frozen brainard lake with snowcapped mountains in background on hike along waldrop trail to cmc cabin

Brainard Lake CMC Cabin Hike

The CMC Cabin at Brainard Lake makes for a perfect winter snowshoe, a challenging ski in, or an easy Summer hike from the Gateway Trailhead. It's a 3-mile route in to the cabin to take in views of the beauty of Brainard Lake and surrounding snow-capped Rocky Mountains. This trail profile looks at two different 6-mile round-trip routes: a winter route via the Snowshoe Trail, and a summer route via the Waldrop Trail.

Trail Snapshot: Brainard Lake CMC Cabin Hike

Parking & Trailhead Information for Brainard Lake CMC Cabin

Both of these Winter and Summer adventures start at the Gateway Trailhead, also known as the Brainard Lake Winter Lot. I've found that guidebooks and maps get confused with the name. But from hiking here a few times, this is the most current info. The trailhead is massive, with tons of parking and year-round restroom facilities. However, parking in the Winter months can fill by around 9am on the weekends because this trail system around Brainard Lake is probably the most popular snowshoe and non-groomed cross-country skiing destination near Denver. There are no fees to park at the Gateway Trailhead. There are fees during the Summer months for going through the gate station to the lots nearer to Brainard Lake.

brainard lake gateway trailhead in winter

From Denver, take Interstate 25 North to 36 West toward Boulder. You'll drive through Boulder on 36/28th Street as it goes North, then taking a left onto Lee Hill Road. This leads west where it makes a hard bend left and climbs into the foothills. Eventually, after about 6 miles it will dead end at a junction with Lefthand Canyon Drive. Take a left onto Lefthand Canyon and get ready for a winding drive for about 10 miles. Drive carefully here and be on alert for cyclists and motorcycles. Because it's in shadow most of the day, the road can get pretty icy and packed with snow in sections during the Winter. You'll pass through the little town of Ward, Colorado, that looks a lot like an 1800's Colorado mining settlement. There is a roadside art gallery and a coffee and ice cream place. Lefthand Canyon Drive stops where it meets up with CO-72. Take a right onto CO-72, then make an almost immediate left onto Brainard Lake Road. Proceed for about 2.5 miles and you'll find the Gateway Trailhead on your right.

snowshoers on trail at beginning of snowshoe trail brainard lake colorado

The Hike: Gateway Trailhead to CMC Cabiin

Winter Snowshoe Trail to CMC Cabin

In the Winter, snowshoers will follow the Snowshoe Trail for 3 miles to the CMC Cabin. This is a Winter-only trail and dogs are prohibited. Many of the other trails in this area are Ski-only. The trails can be a bit of a maze, so I recommend printing off a trail map or having an app with you (no service, so download the map) so that you can stay oriented.

Finding the trail may be the most difficult part. Hike or snowshoe back out to the main road and head toward the gatehouse. When facing the gatehouse, the trail begins just before it on the left/south side of the road (see photo above). But why not just hike the road in, especially if it's covered with snow? The road is definitely an option and more direct route. Dogs are also allowed on the road, but the road is broad and open to wind, which can be chillng. The difference between the road and trail can be dramatic when it comes to keeping warm in the shield of the trees.

fresh snow on trail at brainard lake with evergreen trees in background of hiking trail

The trail will run past Red Rock Lake as it stays on the south side of Brainard Lake Road. This segement is about 1 mile before it turns North and merges with the road. You'll go left on the road proceeding for a short distnaceon it until you see signs on your right/north for the Snowshoe Trail. Keep your eyes peeled for signange at the next junction that will point your left/west to continue on the northern segment of the Snowshoe Trail.

The trail will eventually emerge back out onto the road crossing the bridge over Mitchell Creek. Here is where you'll be able to take in views of Brainard Lake and the snow-covered mountains of Indian Peaks. Look for signage tht will point you to the last segment of the Snowshoe Trail which will be on your right/north. This final trail segment will take you to the CMC Cabin. In the Winter months, the cabin is availabe as a warming hut to thaw out your cold toes and spend time getting refreshed before snowshing the 3 miles back to your car.

colorado mountain club cabin at brainard lake near ward colorado

Summer Waldrop Trail to CMC Cabin

This next route can be taken in the Summer as a hike. In the Winter months, it's a ski-only trail, and quite demanding. If you plan on cross-country skiing this, it's not for beginners and you probably should have a backcountry cross-country ski so that you have a wider base to allow you to navigate all the ups and downs. In the Spring, their will likely still be a lot of snow on the trail, but in the Summer, this Waldrop route to the CMC cabin is a nice easy to moderate hike.

beginning of waldrop trail at brainard lake snow on ground and cross country skier in background

To pick up the Waldrop Trail, hike or ski out to Brainard Lake Road, follow the to the Gatehouse entrance area. You willfind signage for the Waldrop Trail on the right side of the road after passing the gatehouse and before Red Rock Lakes. The trail first heads almost directly North before bending back to the west through dense forest.

After about 2 miles, you'll encounter an open area with a junction with several other trails. This will point you to continue on the Waldrop Trail and notes that it's 1/2 mile to the South St. Vrain Trail.

brainard lake waldrop trail signage with snow on ground and evergreen trees in background

Hike or Ski this 1/2 mile segment on the Waldrop until it intersects with the South St. Vrain Trail, then go left/west onto the South St. Vrain Trail. This final segment will bend south toward the lake and the cabin. Follow the signs to the cabin. If you are skiing in, then warm up at the CMC Cabin. If it's Summer, you have a lot of return options, so check out the Brainard Lake Summer Trail Map to decide your route. If hiking back the way you came in, this makes for a total distance of about 6 miles.

view of indian peaks mountains from waldrop trail at brainard lake colorado

tshirt in blue midnight heather color with flatirons and words wear authentic colorado threads shop our store overlay text on image

Tips & Resources for Hiking at Brainard Lake

  • CMC Cabin: The CMC cabin can be reserved for overnights. See details on the CMC Boulder page for the Brainard Cabin.
  • Time: Winter travel can take longer than the usual 2 miles per hour hiking speed, so plan on it taking longer than usual..
  • Winter Conditions: Weather can change in an instant at this altitude in the mountains and this can be especially deceptive during the Fall and Spring months when its warmer. Be sure to pack and dress for extreme winter conditions. Check the weather and keep an eye on the sky.
  • Winter Trail Ettiquette: On multi-use trails where you see ski tracks, avoid snowshoing or hiking over top of the ski tracks. Instead, hike to the side to preserve these tracks for skiers. It makes a big difference for them. Allow skiers traveling downhill the right of way.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Laura Scudder for sharing her photo of the Brainard Lake CMC Cabin.
  • After the Hike: Woodfired Pizza at Crosscut Pizza and Taphouse in Nederland

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south mesa trail hike with ponderosa pines in foreground and flatirons mountains in background near boulder colorado

Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon Creek

The Mesa Trail south of Boulder, Colorado, rambles across wild open country at the base of the iconic Flatirons. Hike a 4.1 mile loop or an 8.4 mile out-and-back option through pine woods, verdant creek draws, and flowering meadows. Explore the full Mesa Trail profile for this southern segment of one of our favorite dog-friendly hikes near Denver.

