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Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Timberline Falls is a demanding 8-mile round-trip waterfall hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail takes you past Alberta Falls up into beautiful Loch Vale. Beyond Timberline Falls hikers will find Lake of Glass, additional falls, and breathtaking Sky Pond.

Glacier Gorge is the home to some of the best hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this waterfall hike is one of the best. Be sure to read through the trailhead and parking information below, because, in the busy season, parking fills up fast. Explore our Timberline Falls trail profile below for trail details, driving directions, maps, and more.

Trail Snapshot: Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information

The trail up to Timberline Falls begins at either the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (see driving directions above), or at the Bear Lake Trailhead (driving directions). Because the Glacier Gorge Trailhead has a much smaller lot, you may need to drive further up to Bear Lake. There you'll find a short connector trail that will put you on the path down and over to the Glacier Gorge Trail system. 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 Hike to Timberline Falls

The hike up into the Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale trail system takes you past one of Rocky Mountain National Parks' most accessible waterfalls, Alberta Falls.

alberta falls rocky mountain national park

After the waterfall, the trail begins to wind up a series of switchbacks for just shy of a mile until a trail junction with the NorthLong's Peak Trail. The trail into Glacier Gorge/Loch Vale then bears right and ascends for about another .5 mile to another trail junction. The trail to the left will take hikers to Glacier Gorge, and the trail to the right takes hikers on a jaunt to Lake Haiyaha (fun to say three times fast) but this trip to Timberline Falls takes the middle trail onto the Loch Vale Trail.
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The path follows the path of Icy Brook through a series of longer switchbacks. The brook can be heard gushing and pouring over the rocks below, and one particular switchback there is a great view of its waters casacading through a green canyon (pictured above). At approximately 1 mile after leaving the junction, the trail opens up to more level ground at The Loch. In the distance, beyond the Loch in the west, the cliff face of the Cathedral Wall calls technical climbers to its challenging routes.

timberline-loch-rocky-mountain-national-park

The trail continues along the right side of the Loch until another trail junction beyond its western shores and deep in the the lush forest surrounding Icy Brook. The trail up to Timberline Falls, Lake of Glass, and Sky Pond is on the left, and the path to the right will take hikers into the Andrew's Creek area, one of my favorite areas of the Park. Here the trail up to Timberline Falls gets more steep, working its way up through subalpine forest of fir and spruce, the ground bejeweled with Columbine flowers. Soon you'll gain views of the falls in the distance.

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A series of stone stairs takes you to the base of the waterfall. In the late Spring and Early Summer, the falls cut through the winter snowpack and creates fantastic shapes out of the snow. For hikers who want to see more, a very steep and slick trail can be found to far right side of the waterfall. This leads up to the Lake of Glass, it's own waterfall, and to Sky Pond.

Video of Timberline Falls in RMNP

ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking Timberline Falls :

  • More to Explore: Be sure to budget extra time to explore the lakes above Timberline Falls.
  • Parking: If the parking lot is full at Glacier Gorge Trailhead, there is a shuttle available to take you to the trailhead. See details at the the top of this trailprofile
  • Gear: Wear good boots with soles that are good for grabbing the rock if you plan to scramble up the steep trail to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond.
  • Pack a Lunch: This is a long hike and you'll certainly need water, but you'll also most likely need fuel for the journey back. Download our hiking guide for a list of great hiking food and snacks.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Inkwell & Brew Coffee

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maroon bells reflected in crater lake near Aspen Colorado Maroon Bells Hikes

Ultimate Guide to Maroon Bells in Colorado

The Maroon Bells offer several hikes and some of the most beautiful scenery in Colorado. It's a Rocky Mountain landscape painted with cascades, lakes, golden aspens, and all against the backdrop of the peaks of the Maroon Bells. This guide to the Maroon Bells features 5 different hiking trail options, spanning from easy hikes to moderately demanding.

We've attempted to create the definitive guide to hiking from the Maroon Bells Trailhead. In this guide, you'll find: Driving directions to Maroon Bells, Trail Maps, Important Shuttle Bus information, Photography tips, Camping information for the Maroon Bells area, and Tips & Resources for planning your Colorado Vacation. This guide to Maroon Bells is extensive, so we have created a table of contents to help you navigate. Have fun exploring!

Maroon Bells Hiking Guide Contents

1. Trail Snapshot
2. Driving Directions
3. Parking & Trailhead
4. Hiking the Trail
5. Maroon Lake Trail
6. The Scenic Loop Trail
7. Maroon Creek Trail
8. The Crater Lake Trail
9. The Willow Lake Trail
10. Photography
11. Hiking with Kids
12. For Out-of-State Hikers
13. Things to Do Nearby
14. History and Geology
15. Protect Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells Hike Snapshot

Driving Directions to Maroon Bells

Because the Maroon Bells trailhead is one of the heaviest used recreation areas in the state of Colorado, there are some driving and access restrictions during the busy summer months. That's why it's important to carefully read these details before you plan your trip. There are three different sets of driving directions that you may find helpful.

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Directions to Maroon Bells in the Summer

From about the mid-June until early October, you can drive Maroon Creek road to the Maroon Bells trailhead before 8am and after 5pm. There is a $10 fee for driving the road, which--especially in Autumn--is one of the more beautiful drives in the country. From 8am to 5pm, visitors must take a 10-15-minute shuttle bus ride to the trailhead. The shuttle lot with free parking is located at Aspen Highlands, a local ski area (here is a link to a Google map and driving directions). However, there is a cost for the bus ride, and beginning in 2016, there a parking fee will be assessed at the Aspen Highlands lot. You can purchase your bus ticket for the Maroon Bells shuttle at Four Mountains Sports, located near the parking area at the base of the ski mountain. The best resource for shuttle information can be found at the RTF Maroon Bells Shuttle page or by calling the USFS Maroon Bells Hotline at (970) 945-3319.
If the Aspen Highlands lot is full--which happens during Summer months--or if you are in Aspen, but without a vehicle, you can take the free Castle/Maroon bus from Ruby Park in Aspen to Aspen Highlands, where can pick up the Maroon Bells shuttle (link and map for directions to Ruby Park).

