snow capped pikes peak in background and orange rock of garden of the gods in foreground

Garden of the Gods Ultimate Hiking Guide

Garden of the Gods is argueabley the best place to hike in Colorado Springs. Designated a National Natural Landmark, the park is known for its towering red sandstone formations and panoramic views of Pikes Peak. Hiking, Horseback riding, mountain biking, birding, and climbing are among the activities that can be enjoyed here. This guide to the Garden of the Gods features 6 different hiking trail options, spanning from easy to moderate and 1/2 mile to 2.5 mile hikes.

We've attempted to create the definitive guide to hiking in Garden of the Gods. In this guide, you'll find: Driving directions to Garden of the Gods, Trail Maps, Photography tips, Camping information for the Garden of the Gods area, and other Resources for planning your Colorado Vacation. This guide to Garden of the Gods is extensive, so we have created a table of contents to help you navigate. Have fun exploring!

Garden of the Gods Hiking Guide Contents

  1. Trail Snapshot
  2. Driving Directions
  3. Hiking Trails
  4. Central Garden Trail
  5. Ridge Trail
  6. Siamese Twins Trail
  7. Palmer Trail
  8. Scotsman & Buckskin Charlie Loops
  9. Balanced Rock Trail
  10. Photography
  11. Hiking with Kids
  12. For Out-of-State Hikers
  13. Things to Do Nearby
  14. History and Geology
  15. Protect Garden of the Gods

Trail Snapshot: Garden of the Gods

Driving Directions to Garden of the Gods

Take interstate I-25 to Colorado Springs. Exit onto West Fillmore Road and head West. Fillmore will change names to Fontmore Road. Take a right onto North 30th Street, and you'll find the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center just 1.2 miles up on the right/east side of the road. We recommend you stop at the Visitor Center to pick up a free color trail map. The main parking area for hiking is located on the North end of the park. You'll find Gateway Road (the access road into Garden of the Gods) directly across from the Visitor Center. Head west on Gateway road, then right at the intersection with Juniper Way Loop Road. The main parking area is located on the left-hand/South side of the first bend of the Juniper Way Loop. There are restroom facilities available at both the main parking area and at the visitor center.

Before you park, consider driving around the entire Juniper Way loop to take in the sites and get your bearings. It's one of the most beautiful drives in Colorado, especially during sunrise and sunset. The loop is one way, has a low speed limit, and is frequented by cyclists. So, it also makes for a great bike ride-- the northbound loop is a gradual but demanding climb. Be attentive to hikers and cyclists as you drive in the park.

6 Hiking Trails at Garden of the Gods

concrete path winding through red rock formations with scrub grasses and juniper trees

Central Garden Trail at Garden of the Gods Steve Walser

Trail Option #1 - The Central Garden Trails

We've put this loop hike first on our list because it takes you right into the heart of the park. It's also paved and wheelchair and stroller accessible. From the parking lot, hikers will head south on the main trail (pictured above). On your right will be the largest of the sandstone Monoliths, North Gateway Rock. The tower on its north end is called the Tower of Babel, and its south end marks the gateway into the famous central valley. But before you enter the valley, be sure to look up at the Kissing Camels formation located at the middle-top of North Gateway Rock.

The loop begins right after you enter through the gateway at the twin spires of Sentinel Rock. Going left will take you on a clockwise circuit around the valley. You'll first pass between the Three Graces and Pulpit Rock before the trail bends to the North. Finally, the trail will bend South and meet back up with the trail that leads back to the main parking lot. There are many other trails that come off of the main loop trail, so bring a map with you if you plan to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the park.

snow covered pikes peak with red sandstone and tree in foreground

View of Pikes Peak from the South End of Garden of the Gods Courtesy of John Kalla

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

Looking for more places to hike with your dog? Explore more Dog-Friendly hikes near Denver by visiting our 25+ Dog Friendly Hikes and our Top 10 Dog Hikes Near Denver.