Trail Snapshot: Mesa Trail South

south mesa trailhead near boulder

Parking & Trailhead Information for the South Mesa Trailhead

Access to South Mesa is from the South Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive just South of Boulder. From Denver, drive North on interstate 25 to 36 toward Boulder. Take the McCaslin Blvd exit and then go south/west onto McCaslin. At the intersection of McCaslin and Marshall, take a right onto Marshall Road. Marshall will intersect with Eldorado Springs Drive. Here, take a left onto Eldorado Springs Drive. About two miles down the road, you’ll find the South Mesa Trailhead on your right. The South Mesa Trailhead is a part of the Boulder County Open Space and requires a daily parking fee, or an annual pass. I went online and bought an annual parking pass through the Open Space website. This gives you access to all the southern fee parking areas as well as the parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. There are restrooms at the trailhead.

Alternatively, you can park at NCAR and hike south to the South Mesa Trailhead. If you want to hike this one-way without a return, you can park a car at NCAR or the South Mesa Trailhead. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Trailhead is located about 40 minutes North of Denver. From Denver, follow U.S. Route 36 to Boulder. Take the exit for Table Mesa Drive and follow it west. It will wind through a neighborhood to the end as it winds through the neighborhood and past Bear Creek Elementary School. The road will turn into the Drive for NCAR which winds up and around to a large parking area at the lab.

south boulder creek at south mesa trailhead flowing under bridge and tunnel of willow trees

Waypoints and Hike Options for the South Mesa Hike

  • South Mesa Trailhead to NCAR Trailhead 4.7 Miles - One-Way
  • South Mesa Trailhead to Bear Canyon Creek and Back - 8.4 Miles
  • South Mesa to Bluestem Loop 4.1 Miles - One-Way
  • South Mesa to Chautauqua Park 6.75 Miles - One-Way

The Hike: Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon Creek

From the South Mesa Trailhead just East of Eldorado Springs, this hike begins along the banks of Boulder Creek (pictured above). Cross the bridge and pause to take in the willow trees bending over the creek and creating a tunnel of green above the silver waters. You'll cross another footbridge and emerge onto a broad trail. Soon, you'll come to the first trail junction with the Towhee and Homestead Trails. The Towhee cuts off a bit of distance and will take you back to the Mesa Trail, or just keep following the signs for the Mesa Trail as it wraps around to the west. Either way, the trails will both merge back onto the main Mesa Trail.

The Homestead trail heads west to Shadow Canyon and takes hikers up toward South Boulder and Bear Peaks. Both are more challenging hikes and provide incredible views out to the plains and west to snowcapped peaks.

trail signs for mesa trail

This area of the South Mesa has a lot of side trails and options, so the most important thing to keep in mind is that the Mesa Trail, over its course runs north/south all the way up to Chautauqua Park.

Before you hike, be sure to review the map to get a feel for the area. The trails weave round, so it's easy to just meander around and take in the meadows and surrounding peaks. The trails are all well-marked, so when in doubt, just look for signs indicating the Mesa Trail and continue hiking north (with the foothills on your left). There are a lot of options for shorter hikes, but we will detail the journey up the Bear Creek Canyon and back.

view from mesa trail of sunlit eldorado canyno during morning hike along mesa trail

Early on, you'll gain a great view down into the entrance to Eldorado Canyon. The morning light brings out the pink granite of this range of sharp and angular foothill rock.

The Mesa trail then heads west and up along a gentle slope, then bends north to run parallel with the eastern flanks of the Flatiron range. Along the foothills to the left, you'll see Devils Thumb and the summit of Bear Peak.

As the Mesa Trail continues north, open sky gives way to the shade and scents of ponderosa pine trees then opens back to meadows again. In the Spring, wildflowers push up through the meadow grasses and unique fuana thrives in the unique zone where the foothills of the Front range meet the meadows. It feels humind in verdant creeks draws and dry when you emerge back onto the open Mesa.

Bear Peak in background and meadow in foreground along mesa trail near boulder colorado

If you would like to shorten your hike and make this into a loop hike, at around mile 2, you can take the Bluestem Trail back toward the trailhead. Otherwise, continue north on the Mesa Trail.

This is one of our favorite dog-friendly hikes near Boulder, and it's quite popular with dog owners on the weekends. In fact, just south of the intersection with the Bluestem, just shy of mile 2, there is a spring you'll find a small spring. It's a great place for your pup to get a drink to refuel for the rest of the hike. These trails also allow you to hike with your dog off-leash, if you've taken the Voice and Sight class and have a current Voice and Sight tag issued by Boulder county. You can get more info on this at the Boulder County Open Space site.

south mesa trail winding through meadow and pines at the base of bear peak

The trail will go up and down through several draws, then eventually cross Bear Creek. Here you are about a mile from the NCAR parking lot. If you've parked a car at NCAR, you can then shuttle back for your other vehicle, making this a 4.7 mile hike.

Bear Creek is the turn around point for this trail profile, making it an 8.4 mile out-and-back journey. However, if you want to add a cave to your adventure, continue north, then west for about 1.2 miles following the signs to Mallory Cave. If you have your dog with you, I would not recommend this extra jaunt as the terrain is rocky and steep.

south mesa trail hike with ponderosa pines in foreground and flatirons mountains in background near boulder colorado

Return south on the Mesa Trail and take the Bluestem Trail to cut off a bit of extra hiking.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Mesa Trail

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view to pikes peak from eagle view outlook at reynolds park near conifer colorado

Eagles View Hike in Reynolds Park

The Eagles View Loop hike in Reynolds Park is a 4-mile, moderate, loop trail to a scenic outlook. The trail ascends through meadows and ponderosa pine forest to views of Pikes Peak and the sawtooth spires and peaks of the Rampart Range. Explore the full Reynolds Park Eagle View Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Conifer, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Reynolds Park Eagle View Loop

reynolds park trailhead in winter near conifer colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Reynolds Park

I really enjoy the drive into Reynolds Park, particularly for the last stretch descending to the trailhead. The trailhead is about 50 minutes from downtown Denver. From Denver, take 285 South to Conifer, Colorado taking the Kennedy Gulch exit. At the exit, you'll take a left onto Kennedy Gulch Road, which will go under the 285 overpass. At the next stop sign, you'll see a red barn in front of you and an entrance to 285 on your right. Here, you'll take a left onto Foxton Road. This is where that beautiful stretch of road begins. Drive for about 5 miles and the Reynolds Park parking area will be on your right. The parking area can hold about 45 vehicles. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and grills at the trailhead.