There are a few exceptions to the 8am-5pm shuttle rule: 1) Handicap registered vehicles, and 2) Vehicles with 11 or more people ($3 fee per person), 3) Vehicles with children age 2 and under, 4) If you are camping at some of the Maroon Bells campsites: Silver Queen, Silver Bar, or Silver Bell, 5) If you are towing a horse trailer.

Even if you fit one of the exceptions, it's important to remember that the Aspen Highlands lots fill up during the busy summer months. Your best bet is simply to get to the trailhea early and to take in the scenery of Maroon Bells in the cool and quiet of the morning, before visitors begin to stream into the area. It's also important to note that if your plans are to backpack and camp in the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness, you will not be given a parking exception, but will need to take the bus in from the Aspen Highlands lot during the 8am-5pm timeframe.

Another option is to cycle the 8 miles, one-way from Aspen Highlands up to the Maroon-Snowmass trailhead. There is no fee for cyclists, only vehicles. However, it's important to remember that the road is still very busy, even during the 8am-5pm hours when the driving restrictions apply. As with hiking the area, plan to bring proper gear for the frequent afternoon thunderstorms--yet another reason to go early.

Driving Out: It's important to note that if you drive in to the trailhead, you may drive out at any time.

Getting to Maroon Bells During the Rest of the Year

In Late-Spring: From when Maroon Creek road opens, which is historically mid-May, and until mid-June--when the shuttle bus service starts--you are allowed to drive the road from 8am-5pm. Of course, the access fee does apply.

Early October to Mid-November: You can drive Maroon Creek road to the trailhead any day and any time of the week. Again, the access fee applies. Historically, this has begun on Oct. 5th but this is subject to the forest service decisions and weather.

Maroon Bells During the Winter Months: Winter comes in early at this elevation and it holds on well through April. Maroon Creek road is closed during the winter months, beginning in mid-November. Until the road reopens around mid-May of each year, the trailhead is only accessible by hiking in, cross-country skis, or via snowmobile tours. Snowmobile tours can be booked through T-Lazy-7 Ranch. From the gate, the hike/ski in is about 6 miles one-way, and from Aspen Highlands, it's about 8 miles one-way.

Parking and Facilities at the Maroon Bells Trailhead

The Maroon Bells Trailhead--officially titled the Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead--has limited parking and no facilities, except for restrooms. There is plenty of space to lock up your bike on the provided bike racks. There are 35 parking spaces designated for backpackers who are overnighting in the wilderness and you may park for up to 5 consecutive nights in those designated spots. These fill up during the busy season, so be sure to have the shuttle as your plan-b. If you get to Aspen Highlands after the last bus, then you will need to have a plan-c: take a taxi (expensive) in or ask a friend to drive you into the trailhead. Overnight backpackers are not allowed to park in the day-use area.

Guide for Hiking at Maroon Bells

Trail Option #1 - The Maroon Lake Trail at Maroon Bells

  • Distance: Less than One Mile
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain: Nominal

The Maroon Lake Trail heads out from the trailhead to the northeast side of Maroon Lake (elevation 9580’) where hikers can take in iconic views of the peaks of the Maroon Bells reflected in its mirrored waters. Fishing is allowed at Maroon Lake, but a Colorado fishing license is required. Be sure to follow limits and regulations. Bring a picnic lunch and soak in the scenery, which includes aspen groves, Maroon Creek, and surrounding meadows. Do be mindful to stay to the trail as the high amount of foot traffic has a profound impact on the environment. For tips on taking a great photo of the Maroon Bells, check out the Photography at Maroon Bells section below.

Trail Option #2 - The Scenic Loop Trail at Maroon Bells

  • Distance: 3 Miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Lollipop Loop
  • Elevation Gain: Approx. +120'
  • Dogs are prohibited because of Moose inhabiting this area.

The Scenic Loop Trail is probably the most popular trail at Maroon Bells, and for good reason: the views are incredible, the loop takes you along the cascades of Maroon creek for much of the hike, and wildflowers spring up at your feet along the trail. A lollipop loop is a hike that begins with a straightaway (part of the out & back hike above), which takes you to a loop on the end. The Scenic Trail Loop begins at a footbridge on the far/west end of the lake. A way up the trail, hikers will notice another footbridge on the right. This can be taken to shorten the trip by crossing the creek then turning right to head back to Maroon Lake and the trailhead. However, the loop trail actually goes further and past some exceptionally beautiful cascades before turning back toward Maroon lake.

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Trail Option #3 - The Maroon Creek Trail

  • Distance: 2.5 or 3.5 Miles - One-Way
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: One-Way
  • Elevation Gain: -870'
  • Maroon Creek Lake Trail Map: Map Link

If you are looking for a less crowded option, the Maroon Creek Trail may be the best choice. The Maroon Creek Trail winds downhill alongside Maroon Creek for 3.5 miles. Being near water, the chances of seeing wildlife are pretty good. Maroon Creek Trail begins at Maroon Lake and the trail can be picked up by hiking across the footbridge, turning left, then following the trail down into the valley (away from the Maroon Bells). The trail offers two options.