Trail Option #2 - The Ridge Trail at Garden of the Gods

The Ridge Trail is a short, half-mile loop on the southeastern end of the park. From the parking area indicated in the table above, the trail is located across the street to the left by takign a crosswalk. Before you cross, be aware of cars and cyclists (often the cyclists come around the curves of the park much faster and can take you by surprise). The Ridge trail makes it way to the foot of The Sleeping Giant formation before bending back toward the parking area.

two red rock towers rock formation with pikes peak mountain in background

Siamese Twins Rock Formation - Courtesy of Matt Santamarco

Trail Option #3 - The Siamese Twins Trail

To hike to the Siamese Twins formation, take the trail on the north end of the parking lot that leads North. As you hike, you'll observe a very different landscape to the West, desert terrain that stretches out and up to Rampart Range Road. At the Siamese Twins, be sure to grab a photo of Pikes Peak framed by the window in the rock. Be sure to adjust your camera to take it's light reading from the distant mountain rather than the foreground (on your phone, simply press your screen to readjust the reference point for the lighting and focus). The trail heads South and will pass the parking area as it bends around and back up to it.

garden of the gods colorado springs header

View of Central Garden From Palmer Trail - Courtesy of John Fowler

Trail Option #4 - The Palmer Trail (Chambers/Bretag Loop)

This 2.5 mile loop hike is a great way to take in the full spectrum of terrain and rock formations in the park. The route, as describe below is about 2.5 miles, and mileage may vary depending on the side trails you decide to take. From the main parking area/trailhead, the Palmer Trail can be picked up by crossing Juniper Way directly North of the lot. Heading left/West on the Palmer trail, it will wind around South, roughly following the main road through Garden of the Gods.

To make the loop, at about 1.3 miles on the Palmer Trail hikers will cross Juniper Way at the Scotsman Picnic Area and join up with the Scotsman Trail. It will dips South initally, then heads Northeast to meet up with the trails of the Central Valley. This area can be quite a labyrinth and the best way to pick up the Eastern side of the loop will be to keep an eye out for the gateway, the space between North Gateway and South Gateway Rocks. Once through the gateway, hikers will pick up the Garden Trail, head East, and join up with the Susan G. Bretag Trail, by crossing Juniper Way where it intersects with Gateway Road. Heading North on the Bretage Trail, it will eventually come to a fork. Taking the left-hand/West trail (Palmer Trail) will lead back to the parking lot.

Trail Option #5 - The Scotsman and Buckskin Charlie Loops

These are two loops found just South of the Central Valley area. The parking area is small and will likely be full during most days during the Summer months. One alternative is to begin your hike at the main lot, then pick up the Scotsman trail on the South end of the Valley.

The Scotsman Loop is 1.1 mile in its entirety. Picking up the trail from the Scotsman Picnic ground by following social trails East, the Scotsman dips South then winds Northeast before making a sharp turn South and back to the parking area. Bring your trail map, or have it up on your phone to keep oriented.

The Buckskin Charlie Trail can be added to double your hike. Hikers will pick up the Buckskin Charlie Trail on the southern bends of the Scotsman. The trail winds around until it begins again to head North, following the line of the main road, Juniper way, until it joins back up with the Scotsman and returns home to the Scotsman Picnic area.

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

giant red rock balanced on rock fulcrum in garden of the gods

Balanced Rock - Courtesy of Chica-Tika

Trail Option #6 - The Balanced Rock Loop Hike

You don't have to hike to Balanced Rock (see driving directions in the table above). In fact, this loop hike is named "the Balanced Rock Trail" only because it is near Balanced Rock, not because it takes you there. For visitors entering through the South end of the park, Balanced Rock will be the first stop, then on to the Trading Post. In fact, the best way to pick up the Balanced Rock Trail is from the Northern end of the Trading Post lot. Hikers will find a connector trail that goes directly from the lot North, crosses the road, and immediately picks up the Balanced Rock Loop trail. Hiking counter-clockwise, the trail follows alongside Garden road, then leads North until it terminates at another section of the road. Hikers can cross the road (watch for cars and cyclists) and pick up the Cabin Canyon Trail across the street. Taking the Cabin Canyon Trail South, it will come to a crosswalk where you can pick the Balanced Rock Trail up again and back to the parking area.

Photography: Great Photos in Garden of the Gods

  • All year round and any time of the day, Garden of the Gods is already photogenic. However, the best times to take photos are during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the rock faces are lit up and cast their shadows across the landscape. Going early in the morning will also help you avoid having people in your photos.
  • Snow adds its white contrast during the Winter months and early Spring. If you want a snowcapped Pikes Peak in the background, you'll likely need to get that shot before mid-June.
  • Wildflowers appear most noticeably in April through July.
  • After heavy rains, standing water can form what look like small ponds (but are really giant puddles). These offer the rare opportunity to capture the reflection of the rock formations on water.
  • One classic vantage point is to take your photo from the North End of the Palmer Trail at Sunset. This will give you one of the best photographs of the Central Valley area.
  • For sunrise, a great place to capture Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background is from the parking area up on Mesa Road that overlooks the park.

