aaron johnson author of dayhikes near denver with daughter in backpack flyfishing on bear creek at Lair o the Bear Park near morrison colorado

Bear Creek Trail at Lair o' the Bear Park

Lair o' the Bear is, in our family's opinion, the best family hike near Denver. First, the drive into the canyon on Bear Creek road is beautiful. Once at the park you'll find great hiking trail options, the cool water of bear creek, great parking, and some good picnic spots. There are open areas as well as shade. Our one big suggestion is to keep your kiddos close to you on the busier trail segments as this is also a mountain biking mecca. Explore the details below in our profile of this Jefferson County, Colorado park.

Trail Snapshot: Bear Creek Trail at Lair O' the Bear

Lair O'the Bear is fantastic for families because this hike has lot of shade, a mostly level path, the sounds and sights of water, and a few great areas for picnics in this Colorado park. On top of all of that, it's one of the most accessible Denver trails just out of town in the foothills. Within Lair O the Bear park, the Bear Creek Trail follows the creek for 1.6 miles of trail. Approximately 1 mile of the trail runs West from the parking area, and .6 of a mile to the East. But that is just within the park boundaries; the actual trail continues following the creek in both directions, so you can explore even more of this beautiful canyon and riparian landscape. You can also fish Bear Creek in Lair O the Bear. I've not had any luck yet, so I'd appreciate any tips in the comment section below.

lair-of-the-bear-fishing

Tips & Resources for Hiking at Lair o' the Bear :

  • Bikes: There are some hiker only trail segments, but most are open to mountain bikes - and there are A LOT of them, especially on the weekends. So, just hike aware and let your kids know that bikes may be zipping by.
  • Picnic: Take a picnic lunch or dinner. There are some great picnic areas along the river at Lair o' the Bear.
  • Birding: This is a great place to teach your kids (or yourself) some tree and bird identification. The riparian ecosystem is pretty diverse at Lair o' the Bear.
  • Lair o’ the Bear Park Trail Map: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Ice Cream @ The Blue Cow

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emerald green lake surrounded by mountains in rocky mountain national park emerald lake hike

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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ofallon park trails header

O Fallon Park Trails

hese hiking trails near Evergreen, Colorado weave through the Bear Creek area in O'Fallon Park. It's a great place to launch into the Bear Creek Canyon area. Because there are a lot of options, be sure to download the trail map and look over the five different trail options listed below in the hike profile. Scroll down for the full O'Fallon Park Trails profile and to find driving directions, pdf map, and full trail details.

Trail Snapshot: O'Fallon Park Trails

ofallon park trailhead

O'Fallon Park is part of a series of Jefferson County and Denver Mountain Parks that are connected by Bear Creek and the Bear Creek Trail. Quartz riddles the trails and butterflies alight on flowers along the five trails that weave through the park. The O'Fallon Park picnic area is right beside Bear Creek and plenty of shade provided by the Ponderosa Pines that cover it.

Fishing at O'Fallon Park may get you some rainbow and brown trout!

ofallon park trail picnic area

Trails at O'Fallon Park

1- Meadow View Loop (2.5 miles): We actually hiked this as an out-and-back from the lot up to the vista. Great views up there, but be ready for a steady gain in elevation. It's some work, but it's worth it.

2- Panorama Point - (1.3 miles out-and-back)

3-West Ridge Loop - (3 miles)

4- Picnic Loop (1.3 miles): Stays closer to the picnic areas and makes for a nice easy walk with the family before or after lunch.

5-Bear Creek Trail - This trail runs 7 miles from Pence Park parking lot to the Lair o' the Bear Park lot. Medium in difficulty and a mountain biking mecca.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking O'Fallon Park Trails :

  • TIP: This is another park that can fill quickly on the weekends, but it's mainly the picnic areas. It's not necessary to go early, but it's not a bad idea.
  • TIP: Keep alert for mountain bikers, especially on the Bear Creek Trail. Most of the other trails are hiker only.
  • TIP: Bring a picnic breakfast or lunch.
  • O'Fallon Park Trail Map: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Beau Jo’s Pizza

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