#1 - 2.5 Mile Hike:

Hikers will encounter and cross a bridge at about 2.5 miles into their hike. At this point, a trail off to the left can be taken across the meadow and up to the road where they can catch the bus back to Aspen Highlands or back to the trailhead. Of course, be mindful of the traffic.

#1 - 3.5 Mile Hike:

The second option is to continue on the trail, cross another bridge, then to stay left onto the East Maroon Trail. This will wind downhill a bit further to another area where you can catch the bus along Maroon Creek Road. As you hike, don't forget to stop occasionally to take in the views behind you of the Maroon Bells.

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Trail Option #4 - The Crater Lake Trail at Maroon Bells

  • Distance: 3.6 Miles Round Trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain: +500'
  • Crater Lake Trail Map: Map Link

The Maroon/Snowmass trail (right of lake) will lead hikers through a meadow and to a forest service bulletin board at the far end of the lake. From this point the correct trail is the West Maroon/Crater Lake trail which leads up through meadows, aspens forests, and scree fields. The trail can be extremely rock, so be sure that you have excellent footwear. The trail will split at about 1.7 miles where the correct trail to follow is the West Maroon/Crater Lake Trail. At this point, Crater Lake is not far away. The trail will eventually dip down into a beautiful basin that holds Crater lake and incredible views of the Maroon Bells. Crater Lake is not stocked or fishable as it is a dead lake. It is also an area that has been negatively impacted by heavy use and poor camping practices. Because of this, camping is now prohibited and great care should be exercised to keep human and canine impact to a minimum.

Trail Option #5 - The Willow Lake Trail at Maroon Bells

  • Distance: approx. 13 Miles Round Trip
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain: +3020' to Willow Pass
  • Willow Lake Trail Map: Map Link

The Willow Lake trail is demanding and may require an overnight. The trail begins at Maroon Lake and follows the same trails that lead to Crater Lake. At the Crater Lake bulletin board, the trail forks to right and makes its way up through Minnehaha gulch, through alpine meadows and eventually to a trail sign for Maroon-Snowmass/Willow Lake Junction. Here the trail goes to right. Switchbacks lead to top of Willow Pass. After making it over Willow Pass, Willow Lake is a more gradual 1.5 miles further down the trail. This hike is difficult, steep, and more exposed to the regular thunderstorms that form in the afternoons. Camping is prohibited in the meadow near Buckskin Pass, and camping is discouraged at Willow lake. The best option is to camp in the established sites in Minnehaha Gulch.


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Photography: How to Get Great Photos of the Maroon Bells

We would like to thank photographer Jerry Blank for the stunning photo of the Maroon Bells at the top of this post. We asked him for a few photography tips and he emphasized the importance of arriving early in order to 1) get a parking spot, and 2) to get a shot of the water before the wind kicks up ripples on the early morning mirror surface of the lakes. More of his photos can be viewed and prints can be ordered from his galleries at this link.

  • Fall is the Best Time for Photos: The changing aspens peak in their golden hues during the latter half of September. However, this is just a rule of thumb because much depends on the changing temperature, so it varies from year to year.
  • Sunrise Shots are Primo: We all have our best side, and the Maroon Bells' best side faces east. This means that the morning sunrise provides the best opportunity for photos.
  • What Time Should I Get There? Earlier than you think. The shoreline of Maroon Lake fills up fast with tripods, so you'll want to get there well before sunrise.
  • Dress for the Occasion: Wear your down coat and bring a thermos of hot coffee. The morning breeze and cold temps will conspire to make the wait for sunrise a cold one.

Hiking with Kids at Maroon Bells

  • Hydrate: We hike a lot with our kids and it's easy for them to get dehydrated, especially in the dry climate and at high altitude in Colorado. Bring water bottles full of water for everyone.
  • Pack Snacks or Bring a Lunch: The drive back to Maroon Bells takes you pretty far out of town and you'll want to stay a while. Bring snacks or a picnic lunch to refuel while you are exploring.
  • Choose a Hike with Options: If your children are younger then you may want to begin with the Maroon Lake Trail. If you are still feeling adventurous after that, you could add on all or part of the Scenic Loop. Be aware of Moose and keep your distance from them.

Visiting Maroon Bells From Out-of-State

  • Download our Hiking Guide for a list of hiking tips, 10 essentials that everyone should pack for their dayhike, and recommended hiking snacks.
  • Take it Easy: Hiking at altitude (almost 2 miles above sea level at the Maroon Bells trailhead) can be really demanding. Choose a trail that matches your physical shape and be prepared to go at a slower pace.
  • Don't Drink from Streams or Lakes: There is a misconception that drinking from a mountain stream or lake is the purest water in the world--it's not! Mountain streams and lakes are watering holes for wildlife, especially rodents that carry parasites like giardia and other waterborne infectious diseases that can completely ruin your vacation. All water from these areas should be properly filtered and/or purified.

Camping Near Maroon Bells

There are three established USFS camping areas along Maroon Creek Road on your way in to the Maroon Bells Trailhead. These three are some of the more popular campsites in the state during the summer and fall, so you will want to reserve them well ahead of time. You'll find profiles for the three camping areas below. Reservations can be made at all three campgrounds by calling 1-877-444-6777 or by reserving online at www.recreation.gov
Crater Lake Campground has been closed because of bear activity in the past, so be sure to check to see if it is currently open. However, there are about 20 USFS campgrounds in the White River National Forest area near Aspen. The USFS has a handy camping brochure that can be downloaded at this link.