The Hike: Eagles View Loop at Reynolds Park

view toward eastern foothills along eagle view loop at eagle view outlook at reynolds park near conifer colorado

This loop hike gives hikers the most extensive exploration of the larger West side of Reynolds park. Begin by taking the main trail found on the south end of the parking lot (near the restrooms). It's wider than the other trails. At the first junction, take a right onto the Elkhorn Trail. This will lead through a mix of wooded areas and meadow.

trail for eagles view loop with signs and snow on ground at reynolds park colorado

Hikers will travel about 0.3 mile on this segment of the Elkhorn Trail until it intersects with the Ravens Roost Trail. Here, take the Ravens Roost trail which is more steep, ascending for 0.6 of a mile up to the next junction with the Eagles View Trail. Both the Ravens Roost and Eagles View trails are Hiker and Equestrian Only (no bikes, but dogs are allowed). You'll travel through stands of ponderosa pine. Look for Clarks Nutcracker and Stellar Jays as you hike. At the junction, the Eagles View Trail will bear to the right (pictured below).

eagles view trail signs at reynolds park near conifer winter hike
The trail will eventually open up to panoramic views, with the Eagles View scenic viewpoint being the best.

At the viewpoint, there are expansive views of the Rampart Range, and pikes Peak to the South. The Rampart Range is a low mountain range that stretches from south of Denver to Colorado Springs. The range is characterized by scraggy granite peaks jutting out of green forested foothills. At sunrise the granite rock formations light up orange and pink, and look like a series of castles or the rampart wall of a giant ancient fortress. My favorite view of the Rampart Range is from the Devils Head trail and from the Fire Lookout Tower up on Devils Head. It's the tallest peak in the range with an elevation of 9632 feet.

view from the eagles view scenic viewpoint along eagles view loop hike at reynolds park hike near Conifer Colorado

eagle view outlook in reynolds park near conifer colorado with views toward cathedral spires and pikes peak in the south with pine trees in the foreground

From the scenic point at Eagles View, the trail begins to descend and wind its way north. Pause on this segment to take in the views into the valley below and out to the distant plains in the East.

dirt trail on east side of Eagles view trail in Reynolds Park near Conifer Colorado

Eventually, the trail will come to another juncture with the Ravens Roost (south segment) and the Oxen Draw Trail. Both are options back to the Trailhead. Taking the Ravens Roost trail makes for a longer 4.4 miles total. Taking the Oxen Draw trail will make your total trip around 4 miles.

snowy trail junction of oxen draw and ravens roost trail with signage alongside trail at reynolds park near conifer colorado

When I hikes this in the Winter, the Oxen Draw Trail got quite icy from a recent thaw and freeze. I'm assuming this is pretty normal for this shaded area of the park during the cold months. I wish I had brought my traction devices because the trail had some steep and sketchy, ice-coated segments. I had my trekking poles, and they helped, but it was difficult to navigate.

icy trail along oxen draw trail at reynolds park near conifer colorado

You may notice that I've marked this as a dog-friendly hike. Most of the year that's true, but these icy segments of the Oxen Draw Trail in the Winter may not be the best for your best friend. Overall, though this hike has proven to be one of the lesser traveled trails near Denver--especially on a weekday. Be sure to watch the video below to get a feel for the hike.

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking at Reynolds Park in Jefferson County

  • Trekking Poles and Traction: If you are hiking in the Winter or Spring, the this trail (as you can see from the photos above) can get icy and muddy. Trekking Poles and Traction Devices are recommended for these seasons. I'm a huge fan of trekking poles because they take so much impact off the knees when hiking and backpacking, and they allow us to navigate more demanding terrain. Check out Trekking Pole options at REI.
  • Camping: There are 5 tent camping areas on the East end of Reynolds Park that require only a short hike in and make for a good way to introduce your kids or family to a weekend camping trip without having to travel far from Denver. You can reserve a campsite at the Idylease Campground at the Jefferson County Parks Reservations Page. The campground is just a 1/2 mile hike in and has restrooms--but no drinking water--available at the site.
  • Trail Map: Reynolds Park in Jefferson County Park Map
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Scooters Smokehouse BBQ

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Hike at Red Rock Open Space in Colorado Springs looking North across meadow to Garden of the Gods in the distnce

Red Rock Canyon Hikes

Red Rock Canyon Open Space features miles of easy hiking trails just a few miles west of Colorado Springs with views of Pikes Peak to the West and Garden of the Gods to the North. The park has two off-leash dog trails and most other trails are accessible to and shared by hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. Check out the full Red Rock Canyon Open Space hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more five different hike options to explore at this park near Colorado Springs.

Trail Snapshot: Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Parking & Trailhead Information for Red Rock Canyon Open Space

From Denver, take Interstate 25 south to Colorado Springs, taking the Cimarron St/24 West. Proceed about 3 miles West on Cimarron/24 and take a left onto Ridge Road. At the roundabout, take a left (by going around 3/4 of the roundabout). The parking lot and trailhead for Red Rock Canyon will be on your right.

