enchanted mesa hike in boulders chautauqua park

Enchanted Mesa Trail Near Boulder, Colorado

Boulder's Chautauqua park boasts some of the best hiking in Colorado, especially if you are looking for accessibility--many of the trailheads are right in town. The Enchanted Mesa trail lives up to its name. The dense pine forest and the wide curving path looks like something out of a fairy tale. It's a fairly easy hike, with a surprising amount of shade, great views of the Flatirons, and close to Denver. Before you launch out to explore Enchanted Mesa, be sure to check out our detailed description of the hike, the Chautauqua Park trail map, and our hiking tips for this great Boulder Hike.

Trail Snapshot: Enchanted Mesa Trail - Chautauqua Park

Enchanted Mesa Boulder Colorado

Start your hike at parking lot near the Chautauqua Auditorium Trailhead. There is limited parking at the trailhead picnic shelter, but you can find more space around the auditorium and in side streets. Keep in mind that parking in the Chautauqua park area fills up fast.

Enchanted Mesa Boulder Colorado Header Trailhead Parking

There are a few options you can consider before starting the hike.

1# Enchanted Mesa - McClintock Loop - 1.4 mile loop

Your first possibility is to hike the trail clockwise by taking the Enchanted Mesa trail out, then returning on the McClintock trail, making it into a loop. You'll head out on the wide path of the Enchanted Mesa Trail which leads you gradually uphill, across a stone bridge, and onto the Mesa. Once you get on the Mesa, walk into a pine forest. The trees get thicker and taller as you go until you feel like you have walked into an enchanted forest. My kids, who are six and 3, hiked this early one Saturday in April (you'll see our muddy shoes at the end of the post), when snow still covered parts of the trail and the city was still asleep. It did feel like stepping, just for a moment, into another world.

Enchanted Mesa Boulder Colorado Forest

When you get to where the Enchanted Mesa Trail intersects with the McClintock trail, turn right and take the the McClintock Trail. Because it's so narrow, this part of the trail doesn’t allow dogs. The return trail at least one steep section, but you'll find stairs cut into the hillside to help you on your way. The Mclintock trail was very muddy coming down, so we expect this trail to be muddy in the warmer days of winter, a lot of spring, and after the Summer rains. We've got a great tip below to help you with that.

Enchanted Mesa Boulder Colorado go down not up

About halfway back along the McClintock trail, you’ll encounter an intersection where a rough set of steps lead up to the right, and on your left, you’ll see the path leading back down toward the creek valley. Go left/down (see the photo) to stay on the McClintock trail. On the way down, you will see the flood damage in the ravine caused by the 2013 flood.

2# - McClintock to Enchanted Mesa - Loop - 1.4 mile loop

This is simply hiking the same loop, but counter-clockwise. The benefit to this is that you get better views of the Flatirons hiking West on the McClintock trail. The McClintock Trailhead starts right from the picnic pavilion behind the Chautauqua Amphitheater. It is 0.7 miles long and ascends 335 feet to where it ties in with Enchanted Mesa.

Wood Quarry Hike

#3 - Enchanted Mesa + Quarry Loop - 1.8 miles

Quarry Loop is beautiful little jaunt off of the top of the Enchanted Mesa trail. If you wish to add 0.4 mile to your hike and enjoy the more of the mesa forest, follow either of the directions above, and look for the Quarry loop near the intersection of the two main trails. This turns your hike into a figure-eight. You will head uphill until you see an old stone cabin. When you get to the cabin, turn right and enter the short and steep stair-step climb to the quarry. When you get on the top you can relax in the hand-crafted chairs and take in the scenery of Chautauqua park.

Enchanted Mesa Boulder Colorado Woods Quarry trail

If you add the Kohler Mesa trail to option #3 you can make your hike close to 2 miles long, giving you the chance to explore even more of the mesa.

This is a great hike any time of year, but is especially great in the Spring. We always find the people of Boulder very friendly, so expect good company. People will be out with their dogs, trail running, and talking with friends. Particularly in the early hours of the morning, it's idyllic.