Silver Bar Campsite

  • Driving Directions to Silver Bar Campground: Click for Directions
  • Four primitive walk-in campsites only
  • Elevation: 8500'
  • Drinkable water and toilets, as well as picnic tables and fire-grates are available.
  • Five-day camping limit with 2pm checkout.
  • Eight-person, two car limit per campsite.
  • Pets allowed but must be leashed at all times.
  • Reservable Dates: 5/26 - 9/13
  • Fees: Camping Fee + Vehicle Fee

Silver Bell Campsite

  • Driving Directions to Silver Bell Campground: Click for Directions
  • Fourteen campsites
  • Elevation: 8350'
  • Drinkable water and toilets, as well as picnic tables and firegrates are available.
  • Five-day camping limit with 2pm checkout
  • Eight-person, two-car limit per campsite.
  • Pets allowed but must be leashed at all times
  • 30' RV limit
  • Reservable Dates: 5/26 - 9/13
  • Fees: Camping Fee + Vehicle Fee

Silver Queen Campsite

  • Driving Directions to Silver Queen Campground: Click for Directions
  • Six campsites
  • Elevation: 9100'
  • Drinkable water and toilets, as well as picnic tables and firegrates are available.
  • Five-day camping limit with 2pm checkout
  • Eight-person, two-car limit per campsite.
  • Pets allowed but must be leashed at all times
  • 30' RV limit
  • Reservable Dates: 5/26 - 9/13
  • Fees: Camping Fee + Vehicle Fee

above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge hike finder


Backcountry Camping in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness

  • Camping is allowed within the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness area. Be sure to follow all the Wilderness Use Regulations and Practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • Camping at the designated spots at Crater Lake is currently allowed, but has been closed in 2014-2015 because of increased bear activity in the area, which is due to poor camping practices. The USFS will close the area again if bear activity becomes problematic.
  • Bear canisters are required
  • Self-registration required at the trailhead
  • Pets allowed but must be on a 6' leash at all times in the wilderness.

Things to Do Near Maroon Bells

History and Geology of Colorado’s Maroon Bells

The brick red color of the Maroon Bells is created by the oxidation of iron in the ancient sedimentary rock that makes up the mountains. They were formed when ancient granite mountains eroded, then were thrust toward the sky in a later mountain building event. Glaciers then cut valleys and cirque lakes, like Maroon Lake and Crater Lake. The Maroon Bells are considered Colorado Fourteeners with North Maroon at 14,014' and the summit of South Maroon Peak at 14,156'. They are called "the bells" because the shape of the mountains resemble church bells. The surrounding Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area was one of the first US Wilderness areas established in 1964. The ruins of mine riddle the landscape from the silver mining activity of the late 1800's.

The sedimentary siltstone that makes up the Maroon Bells and nearby mountains, like Pyramid Peak, makes them very dangerous to climb. It's described by climbers as "rotten" rock and very unstable. In fact, in 1965 there were five different climbing accidents on the Maroon Bells, taking the lives of eight climbers. This gave the Maroon Bells the new monicker, the "Deadly Bells". There are yearly accidents and usually deaths on the Bells. Because of this, we recommend that those contemplating an ascent of the Maroon Bells should contact a professional guiding service.

How You Can Protect the Maroon Bells Area

  • Camp in Designated Spots: Camping has been prohibited at many of the high-mountain lakes in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass area in order to protect these overused and highly impacted environs. The USFS has inventoried over 700 campsites, that have impacted the equivalent of 35 football fields of land. So, be sure to use established camping areas in both the wilderness and along Maroon Creek road.
  • Keep Out of the Water: People and Dogs can greatly disturb fragile ecosystems in streams and lakes because of detergents and oils on our clothing and skin. The water sources around Maroon Bells are at a much higher risk because of the sheer volume of hiker and backpacker traffic.
  • Keep Dogs on a 6' Leash: I have regularly hiked with my dog for years, and have often let her off the leash. But in the last few years, I've become much more aware that man's best friend has a significant impact on the wildlife that make our wilderness areas their home. Even in areas that don't require leashes, I now leash our dog. As much as you would love for your dog to run free, it's important to remember that both we and our dogs are guests in this place and we want to leave the least amount of impact possible. Of course, this is a 6' leash required area. The Ranger District is now giving special attention to unleashed dogs and writing tickets.
  • Pack Out All Trash: It should probably go without saying, but be sure to pack out your trash, including both human and dog waste. In 2015 alone, forest rangers packed out over 500 pounds of trash left by visitors to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass area.

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Golden Gate Sate Park Blue Grouse Trail Landscape

Blue Grouse Trail at Golden Gate Canyon Park

The Blue Grouse Trail is a short, 1.6-mile hike on the western edges of Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A pleasant trail with little gain in elevation and mellow terrain makes this a great escape from the city. The Blue Grouse Trail is a perfect hiking trail for spotting wildlife, from birds to deer, viewing fall colors and wildflowers, and taking in the beautiful scenic view along the trail. Explore the full hiking trail profile below for hike details, trail map, and links to similar trails near Denver.

Trail Snapshot: Blue Grouse Trail

Before you start this hike there are some things you should know - a Colorado State Park Pass is required to enter Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A day pass can be purchased at the Visitors Center upon entrance into the park. Some trails offer passes at self-serve dispensers, but the Blue Grouse Trail does not.