Hiking with Kids at Garden of the Gods

  • Hydrate: This goes for adults as well, but is even more important with kiddos. Almost all the trails in Garden of the Gods are exposed to the sun. You're also in a High-Plains Desert environment, so you simply need more water. Then add onto that physical exertion. So, bring water and hydrate.
  • Pack Snacks or Bring a Lunch: Even though the hikes are not long in Garden of the Gods, it always helps to have fuel. Plus, nothing beats finding a great view of Pikes Peak and kicking back to rest and enjoy a picnic.
  • Climbing can result in injury: Having hiked often in Garden of the Gods, I've witnessed people--usually young people--who have climbed up into areas and gotten themselves in a tough spot. Children should know that climbing up into an area is a lot easier than getting down.

Join our Community. Get the Hiking Guide and our Trail Dispatch for hiking tips and new trails.

Visiting Garden of the Gods 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.
  • Free Full-Color Map: Don't get lost. Pick up this freebie at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center information kiosk.
  • Bring Lots of Water: It can be very hot and dry, and there may not be a chance to refill, so bring a full water bottle.
  • Altitude: If you are visiting Colorado from out-of-state, chances ar that it will take you a few days to adjust to teh altitude. The good news about hikes in Garden of the Gods is that they are relatively easy. However, a little exertion at altitude can result in feeling naseauted, winded, and just plain tired. So, don't overdo it if you are not feeling well. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate (because it oxygenates your blood), and get good rest.
  • Camping Near Garden of the Gods

    Camping is prohibited in Garden of the Gods, and it's important to understand that the Park is located in the town of Colorado Springs--it's not a backcountry experience. Those looking to camp will need to explore campgrounds and tent camping options outside the immediate area. However, there is a nearby campground in Manitou Springs that offers cabins, bunkhouses, and RV spots. It's pet-friendly and even offers bike rentals. You can find current rates and more at Garden of the Gods RV Resort. Most of the tent camping is going to be out near Rampart Range Reservoir or further West past Woodland Park, CO.

    Things to Do and Places to Eat Near Garden of the Gods

    History and Geology of Colorado’s Garden of the Gods

    Imagine a prehistoric landscape of sand dunes plunged and crushed into the earth by some violent upheaval involving tectonic and hydraulic forces. That's how the red rock fins of Garden of the Gods were formed in the womb of the earth. Then another cataclysm. The Pikes Peak massif gets thrust to the sky along with the surrounding red sedimentary rock. Some at angles and some perpendicular to the land. Then the forces of wind and water began to wear down the loose rock creating the unusual holes and across the surfaces of the rocks. You'll find these types of rock formations stretching from North of Ft. Collins down into Southern Colorado. Some of the most notable are Roxborough State Park and South Valley Park near Littleton and Red Rocks Park in Denver.

    After his death in 1907, the children of railroad tycoon, Charles Elliott Perkins, fulfilled their father's wishes by donating 480 acres of Garden of the Gods to become a permanent park and free to the public. The park has expanded over the years to over 1,300 acres. The park got its name from a German surveyor mapping out the land in 1859.

    baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

    How You Can Protect the Garden of the Gods Area

    • Stay the Trail: The sandstone in the parks is easily eroded, and because this area sees a lot of visitors the impacts of individuals quickly adds up. So keep on established trails during your hikes.
    • Keep Dogs on a 6' Leash: And be sure to bring bags for picking up after your pet.
    • Pack Out All Trash: It should go without saying but be sure to pick up after yourself. In the last few years it seems that litter along trails in Colorado has grown to be a real problem. Do your part to keep the park and our State beautiful. One of our family hiking habits is to pick up trash as we hike.
    • Climbing and Bouldering: Climbing and Bouldering in Garden of the Gods require both the proper equipment and permits. You can pick up permits at the Visitor Center or online at the City of Colorado Springs climbing permit page.
    • Thanks goes out to Joel Tonyan for his great photo of Garden of the Gods and snow-dusted foothills.
    • Care for the Rock: This should also go without saying, but don't carve or deface the rock in any way.
    • Let them sit and grow: Removing rocks, plants, or animals is prohibited.
    • Mountain Biking: Mountain biking is limited to designated trails.