From the trailhead hikers can pick up two of the main trail arteries, the Mesa Trail that works its way through the middle of the park, and the Red Rock Canyon Trail, which runs along the east side. Both lead toward the most popular destination, the quarry.

trail leading to old quarry at red rock canyon open space in colorado springs

5 Hike Options in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

    • The Dog Loops: 1/2 and 1 mile

The upper dog loop is an approximately one-mile curcuit, while the lower is about 1/2mile. Both are great options for a quick walk with the dog after work in a space set aside for off-leash exercise and play. You'll find these two off-leash dog trails immediately South of the parking lot.

quarry pond in foreground and red rock formations on snowy afternoon with pikes peak in background on hike at red rock canyon open space in colorado springs

    • Contemplative-Sand Canyon Loop: 1.75 miles

This short loop hike offers more peace and quite because it's tucked away along some of the red rock formations, and the Contemplative Trail segment is designated a hiker-only trail. Pick up the Contemplative trail by starting at the Sand Canyon Trail (West end of the parking lot). This will lead to the Contemplative Trail. You can hike the Contemplative Trail out-and-back, but hikers also have a loop option by joining back up with the Sand Canyon Trail and taking it back to the parking lot.

ruins of old quarry at red rock canyon open space on hike in colorado springs

    • The Quarry Loop: 2 Miles

The most interesting destination in Red Rock Canyon is the old Quarry. If you've been in downtown Denver or Colorado Springs, you've probably seen old houses and buildings built with Red Rock cut from quarries like this one. One 2-mile loop option starts by taking the Red Rock Canyon trail to the east side of the Quarry (pick this trail up from the East end of the parking lot). This will run along to the back side of the quarry where you can take the old miner's steps up the side of the red rock. Once up and over, take the Quarry Pass Trail to the Mesa Trail, and hike the Mesa Trail North back to the parking area.

quarry steps at red rock open space on hike in colorado springs

    • Hogback Valley-Lion Loop: 3.3 Miles

Starting at the east parking lot, pick up the Lower Hogback Tail. The trail will lead up to the Red Rock Rim Trail, then the Hogback Valley Trail taking you into a mesa of meadows with views into Colorado Springs and of Pikes Peak. Take a trail map with you as several trails will tie in together. Connect with the Lion Trail (the upper Codell Trail is more demanding, so be aware of this if choosing that option). Taking the Lion Trail North (right), it will lead back towards the parking area.
dirt trail leading toward foothills south of red rock open space on hike in colorado springs

    • Mesa-Greenlee Loop: 3 Miles

This is probably the best hike in the park because it takes hikers through the heart of Red Rock Canyon along the gentle ridge of mesa where you can take in expansive views up to Pikes Peak and out to Garden of the Gods. Start at the Mesa Trail, taking it to the Southern end of the park where it connects with the Greenlee Trail. Return North via the Greenlee Trail to make this a 3 mile loop hike.

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Tips & Resources for Hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space

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crags hike spires of pink granite with snowcapped mountains in background and pine trees in foreground

Crags Hike Near Colorado Springs

The Crags Trail takes hikers up a 2-mile gradual hike to the the dramatic granite pinnacles on the shoulders of Pikes Peak to take in views of snowcapped peaks. A shaded creekside hike great for families and out-of-town guests, the Crags shows off summer wildflowers in mountain meadows. Explore the full Crags hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Pikes Peak region.

Trail Snapshot: The Crags near Colorado Springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for The Crags

From Denver, you can get to the Crags by driving a direct route via I25 and HWY 24 or you can take a more Scenic Route through the foothills on 67.

The Direct Route

Take interstate 25 south to Colorado Springs, exit at 141 onto US 24 West. You'll drive for about 25 miles into the mountains and through the small town of Divide. Turn left/south onto Hwy 67. Signs should point the way to Mueller State park, which is also on this stretch of road. Just after the entrance to Mueller (on the left), the road you need for the Crags is on the left, CO RD 62. Taking a left onto 62, and drive for about 3 miles. The parking area for the Crags will be on the right side of the road and the trail will start on the left side of the road. Note that this last segment of road is improved dirt road, so the quality of the drive will depend on the current conditions, and may require 4WD in the Winter months.

The Scenic Route

From Denver, take Hwy 285 South toward Pine Junction. Take a left onto Pine Valley road. Here your journey becomes scenic and the roads curvy. Pay close attention while driving and be prepared for the drive to take longer than the 2 hours and 15 minutes posted by mapping software. You'll have some beautiful segments in here, especially the drive along the South Platte River. Cell service is spotty out here, so I always recommend having on hand the Colorado Gazetteer Map printed by DeLorme. The Road changes names to Deckers Road when it passes through the Buffalo Creek area. Eventually, it Deckers road will weave its way down into Deckers. There is a small restaurant here where we've stopped for ice cream. In Deckers, you'll continue straight (south) on 67, passing through Westcreek, until it ends at a stoplight in Woodland Park. Go right at the light, West on 24, until you come again to Hwy 67 just outside of Divide. Then follow the directions above on 67 to the Crags Trailhead.

The Hike: The Crags

This is my favorite hike in the Pikes Peak Region because it's relatively easy, shows off a variety of landscapes, and has incredible views at the top. The trail starts off at the end of the Crags Campground loop and follows the drainage of Fourmile creek. Early on, hikers will come to a fork in the trail. The left-side branch is a more demanding hike, gaining elevation more quickly and has less shade. This trail profile will follow the right-branch, which is more gradual and offers more shade than the left branch. The left branch and right branch can be connected via a scramble at the top to form a loop trail. If taking this route, be aware of the conditions (snow and ice accumulate October through June). Scrambling is fun, but it's also easy to find yourself in a difficult and dangerous circumstance.

trail at sunset at the crags near colorado springs hike with purple clouds and evergreen trees in background

Taking the right branch, the trail will follow alongside Fourmile creek through evergreens and aspens until it opens out into a broad valley surrounded by orange and pink granite cliffs. Wildflowers, like the Indian Paintbrush, bloom in these meadows during the summer months. An interesting fact about Indian Paintbrush: the "flowers" are actually its leaves and there are oranges, reds, and even yellow types of this plant in Colorado.

indian paintbrush red wildflowers on the crags trail hike near colorado springs

In the valley, the trail will come to another fork. The main route goes straight up a gradual ascent to the crags and the right-branch is more steep, leading to another vista point. Continuing on the main route, the trail makes its way up gentle slopes, the grassy terrain giving way to cubic granite rock.

trail along the crags hike near colorado springs with hiker and dog below on trail and sunlit rock formation above cliffs in top of photo

The pink and orange granite pinnacles come into view and the ground eventually opens up to a broad area where hikers gain views of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains in the south, of Pikes Peak, and Mueller State Park. This hike is great for families, but do keep a close eye on children as the rock gives way to steep segments of cliffs at the edges.

crags rock formations of pink granite on crags trail near colorado springs

I'm not sure what the locals have named this formation pictured below, but I think of it as the Twin Bears, because it looks like a couple bears sitting on their haunches taking in the views.

twin bears rock formation at the crags hike near colorado springs

I considered grading this an easy hike because the trail is so gradual, the total elevation gain is under 1000 feet. However, those who are hiking with kids or out-of-town guests, should consider it more moderate because it's almost 5 miles total and does gain 800 feet. It makes for a perfect picnic hike with friends.

hiker looking toward mountains on rock formation at crags trail near colorado springs

If hiking in the later hours of the day, it's important to know that because most of the hike is in the folds of the mountain, it gets dark quickly. I always pack my headlamp, but it's especially relevant if you are hiking during these hours.

rock pinnacles at the crags hike near colorado springs pink and orange granite with evergreen trees in foreground

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

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view across st marys lake near denver to snowcapped mountains and glacier

November Hikes

Where are the best places to hike near Denver in November?