To get to the Blue Grouse trailhead, pass Kriley Pond and take the first right at Mountain Base Road. The trailhead parking area is to the right at the fork in the road. At the trailhead you’ll find picnic tables. There is a porta-let at Kriley Pond and there are restroom facilities at the Visitors Center. Below you'll find more details on the trail, Kriley pond, and some information on camping at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Hiking the Blue Grouse Trail

You'll make your way along a nice dirt path with a few rocky sections. The elevation gain is slight, and this short hike can be turned into a longer one by joining up with the Mule Deer Trail where the Blue Grouse trail terminates at .7 mile. Mule Deer Trail is a 7.4 mile loop, and there is a Golden Gate Park map at the trail intersection.
Blue Grouse Trailhead Golden Gate Colorado

The Blue Grouse Trail is a popular trail for mountain bikers who use it to access the longer trails in Golden Gate. Mountain bikers in Colorado are typically very considerate of hikers, but just be aware that you'll be sharing the trail with others. After the initial rise, the trail is more gentle as it ascends the hillside. You'll be drawn to the rock outcroppings ahead and a beautiful grove of aspens.

Blue Grouse Trail

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Blue Grouse Trail:

    blue grouse trail marker

    • Trail options: View the Golden Gate Canyon Park map to see the various other trail options you have after hiking the .7 mile in on Blue Grouse.
    • Rim Meadows: a great destination if you would like to continue on the Mule Deer Trail but are not wanting to hike the entire Mule Deer trail loop.
    • Picnic: Because Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an hour drive, make a half-day or full-day out of your trip. Bring a picnic, and sling up a hammock for a nap in the shade.
    • Download our Dayhikes Hiking Guide for a day hike packing checklist
    • Sun protection: The trail is only partly shaded, so be sure to bring sun protection for the parts not covered.
    • After the Hike: Buffalo Moon Coffee
    • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Trail Map for Blue Grouse Trail: Trail Map Link

    Kriley Pond at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    Kriley Pond is a popular fishing spot in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. In the fall, the hillsides are peppered with the golden glow of Aspens.The early morning hours are the best time to visit if you want to soak in the songs of Colorado songbirds before families and fisherman arrive. Fishing in Kriley Pond requires a Colorado Fishing License. There are several other ponds to visit at Golden Gate Canyon, including: Ranch Ponds, Slough Ponds, Dude's Fishing Hole, and the pond at Forgotten Valley.
    kriley pond at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    Camping in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    There are several camping options at Golden Gate. However, because this State Park is less than an hour from Denver, the sites can fill up fast in the busy summer months. There is a car camping area at Reverends Ridge, a tents only site at Aspen Meadows, 20 backcountry shelters, and a limited number of cabins and yurts that can be reserved. All sites require fees which are posted at the Golden Gate Canyon Camping page.

    We want to thank Lisa Palmer, a member of our Dayhikes Pathfinder Team, who hiked this trail with her family, gathered the information for the trail profile, and took the photos for this post.
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    baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


dirt trail leading toward the flatirons of boulder colorado in chautauqua park wooden fence in foreground and broad meadows

First and Second Flatirons Hike in Boulder

Hiking the Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado is a must. The trail draws you across an green meadow, then up through a notch between the First and Second Flatiron. You'll find the best part of this hike in the Flatirons at the end of the trail: some breathtaking and unmatched views of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. There's even more though. Explore the trail profile below to get links to the Flatirons map, hiking tips, trail details, and driving directions to the Chautauqua Park trailhead.

First and Second Flatiron Hike Trail Snapshot

The Flatirons are the most prominent feature of Boulder Colorado's landscape. They are beautiful to take in from a distance, but they are even better to explore. Here I'll give you a some options on how to make the most of the First and Second Flatiron trail, and some details on what to expect.

The Flatirons Trailheads at Chautauqua

#1 - Chautauqua Trailhead: You can start your hike from a couple different places. I chose Boulder's Chautauqua Park trailhead. The parking lot will fill up fast, by 8:30 on the weekend, but you can park along Baseline Road. The city of Boulder is doing some improvements on the parking area beginning September 3rd, 2013 and it looks like the lot will be closed. Here's a link for construction updates. But don't let that deter you, just park out on Baseline. The Chautauqua trailhead features an historic Ranger Cottage (link for hours of operation), and you'll find free trail maps for the flatirons in a box attached to the sign at the entrance to meadow.

#2 - Enchanted Mesa Trailhead: This is a lesser known trailhead (but probably well known by locals). Here's a google map to help you find it. From here, you can walk across to Chautauqua Park and pick up the Chatauqua Trail, or you can make a longer trip out of it by following the McClintock Upper Trail in. See the Chautauqua Area Hiking Map for details.

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Get our Dayhikes Near Denver Hiking Guide. It includes our favorite hikes near Denver, packing lists, hiking food and snack ideas, and tips for hiking the Front Range of Colorado.

The Flatirons Panorama:

In the panorama video above, you'll see that the first flatiron is the most prominent. It's on the far right (North) and the second and third flatirons follow it to the south. There is an impressive canyon between the second and third flatirons that you'll get to peer down into towards the end of the trail. But let's start this hike profile at the trailhead.

The First Flatirons Trail Sequence

Here's the basic set of trails I'd recommend just because it's the most direct approach: Chautauqua Trail to First and Second Flatiron Trail. On the way back, I'd recommend the Bluebird Mesa trail; it takes you through a pine glade along the spine of a Bluebird Mesa, then gently drops back down to the Chautauqua trail near the trailhead. This makes for a roughly 2.5 mile hike.

Make it a loop. Deb Stanley details an interesting loop by taking a little known trail down the back side of the flatirons that hooks back into the Saddle Rock Trail. Looks like fun, but it also looks like it could be easy to get turned around in there if you're not careful. Check out the details on her loop trail profile if you're interested in taking this route.