    Map & Driving Directions

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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

bridal veil falls waterfall pouring over cliff face with waterwheel at base among green trees in idaho springs colorado

Bridal Veil Falls in Idaho Springs

Bridal Veil Falls is best viewed from Water Wheel Park, a short and easy walk from the downtown of Idaho Springs, Colorado. The legacy of steam locomotives and gold mining make this a historic hike in an historic Colorado town. Explore the full Bridal Veil Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this waterfall in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Bridal Veil Falls in Idaho Springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for Bridal Veil Falls, Idaho Springs

The parking area for this short hike/walk is in downtown Idaho Springs, at the corner of 17th and Water Street, which is situated behind the downtown restaurants and shops. Use the driving directions above, which lead to Harold Anderson Park. At this small park, just across from the parking lot, you'll pick up a concrete path that leads under interstate 70 to Water Wheel park (scheduled to open early June of 2016). See the marked map below for a visual of the parking area, trail (yellow dots), and the location of Water Wheel Park.


The Hike: Bridal Veil Falls, Idaho Springs

It's a little hike (more of a stroll) with a lot of history. Starting at Harold Anderson Park, you'll want to take a gander at Locomotive #60, one of five remaining steam engines that ran on the narrow gauge rails of the Colorado and Southern Railway. Kids will love the train and the other sites along this short jaunt.

The Charlie Taylor Waterwheel Trail leads under Interstate 70 then goes west for about 1/10th of a mile before it arrives at the best viewing area for Bridal Veil Falls. The waterfall spills out of Soda Creek high above, making its way then into Clear Creek, a stream famous for its gold, river rafting, and Coors Beer. The water wheel that's just north of Bridal Veil Falls was built in the late 1800's by a local miner, Charlie Taylor. Taylor used the water wheel to drive a machine called a stamp mill--imagine a big hammer that grinds and crushes rock to get silver and gold ore out of it. It was relocated from Ute Creek to its present location by a group of volunteers in the 1980's and now belongs to the Idaho Springs Historical Society. The Colorado Department of Transportation is renovating Water Wheel Park during the Spring of 2016 with a goal to have the project completed and reopen the park in early June.

There are several Bridal Veil falls in Colorado. For Bridal Veil Falls at Hanging Lake, view our Guide to Hiking Hanging Lake page. Or Explore our trail profile for Bridal Veil Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.

If you are vacationing in the area and looking for more places to explore with your family, we recommend checking out Echo Lake, the Mt. Evans Summit Hike, or the Mt. Bierstadt Trail on Guanella Pass. See our day trip recommendation in the tips section below.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking Bridal Veil Falls, Idaho Springs

  • Plan a Day Trip: Make this a family day trip by arriving early at Echo Lake to see the reflection of Mt. Evans in its mirror waters, then drive up to the Summit of Mount Evans. After your drive back down, take in the sites of Bridal Veil Falls at Water Wheel Park, then grab lunch at Beaujo's Pizza in downtown Idaho Springs.
  • Add a Railroad Hike Tour: The Georgetown Loop Railroad still operates on what remains of track of the old C&S Railroad. Located just a few minutes drive from Idaho Springs, they offer a hike + railroad tour, a great family adventure near Denver. Explore more at our Georgetown Railroad Hike page.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to John Weitzel for sharing such an amazing photograph of Bridal Veil Falls in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
  • After the Hike: Beaujo's Pizza


Map & Driving Directions

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baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Rifle Falls Hike Colorado

Rifle Falls is a 70 foot, triple waterfall in Rifle Falls State Park. It's just .1 mile hike to the base of the falls along a paved, handicap accessible trail. The caves hidden along the waterfall beckon those looking for more adventure. Explore the full Rifle Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more of the details you need for this short waterfall Hike in northwestern Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Rifle Falls Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Rifle Falls, Colorado

Because Rifle Falls State Park is one of the more popular State parks to visit in Colorado, it often has very limited parking. We highly recommend that you arrive when the park opens at 7AM. If you do not have a Colorado State Parks pass, then you will need to pay the access fee for the park at the kiosk. If the lot is full, visitors will be turned away. As with almost all trailheads in Colorado, Monday through Thursday are the best days for avoiding traffic. However, in the busy summer season, when the weather is amazing and vacation season is in full swing, the park is often at capacity.

The Hike: Rifle Falls

The base of the waterfall can be accessed via 1/10th mile hike on a paved trail that is considered ADA accessible. The falls launch 70 feet over a limestone cliffside, reminiscent of Hanging Lake, near Glenwood Springs. It is a segmented waterfall, breaking into three distinct waterfalls. The spray and mist from the falls makes the surrounding scenery unique. Moss covered rock, flowers, brush, trees, and the roar of the falls make this a real oasis in the oft dry landscape of western Colorado.

