sunrise on bergen peak hike near evergreen colorado with elk meadows in foreground and bergen peak in background

Bergen Peak Hike Near Evergreen

The hike up Bergen Peak follows a challenging 4.6 mile trail in the Elk Meadows near Evergreen, Colorado. With both loop hike and out-and-back options, you'll take in views from Bergen's summit of the surrounding Colorado foothills, western mountains, and eastern plains. This makes a great adventure in the Fall to take in the changing colors of the aspen trees. Explore the full trail profile below for the trail map, driving directions to the trailhead, and more details you'll want to know before hitting the trail.

Trail Snapshot: Bergen Peak Hike

aspen trees in winter against blue skies and clouds on bergen peak hike in colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Bergen Peak

From Denver, take Interstate 70 West, and exit onto CO74 South toward Bergen Park and Evergreen. After passing CO 103, keep your eyes peeled for the signs for Elk Meadow Park. Go past Lewis Ridge Road, then take a right onto Stagecoach road. The Stagecoach Trailhead will be up on your right. Please park only in designated areas. There has been a lot of erosion damaged caused by visitors parking alongside the road. If parking is full, park at thew Lewis Ridge Trailhead to the east. If the lot is full, you can turn back around and look for parking at the Lewis Ridge Road parking area and trailhead.

The Hike: Bergen Peak

The hike to Bergen Peak begins at the north end of the parking area on a trail that leads into a broad meadow. This inital 0.3 mile segment heads east, away from Bergen Peak, but it does take you to the correct trail. At the first junction, take a left (west) onto the Meadow View trail. This 0.7 mile segment bends west where aspen and pines meet this high country prairie and gives you views down into the Elk Meadows (and maybe some elk) below.

bergen peak in background with green elk meadows in foreground on bergen peak hike near evergreen colorado

At 1 mile into the hike, you'll find the signage for the Bergen Peak Trail (on your left, when facing north). This is where the hike goes from easy to challenging. You'll traverse a broad ridge of ponderosa pine forest as the trail winds through over a dozen switchbacks making its way up the mountainside. Be sure to stay the trail and not cut through on these as the erosion caused by the cut-throughs can be substantial and requires a lot of work to repair.

trail with evergreen trees on way up to bergen peak on hike near evergreen colorado

This ridge segment is a total of 2.7 miles and at around 8900' in elevation crosses through a wildlife area managed by the State of Colorado. During the Spring, this area is off-limits to dogs so as not to disturb the mating season of local wildlife. If you are considering this hike with your dog in the Spring, reach out to the Colorado Division of Wildlife to get the correct dates.

sunrise lighting up ponderosa pine near the summit of bergen peak on hike near evergreen colorado

At 3.6 miles into the hike, you'll find the summit trail on your left. This trail ascends via another set of switchbacks on what you'll discover is the steepest segment of the hike up Bergen Peak. Still, douglas fir and lodgepole pine grow at this higher altitude and provide some dappled shade. The trail wraps around the peak to the south, then switches back again north to the summit.

Bergen Peak is uniquely situated in the middle of the Colorado foothills. Because of this, the summit you can view mountains to the west and the unique features of the foothill canyons running down toward the plains.

view from the summit of bergen peak near evergreen colorado

To return, hike the same way you hiked in for a total of 9.4 miles.

Alternatively, you can make this a loop hike by descending the 1 mile summit trail and taking a left on the Too Long Trail (think about it's name before going this way and make sure you have plenty of water). This makes a steep, 2.4 mile, switchbacked descent back down to the Meadow View Trail. Take a right (south) onto the Meadow View Trail, hiking for 1 mile until you come to the intersection. here, go right again onto the Meadow View Trail, taking it back to the trail leading to the Stagecoach Trailhead. This loop hike up Bergen Peak totals approximately 9.1 miles.