First and Second Flatirons Hike Details

This photo gives you the best overview of the Flatirons one and two trail. Basically, once you break out of the meadow and start on the 1st and 2nd Flatirons trail, your going to ride the ridge of the 2nd flatiron up to a notch between the 1st and 2nd Flatirons. The trail continues behind the flatirons, then bends north and takes you up into a canopy formed by the back of the first flatiron.

map of route between first and second flatiron in boulder colorado chautauqua parkStarting at the Chautauqua Trail, you'll hike through the spectacular meadows at the base of the flatirons. If it's after a rain, be prepared for a lot of rain along what is essentially a fire road. The sides of the trail here have a good bit of poison ivy that tries to reach out and touch your calves, so keep an eye out for it. What I found most interesting about this section of the trail was the diversity of both plants and trees along the trail. There is a greater variety of deciduous trees and shrubs that I've seen anywhere on the front range.

After taking the Bluebird-Baird Trail (left), you'll encounter a fork in the trail. Follow the signage towards the 1st and 2nd Flatirons trail (see photo below). Soon the trail will fork again and you'll want to take the 1st and 2nd Flatirons trail. The signage is really good in the Chautauqua/Flatirons area.
trail marked on photo up to first flatiron chautauqua park in boulder colorado

Emerging from the woods, you'll hike up through a long talus field, but the trail is well-constructed through this gigantic pile of rock. Be sure to look back at the views that open to Boulder.

talus field below first and second flatiron in chautauqua parkThe trail goes in and out of the shade, over a lot of rock, and eventually to a short scramble over some larger rock to regain the trail. The next landmark you'll reach is the notch between the first and second flatiron; you'll see the angled outcrop of the second flatiron just below the notch (photo below). This is a great place to stop and relax.

first flatiron hike near boulder looking up toward first flatiron formation in chautauqua parkThe notch between the first and second flatiron offers more views of Boulder and a birds-eye view of the CU campus, it's terracotta roofs against the green of the city lawns.
family resting on hike between first and second flatiron in boulder colorado

But the better place to take a break is just behind the notch. Here, you'll be able to look down into canyon that runs between flatiron two and three, and you get a great view of the imposing profile of flatiron three.

view of third flatiron from the notch between first and second flatiron hike in boulderThen take the trail up a few switchbacks as it bends north. You'll hit a saddle but the trail will continue to bend to the right, until you find yourself in the shade of the massive top of the first flatiron. Back here you'll find all kinds of rock shelves and nooks to sit and take in some of fantastic views of Colorado's Rocky Mountains to the West.

view toward indian peaks western front range of colorado from first flatiron alcoveTips & Resources for Hiking the First and Second Flatirons:

  • TIP: This hike gets really crowded, so start early (before 8:30 AM).
  • TIP: Take a lunch or breakfast and coffee with you. The first flatiron nooks are perfect for just sitting and enjoying a picnic.
  • TIP: Weather can come up fast on the flatirons in the summer. Just be aware that it can change fast and bring a rain jacket.
  • TIP: Dogs are allowed if they are leashed. Boulder does have a special tag you can get for your dog to allow it off leash in the park. It's called the Voice and Sight Control tag and you can get more information here.
  • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee Roasters in Boulder
  • Trail Map for Chautauqua Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

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Driving Directions to First Flatiron Trailhead


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baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


lakeshore of gross reservoir on forsythe canyon hike near boulder

Forsythe Canyon to Waterfall and Gross Reservoir

Looking for a trail that will provide some shade on a hot Colorado day? This hiking trail has shade, plus a waterfall, a stream, a canyon, and lake. It's hard to beat. Forsythe Canyon is just outside Boulder, Colorado (1hr 15min from Denver), and is an easy to moderate hike. Check out our full hiking trail profile for details and be sure to read the directions to this trailhead carefully.

Trail Snapshot: Forsythe Canyon Trail

The shade of a wooded canyon, combined with a waterfall, ending at a blue lake, make this hike near Boulder Colorado worthwhile. Though it's probably 25' high, the waterfall is not what I'd call spectacular. So, if you are going for this waterfall, I'd recommend going early in the season when the snowmelt is at its peak in May and early June.

The trail winds gently downhill through a canyon, beside a creek, sheltered beneath fir and spruce. In fact, of the hikes we have profiled, this trail may provide more shade than any trail near Denver. You'll come upon the falls about 1 mile into the hike and the reservoir is just 200 yards further down the trail. In fact, reaching the clear blue water was the highlight for our kids.

We skipped rocks and hiked along the sandy and rock rim so that we could explore more of the lake. With the water levels being so low, and a large tree blocking the shot, I couldn't get a good photo of the falls.

forsyth canyon at the gross reservoir

One important note. The trail is a bit difficult to find just above the waterfall, in fact, if you take the wrong route, it appears to lead you down a rock face - which is not a good idea, especially with kids. The correct route bears to the left of a cedar tree, will lead you up further above and away from the falls, then back down into the canyon floor. I've posted a photo below showing the juncture. Even in the photo, it's hard to see the trail.