Tips & Hiking the Enchanted Mesa Trail:

  • It Can Be Muddy: Bring an extra pair of shoes or sandals, so that you’re not getting mud all over the floor of your car. There are bags at the trailhead for disposal of dog poop. Our kids shoes were covered with mud, and we used the bags to keep from getting mud all over the back of the car. An even better solution would be to bring plastic shopping bags with you.
  • Dog Restriction: Dogs are not allowed on the Lower & Upper McClintock Trail. So, you'll have to return on the Enchanted Mesa trail with Fido, or check the map for other options.
  • No Bikes: Bicycles are prohibited on the trails in the Chautauqua area.
  • Bring a picnic or a snack: There are some great picnic spots along the Enchanted Mesa hike.
  • Trail Map for Chautauqua Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Lollicup Boulder Coffe&Tea

Enchanted Mesa Boulder Colorado muddy shoes

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Mount Falcon View from Castle

Mount Falcon - Castle & Tower Hike

A hike to castle ruins in Colorado? Yep. Throw in a lookout tower, great view of Denver, of Red Rocks, and of the mountains, and you've got some of the highlights of the Mount Falcon Trail. The trailhead is nestled in a community in the foothills just about 40 minutes from Denver. Here we detail a 2.3 mile loop trail that hits all the destinations.

Trail Snapshot: Mount Falcon Castle & Tower Hike

Mt. Falcon Loop Hike

Mount Falcon features several trails. By combining a few, you can create a 2.3 mile loop and take in several historic sites as well as breathtaking views of Denver, Red Rocks, and the Front Range. This is makes it one of the best hikes close to Denver for visiting friends and family. Because it is an easy hike and has a relatively flat and wide trail, you can take the jogging stroller on this one, too. If you are looking for more great trails for your family, be sure to check out our Kid Friendly Trails Near Denver and our recommended Colorado Hikes for Visiting Friends and Family pages. If hiking with kids, be sure to access it via the West Trailhead as described in this post. Map apps and other sites may take you to the very demanding east trailhead, which is very exposed to the sun and has heavy mountain bike traffic.
Denver View From Mount Falcon

The Loop Trail Sequence:Start at the parking lot off of Mt. Falcon Road, and when you come to a fork in the trail, take the Tower Trail to your right. Soon you'll pass the Eagle Eye Shelter which offers great views towards Mount Evans and the surrounding foothills. Stay on the Tower Trail until you get to the Fire Tower which commands a panoramic view of Denver, Red Rocks, and more of the Front Range of Colorado.

Then continue on the Tower Trail until it intersects with the Meadow Trail. Take the Meadow Trail North/Left for about .3 miles. It will end at the Castle Trail - take a left. The Castle Trail will lead you back to the parking lot, but don't head back until you stop at the ruins of the old Walker Home. The views from here are beautiful as well.

hiking near sundown with dog and baby at mount falcon hike near denver

Tips & Resources for Hiking Mt. Falcon:

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.


elk meadow park south loop header

Elk Meadow Park - South Loop

lk Meadow Park is a great place to hike with your family, if you have little ones, or if you just want to talk with a friend as you hike and take in great views of Colorado. It is important to know that the adjacent off-leash dog park has been closed. Get all the info you need to hike Elk Meadow Park in Evergreen by exploring the full trail profile below.

Trail Snapshot: Elk Meadow Park - South Loop

Elk Meadow Park has just over 13 miles of hiking trails near Denver that wind through it's lower meadows, through ponderosa forest, and two more strenuous options that lead to the summit of Bergen Peak. This profiles a 2.6 mile loop that begins at the south parking area. To form the loop, combine the Meadow View Trail, Elk Ridge Trail, and the Sleepy "S" trail. Use the Elk Meadow Park map at this link. We chose this route because we have 2 children under 3 years old, and it was a good choice - just long enough, trails close to Denver, and lots of change of scenery during a short hike.