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

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hays creek waterfall cascading over red granitic sandstone near carbondale colorado

Hayes Creek Falls Waterfall

Hayes Creek Falls is a 40' waterfall with multiple cascades located just off CO-133 along the Crystal River near Redstone, Colorado. Accessed via a roadside pull-off, Hays Creek Falls makes for a refreshing stop along the West Elk Scenic Loop, on of the most beautiful scenic drives in Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Hayes Creek Falls

roadside pulloff for hays creek falls near carbondale colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Hayes Creek Falls

Hays Creek Falls is located along a stretch of scenic Colorado 133 just south of Carbondale and the Historic Redstone District and a popular viewpoint along the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway. From Denver, take Interstate 70 West into the mountains. Exit in Glenwood Springs via exit 116, taking CO-82 South toward Carbondale, Colorado. In Carbondale, take a right onto CO-133. At the traffic circle, go straight through (second turn), staying on CO-133. The road will follow the Crystal River south into some absolutely beautiful country. As you drive through the Historic Redstone District, you'll notice the Redstone Inn on your left, a historic retreat that stands out because of its unusual architecture. From this waypoint, the pulloff parking area for the falls is just 1.7 miles further.

young hikers following sign to hays creek falls in colorado

The is marked by a Hays Creek Falls sign. This may be a misspelling as signage and online maps have it named both "Hayes Creek Falls" and "Hays Creek Falls." That's why this trail profile alternates between the spellings. There is enough room for a handful of cars. Be sure to park well off the road and to be aware of cars traveling at highway speeds.

The Hike: Hayes Creek Falls

Hayes Creek Falls is more of a scenic stop than a hike, one of the places you visit while on this scenic countryside drive. Our family took in the waterfall on our return from one of our Fall Scenic Drives and camping trips. Along this same stretch of road, just two miles you'll also want to stop at the Redstone Historic Coke Ovens (pictured below). These are what remains from a turn-of-the-century coke operation that has been resorted by Pitkin County. These beehive structures look like something out of a fantasy novel or ancient Ireland.

historic coke ovens with fence in foreground and mountain in background with lush green summer vegetation in redstone colorado

The hike to the falls is just about 25 yards from the roadside sign. In early Summer the cascades of the waterfall gush with water. In the winter, Hayes Creek Falls is a popular ice-climbing destination as the waterfall turns into a giant layered sculpture of ice. There are no developed trails at Hays Creek Falls, with the exception of the short entrance trail. I noticed a few trails on the south side of the falls, and one may lead to the area above the falls, which looks to have a series of cascades. If exploring this area, be aware that it's easy to fall or to inadvertently kick rock and debris down and injure people below. A young man was killed at Boulder Falls while trying the to climb up unstable rock near the waterfall. So, be wise when exploring.

hays creek waterfall in roadside ravine in Colorado

Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.

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

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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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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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fall colors along highway 67 between divide and cripple creek colorado on the way to horsethief falls hike

Horsethief Falls Hike Near Colorado Springs

Horsethief Falls is a small slab waterfall located 45 minutes from Colorado Springs on the West side of Pikes Peak. The Horsetheif Falls trail requires a 1.4-mile easy hike (one-way) to the falls. This hike, along with nearby Pancake Rocks make for great fall hiking and a scenic falls drive to see the golden aspens of the Colorado Front Range. The Horsethief Falls Trails joins up with two other trails if you would like to add more time to your adventure and explore the rock formations of this unique area. See the full Horsethief Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Colorado Springs.

Trail Snapshot: Horsethief Falls Hike

Horsethief Falls Trailhead Directions

Horsethief Falls trailhead is located just off of Highway 67 about halfway between Divide and Cripple Creek, Colorado. From Divide, turn south on Highway 67 and drive approximately 9.3 miles until you spot a closed railroad tunnel on the left side of the road. Just past the tunnel the road will bend and the trailhead parking area is on the left side of the road. Zoom in on the driving directions map at the bottom of this post to get a better visual on the parking area.

aspens and evergreens on the west side of pikes peak near pancake rocks and horsethief falls

The Hike: Horsethief Falls Trail

The Horsethief Falls Trail begins on right side of the old tunnel exit, following a wide dirt path steadily uphill before eventually flattening out. The elevation gain for this hike is just a bit over 500', so we considered grading its difficulty-level as moderate. However, because it's just 1.4 miles one-way, we kept it in the Easy hikes category.

The trail will cross the shallow creek at about 0.7 mile in. Here, hikers will encounter the first intersection. The Ring the Peak Trail (marked "Horsethief Park Trail" on the map) bears to the left, but the way up to Horsethief Falls is to continue straight on the Horsethief Falls Trail. Crossing the creek again the trail will soon intersect, at about 0.9 mile, with the Pancake Rocks Trail (on the right). Again, continue straight on the Horsetheif Falls trail. In this area, you'll be able to take in views to the northeast of Sentinel Point. This is an almost perfect area to take in the changing aspens along the forests surrounding Pikes Peak.