November hiking on the Front Range of Colorado can be cold and snowy or 70 degrees and sunny. It can feel like the continuation of Fall or the depths of winter. And so much depend on where you want to hike. Travel an hour West into the mountains, and it's like you've been transported into a different country--because you have. So, you can see the answer to "Where do I hike this weekend?" in November depends a lot on location and the weather forecast.

Because of this, I think in terms of hike purpose: A) Just Enjoying the Outdoors or B) Adventure. If your goal is to hike alongside a friend and enjoy the beauty of Colorado, or get the dog out for a long walk, then you're probably staying within about 45 minutes of Denver. If you're looking for some adventure, you're driving further and stepping into a whole different and sometimes higher risk landscape. In the rest of this post, I'll recommend a series of trails in both categories.

Just Enjoying the Outdoors

In November, there are three go-to places I'd recommend hiking that are closer in to the Denver metro area and have a lot of options.

  • Hikes in Staunton State Park:

  • Less than an hour from Denver, this newest of our State Parks has miles upon miles of sunny trails. If you want sun and a great hike with your dog, Staunton is a great go-to. The Staunton Ranch Trail runs right through the middle of the park through ponderosa pines and with great views of Staunton Rocks to the North. Our kids loved hiking the loop hike to Davis Ponds. And for those of you looking for a longer more demanding hike, check out our hike profile for Elk Falls overlook. A CO State Parks pass is required. See the hike profiles above for details.

    morning light on flatirons mountains near boulder taken from ncar on bear canyon loop hike
    Flatirons at the entrance of Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado

  • Hikes in Chautauqua Park in Boulder:

  • I love hiking Chautauqua Park because it's right down in the city of Boulder and the park provides access to all kinds of hiking options. Like Staunton, dogs are allowed in most areas of the park. You can grab good coffee or lunch after an early morning hike, or enjoy a sunset at places like Realization Point. My favorite is the hike up to the alcove behind the First and Second Flatiron. The trail to Royal Arch is a local favorite. If you are looking for something less demanding, consider Shanahan Ridge or the Enchanted Mesa Loop. There are a labyrinth of trails, so you can always just grab a map and explore. Remember, the sun goes down early and fast behind the mountains, so plan out your return. When hiking during these winter months, I always pack the 10 Essentials, my down coat, and have my headlamp in the top of my pack. Sign up for our Trail Dispatch email and get a download of our recommended packing list, trail meals ideas, and more hike recommendations.

  • St. Mary's Glacier Trail:

  • St. Mary's Glacier is a favorite destination year round. The photo at the top of this post is of St. Mary's Lake and you can see the glacier, complete with ski trail marks, on the glacier just above the lake. It's just a 1.7 mile round-trip hike, but don't let the short distance deceive you. You're back in the high country of Colorado and weather conditions can change super fast. So, be prepared. Get to the trailhead early on the weekends, and by early, I mean before 7AM, and have cash for the parking fee. See our St. Mary's Glacier trail profile for more details.

    meadows and ponderosa pine along mesa trail in the south mesa area of the flatirons south of boulder colorado with the flatirons in the background
    Along the Mesa Trail South of Boulder, Colorado

  • Just South of Boulder:

  • I love the Marshal Mesa area on the South end of the Flatirons. The Marshall Mesa trail runs along the base of the flatirons below Bear Peak and offers some beautiful scenery without the demand of steep grades. The parking area is along the same road that leads into Eldorado Canyon, which is another wonderful place to visit this time of year. The trails in the Canyon because of the topography are going to have snow and mud patches, so bring your trekking poles or pack some traction devices for your backpack. See our Eldorado Canyon hikes page for several trails to explore.

    The Walker Ranch Loop, or just the top end of it at Eldorado Falls, is a great option for hiking with the dog and friends. The loop is longer and more demanding, but a wonderful way to spend the day with a companion just talking and taking in the beauty of Colorado. North from the Marshall Mesa Traihead along 93 is the Flatirons Vista Trailhead. We have profiled a 1.9-mile and 3.3 mile set of loop hikes that give you the grand views of the Flatirons on these broad rolling meadows of this area North of Denver.

    A CO State Parks pass is required for Eldorado Canyon and there are access fees at the Marshall Mesa and Flatirons Vista Trailheads. See the hike profiles above for details.

More Adventurous Hikes

If you are looking for a more demanding workout and possibly some peak-top views or destination hikes, then here are a few trails I'd recommend for this time of year. Before taking off into the woods though, be sure to review our 10 Winter Hiking tips. Safety and smarts are always important--they are critical during these Winter months however because of the cold and the unpredictable weather.

views from carpenter peak in roxborough state park colorado granti boulders evergreen trees on mountains and blue skies with cirrus clouds moderate hike near denver
View from the peak of Carpenter Peak

  • Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park:

    This is a great 6.2 mile, out-and-back trail South of Littleton, Colorado. I like this trail because you get views to the West of the Front Range, and you get to look down on the beauty of Roxborough State Park and it's gigantic fins of red rock. The only drawback is that dogs are not allowed in the park.

  • Windy Peak in Golden Gate Canyon State Park:

  • You can bring your dog on this one. The hike up to Windy Peak is a 6.4 mile loop hike to views out to the snow-capped peaks in the West. There are lot of other hike options in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, so check out our trails page for the park for more ideas.