There had been an off-leash dog area just on the other side of the street from the south parking lot (not visible on this older google map, so you'll have to trust us that it's there). This was a great place to allow dogs to roam and play, but this has been closed due to excessive dog waste and damage to vegetation. Here is a link to the Jefferson County info page on the off-leash area. Dogs are required to be leashed in all other areas of the park.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking Elk Meadow Park - South Loop :

  • TIP: The Easy way. Take the loop clockwise for the easier route and counter-clockwise if you are looking for a more strenuous (but not much) hike.
  • Parking: Park only in designated areas. There has been a lot of erosion damaged caused by visitors parking alongside the road. If parking is full, please find another park to visit.
  • TIP: Enjoy some time in Evergreen. The town of Evergreen is a great place to retreat to during the summer. It's a few degrees cooler, Bear Creek runs through town, and you'll find some great places to eat.
  • Trail Map for Elk Meadow Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Beau Jo’s Pizza

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view from daniels park bluff toward front range mountains on hike near denver

Daniel's Park Hikes

Best sunsets in Denver! You can see mountains upon mountains of Colorado's Front Range. Take a picnic dinner and pull off at one of the many picnic areas along Daniels Park Road. There are several hiking options detailed below for Daniel's park. To get all the details, scroll down and explore the trail snapshot, profile, and tips below.

Trail Snapshot: Daniel's Park Hike

We are featuring Daniel's Park ,not for it's trails, but because it has one of the best views of the Front Range near Denver. From the park, you can see Pikes Peak in the South, Mt. Evans in the West, and Longs Peak in the North. The trails are not handicap accessible, but the shelter house is (after a bit of a bump trail), and is a perfect place to watch the sun set.

Here is the lowdown on the trails at Daniel's Park: They are undeveloped. The park has been around for nearly 100 years but has somehow escaped being developed. However, it's close to south Denver and has some great features, so we've come up with a few different hiking options below.

The Short Daniel's Park Hike - Park at the Shelter House and begin walking north through the undeveloped trails along the top of the bluff. We like to take a picnic dinner up here and a lot of folks bring firewood and enjoy the sunset by the fire. There are about a quarter mile of trails that weave through the rock and back out towards the road.

3 Mile Daniel's Park Hike - Again, start at the Shelter House and head North following the top of the bluff as it parallels the road. You can extend your hike by hiking North along the road until it intersects with Grigs Road - About 1.5 Miles. Hike back to Daniel's Park Shelter House for a 3 Mile round trip hike.

5.4 Mile Daniel's Park Hike - Continue the 1.5 mile hike by taking a left onto Grigs road. Cross to the Northeast side of the Grigs, then shortly after you cross, you'll come upon a green fence and the Douglas County East/West Trail. Your can take that trail West (left) to the Grigs Road Trailhead, adding an additional 1.2 miles to your hike (5.4 Miles Round Trip). Click Here for a Google Map that traces the route along Daniel's Park and Grigs Road.

danielspark_colorado_sunset
Douglas County plans to build this East/West trail into a 26 mile system linking Chatfield Reservoir to the town of Parker, Colorado. Click here for the map of the East/West Trail and proposed trails in Douglas County. Denver Mountain Parks and Douglas County have developed a master plan to improve both the park and the roads in the area. You can find an overview at the Douglas County Park site.

Tips & Resources for Visiting Daniel's Park:

  • TIP: Keep an eye on the skies - Douglas County has one of the highest lightning strike rates in the country and Daniel's Park is one of the higher points.
  • TIP: Bison Viewing - The Bison can be found in an enclosed pasture on both sides of the road.However, the Bison are usually found grazing in the section of the park that is directly across the street from the shelter house.
  • Trail Map for Daniel's Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

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evergreen lake trail header

Evergreen Lake Trail

This Colorado hike (more of a stroll) is a perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. You can rent canoes and sailboats from the nature center and warming house. In the winter, the Evergreen Lake transforms into an ice skating wonderland. Explore this hike profile for all the details.