The trail will bend to the right (south) and cross over the creek once again and make its way up to the base of Horsethief Falls.

horsethief falls waterfall near cripple creek colorado

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Preview of Infographic for Top 5 Fall Hikes Near Denver

5 Favorite Fall Hikes Near Denver

We teamed up with Camping World, who created this great infographic of 5 of our favorite Fall hikes near Denver. Explore our 30+ Top Fall Hikes Near Denver page to get driving directions, trail maps, and hiking tips for these 5 hikes and more.

infographic of five fall hikes near denver colorado camping world dayhikes near denver


Hiker on summit of bear peak near boulder colorado

Bear Peak Near Boulder

Bear Peak is a demanding 7.4-mile hike (round trip) through the broad meadows of South Mesa, up through the rocky trail of shadow canyon, to the granite summit with sweeping 360 degree views of the Colorado Front Range. You can summit South Boulder Peak on your way and make a loop hike out of your adventure by returning via Fern Canyon. Explore the full Bear Peak hike profile below for the trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Boulder, Colorado.

Bear Peak Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for Bear Peak

south mesa trailhead with sign near boulder hike for bear peak

Access to Bear Peak 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.

The Hike: Bear Peak

From the South Mesa Trailhead, the trail leads across a small bridge spanning over Boulder Creek. Willow trees arch over the stream making it worth a short pause to take in the sounds of water before you set off across the meadows of South Mesa. There are many trail options, but the most direct is to take the Homestead Trail, which heads West across a gentle grade toward Shadow Canyon.

bridge across creek with bear peak and flatirons in distance trail for bear peak hike

This first mile or so of the hike is easy and offers stunning views of the Flatirons and views of the entrance of Eldorado Canyon. An old stone building, part of an early homestead is the first marker you'll pass early in the hike.

old stone building along south mesa homestead trail on hike to bear creek

After about 1.3 miles, the trail will split. Take the left (West) trail, which leads to the South Shadow Canyon Trail. After about a 1/2 mile, you'll encounter a 2nd trail split. The Shadow Canyon Trail will again bear to the left and begin heading up steeper terrain.

bear peak lit by sunrise south of boulder colorado

As the trail ascends, you soon leave the meadow and enter into more dense ponderosa pine forest. The vegetation in the understory grows tall and green at the entrance to the canyon. You'll see another cabin with a metal roof (pictured below). Soon past the cabin will be another important trail juncture. Again, the trail up Shadow Canyon will bear left (West).

old cabin in shadow canyon on the way up to bear peak near boulder colorado

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

Once in Shadow Canyon, the trail now becomes much more steep and requires navigating over rock and tree roots. This segment of the trail traveling up through the canyon is over a mile, so be ready for a steady and demanding climb.

sign for trail split shadow canyon to bear peak and wildflowers in foreground

The canyon is an access route for Devils Thumb, a prominent rock formation along this ridge. There are seasonal closures (see photo below) because of nesting raptors. Be sure to stay out of this area from Feb. 1st to July 31st. You are welcome to stay on the Shadow Canyon trail--it's not closed during this time--but refrain from going off-trail or taking social trails during this time up to Devils Thumb.

sign for area closure in shadow canyon on way up to bear peak near boulder

Eventually, the trail emerges from the canyon onto the saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. This area is marked by a burn area, and in the late summer, raspberry plants grow trailside full of ripe berries. The burn was ignited by lightning in June of 2012. Named the Flagstaff Fire, it consumed about 300 acres before being contained by firefighters.

above shadow canyon looking down into canyon from a burn area on the saddle between south boulder peak and bear peak in the flatirons

Another trail sign notes the way to Bear Peak, a 0.3 mile trail segment curving North up the back of the summit.
sign for trail split on saddle between bear peak and south boulder peak

You'll notice more burn area on the left (West) side of the trail. The rock on the trail becomes increasingly brittle as you go, so be aware of those hiking below you and be sure to hike on the most secure and durable surfaces.

trail through burn area leading up to bear peak in the flatirons near boulder colorado

The final segment requires a scramble along about 25 yards of angled rock. Take your time and scope out the safest route to the summit. Most peaks along the Front Range have broad tops, but Bear Peak is tapered to a point. Several USGS markers are set into the rock (I think I counted 3--which is unusual). The views are great, both to the East and to the mountains in the West.