    Hiker on summit of bear peak near boulder colorado
    Hiker at the top of Bear Peak

  • South Boulder and Bear Peaks:

  • These two hikes are more demanding and can be made into a 9-mile loop hike where you bag both peaks on the same hike. Bear Peak has a little knife edge that requires a few moments of hand-over-hand, and the summit of South Boulder Peak requires a bit of scrambling, but most of the hike is moderate. Bring plenty of water as you'll need it.

    ouzel falls waterfall in background with cascades in foreground in rocky mountain national park
    Ouzel Falls in the Wild Basin of RMNP

  • Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • This shoulder season can be a perfect time to visit RMNP because the crowds have subsided. Be ready for muddy trails and snow, but on those sunny warm weekends, the Wild Basin and Bear Lake areas will be quiet escapes from the city. I'd recommend giving the RMNP ranger offices a call to get a feel for the weather or checking out the RMNP Trail Conditions page Traction devices and trekking poles will make your hike in these winter conditions way more enjoyable. I'd recommend checking Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls in the Wild Basin area. The trailhead changes in winter months for the Wild Basin, so be sure to add the additional mileage to your hike because you'll be starting from the Winter Trailhead. In the Bear Lake and Moraine Park area, I'd recommend Fern Falls, an easier hike to Alberta Falls or Emerald Lake, and the more demanding hike up to The Loch.

boulder falls waterfall near boulder colorado pouring through canyon into creek below with grey rock cliffs

Waterfall Hikes in November

The best time of year to explore the waterfalls near Denver is during the early Summer months of May, June, and July. However, the waterfalls wills surge over sheets of ice during those warm days following a good snow. It's going to be pretty hit or miss, but if you are looking for a waterfall hike near Denver during these early winter months, I'd recommend a few.

  • Boulder Falls:

  • Right off of the road, so really no hike at all. This is a great year-round waterfall just 50 minutes North of Denver. Pictured above.

  • Elk Falls:

  • A longer hike in Staunton State Park to the tallest waterfall near Denver.

  • Alberta Falls:

  • A short 1.6 mile hike from Bear lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.


lost lake near nederland colorado with indian peaks mountains in background

Lost Lake Hike Near Nederland

Lost Lake is an accessible 4-mile (approximate) hike to a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by the mountains of Indian Peaks. Just over one hour northwest of Denver, the trail up to lost lake takes you along the course of Middle Boulder creek, a slide waterfall, a set of tumbling cascades, and a variety of wildflowers that decorate the borders of the trail, the creeksides, and the small meadows that open up along the trail. In the winter months, the trail up to Lost Lake makes for a good snowshoeing route and cross-country trail. trail (though it's a bit steep on the way up

While we categorize Lost Lake as a family-friendly hike and a great trail to take in the changing colors of Fall, it's important to know that the hike is uphill and demanding up to its destination. Explore the full Lost Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Trail Snapshot: Lost Lake Trail near Nederland, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Lost Lake Hike

Parking is very limited at the Hessie Trailhead, so be sure to take some time to review these details before departing for your hike. Because the Hessie trailhead is one of the most popular in the state, Boulder County offers a shuttle that runs from Nederland every 15-20 minutes on weekends during the Summer months and on some holidays. For full details on the Hessie Trailhead Shuttle, please see the Boulder County page for the shuttle service. This shuttle departs from the RTD Park-n-Ride in Nederland.

Directions to Hessie Trailhead

At the roundabout in Nederland, Colorado, drive south onto CO-119/South Bridge St. Take a right onto Eldora Road which will take you to Elodora Colorado. The road continues through Eldora, and changes to Eldorado Road. It proceeds out of town and changes its name to Hessie Road. About 3/4 of a mile outside of Eldora, the road will split, 4th of July Road goes to the right, and Hessie will turn to the left. The 2WD Hessie Trailhead Parking area is at this split. Do not park alongside the road, as you will likely be fined. If the parking area is full, then go back to Nederland for the shuttle (weekends and holidays). There is parking for 4WD vehicles further up the dirt road and closer to the beginning of the official trail. It's important to know that rains can quickly flood this segment of Hessie Road.

The Hike: Lost Lake Trail

If taking the shuttle, it will drop you off at the 2WD parking area. From here, hikers will follow a trail for that runs along the north side of the 4WD dirt road. The trail runs past a small pond and will keep to the right-side of the 4WD Hessie Trailhead road until it arrives at the official trailhead. Keep your eyes peeled for Moose who frequent these waterlogged meadows along this lowland segment of the trail. At approximately 1/2 mile from the shuttle drop, a sign marks the site of the old mining town of Hessie, Colorado.

old four wheel drive road and trail with sign marking former town site of Hessie Colorado

Soon, the trail will cross the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek via a footbridge and a large sign will map and describe the several trails and destinations that can be accessed from this point. Hikers will continue on this old mining road as it leads uphill towards both Lost Lake and the intersection for the trails that lead to Devil's Thumb Lake, Jasper Lake, Woodland Lake, King Lake, and Bob and Betty Lakes. This trail profile will describe the route to Lost Lake only.

The next 1.2 miles climbs by way of switchbacks over rocky and steep terrain. Wildflowers pepper the trailsides and the riparian zone along Middle Boulder Creek. At the first trail intersection (Devils Thumb and Devils Thumb Bypass Trails), a sign will mark the way to Lost Lake and give distances and point the direction to the other destinations. Here the trail to Lost Lake will go left and cross another footbridge. Soon, a waterfall and set of cascades will come into view. The trail will make its way to a second intersection and sign. Here, the trail for Lost Lake departs, once again, to the left.

waterfall through rocks of middle boulder creek near lost lake in indian peaks wilderness

From this point, Lost Lake is just 1/2 mile away. It's a steep segment but worth the views when you arrive. At Lost Lake, hikers can explore the outside circuit of its shores (this will add both time and distance to the hike). Return via the same trails.

blue rippled lake with evergreens and mountains with blue and clouded sky at lost lake indian peaks wilderness colorado

Related Hikes

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Lost Lake Trail

  • TIP: Parking is very limited at the trailhead, so try to arrive before 7am. Review trailhead information above for seasonal weekend and holiday shuttle from Nederland.
  • CAMPING: Camping is allowed by permit only and in designated spots. See the Indian Peaks Alliance page for details.
  • USFS Indian Peaks: Camping is allowed by permit only and in designated spots. See the Indian Peaks USFS Page page for details.
  • TIP: The trail is rocky so it would be a good idea to bring trekking poles.
  • Trail Map for Lost Lake Trail: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Tim and Brad Fagan and Eric Frazier for sharing photographs of this hike on Lost Lake.
  • After the Hike: Sundance Cafe, Nederland

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herman gulch hike near idaho springs header

Herman Gulch to Herman Lake Hike

The Herman Gulch Trail is one of the best summer wildflower hikes near Denver. It's also a challenging winter snowshoe and is often used for cross-country skiing. The Herman Gulch Trail is a 2.5 mile (one-way), out-and-back adventure into snowcapped mountain country and provides access to many more trails in Arapaho National Forest. Explore the full Herman Gulch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Herman Gulch Hike, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Herman Gulch

