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Willow Creek Trail at Roxborough State Park

Entering Roxborough State Park is like walking into another world. The red rock and wildlife--and if you are lucky--the low lying cloud cover, conspire to make for a great escape just south of Denver. The Willow Creek trail makes for a short hike in Roxborough is a perfect way to begin exploring the park. Scroll down to get all the information you need for this trail: driving directions to the trailhead, trail map links, and more details.

Trail Snapshot: Willow Creek Trail at Roxborough State Park

A birdwatcher's paradise. Roxborough State Park is Denver's twin sister of Garden of the God's in Colorado Springs. The park has cataloged over 140 species of birds that have been viewed in the park. On our first hike in the park, we encountered several Western Tanager's among the scrub oak.

On our first visit, we brought our dog and had to turn the car around. Roxborough State Park has quite a bit of wildlife and sensitive plant life, so pets are not allowed. Mountain biking and camping are also not permitted.

This would be in our top 5 for visiting family and friends because this Douglas County hike stays at a lower elevation, is easy, and offers awe inspiring views. This is one of our favorite places to visit in the mornings.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Willow Creek Trail at Roxborough State Park :

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red rock formations with pine tree in foreground above fountain valley trail in roxborough state park near denver

Fountain Valley Trail at Roxborough State Park

The Fountain Valley trail in Colorado's Roxborough State Park is the Garden of the God's of Denver. It's more secluded than Red Rocks park, and features several trails that take you beyond the park boundaries and into the foothills. The Fountain Valley Trail is a perfect place to start because it features the best part of the park, it's towering slabs of red rock. Explore the hiking profile below for all the trail details, trail map link, and driving directions to the trailhead for this easy Colorado hike.

Trail Snapshot: Fountain Valley Trail at Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is Denver's twin sister of Garden of the God's in Colorado Springs. The beautiful Lyons and Fountain formations climb from the valley floor and create a wonderful space for a quiet hike, birdwatching, and viewing wildlife.

The trail is a loop. You can start on the valley floor, then work your way up to the high trail that looks down and across the fountain formation (photo above was taken from around the midpoint of the high trail). On our visit we encountered several whitetail deer and a variety of birds flitting about in the scrub oak that grows in the valley. The initial part of the trail are handicap accessible, but the trail soon becomes a more narrow dirt trail.

There are some ruins of an old estate along the trail and interpretive signs telling about the history of the valley. We would recommend this trail for families with small children and especially for folks visiting Denver and looking for something fun to do. The low elevation is great for out of towners who may not have the time or capacity to get up into the mountains. Dogs are not permitted, so be sure to leave fido at home. Because this trail is in Roxborough State Park, a fee or Colorado state parks pass is required. See the Roxborough State Park Fees page for details.

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man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver


Emerald Lake Hike Rocky Mountain National Park

Emerald Lake is one of the most accessible hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you are visiting RMNP, and have limited time to visit, the trail to Emerald Lake is an excellent option. You'll pass both Dream Lake and Nymph lake before you end your hike at Emerald Lake and it's stunning views of Hallet Peak. For more information on this hike, explore the trail profile which includes trail map, driving directions, and helpful tips and resources to enjoy this Colorado hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot:Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

trail leading through grey crags on emerald lake hike in rocky mountain national park

A Colorado Hike with a lot of bang for the buck. What we mean is that there is a lot to see on this 1.8 miles stretch of trail. Starting at Bear Lake, you'll take in a total of four Colorado lakes, and pass a small waterfall near the top of the trail. If you are looking for a handicap accessible hike, the trail around Bear Lake Loop hike may be the most beautiful, handicap accessible trail in Colorado. In the winter, the hike up to Emerald makes for a perfect snowshoe hike.

nymph-lake-in-rmnp
At Nymph Lake on the way up to Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake Trail Directions & Trailhead Information

The trail to Emerald Lake begins at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). In the event that parking 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 Emerald Lake is located on your way to Bear Lake, off to the left, just before reaching the shore viewing area of Bear Lake.

For conditions at Emerald Lake, see the Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Conditions page.

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

Emerald Lake Hike in winter snows at Rocky Mountain National Park

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Emerald Lake :

  • Get to the Bear Lake trailhead early: We say this for almost every hike near Denver, but the Bear Lake Parking area is probably the busiest in the park. If you can't get there early, just take the shuttle from the lower parking area.
  • The Wildlife: We have seen a beautiful black bear in this area on one occasion. It just saw us and ambled away. As with any hike where there are a lot of wildlife, keep small children within sight at all times. On your way out, be sure to stop around Moraine Park and watch the Elk.
  • Snowshoeing to Emerald Lake In the winter, this is a Colorado wonderland and a very accessible trail to snowshoe. You can rent snowshoes for a great price at The Colorado Mountain Shop in Estes Park.
  • PhotoS: We would like to express our gratitude to Tim Lumley and Daniel for sharing their photos of Emerald Lake in RMNP.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Kind Coffee

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wood bridge over creek in castlewood canyon state park hikes near denver

Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails

Because Castlewood Canyon State Park is hidden in the plains--and not the mountains--near Denver, it's often an overlooked State park of Colorado. But, whether you're hiking or rock climbing it's a beautiful and geologically unusual place to explore. It boasts a waterfall, homestead ruins, a stream, caves and clefts, and a lot of fairly easy hikes. Below you'll find more information on how to get to the park, trail map links, and links to several hiking options in Castlewood Canyon.