Correct route above Forsythe falls

Tips & Resources for Hiking Forsythe Canyon:

  • TIP: If you are coming from Denver, it's quite a drive. The payoff is that the parking lot was almost empty on memorial day weekend. We recommend making a day of it and spending some time in Boulder before or after the hike.
  • TIP: The Reservoir is stocked with Kokanee Salmon, and this stretch of it is where they supposedly like to hang out. So, bring your fishing gear. Here is a link to a Dept. of Wildlife PDF with information on the stock on the lake and some links to the fishing regulations for Gross Reservoir.
  • TIP: Swimming and Wading are Prohibited
  • TIP: The Google Map & Directions: The trailhead parking lot is new, and really nice (with a restroom), and the directions above are accurate. However, I get a lot of email from folks who plug this map into their GPS and somehow miss it and try to drive down FR359. Remember, GPS is only accurate up to a point. Once you turn off of Magnolia and onto 68, drive for 2 miles then turn right into the parking lot just before FR359. Look for a gravel parking lot with a restroom and a wooden fence surrounding the perimeter. You can zoom in on the Google Map to get a feel for what it looks like. Google updated the satellite photos recently, so the parking lot now shows. You can check here for seasonal road closures of FR359. Or you can all 303-541-2500 (Boulder Ranger District) to check the road status before heading out on your adventure
  • TIP: Be sure to take the recommended route using Magnolia road. We've had a few emails from folks trying to reach the Forsythe Canyon Trailhead from Lakeshore Road. My understanding is that it's not possible, or at least highly problematic.
  • After the Hike: After the Hike: Ozo Coffee
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
bridal veil falls in rocky mountain national park

Bridal Veil Falls Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park

Atwenty foot waterfall hidden away in the northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park, Bridal Veil Falls makes for a great destination hike. Keep your eyes out for Elk in the meadows along this hiking trail in Colorado's favorite National Park. Get the hike information you need with our hiking snapshot for Bridal Veil Falls, and get more details by exploring the details and tips below.

Trail Snapshot: Bridal Veil Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bridal Veil Falls is a gem tucked away in the northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park. This hike is about 1hr 45 minutes from the Denver area and features expansive meadows, wildflowers, forest, and a little bit of a rock scramble. Bridal Veil Falls launches from a rock slab at a diagonal, making it a beautiful site. Most visitors to the National Park go to the center of the park, so you may find yourself alone on the trail on a weekday. I wouldn't expect that on the weekend though.

trail to bridal veil falls in rocky mountain national park

Like most areas in the park, the wildlife is abundant. We often joke, calling it the zoo. Elk and deer, as well as eagles and other raptors can be seen along Cow Creek trail. The trail to Bridal Veil Falls begins at the Cow Creek Trailhead. You'll pass through meadows and see the cascades along Cow Creek. Eventually, you'll hike up in the forest, getting a bit of a break from the sun. Before the waterfall, you'll encounter some rocks to hike and scramble over, making this a more moderate hike.

bridal veil falls in rocky mountain national park
Thanks to Catherine Kunst for the photos on this profile. You can read Catherine's trip report at her site here. and to John Kalla for his photo of the falls at the top of this post.

ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking Bridal Veil Falls:

  • A Great View: Cross the stream then work your way up the area just left of the falls to the stream above. It's beautiful above the falls, just take care not to turn it into a rock climb. Remember that Water + Rock = Slippery.
  • Parking is a Limited: It's just a small area along the road near the ranch. You'll need to parallel park. Also, get their early for a space.
  • Not Much Shade: Bring the sunscreen. You'll be in the sun a lot along Cow Creek Trail.
  • RMNP Park Map: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: After the Hike: Poppy's Pizza

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Map & Driving Directions


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elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park


meyer ranch open space hikes header

Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes

Meyer Ranch is just 30 minutes outside of Denver, Colorado and offers three different hiking trail options, ranging from 2.4 to 4.8 mile, easy to moderate hikes. Check out the three different hiking trail options for this hike near Conifer, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes

Meyer Ranch Open Space offers 3 great hiking options only 30 minutes from Denver. They range from easy to moderate in difficulty and 2.4 to 4.8 miles in length. Meyer Ranch has expansive meadows and patches of wildflowers, grazing deer & elk, and trails that take you to overlooks.

1. Lodgepole Loop: 2.4 miles - Easy - Take the Owl's Perch Trail South and continue straight (left) down the trail, at the next junction go right and continue on the Lodgepole loop for 1.2 miles until you arrive back at the Owl's Perch trail and take (left ) that back to the parking lot.

2. Sunny Aspen Trail Loop: 3 Miles - Moderate - Take the Owl's Perch Trail South and continue straight (left) down the trail, at the next junction go right and continue on the Lodgepole loop, go .6 miles and take a right onto the Sunny Aspen Trail, continue on the Sunny Aspen Trail for .8 miles until it joins again with the Lodgepole Loop (go right), follow this back to the Owl's Perch trail and back to the parking lot.

3. Old Ski Run Trail 4.8 Miles - Moderate - Take the Owl's Perch Trail South and continue straight (left) down the trail, at the next junction go left again for .2 mile until you find your next junction, go left onto the Sunny Aspen Trail taking that for .5 mile until you reach the junction with the Old Ski Run Trail. The Ski Run trail is an out & back trail with a loop at the end. The Ski Run section is 2 miles out and back (including loop). Return the way you came via the Sunny Aspen Trail.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes :

  • Picnic areas: There are picnic areas close to the trailhead as you go along Owl's Perch Trail.
  • TIP: Initially you will hear noise from the road below. This will fade as you hike further into the park.
  • Trail Map for Meyer Ranch Open Space: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Aspen Perk Cafe

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mountain goats near summit of mount evans colorado easy hike

Mt. Evans Summit Hike

Mount Evans is one of Colorado's Front Range Fourteeners, and like Pikes Peak, Mt. Evans has a road that takes you to a trail just a few hundred feet shy of the summit where you are likely to see both Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats. The key to exploring Mount Evans is knowing the stops along the way. View our full trail profile for a suggested itinerary. Explore the full trail profile below for all the details: hiking trails, trail map, and detailed directions to the trailhead.