The Herman Gulch Trailhead is located about 20 miles west of Idaho Springs via I-70. From Denver, it's about a 60-minute drive but can take around 1.5 hours in winter ski traffic. The trailhead is located right off Exit 218 by taking a right onto Watrous Way. There are restrooms available at the trailhead. As with all trailheads, but especially those right off the interstate, be sure that your valuables are out of site and locked up. The trail is located in the middle of the parking area, just to the left of the restroom.

herman gulch hike trail

The Hike: Herman Gulch to Herman Lake

From the parking lot, the initial trail segment is steep. But be encouraged, while it's not an easy hike, the trail becomes more gradual as it gains elevation into the widening valley of Herman Gulch. At the trail intersection early in the hike, the trail to Herman Gulch will bear to the left, and a trail that leads to Waterous Gulch will lead to the right. Staying on the Herman Gulch Trail, it will weave in and out of the trees into small meadows with Herman Creek and many meltwater rivulets cascading across the landscape.

Winter may not release its grip on Herman Gulch until mid-summer. For example, all the photos in this trail profile were taken during the first week of June, so prepare for the snow to get increasingly deeper as you progress further on the trail. For this reason, we recommend trekking poles and traction devices for your boots. Also, be aware that at this elevation, thunderstorms often come up quickly on Summer afternoons, bringing dangerous lightning, especially in the open areas of the higher elevations. For this reason, and in order to avoid crowds, it's wise to begin your hike early in the day.

herman gulch hike near idaho springs winter trail

The trail eventually emerges from the trees into a broad alpine landscape where a series of rock cairns leads the way to Herman Lake. This final segment is steep and demanding. The lake is located in a wide bowl beneath the lofty reaches of Pettingell Peak. The lake may be snow-covered through much of June, depending on late-season snowfall. In the early and mid-summer, a series of small meltwater cascades make their way down along the western mountainside into the lake. Be sure to stay the trail as you will be in a fragile alpine ecosystem.

Hiking Herman Gulch in the Winter

Herman Gulch is also a popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destination. December to March offer the best snowpack for these activities. It's a very different experience when snow has piled up in Herman Gulch and it's even more critical that those venturing into this area have packed their 10 essentials and are dressed appropriately. There are two avalanche chutes on the right-hand side of the trail about 1 mile into the hike that hikers should keep in mind (see ORIC winter map). During this season, do not go above treeline into the higher reaches as these are very much prone to avalanches. It's also important to bear in mind that snowstorms can come up very quickly, even in Spring and Fall, reducing and even eliminating visibility. So be aware and be prepared. Snowshoeing travel speeds are about 1 mile per hour, depending on the person, which is half of hiking speeds. Adjust your travel times accordingly and for early darkness of winter.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Herman Gulch Hike

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red rock tower in snow at roxborough state park in colorado best winter hikes near denver

Top 10 Winter Hikes Near Denver

Where are the best places to hike in the winter months near Denver? Snow-covered trails and blue skies that seem to stretch into forever, that's winter hiking in Colorado. Winter sets in from November through most of March along the Front Range, and some years we've had snow as late as May--later back in the nearby mountains. The trails we've chosen for this set of top 10 winter hikes keep you close to Denver, are easy or moderately demanding, and explore a variety of landscapes. Because Winter weather in Colorado is both breathtaking and unpredictable, it's critical that hikers embark on their adventures well-prepared. So, before you lace up your boots and hit the trail, be sure to download and review our Free Hiking Guide to help you prepare and pack smart for your dayhikes. Additionally, take some time to review our 10 Winter Hiking Tips.

    Spruce Mountain Hikes Near Larkspur

  • Spruce Mountain Hikes Near Larkspur

  • Distance: 1.5-Mile Round Trip & 4-Mile Loop

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Drive Time from Denver: 50 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    Spruce Mountain is easy to access off of interstate 25 but far enough away from the hustle and bustle of things that you feel enveloped by the landscape. You have out-and-back and a loop trail option that traces the outer rim so that you can take in the panoramas of rolling green hills south of Larkspur, Colorado. The best part about this hike are the views of Pikes Peak in the south. Most of Winter, this area of Douglas County is fairly mild. There will be cold days, but the snow melts fast and the trail is rarely muddy.

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    Elk Meadow Park – South Loop Hike

  • Elk Meadow Park – South Loop Hike

  • Distance: 2.6 Miles

    Difficulty: Easy

    Drive Time from Denver: 35 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    Elk Meadow Park is a family friendly place to hike just outside of beautiful Evergreen, Colorado. This short loop hike takes you through some beautiful winter landscapes, by huge ponderosa pines, and a chance to see the elk that gather and browse in the valley. We love just how close these trails at Elk Meadow Park are to Denver and visiting the quaint town of Evergreen afterwards to grab some pizza or a coffee. You can add a walk along the edges of Evergreen Lake to fill out your day to watching or joining the locals ice skating. Pack your hat and gloves and a thermos full of hot chocolate for a great winter day trip.

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    Hikes at Red Rocks Park

  • Hikes at Red Rocks Park

  • Distance: 6 Miles Round Trip and 1.4-Mile Loop

    Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

    Drive Time from Denver: 25 to 30 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    We love these trails for two reasons: 1) they are just 25 minutes from Denver, and 2) the rock formations are absolutely beautiful--especillay when the winter white of snow sets in contrast with the pink and orange hues of the surrounding rock formations. Red Rocks Park can be hiked on two different trails. Wander through the meadows of the Red Rocks Trail for more expansive views of this unique area, or take the Trading Post trail through a valley of impressive Red Rock formations. You can't beat the proximity to Denver at this historic landmark just west of the city.

    Mount Falcon Castle & Tower Hike

  • Mount Falcon Castle & Tower Hike

  • Distance: 2.3-Mile Loop

    Difficulty: Easy

    Drive Time from Denver: 40 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    There are ruins of an old castle--need we say more. This is one of my favorite places to take a photo of the front range mountains. Set the castle ruins in the foreground and the snowcapped range of Indians Peaks and James Peak Wilderness in the background (see photo above). This winter hike is just a short drive from Denver and will offer you views from one of Denver's most famous foothill mountains. From up on Mt. Falcon, you can also take in views of the city of Denver stretched out below. Be sure to read our full trail profile so that you take this hike from the upper trailhead, otherwise you'll have a a steep hike accessing the main trails.