View from Bear Peak Near Boulder Colorado Orange granite peak looking down toward rolling green and trees landscape

There are two options for the return hike: 1) to hike the 3.7 miles back through Shadow Canyon, retracing the same trails, or 2) to make a loop out of the hike by descending via Fern Canyon (about 4.7-mile return). The rest of this profile will follow the Fern Canyon to Mesa Trail return.

trail sign at split just below the summit of bear peak pointing to fern canyon

A sign marking the trail down Fern Canyon is located right at the base of Bear Peak (where the trail turns into a scramble up the summit). The descent into Fern Canyon is very steep and the rock is very loose. Hikers will also encounter people making their way up the trail, so be sure to move off to the side and grant right-of-way to hikers who are doing the harder work of ascending the trail. I would not recommend hiking up to Bear Peak from this route because the trail is way more demanding than the Shadow Canyon approach.

descent trail that is very steep and rocky leading down into fern canyon from bear peak in the flatirons

After about 1/2 of a mile descending this steep saddle, the trail will bear right (East) into Fern Canyon via a series of switchbacks. Eventually, the trail will emerge from Fern Canyon back onto the more gentle slopes of South Mesa. Look for signs for the Mesa Trail, and follow them South back to the South Mesa Trailhead.

mesa trailhead sign below flatirons near boulder colorado

The hike back on the Mesa Trail travels in and out of the shade of Ponderosa pines and along the pink and orange Flatiron mountains that make this area so spectacular. We took the Upper Bluestem trail to some small connector trails leading back to the trailhead. Another approach is stay on the Mesa Trail (see map) until it connects back to the Homestead Trail.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Bear Peak

  • Hiking with Your Dog: Though dogs are allowed on leash, and I've encountered people hiking with their dogs on the trails up to Bear Peak, I wouldn't put Bear Peak on the dog-friendly list because of the steep rock at the summit summit and the difficulty of the terrain leading up through the canyons.
  • TIP: Be ready for a hike that is really demanding on your legs, especially the descent through Fern or Shadow Canyon. Trekking poles would be helpful on the descent.
  • TIP: Hike to South Boulder Peak. It adds just 0.6 mile to your trip.
  • Trail Map: Bear Peak Map from South Mesa Trailhead
  • 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 Cafe: Walnut Cafe in Boulder
  • After the Hike Brewery: Sanitas Brewing Company

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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


Fall Hikes and Scenic Drive Ideas

"Where should I hike this Fall?" Friends text asking for Fall hike recommendations and coworkers stop me in the hallway to ask what trails are best for enjoying the colors of Colorado. During September and early October, we have a short window to see the golden yellows, bright oranges, and the fire reds of the changing aspens. In this post, I'm sharing my top Fall hike and scenic drive recommendations--the ones I share with my friends, family, and coworkers. Don't Miss the Mountains!

  • #1 Scenic Drive and Hike: Old Fall Creek Road

  • Fee: National Park Access Fee Required

    Dogs: Dogs prohibited outside of your vehicle in these segments of RMNP

    Miles of Driving: About 210 Miles or 5-6 hours in the Car

    Access: Old Fall River Road is seasonal, so check for conditions and closures.

    Last year, our family drove up one of the most scenic dirt roads in Colorado, Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. We stopped to visit two waterfalls, hiked through the wildflowers in an alpine meadow, saw moose and elk, then finished our day off with a great dinner on the other side of the Continental Divide.

    The 9.5 mile dirt road is usually kept in good condition and was driveable with our low clearance, 2WD minivan. However, conditions can change quickly with weather, so be sure to check the RMNP road conditions page before setting off on your trip.