Trail Snapshot: Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails

Not just a canyon, this Colorado State Park features ruins, a waterfall, and unusual geological formations. The park is riddled with 15 trails, ranging from 1/4 mile to 4 miles, so you have a lot of options. The Canyon View Nature Trail (1.2 miles) is a great example of a handicap accessible trail in Colorado. The East Parking (see map below) offers the most hiking options, while the West Parking area leads to shorter hikes to the Castlewood Canyon climbing areas and the longest (4 mile) East Canyon Trail.

Some Trails In Castlewood Canyon

  1. Waterfall Hike at Castlewood Canyon State Park

  2. - This may be the most accessible waterfall near Denver. A short .17 mile hike from the trailhead. Click on the red link above to go to the waterfall hike trail profile page.

  3. Cliff & Climbers Trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park

  4. - A short but more demanding hike in Castlewood Canyon where you can explore the crags along the cliffs of the park.

  5. Homestead Trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park

  6. - an easy to medium hike at the west park entrance. Check out the hiking profile to see how to turn this .7 mile trail into a 2 or 4 mile loop hike.

  7. Cave Trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park

  8. - only a quarter mile round trip up to a small cave in the west side of Castlewood Canyon State park.

  9. Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park

  10. - 2.4 mile round trip hike with interpretive signs that takes you along the rim of Castlewood Canyon. One of the best handicap accessible trails near Denver.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails:

  • TIP: Castlewood Canyon offers some shade, but you are often in the sun. So, bring your sunscreen and apply it liberally.
  • TIP: We would also suggest an early morning or sunset hike as these are the best times to observe wildlife.
  • TIP: Though it's not the largest of Colorado waterfalls, you'll still hear it before you see it. The waterfall is accessed from Creek Bottom Trail on the West Side of the park.
  • TIP: Pets are allowed on a leash but there are some specific trail restrictions, so make sure to read the signs. Enjoy this wonderful hike in the grasslands of Douglas County, Colorado.
  • Trail Map: Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee
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rock formation with pine trees at alderfer 3 sisters park in evergreen colorado

Alderfer and Three Sisters Park

This park in Evergreen, Colorado is a family favorite of some of our good friends. They have two young daughters and love to hike Alderfer and Three Sisters. The park has so many trails that the network can get confusing, so download the Alderfer trail map or pick one up at the trailhead. Scroll down for more information on this hike in the foothills of Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Alderfer and Three Sisters Park

Alderfer Three Sisters Park has an East and West Trailhead.

Alderfer and Three Sisters Park has everything from short, pleasant strolls for the family to more strenuous climbs and a long loop hike.

Some Hike Options at Alderfer and Three Sisters Park

A Short Family Like:

The Wild Iris Loop (.6 mile loop) is a tame stroll through mountain meadows and can be easily accessed from the west parking lot.

Two hikes that are more strenuous

will take hikers to summit views: Evergreen Mountain East Trail, and the Sisters Trail. The Sisters trail may be the most difficult and most enjoyable in the park. The trail takes you up through three, unusual rock outcroppings and to views down into the quaint town of Evergreen.

A 10+ mile loop hike

can be created by hiking the trails that follow the outer rim of the park. Because the park has so many trails, it's advisable to download the Alderfer Three Sisters Park Map (see link in the above trail snapshot). There are so many options that you'll find it easy to create a hike custom to your visit.

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


young hiker standing on trail with red rock formations and foothills in background in south valley park hike near littleton colorado

South Valley Park Trails

The trails of South Valley Park are perfect for an after work hike or run in South Denver. The expansive valley near the neighborhood of Ken Caryl is enclosed on its eastern side by the exposed red rock formations of the hogback and the green foothills to the west. Views to the south are incredible, making South Valley Park especially enchanting during the early morning hours and at twilight.. Explore the full hiking profile below for full trail details, driving directions and more.

Trail Snapshot: South Valley Park Trails

Red Rock towers along the eastern wall of South Valley Park and the foothills begin to the west. Almost 1000 acres of meadow and rock offer a near perfect escape from the sounds of the city. The time lapse below shows a great example of a South Valley Park sunrise.

south valley park trails coyote song trailhead

6 Trails wind through the park. The best place to start is with the South Valley Park Coyote Song Trail. It's a an out an back trail that takes you right through the main meadow. It also connects with the Swallow Trail to form a loop, making your hike about 1.8 miles. The Lyons Back Trail takes you from the Coyote Song Trail and up over the red rock where you can hike trails developed by the Ken-Caryl Ranch foundation.

Tips & Resources for Hiking South Valley Park Trails :

  • Don't miss the Coyote Song Trail: The sunsets are wonderful and the park tends to be quiet in the evenings. The Coyote Song Trail is a great way to begin or wind down the day.
  • TIP: The Parking area on our map link is the larger of the two. However, you can also begin at the south lot off of Deer Creek Canyon Road. Click here for directions. This gives you a closer connection to the Elk Grazing Trail (seasonal) area and Deer Creek Canyon Park.
  • TIP: The red rock calls to be climbed, but climbing is prohibited in this park.
  • South Valley Park Trail Map: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Atlas Coffee in Littleton

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