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    South Valley Park Trails

  • South Valley Park Trails

  • Distance: 0.5 mile to 3 Miles

    Difficulty: Easy

    Drive Time from Denver: 30 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    When the snow falls, the surrounding sounds of the city soften and this valley transforms into a walk back in time, making South Valley Park another great choice for hiking during winter in South Denver. The valley is located near the Ken Caryl neighborhood, tucked away behind the hogbacks and enclosed by red rock formations. When we lived in Littleton, this was my favorite after-work and early-morning escape. The trails here get a lot of sun and are mostly a gravel base, so they dry quickly and are a more reliable choice for those who want to avoid a muddy adventure.

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    cherry creek flowing through winter landscape of castlewood canyon winter hike near denver

  • Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails

  • Distance: 1/4 Mile to 4 Miles

    Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

    Drive Time from Denver: 50 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    Quiet. That's why we like hiking Castlewood Canyon in the winter, especially after a fresh snowfall. Castlewood Canyon State Park is hidden away in the plains near Castle Rock and Parker. Because it's out east and off the beaten path, it's an often overlooked even though it's a Colorado State Park. When it snows, the canyon becomes a great place to look for animal tracks and to take in the sounds of snow-covered Cherry Creek as it trickles alongside the path. The trails feature: a waterfall, stream, homestead ruins, caves and clefts. Explore the different trails we've profiled in Castlewood Canyon State Park:

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    Emerald Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Emerald Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Distance: 3.6 Miles Round Trip

    Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

    Drive Time from Denver: 2 Hours

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    First of all, we love this winter hike because it's in one of most favorite places on earth, Rocky Mountain National Park. The second reason is the trail weaves past a set of lakes to a jaw-dropping view of frozen Emerald Lake and Hallet Peak in the background. This hike is a classic, and short, but it's going to be more challenging in the winter. You're likely going to need snowshoes for this, and the best place to rent snowshoes is at the Estes Park Mountain Shop. If you have more fuel in your tank, then consider adding frozen Alberta Falls to your adventure.

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    red rock formation in snow at roxborough state park colorado winter hike

  • Hikes in Roxborough State Park

  • Distance: 2.3 to 6.2 Miles

    Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

    Drive Time from Denver: 45 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    The contrast of massive red rock formations against the soft, white snow makes winter hikes in Roxborough feel like a walk through a enchanted wonderland. Scan the skies for Golden Eagles and Red Tail Hawks catching thermals above the valley floor. It's important to note before you make the drive that, like nearby Waterton Canyon, no dogs are allowed in Roxborough State Park. A Colorado State Parks pass or fee is required to access the park. We've profiled five different hikes in Roxborough State Park and you can explore all the links below. I'd recommend starting with the Fountain Valley Trail to get teh best views of the park's most beautiful features.

    Mt. Galbraith Loop via the Cedar Gulch Trail

  • Mt. Galbraith Loop via the Cedar Gulch Trail

  • Distance: 4.9-Mile Lollipop Loop

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Drive Time from Denver: 25 Minutes

    Why We Love this Winter Hike:

    Mt. Galbraith near Golden, Colorado has spectacular views into two canyons and into the city of Golden. The trail is about a 25-minute drive from Denver, and it makes for a quick escape from the busyness of urban life to breathe in the fresh air of the foothills. This trail is another great hike for winter and is perfect for avid hikers but still accessible to beginners. It's gotten quite popular, so we suggest you hike this trail early in the morning or on a weekday. Note that it has a northern side that doesn't see as much sunshine, so this trail can get icy during certain times of winter. I've not needed Traction Devices, but they are always smart to carry when negotiating winter trails. And I almost always bring Trekking Poles with me to take the pressure off my knees and to help me hike over slick and muddy terrain. Traction Devices

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    Dream Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Dream Lake Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Distance: 2.2 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Easy

Drive Time from Denver: 2 Hours

Why We Love this Winter Hike:

With scenery straight out of a storybook, the hike to Dream Lake is one of the best known hikes in RMNP. Because it gets a lot of foot traffic, the path from Bear Lake to Dream Lake is packed down and easily discernible, but be sure to check with a ranger at Bear Lake before making this short hike. You can also check trail conditions page for RMNP which is updated on a regular basis for the most travelled trails in the park.because after even a moderate snowfall, you may need snowshoes. We recommend renting snowshoes at the Estes Park Mountain Shop.

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Photo Credits: Thanks goes out to Adam Meek for his winter photo of Roxborough State Park. And to Jack for his photo of Castlewood Canyon.


dream lake at sunrise in rocky mountain national park with mountain face of hallett peak in background

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

The hike to Dream Lake is one of the popular destination hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park--and for good reason. In the early morning hours, Dream Lake is a vision straight out of a fairy tale. This 2.2-mile, out-and-back hike begins at the Bear Lake trailhead, and passes Nymph Lake along the way. Explore the full Dream Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and all the details you need to enjoy this Colorado adventure.

Trail Snapshot: Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Dream Lake:

The trail up to Dream Lake begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions).In the event that parking lot at Bear Lake is full, you'll then need to park at the Park & Ride near the Bierstadt Trailhead and take the bus into the trailhead. This service runs 7am to 7PM and more information on the RMNP shuttle bus routes can be found at this link. The trail to Dream Lake is located on your way to Bear Lake, off to the left, just before reaching the shore viewing area of Bear Lake.

The trail to Dream Lake is paved for the first half mile. The path was surfaced to deal with the erosion caused by the heavy foot traffic, and is not considered handicap accessible. After visiting the lily pad-laden Nymph Lake, the trail becomes a dirt path and begins a gentle climb towards Dream Lake. For a short stint the trail becomes more steep and demanding. On the way up, hikers will gain views of a vast landscape featuring the Keyboard of the Winds in Glacier Gorge and Longs Peak looming over everything but the distant sky.

Just before reaching Dream Lake, the trail splits. The trail to the left takes hikers to Lake Haiyaha and the trail to the right leads to Dream Lake. Dream Lake, with the beautiful backdrop of Hallet Peak, is one of the most photographed scenes in Rocky Mountain National Park. At daybreak, light from the east illuminates the stone face and crags of Hallet, and Dream Lake returns the favor by mirroring its image in her waters.

List and Links of Destinations From Bear Lake to Emerald Lake

  1. Bear Lake
  2. Nymph Lake - @ .5 miles
  3. Dream Lake - @ 1.1 miles
  4. Emerald Lake -@ 1.8 miles

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Dream Lake:

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