    The trip starts at the Fall River Entrance on the Northeast side of Rocky Mountain National Park. There is an entrance fee, and each year we purchase the annual America the Beautiful pass, which gives you access to all the National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and other BLM, National Forest, and Army Corp of Engineers sites. We visit RMNP several times each year, so it pays for itself after a few visits. If you have a 4th grader, your family can get a free annual pass through the Every Kid Outdoors program. You can purchase the pass online, or you can buy it at any of the entrance stations.

    waterfall on granite rock with aspen trees and evergreens in rocky mountain national park horseshoe falls

    Our first stop was Horseshoe Falls, a beautiful set of cascades in the alluvial fan of the Roaring River. Next, we kept driving up Endovalley Road to the beginning of Old Fall River Road. Once on Old Fall River Road, you've committed to the drive because it's a one-way, dirt road all the way to the top (about 10 miles). The Endovalley Picnic area is located just before Endovalley Road becomes Old Fall River Road and you'll see signs pointing you to this shaded spot.

    waterfall in gorge on fall river road in rocky mountain national park chasm falls dayhikes near denver

    The next stop is Chasm Falls. Be mindful of others and park with care. It's a beautiful waterfall--one of our favorites in the park because it is so accessible. Chasm Falls drops through a dark and narrow gorge in Fall River. You can get more details on its location from our trail profile of Chasm Falls. If you are interested in exploring the many waterfalls in RMNP, check out our Waterfall Hikes in RMNP page.

    Higher up, you can park at the Chapin Creek Trailhead to hike in the high country. It's a fragile tundra environment up here, so stay to the trail and do your part to care for this high traffic and easily damaged area. Parking is really limited. So, if you plan to hike here, be sure to start early so you can get a space. If you park roadside, be sure to use the pull-off areas. The trail here is high in elevation and very exposed, so be sure to keep an eye on the weather when hiking.

    alpine lake with reflection of sky and mountain in the background green tundra in foreground rocky mountain national park

    Towards the top, we found some trails along the south (left) side of the road leading to a beautiful creek, lined with wildflowers and surrounded by meadows where elk were grazing. Taking photos here was one of our favorite parts of the trip. Then, at the top, we stopped at the Alpine Visitor's Center to use the restrooms and grab some coffee before our trip down. There is a cafe and gift shop.

    From the top, you've got a couple choices: 1) Descend back into Estes Park on Trail Ridge Road, or 2) Travel down the West Side into Grand Lake. We chose to drive down to Grand Lake and stop at the Bowen-Baker Trailhead where we had a late picnic lunch on the banks of the Colorado River where we saw moose and elk in the meadows. Keep aware in this area as moose, though they are gigantic, can hide themselves well in the trees, and are very territorial--especially cows with their calves.

    You can end your trip driving back to Denver via Highway 40 to interstate 70. We stopped and had pizza at Beaujo's in Idaho Springs for Dinner. We also like stopping at The Peak in Winter Park, or grabbing a bite to eat (or great ice cream) in Grand Lake.

    Map of Old Fall River Road to Grand Lake Scenic Loop


    Kenosha Pass Aspen Trees gold orange with mountain in background full of fall colors

  • #2 Scenic Drive and Hike: Kenosha Pass and Highway 77

  • Hike Distance: Less than Mile to 14.4 Miles

    Difficulty: Easy to Demanding

    Miles of Driving: About 220 Miles or 4.5 hours in the Car

    Kenosha Pass is arguably the most stunning fall landscape close to Denver. Check out our full trail profile page for Kenosha Pass. But with the population growth of the Front Range, and it being just 90 minutes from Denver, this place is getting a lot of traffic. Go on a weekday, or leave before 6am on the weekend to avoid traffic. Hiking etiquette becomes all that much more important when there are more people, so be sure to brush up on your trail courtesy before heading out. Expect a slow drive home if you are taking highway 85 back to Denver. However, I'd recommend taking a more leisurely way home and visit some other sites.

    After hiking at Kenosha Pass, drive down into the South Park region to take in views of these stretch-to-forever countryside. In Jefferson, turn onto Highway 77. This highway is one of my favorite drives in all of Colorado (keep it a secret). Just about 30 minutes from Kenosha Pass, you'll arrive at Tarryall Reservoir where you can park and take a short walk to a quaint waterfall, Tarryall Falls.

    tarryall falls near jefferson header

    From Tarryall Reservoir, it's another 30 minute drive on 77 south to Lake George, Colorado. Along the stretch of road you'll see the China Wall (see photo below) and the mountains of Lost Creek Wilderness. If you got started early and want to hike in this area, start at the Twin Eagles Trailhead or Spruce Campground where you can begin hiking up into some beautiful stands of aspens along the boundary of Lost Creek. If you are hungry and looking for a place to stop, check out The Iron Tree Restaurant just outside Lake George.