The Coyote Trail crosses the creek and leads hikers on a 1.5 mile loop that includes both caves and the area above the waterfall. Following the loop counter-clockwise, the caves will soon become visible on the left-hand side of the trail. After the caves, the loop continues back towards the top of the waterfall area and crosses the creek before making its way back to the shaded picnic grove and parking area.

Rifle Falls in Winter

Rifle Falls State Park is open all year round. It's Colorado, so expect snow and ice on the trail in the late Autumn through late Spring.

Camping at Rifle Falls

There are 20 camping spots at Rifle Falls State Park. Thirteen are drive-in camping and seven are walk-in sites. All are along Rifle Creek. A number of the sites are reservable from May 1 to Oct. 31, and others are available on a first-come basis. Weekdays have better availability than weekends, and the campsites are in less demand November through April. Because Rifle Falls State Park is open year-round, camping is available year-round as well. Pets are allowed, but must be kept on a 6' leash.

Weddings at Rifle Falls

The Waterfall is also a popular place to tie the knot. The Mountain Mist Amphitheater is reservable and has a capacity of 50. All arrangements must be made ahead of time with the parks office (970) 625-1607. All vehicles must pay the fee or have a Colorado State Parks Pass. Because of the limited parking, those coming for a wedding should plan to car pool or be dropped off at the park.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking at Rifle Falls State Park

  • Go Early: Rifle Falls State Park is small and very popular. The park opens at 7AM, and we recommend that you arrive early for parking.
  • Bring a Flashlight or Headlamp: If you plan to explore the caves, you'll need a light. Bring a flashlight or headlamp to light up some of the chambers you'll discover in the caves.
  • Trail Map for Rifle Falls State Park: 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: Oliver Ridleys Coffee
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Jimmy Thomas for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.


Map & Driving Directions

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

Fish Creek Falls Near Steamboat Colorado

A 284 foot waterfall! Need we say more. Fish Creek Falls is a 1/4 mile hike located just outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado--about 3.5 hours from Denver. The Fish Creek Falls Overlook trail is handicap accessible, and a second trail takes hikers down to the base of the falls. Explore the full Fish Creek Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many the details you need to enjoy this adventure near Steamboat, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fish Creek Falls

The trailhead for the waterfall is about three miles outside of the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Stop at the pay station to purchase the day use fee. There are two parking areas: one will be on your left driving in, and the larger lot--which is closer to the trailhead--at the end of the road.

The Hike: Fish Creek Falls

Fish Creek Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls in Colorado, perfect for families with small children who are not yet able to hike longer distances. It's also wheelchair accessible via the Falls Overlook Trail. There are three different options detailed below.

  1. Fish Creek Falls Overlook Hike:

    This 1/4 mile (one-way) hike leads to the Falls overlook. The trail is paved and handicap accessible. The most direct access to the overlook trail is from the northeast end of the larger parking area, near the interpretive signs and the small shelter.

  2. Fish Creek Falls Hike:

    This second option is also a 1/4 mile (one-way) and leads to the bridge at the base of the falls. The trail is gravel and dirt--not paved like the overlook trail. This trail begins at the far east end of the same parking lot.

  3. 1 Mile Loop:

    Both the overlook and the Fish Creek Falls hikes can be combined to form a kind of 1 mile loop by hiking first to the overlook, then returning through the shaded picnic area to the Fish Creek trail below. After hiking to the bridge, return the way you came.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Fish Creek Falls

  • Bring a Picnic Lunch: The picnic area at Fish Creek Falls is one of the best in the State of Colorado. It's extensive and the trees provide a ton of shade.
  • Springtime is Best: The waterfall roars with the late Spring meltwater.
  • In Winter: The trails to the falls are open year round. You may need snowshoes when the snow gets thick.
  • Explore More: There is another waterfall. A short, but demanding, 2.2 mile (one-way) hike to Upper Fish Creek falls follows the trail beyond the bridge and another 1,100+ feet above the trailhead.
  • 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: Creekside Cafe in Steamboat Springs
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Greg Hamilton for sharing the photograph of this hike.


Map & Driving Directions

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

north clear creek falls near lake city colorado short waterfall hikes in colorado

North Clear Creek Falls in Colorado

North Clear Creek Falls is a 100+ foot waterfall carved into the landscape of southwestern Colorado. This is not so much a hike as a great place to pull off for a picnic and take in views of what become the most famous waterfall in the Rocky Mountain State. Explore the full North Clear Creek Falls profile below for driving directions, and all the details you need to experience this scenic landmark in the far reaches of Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: North Clear Creek Falls Near Lake City, Colorado

Its hard to believe that what may be the most beautiful waterfall in Colorado requires no hike to see. The North Clear Creek Falls observation area is accessible via a short drive off of Forest Road 510, part of the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. The USFS does not plow this section during the winter, so it may be inaccessible until Spring. Because of the vertical drop into Willow Canyon, the observation area has been fenced. The area has new toilet and picnic facilities, and is considered handicap accessible.