Trail Snapshot: Mt. Evans Summit Hike

What it lacks in challenge Mt. Evans makes up in breathtaking panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and opportunities to view wildlife up close. It isn't much of a hike, because you can summit this 14,265 foot peak in just a few minutes. Yet your trip to Mount Evans can include several stops at high mountains lakes, to view wildflowers, and to take in the expansive scenery (See our itinerary below). This is one of the best attractions near Denver for visiting friends and family, especially if you don't have the luxury or equipment to take them into the Colorado backcountry. The views are stunning and there is a good chance that you'll encounter wildlife that would usually require hours of hiking to see. Still, you are at fourteen thousand feet, so be aware of the effects of altitude, drink plenty of water, and keep an eye on the weather.

mt evans summit lake

Here is our suggested Mt. Evans Adventure Itinerary

  • Take The I-70 Route for a shorter Drive: Click for Directions
  • Take the a bit more scenic route: Click for Directions
  • First Stop, Echo Lake - We like to arrive here early in the morning when the water is like glass and before other visitors arrive. Check out our full profile on Echo Lake
  • Second Stop, Mt. Goliath - After passing through the toll booth, you'll begin a drive up the winding Mt. Evans Highway. After a few miles you'll encounter a nature center Dos Chappell Nature Center at Mt. Goliath. Stop here for a short wildflower hike and to take in the views. Click for Google Map
  • Third Stop, Summit Lake- Grey cliff bands drop to the base of Summit Lake. It's breathtaking. Keep your eyes out for Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats as well. Click Here for Google Map
  • Finally, the Summit of Mt. Evans.

mt evans summit view

Tips & Resources for Hiking Mt. Evans Summit Hike :

  • A Better Itinerary? Because weather comes in during the early afternoon, we suggest that you start early, make a short stop at Echo Lake, then drive straight to the summit. On your way down, stop at Summit lake, then make your last stop at the nature center at Mt. Goliath.
  • Do consider altitude. We avoid bringing friends who are not in good health. Be sure to have your guests drink plenty of water, and make sure they have had a day or two to get used to the altitude in the mile-high city.
  • The Weather link below is for Idaho Springs. Weather at the altitude of Echo Lake may be very different, and Weather at the summit will definitely be different. Check this National Weather Service Link for more accurate forecasts.
  • Looking for a more challenging Hike? Try the Chicago Lakes Hike. The trail begins at the Echo Lake Parking Lot.
  • Trail Map for Mount Evans Wilderness: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Echo Lake Lodge

Weather

Map & Driving Directions for Mount Evans


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waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado


chicago lakes from above with storm brewing near mt evans colorado

Chicago Lakes Hike Near Mt. Evans

Want to take in some of Colorado's breathtaking scenery and put some miles under your hiking boots? The Chicago Lakes hike begins at Echo Lake. You'll pass three more mountain lakes as you punch up into the high country of Colorado's Mt. Evan's Wilderness. Explore the full trail profile below for the Chicago Lakes which includes driving directions, map, and tips.

Trail Snapshot: Chicago Lakes Hike Near Idaho Springs, Colorado

Looking for amazing views and some high mountain lakes near Denver? This challenging hike takes you to two high mountain lakes with amazing views of the Mt. Evans Wilderness area. Both lakes can be fished, as well as the lower Idaho Springs Reservoir that you pass on your way. We are not into giving long trail descriptions on Dayhikes Near Denver, but we'd suggest you read the basic one below and check out the trail description and pdf Chicago Lakes map link in the trail profile below.

The Chicago Lakes Trailhead and Trail: Park at the Echo Lake lot, where you'll find the sign for Chicago Lakes Trail 52 on the west side of the lake. That will lead you to another sign about .5 mile later directing you to the trail. The trail will turn into Idaho Springs Reservoir Road, then will return to a normal trail. It climbs through a burn area, the result of a fire in the 1970s, then continues to climb to Lower Chicago lake. The trail has a lot of character: steep areas, massive cliff walls, and expansive meadows. The trail continues, faint at times, up a steeper section to Upper Chicago Lake.

wildflowers in meadow with mountains in background on chicago lakes trail near mt evans colorado

As you'll see in the comments on this hike, people come back with different trail lengths. So, to clear this up: Beginning at Echo Lake, the trail is 4.24 miles one-way to the lake. However, most people don't want to stop there, many continue on to the upper lake, which adds and additional .6 mile to the trail. Then, some people opt to hike around the lake, which adds to the hike as well. You may want to start early, especially in the Summer months so that you have the time to explore and to avoid our famous, afternoon Colorado thunderstorms.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Chicago Lakes Near Mt. Evans, Colorado :

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above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge colorado hike finder


Canyon Loop Trail - Betasso Preserve, Boulder

This hike at Betasso Preserve near Boulder, Colorado makes for a perfect evening escape to watch the sunset over the town below. You'll cross through meadows dotted with wildflowers then under stands of Ponderosa pine that eventually open up to views to east. Explore the hiking trail profiles and map link below for details.

Trail Snapshot: Canyon Loop Trail at Betasso Preserve

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Canyon Loop at Betasso Preserve :

  • Easier Approach: Make your hike at Betasso Preserve a bit easier by starting from the East Trailhead
  • Mountain Bikers: Each month the direction of travel required for Mountain Bikers is switched. Check the sign at the trailhead. Additionally, biking is not allowed on Wed. & Sat.
  • Hikers: Check the sign at the trailhead as well and try to hike the opposite direction of the bike traffic.
  • Trail Map for Betasso Preserve: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee in Boulder

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Map & Driving Directions


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