    Sunlit mountain scenery of the tarryall mountains in colorado

    From Lake George, it's about a 1-hour drive back into Colorado Springs, or about a 2-hour drive back to Denver via 24 to interstate 25. If you want one more stop on this big loop drive, stop in at Garden of the God's for a sunset stroll. See our Ultimate Guide to Hiking Garden of the Gods to plan on which of the six hiking trails you might decide to take.

    Map of Kenosha Pass to Lake George Scenic Loop


    wildflowers along stream with trio falls in the distance rocky mountain national park

  • #3 Hike the Wild Basin in RMNP

  • Hike Distance: 5.4 to 14 miles

    Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

    Drive Time: About 90 minutes from Denver

    Fee: National Park Access Fee Required

    Dogs: Dogs prohibited in RMNP

    Where is the Wild Basin? It's a region of Rocky Mountain National Park, located South of Estes Park on the East side of the Continental Divide. And it's gorgeous! A friend and I recently hiked in to one of the campsites, stayed the night, then hiked the entire next day. On the trip, I was in search of the trail to a massive, hidden waterfall. We got directions to the social trail from a local guide and an off-duty park ranger, but didn't have time to hike it yet. I'll send out a trail profile in one of our future Trail Dispatches (sign up here to get the email).

    Like so many places near Denver, the Wild Basin trailhead can get busy; so, go early or on a weekday. And when I say "go early," I mean, "leave before 6 AM." I'd recommend two different options. The first is the shorter hike up to Ouzel Falls. It's a 5.4-mile round trip hike, and you can make it into a loop hike by taking the campsite trail back. This also cuts off a bit of distance and time. The trail to Ouzel Falls takes you past upper and lower Copeland Falls, stunning Calypso Cascades, and the gushing spray of Ouzel Falls.

    hiker at the base of waterfall on large rock ouzel falls rocky mountain national park

    The other option is to hike a more demanding, 14-mile round trip trail up to Lion Lake. Your legs will feel like jelly on the way down, but it's worth the sites. We opted to camp at St. Vrain campsite (any in that area will do) and to hike up to Lion Lake in the morning. Backcountry camping permits are required and can be acquired from the RMNP Backcountry Office (these must be picked up in person).

    mountain with lion lake beneath it and blue skies on summer day rocky mountain national park in wild basin

    Just past Lion Lakes is an unusual waterfall, Trio Falls, spilling over the cubic face of granite outcropping. And higher up are two more alpine lakes worth visiting. Be sure to have a Trails Illustrated Rocky Mountain National Park map for these trips.

    kebler pass with golden aspen trees and grey mountain in background courtesy of Kevin Wenning

  • #4 Kebler Pass Scenic Drive and Camping Trip

  • 3-Day Camping Trip with Scenic Drive

    Miles of Driving: About 470 Miles or 12 hours in the Car

    This is one of our 2019 family fall adventures--and it's a lot more ambitious than any of the above recommendations. I'll be reporting back soon, so look for this description to be updated with better details. Here's our plan for taking in the Fall colors of Colorado!

    Day 1

    The plan is to drive up Cottonwood Pass, a scenic highway outside of Buena Vista. It's a seasonal road and usually closes sometime in October when the snow starts to pile up. There are about a dozen campsites along this approximately 50-mile stretch of road between Buena Vista and Altmont, Colorado. So, we plan to camp close to Altmont for our first night. Most all of the sites are first come, first served after mid-September.

    Day 2

    We'll spend the day hiking around Crested Butte, take the scenic drive over Kebler Pass and camp somewhere outside of town or perhaps at Paonia State Park.

    Day 3

    I'm hoping we'll still have some adventure left in us and can make an early morning drive to Aspen to the Maroon Bells trailhead. You can drive the road to the trailhead before 8am. There is a $10 access fee. From 8am-5pm, you have to take the shuttle. See our Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Maroon Bells for more details.