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

Tips & Resources for North Clear Creek Falls

  • TIP: Because North Clear Creek Falls faces east, some of the best time for photography will be in the early morning moments as the sun is rising.
  • TIP: Bring a picnic lunch. The observation area near the falls has new picnic facilities.
  • 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: Tommyknocker Tavern in Creede
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Scott Ingram for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.


Map & Driving Directions

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Pine Valley Ranch Park Hike

Pine Valley Ranch Park has become one of our family's favorite parks near Denver. Pine Valley Ranch Park boasts several hikes, a beautiful lake, a lot of history, a small island with a gazebo, and the best picnic area on the Front Range of Colorado. If that's not enough, the North Fork of the Platte River runs through the park, lined with enormous spruce trees and granite cliffs. Explore the trail profile below for hiking options, trail map, driving directions and more.

Trail Snapshot: Pine Valley Ranch Park Trail

Hiking Options at Pine Valley Ranch Park

#1 - Park View Out-and-Back Hike - Approx. 2 Miles Round Trip

The Park View trail can be located on the other side of Pine Lake (not the far side). Take the narrow gauge trail across the bridge and you'll locate the trailhead just on the other side of a shelter that sits along Pine lake. The trail is moderate to strenuous and will take you up to some great views of the surrounding Pike National forest and the Platte River. You'll get views of the extensive Hayman Burn, the burn scars left from the 2000 fire.

#2 - Full Park View Loop - Approx. 2.5 Miles

If you would like to take a longer loop hike, take the Park view trail (.8 mile) up to the strawberry jack trail (.5), which will connect you to the Buck Gulch trail (.4) which will take you back down to Pine Lake. The Strawberry Jack trail will take you out into Pike National Forest. Be sure to have a map you--which you can pick up at the park--because a wrong turn onto the Buck Gulch Trail can take you far out of the way.

#3 - Pine Lake Loop Hike - Approx. .7 mile

You can take a leisurely hike around Pine Lake at Pine Valley Ranch. Go early (before 7:30AM) to catch site of the birds and wildlife around the lake.

#4 - Narrow Gauge Trail Hike - .5 to 3.8 miles

This is the hike that our kids most enjoy. We like to hike the southeast segment that takes you along the North Fork of the South Platte River. There are willows to pass through, and probably some good trout fishing along the banks. The Narrow Gauge trail stretches about half a mile in this direction and is surrounded by granite cliffs, pine, and spruce.

If you hike the Narrow Gauge trail to the West, you'll follow the river past Pine lake for about 1.5 miles, then can hike it back.


Pine Lake at Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Lake packs out with fisherman on the weekend but can be a great quiet escape on the weekdays, especially in the mornings and evenings. The lake has a fishing pier and a great shelter. In the winter months, there is ice fishing and skating. The shoreside shelter at Pine Lake has several picnic tables and a fireplace.

The Best Picnic Area Near Denver

pine valley ranch picnic area
As our family explores hikes and parks near Denver, we get to see a lot of picnic areas. See our Seven Great Picnic Areas Near Denver post. The picnic area at Pine Valley Ranch Park is hands down our favorite. A few reasons why: 1) It's along a river, 2) it's surrounded and shaded by enormous spruce trees, 3) has great facilities: two large covered shelters, and 4) there are a lot of activity options for families.

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 Pine Valley Ranch Park:


  • Gazebo: There are some hidden treasures at Pine Valley Ranch. One you can't miss is the gazebo. Behind the large picnic shelters you'll find a small trail that leads to a bridge. The bridge leads to an small island in the Platte River and a beautiful old gazebo. The island is man-made and was created to contain the domesticated goats that used to roam the ranch.
  • River's edge: The Platte river can swell and be quite dangerous, especially in the Spring and after heavy rains, so keep a close eye on children along the river's edge.
  • Eagles: Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles and osprey
  • Use sunscreen: Though there are a lot of trees, like most Colorado hikes, most areas are exposed to the sun, so hike early and use sunscreen.
  • Handicap accessibility: This would be a great place for family with physical limitations or who are wheelchair bound. I should point out that the park is not built around handicap accessibility, but we saw several people fishing from wheelchairs along the lake, and there is a lot of beauty to take in without having to go far or negotiate obstacles.
  • Historical significance: Pine Valley Ranch is replete with historical significance. The best place to start is to take a tour of Baehrden Lodge, a 27 room estate perched over the top of Pine Valley Ranch Park that is now in the care of Jefferson County Parks.
  • pine valley ranch park narrow gauge trail

