan on completing a handful of hikes on your upcoming trip to Colorado, continue reading to discover a few of the most breathtaking hikes in Colorado. Which you’ll be sure to remember for the rest of your life. 

What are the 5 Best Hikes In Colorado?
1. Pawnee Buttes Trailhead
2. Fountain Valley Loop Trail
3. Hanging Lake Trail
4. Ice Lakes Basin Loop
5. Conundrum Creek Trail to Conundrum Hot Springs.


Hikes In Colorado

It’s a wise idea to plan to visit Colorado in spring or fall. When the temperatures are moderate. If you plan to hike in Colorado during the hot, summer months, plan to complete short hikes by 11 am. In order to avoid getting burnt or dehydrated. 

Believe it or not, Colorado continues to attract hikers in winter. However, it’s essential to pack clamp ons for your hiking boots, if you are tempted to visit Colorado in winter. As if you end up hiking in Colorado in winter, most of the tracks which you’ll want to explore will be icy underfoot. 

The Best Time to Visit

In order to avoid peak crowds, avoid visiting Colorado during the height of summer. Also aim to complete your chosen trails as early in the morning as possible. Most of the trails that are listed below, become crowded before lunchtime. It’s a testament to the natural beauty and popularity of all of the trails.


No matter which track you plan on completing, make sure to carry more drinking water than you think you’ll need. As if you plan on hiking in Colorado, you’ll come across steep inclines and tracks which offer little shade from the sun. 

Also make sure to apply a high SPF sunscreen, every few hours and to wear sunglasses and a hat, in order to keep your face protected from the sun’s harsh rays. 

While you’re at it, make sure to purchase and pack bug spray to decrease your chances of being bitten by pesky insects. Especially if you plan to hike near some of Colorado’s stunning lakes or rivers. As some insects such as mosquitos are drawn to water sources. 

If you plan on completing a trail that is labeled difficult, it’s also a wise idea to wear proper hiking boots, instead of sneakers and to carry a hiking pole. As you may find yourself navigating rocky, uneven or steep terrain. 

Lastly, avoid getting close to any wild animals which you may come across such as coyotes, prairie dogs and bears. 

The 5 Best Hikes in Colorado

1. Pawnee Buttes Trailhead

Pawnee Buttes Trailhead
Photo by Chris Light / CC BY-SA

Trail Length: 4.7 Miles 
Time: 1.5-2 Hours
Difficulty: Easy 
Elevation gain: 364 Feet 
What to bring: Water, sunscreen, insect repellent 
Directions: Click here

Pawnee Buttes Trailhead is perfect for all abilities and is a lot less crowded, than many of Colorado’s trails. So if you’re in need of a bit of peace and quiet, you’ll love Pawnee Buttes Trailhead. 

One of the unique aspects of this particular trail is that it is located in an area that is home to hawks and falcons. If you’re lucky, you may get to see a bird of prey, fly above your head. Some of the other animals which you may spot on your hike include deer, fox, coyote, prairie dogs, and rattlesnakes. Just be sure to stick to the trail, to avoid disturbing the rattlesnakes which are sometimes spotted in Pawnee. 

Another reason why Pawnee Buttes Trailhead is one of the best hikes in Colorado is that it boasts unique sandstone formations that are named the Pawnee Buttes. Which you’ll be able to marvel at. The Pawnee Buttes almost reach 300 feet in height and dominate their surroundings. 

Pawnee Buttes Trailhead
Photo by Jeffrey Beall / CC BY

So if you’ve heard that Colorado is known for its beautiful rock formations, it’s well worth completing Pawnee Buttes Trailhead. 

2. Fountain Valley Loop Trail

Trail Length: 4.6 Miles 
Time: 3 Hours 
Difficulty: Easy 
Elevation gain: 324 Feet 
What to bring: Water, sunscreen, insect repellent, binoculars if you’re a keen bird watcher 
Directions: Click here

Fountain Valley Loop Trail is another easy yet rewarding trail, which you’ll be able to explore on a trip to Colorado. Why is it one of the best hikes in Colorado? Fountain Valley Loop Trail is located within the Roxborough State Park, which is known for its large, red rock formations, which emerge from the park’s lush, grassy fields. 

As an additional bonus, hikers commonly rave about seeing deer, grazing in the state park’s clearings. If you have any interest in bird watching, you’re also in luck as Roxborough State Park is a premier bird-watching destination. 

If you plan on visiting Denver on your Colorado trip, Fountain Valley Loop Trail is well worth the 1-hour drive from downtown Denver to Roxborough State Park. 