    Here's a map below of the proposed adventure.


    golden aspen trees with evergreen in foreground on dirt road indian peaks colorado

  • #5: Fall Hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Hike Distance: 1.5 to 13 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Difficult

Drive Time: About 90 minutes from Denver

If you are looking for some alpine scenery and a shorter scenic drive, the hikes coming out of the 4th of July, Hessie, and Brainard Lake Trailheads are top notch. You'll have to leave super early to beat the crowds, but it's worth it. The photo above is from the drive in on 4th of July Road during the early morning hours of September. Come prepared by packing the 10 essentials, and add to that a down coat because it gets cold the higher you hike and snow falls early at these reaches. A few hikes worth exploring are below.
long lake in indian peaks wilderness colorado clouds and blue sky with jagged mountains, evergreen trees and lake

Explore these 5 Trail Profiles in Indian Peaks

  • Long Lake Loop Trail: An easy 1.5 mile loop hike with mountain and lake views. Accessed from the Brainard Lake Recreation area and entrance fee is required. Seasonal closures of trailhead.
  • Lost Lake: A moderate hike of 4 miles round trip to a sub-alpine lake.
  • Diamond Lake: 5.4 miles round trip, moderate, and passes a waterfall on the way.
  • Jasper Lake: A demanding 11-mile round trip hike up to a stunning sub-alpine lake.
  • Devils Thumb Lake: 13 miles round trip, demanding hike with approx. 2500' of elevation gain with views of Devils Thumb lake and Devils Thumb

jasper lake in colorado clouds against blue sky at a lake at the foot of the mount framed by evergreens

Jasper Lake Hike in Indian Peaks

Jasper Lake requires a 5.5-mile (one-way) hike into the mountainous, wildflower-laden Indian Peaks Wilderness. Just 40 minutes outside of Boulder Colorado and about 1hr 15 minutes from Denver, the trail to Jasper Lake gets its start at the Hessie Trailhead. Travel an additional mile beyond Jasper to see Devils Thumb, a striking rock formation that looms above Devil's Thumb Lake. Explore the full Jasper Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

JASPER LAKE TRAIL SNAPSHOT

Parking & Trailhead for Jasper Lake Hike

The parking at Hessie Trailhead is limited, so be sure to take some time to review these details before departing for your hike to Jasper Lake. There is a free 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 visit the Boulder County page for the Hessie Trailhead shuttle service. This shuttle departs from the RTD Park-n-Ride in Nederland, CO.

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 between the 2WD and 4WD trailheads.

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The Hike: Jasper Lake Trail

Most hikers will begin the hike up to Jasper lake at the Hessie 2WD parking area. This adds about 1 mile to the total hike distance, making this an 11-mile hike (round-trip). It's also where the shuttle drops off hikers. At the 2WD parking area, pick up the trail that runs along the north side of the 4WD dirt road. The trail will take you within view of a small pond. Moose frequent the wetlands on this segment of the trail, so be alert--you may get a chance to snap some photos of them.

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

At approximately 1/2 mile from the shuttle drop, a sign marks the site of the old mining town of Hessie, Colorado. The trail then crosses a footbridge over Middle Boulder Creek. Soon after the bridge, you'll find the official trailhead signage. Because this is a longer hike into demanding terrain, we recommend Trails Illustrated: Indian Peaks Wilderness map for this hike.

After crossing the bridge near the trailhead, the trail climbs the mountainside via an old mining road. After 1/4 mile, the forest gives way to a meadow and opens up to panoramic views of the peaks of Indian Peaks. At the first trail intersection, both trail options will take hikers to Jasper Lake, and both options are approximately the same length. The right-hand trail is called the "Devils Thumb Bypass trail" and was created for Spring and Early Summer hikers to help avoid the mud and pools of water created by early season snowmelt. However, the trail leading to the left, the Devils Thumb Trail, will be a more scenic choice.

Small waterfalls and cascades are spotted along the trail as it follows the course of Middle Boulder creek. Indian Peaks Wilderness is known for its brilliant wildflowers that bloom from early to mid-summer. If traveling on the the Devils Thumb (main trail) then you'll encounter a second intersection marked by signage pointing left to Lost Lake and King Lake, and right for Devils Thumb Lake, Jasper Lake, and Woodland Lake. Taking the right-hand trail continues alongside Middle Boulder Creek and leads up to Jasper Lake.