  • Carved initials: Look for initials carved into trees a long the paths of Pine Valley Ranch. These go back many decades to when Pine Valley Ranch was a resort and folks would take the train from Denver to escape into the mountains.
  • Dr. Robert Dudley: We want to express our gratitude to Dr. Robert Dudley, who in the 1970's kept the park from being parceled out to the highest bidder, and to the Jefferson County Parks staff for the care they give to keep Pine Valley Ranch Park available to the public.
  • After the Hike: Aspen Perk Cafe
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Trail Map for Pine Valley Ranch Park: Trail Map Link


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

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


Map & Driving Directions for Mount Evans

Click for Driving Directions

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

highline canal hike county line to flyn b park header

High Line Canal Hike - County Line to Fly'n B Park

The High line Canal starts in the foothills and meanders over 60 miles through Denver, creating a treelined hiking and biking thoroughfare in the middle of the city. This stretch in Littleton, Colorado takes you past Fly'n B Park. Take the path south and you'll find yourself in Writer's Park. Scroll down for the trail snapshot, and for further details and tips for hiking this great segment of Denver's High Line Canal.

Trail Snapshot: High Line Canal Hike - County Line to Fly'n B Park

Denver's Highline Canal was designed as an irrigation stream, but it has become a 66 mile long hiking and biking trail running through the heart of Denver. This particular hiking trail section is in the Littleton & Highlands Ranch area. There are two parking lots from which you can start the hike: the Countyline Road Trailhead, or the Fly'n B Park lot. Round Trip, this segment is about 4 miles. From the Countyline Trailhead, cross over the first footbridge and head South (left). You'll run into an intersection about 200 yards up. Take a right to continue following the Highline.

Water flows in the highland canal about 90 days a year. Because the canal only drops two feet per mile, the water, even when it is flowing fast, appears calm. This is part of what gives this trail such a pastoral feel, even though it is close to 470. Immense Cottonwood trees arch over the path, and all sorts of birds decorate the bushes and wetlands that have grown up wild along its edges.

highline canal hike yellow bird

The trail is great for a stroller hike and for wheelchairs. After about 2 miles of trail, you'll walk through a tunnel that goes under 470. You'll then emerge to find yourself at Fly'n B Park. It looks like it is an old ranch that has been converted into a great park near Highlands Ranch. It features a small pond with boat dock, and a fantastic shelter house. The pond looks like a perfect place to take kids fishing in Denver. We haven't tried it out yet, so we would love your feedback if you have. The Highlands Ranch Metro District Parks is currently (Spring 2014) renovating the home on the property. Outdoor restrooms and some parking is available. However, we recommend parking at the Countyline Road Trailhead for this 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 High Line Canal Hike - County Line to Fly'n B Park :


Map & Driving Directions

Click for Driving Directions

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Railroad Culvert - Lee Gulch Trail

4 Great Stroller Hikes Near Denver

Our children are not big enough to hike long distances yet. So, we usually we put the kiddos in child carrier backpacks. When we can though, we try to break out the Bob Stroller and hit a local trail. Here are 4 trails close to Denver that work great with a stroller.

Criteria for these Denver Area Stroller Hikes

  • Crushed Gravel or Paved Trail
  • Great Views or Natural Features
  • Accessibility

Click on the Maroon Links to get directions, trail maps, and hiking profiles.

#1 The Bluffs Loop South of Denver

Bluffs Regional ParkThis 2.7 mile loop trail is one of our favorites, and probably is the hike we do the most. The Bluffs provide panoramic views of Colorado's Front Rang and of downtown Denver. We try to go around 7pm when the sun is setting. You're likely to see deer and meadowlarks along the trail. Right now, we just hike it, but other will use this as a challenging run with the stroller.

#2 Bear Creek Trail at Lair O' The Bear Park

Lair of the Bear Trail

This 1.7 mile stretch of the Bear Creek Trail is accessed at Lair O' the Bear park. We've observed from our O'Fallon Park Hike that the trail stretches further west.We doubt that all 6.3 miles are stroller accessible, but there is definitely more to explore. The trail follows bear creek and goes in and out of the trees, so you get a bit of shade. Be alert for mountain bikes as it's one of the more popular mountain biking trails near Denver.