3. Hanging Lake Trail

Hanging Lake Trail
Photo by John Fowler

Trail Length: 3 Miles
Time: 2 Hours
Difficulty: Moderate 
Elevation gain: 1,135 Feet 
What to bring: A valid hiking permit, hiking boots, a hiking pole, clamps for your boots if you plan to hike Hanging Lake Trail in winter 
Directions: Click here

While Hanging Lake Trail is only 3 miles long, it’s classed as a moderate hike as it features steep, difficult, backcountry terrain. So I would recommend Hanging Lake Trail to those with a reasonable level of fitness. It’s also worth using a hiking pole, in order to traverse some of the trickier downhill sections which will lead you to the trail’s picturesque lake. 

What makes Hanging Lake Trail special? Hanging Lake Trail will take you up through a wooded area, before leading you down towards the top of a majestic lake, that has small waterfalls, which pour into it. If you’re looking to visit, a spectacular, picturesque spot, that has to be seen to be believed, you’ll fall in love with the natural beauty and tranquility of Hanging Lake Trail. 

Photo by Sayamindu Dasgupta

If you’re interested in completing Hanging Lake Trail, you’ll need to apply for a hiking permit. As there is no parking available at the start of the trail. During May-October you’ll be able to catch a shuttle from the nearest car park to the start of the trail. Click here to book the permit.

4. Ice Lakes Basin Loop

Ice Lakes Basin Loop
Photo by Paxson Woelber / CC BY-SA

Trail Length: 8 Miles
Time: 2-4 Hours 
Difficulty: Difficult 
Elevation gain: 3.093 Feet 
What to bring: Hiking boots, camping gear, water, food supplies, sunscreen, insect repellent 
Directions: Click here

It’s well worth completing the Ice Lakes Basin Loop as you’ll get to view Upper Ice Lake. Which is arguably the bluest pool of water in the Rocky Mountains. There are two parts of the Ice Lakes Basin Loop, the section which explores the Lower Ice Lake and the section that will take you to the Upper Ice Lake. 

Ice Lakes Basin Loop
Photo by John Fowler

The Lower Ice Lake is simple to reach and offers beautiful purple and blue wildflowers. While you’ll have to traverse steep terrain in order to get to the Upper Ice Lake. 

However, the views are well worth the effort as the Upper Ice Lake is even more spectacular than the Lower Ice Lake and offers spectacular mountain views. However, I highly recommend hiking to the Lower Ice Lake, if your fitness is lacking or if you plan on hiking with children or seniors. 

Better yet, it’s possible to camp at the Upper Ice Lake. This is a great idea if you’re tempted to keep walking up to the summit of Grant’s Pass. To enjoy picturesque views of Upper Ice Lake as well as the surrounding mountains. Just be sure that you’re quite fit if you plan on hiking to the top of Grant’s Pass as it’s an incredibly challenging hike. 

5. Conundrum Creek Trail to Conundrum Hot Springs

Conundrum Creek Trail

Trail Length: 18 Miles
Time: 1-2 Days or 10-15 hours 
Difficulty: Difficult 
Elevation: 2,791 
What to bring: A tent and overnight supplies, a bathing suit and a towel, water, food supplies, sunscreen, insect repellent 
Directions: Click here

Not only does the Conundrum Creek Trail to Conundrum Hot Springs feature a picturesque waterfall but as its name suggests, it also offers hot, rejuvenating hot springs. In fact, you’ll be treated to two main hot pools and four smaller hot pools. 

So even if you arrive at Conundrum Hot Springs, to find that you’re not alone, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a hot spring to relax in, on your own.

In order to reach Conundrum Hot Springs, you’ll need to follow a trail that will lead you through a lush forest. Up a valley and across a scenic meadow. If you visit during Spring, expect to see plenty of beautiful wildflowers. 

As this particular hike is lengthy and is 18 miles long, you may want to camp at the hot springs. Before hiking back to your car, the next morning. If you’re keen to camp at Conundrum Hot Springs, just be sure to apply for a camping permit in advance. If you are given a permit, you’ll be allocated a designated campsite to pitch your tent on. 

As this particular hike is extremely popular during the weekends, it’s a great idea to attempt this high during the middle of the week. 

In Conclusion

Colorado is one of the U.S.A’s premier hiking destinations as it boasts awe-inspiring mountains, meadows which are full of colorful wildflowers, azure blue lakes, and unbelievable rock formations. So if you have your heart set on hiking in Colorado’s wilderness, it’s well worth completing some of the top hikes in Colorado. Some of which have been conveniently listed above. 

So what are you waiting for? If you’d love to go hiking in Colorado, it’s well worth planning an epic Colorado-based adventure.

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