The next intersection will have a left-hand trail that leads to Woodland Lake and a right-bearing trail that leads to Devils Thumb and Jasper Lakes. This is where the bypass trail joins up to the main trail from the southeast. Now, the terrain becomes more demanding.

mountain peaks with late summer snow and cascading creek through high mountain meadow in indian peaks wilderness near jasper lake and devils thumb lake

About 1/2 mile before arriving at Jasper Lake, a trail sign will point the way northeast to Diamond Lake. However, Diamond Lake is best accessed via the 4th of July Trailhead. Be mindful of the sky when emerging from the forest into the open sections of high-country meadows and tundra. Thunderstorms, during in the Summer months, can come up quickly due to orographic lift, a phenomenon caused by the heated rock faces of our mountains thrusting moisture into the skies along the Front Range.

If the weather is looking good and you're up to adding two more miles and approximately 1hr to your hike, then continue up the trail to Devils Thumb Lake to gain views and get photos another alpine lake and the rock formation of Devils Thumb that protrudes from the ridgeline.

jasper lake in colorado clouds against blue sky at a lake at the foot of the mount framed by evergreens

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Jasper Lake

  • 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.
  • Trekking Poles: Because it's an 11-mile trek over rocky terrain, we recommend Trekking Poles.
  • Parking: Parking is very limited at the Hessie trailhead, so try to arrive before 7am to find a space. Review trailhead information above for seasonal weekend and holiday shuttle service from Nederland.
  • Trail Map: Jasper Lake near Nederland
  • 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 The John and Belinda Bosleyfor sharing photographs of this hike to Jasper Lake
  • After the Hike: Train Cars Coffee

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above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge hike finder


long lake in indian peaks wilderness colorado clouds and blue sky with jagged moutnains, evergreen trees and lake

Long Lake Loop in Indian Peaks

Long Lake offers an easy 1.5 mile loop hike in Indian Peaks Wilderness. Located about 1 hour West of Boulder, Colorado, Long Lake is an easy-to-access alpine lake with stunning scenery. It's a popular spot, especially in the Summer months, so be sure to read the details on access fees and the notes below on the Long Lake Trailhead. Explore the full trail profile for trail maps, driving directions to Long Lake and more.

Long Lake in Indian Peaks - Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for Long Lake Loop

Note: This trailhead can only be reached by using Brainard Lake Road, which has seasonal closures. Because the Brainard Lake Recreation area is extremely popular, this entrance road experiences high amounts of traffic during weekends on the Summer. See the USFS page for details. For Brainard Lake Road closure status, see the Boulder Ranger District roads page.

From Boulder, Colorado, head North on US36/28th Street. Take a left onto Lee Hill Road. Lee Hill Road will dead-end at an intersection with Left-Hand Canyon Road. Take a left onto Left-Hand Canyon Road heading West. Eventually, Left-Hand Canyon Road will turn into Indiana Gulch Road and will turn into Utica Road upon entering the town of Ward, Colorado. Utica turns into Nelson Road (lots of name changes on this trip) then ends at an intersection with 72/Peak to Peak Highway. Take a right onto 72, then the almost immediate next turn will be on your left for the Brainard Lake Road. Travel on Brainard Lake Road 2.2 miles to the entry station where you will need to pay the fee for the recreation area. As you approach the lake, bear right to continue on the Brainard Lake Road for another 1/2 mile, then turn right onto Mitchell lake Road. Go less than 1/10th of a mile, then turn left onto Long Lake Road. After about 1/3 of a mile, you will have arrived at the Long Lake Trailhead and parking area.

In the winter, the Brainard Lake Recreation area is a popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destination. However, all parking is at the Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead (near the access gate). It is approx. 4-miles one-way from the Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead to the Long-Lake Trailhead.

The Hike: Long Lake Loop Hike

From the Long Lake Trailhead, it's an easy and short 0.3-mile hike to Long Lake. Returning via this trail makes this a 0.6-mile out-and-back trip. However, to really take in the best of the Rocky Mountain Scenery, we recommend doing the full 1.5-mile loop.

Having reached the northeastern edge of Long Lake, head south over a footbridge and pick up the Jean Lunning Trail. The Jean Lunning trail travels alongside the southern perimeter of Long Lake and offers stunning views of the jagged mountain peaks surrounding the lake. Eventually, the Jean Lunning trail will intersect with the Pawnee Pass Trail. Take a right on the Pawnee Pass trail to head east and back to the short connector trail that leads back to the trailhead.

long lake brainard lake recreation area

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Tips & Resources for Hiking Long Lake

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