#3 Fountain Trail at Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park - Fountain Valley Trail This trail is not paved but all 2.7 miles are considered handicap accessible, so it makes for a great hike with your stroller. Of the four hikes, this is the most beautiful. It's also great for birdwatching as well as giving the kids a chance to see deer, as they are used to the human traffic in the park.

#4 Clear Creek Trail in Golden

Clear Creek Trail in Golden Colorado We'll admit that this last one isn't that much of a "real hike." But it makes for a great lazy weekend morning. The trail runs along Clear Creek and there is always something to entertain: swallows playing under the bridge, kayakers and water rescue training, and the summer farmers market. We love to take a picnic, and throw a blanket down in Parfet Park or grab coffee at the Windy Saddle Cafe which has a great little play room for the kids.

Disclaimer: These hikes are for strollers that are designed for jogging and trails. The Clear Creek trail is paved and would be great for almost any stroller.

Picnic area at Eldorado Canyon State Park

7 Great Picnic Areas Near Denver

Looking for a great place to picnic near Denver, Colorado? As we have been profiling hiking trails close to Denver, we have taken notes on the best picnic areas.

Criteria for these Denver Picnic Areas

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  • At Least 1 Picnic Table
  • Close to some great hiking
  • Great Views or Natural Features

Click on the Links to get directions and full hiking profiles.

#1 Daniels Park Picnic Area

View From Daniels Park Near Sedalia Colorado

Daniel's Park is our favorite for watching the sun set - they are some of the best sunsets you'll see on the front range of Colorado. The park is small, but has an old rock picnic shelter complete with a stone fireplace. There are picnic tables throughout the park and a few grills as well. Daniel's Park is located in South Denver about 10 minutes south of Highlands Ranch. There are no established hiking trails in Daniel's Park, but we've put a few hikes together on the trail profile.

#2 Betasso Preserve Near Boulder

Betasso Preserve Near Boulder, ColoradoBetasso Preserve has great views looking east to Denver. After exploring Boulder Falls, we drove up to the park for a picnic. Unlike many of the other picnic areas we've visited, it was just us and the squirrels. So, if you are looking for a quieter picnic spot, this would be our first suggestion. Betasso preserve also has a shelter that can be reserved for a reasonable fee. Just follow the link to the Boulder County Picnic Shelters page.

#3 Evergreen Lake Picnic Area

Evergreen lake, ColoradoEvergreen is a quaint village about 40 minutes into the mountains from Denver. You can walk from town to the lake, or park the car at the lake parking lot on the west side of the lake. There you will find a small picnic area complete with grills. There is a lot to do at the lake: paddle boats & canoes, fishing, and a boardwalk.

#4 Eldorado State Park Picnic Area

Picnic area at Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park may have the best picnic area in Colorado. The drawback are the crowds. On the weekends, just getting in the park can be an issue. So, we suggest going on a weekday. It makes a perfect after work picnic. The picnic area is right along South Boulder Creek and the views of the canyon are breathtaking. The directions at the above link will take you to the parking area for the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, but you'll want to drive past that until the road dead ends at a parking area. There you will find both the picnic area and the interpretive center. Eldorado Canyon does have an entrance fee because it is a Colorado State Park. You can view more info at our Eldorado Canyon Hiking trails profile page.

#5 Lookout Mountain Picnic Area

Forest and Meadow Loop at Lookout Mountain Nature CenterDeer, squirrels, and rabbits wander about the picnic area at Lookout Mountain. It's situated in a grove of ponderosa pines an close to the interpretive center. It's a perfect place to take the kids, and can be a real educational experience.

#6 Echo Lake Picnic Area

Echo Lake, Near Mt. Evans & Idaho Springs ColoradoThe picnic area at Echo Lake near Mount Evans is just about perfect. Of the seven picnic areas featured here, this one has the highest capacity. But it probably has the highest traffic. We've been up on the weekends and the key is going early. There are grills, restrooms, and an old stone shelter house.

#7 O Fallon Park Picnic Areas

ofallon park picnic areaWe saved one of the best for last. O'Fallon Park has a beautiful grove of pines that provide plenty of shelter. Bear Creek runs along the picnic area, and there are some great hikes that can be accessed from parking lot. The drawback is that this place fills up quickly on the weekend, even loud. So nix this one as a weekend spot, unless you plan to go for a 10am lunch. An old stone chimney barbeque can be accessed from across the creek.

If you have other picnic areas that you would suggest, leave us a comment and a bit of information on it!