Trail Snapshot: Evergreen Lake Trail

The Hike: Evergreen Lake Trail:

Evergreen Lake Trail is a 1.3 mile loop in the quaint mountain town of Evergreen, Colorado. If you have a young family like us, and are looking for an easy hike near Denver, this is a great choice.

From the Evergreen Lake house, the trail winds along a boardwalk, through a wetlands area, then towards town. If you are going this way (clockwise) around the lake, be sure to take the high path when you come to where the trail splits. The lower path is more of a fishing trail that soon becomes difficult to navigate. You can take the high path into town or over the dam and to the backside of the lake.

Along the back side of Evergreen Lake stands the old Warming House and Nature Center, operated by the Evergreen Audubon Society. Be sure to check their site for their seasonal hours. At the boathouse, the Evergreen Park & Recreation District operates boat rental and concessions. Their hours are seasonal as well. You can visit Evergreen Parks & Rec. boating page for rental info and hours. In the Winter, the lake transforms into an ice skating wonderland that rivals New York's Rockefeller Square. Skate rental and admission fees can be found on the Hockey and Skating page on the Evergreen Parks District Site.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Evergreen Lake Trail :

  • TIP: Like we mentioned above, take the high path along the road when walking clockwise around the lake.
  • TIP: Make it a day. There are several hikes near Evergreen to enjoy. As well, the lake is very accessible from town, so you can walk in, enjoy lunch or coffee, then hike back out.
  • TIP: Listen for Elk in the Fall: On our most recent trip to Evergreen Lake, a bull elk was bugling. So, if you just don't have time to make it up to Estes Park, this is a great backup.
  • Trail Map for Evergreen Lake Trail: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Beau Jo’s Pizza

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baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


Forest and Meadow Loop at Lookout Mountain Nature Center

Meadow & Forest Loop Trails at Lookout Mountain Nature Center

If you are looking for a family hike near Denver, this is a perfect trail, especially if you are getting started hiking with your kids in Colorado and want to guarantee a good experience. It's short, there's wildlife, and the Lookout Mountain Nature Center. Take a picnic lunch, just watch out for the squirrels; they'll run of with your dessert if you don't watch them closely. Explore the full Meadow & Forest Loop Trails hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this family adventure.

Trail Snapshot: Meadow & Forest Loop Trails at Lookout Mountain Nature Center

Lookout Mountain Nature Center has 2 short loop hikes. If you have young children, this is a perfect trip. The trails at Lookout Mountain are short loops: 1- The Meadow Loop (.8 mile) & 2 - Forest Loop Trail (.6 mile). If you are looking for a longer hike, you can cross the street and take the Lookout Mountain Trail which connects to several other Jefferson County Parks and trails.

The nature center is a great place for your kids to learn about Colorado wildlife. The playroom has texture sames of bark, fur, animal tracks, and the biggest box of stuffed animal puppets you'll ever see. The last time we visited, our daughter didn't want to leave. Take a lunch and have a picnic under the towering Ponderosa Pines. We encountered 2 deer with their fawns along the Forest Loop trail. The immediate area around the nature center is handicap accessible.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Meadow & Forest Loop Trails at Lookout Mountain Nature Center

  • TIP: If you take Lookout Mountain Road from Golden, it's a beautiful drive. However, on the weekends, this road has a ton of cycling traffic. So, plan for a slow drive.
  • TIP: Visit the Boettcher Mansion next door
  • Trail Map for Lookout Mountain Nature Center: Trail Map Link
  • 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: Louis’ Cafe

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two women sitting on rock along clear creek trail in golden colorado with bridge in background and green trees

Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

Want a hike to please everyone?The Clear Creek Trail in Golden, Colorado is it! It's got shade, the kids can bring their bikes, and you can finish your hike with a stroll around downtown. We might get some flack for calling this a hike, because it runs through the business district of Golden, CO.But you can wear the soles of your shoes down on this one. Jefferson County even has plans to expand the trail several miles into Clear Creek Canyon. Explore the full trail profile for all the details: hiking trails, trail map, and detailed directions to the trailhead.

Trail Snapshot:Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

When you have small children, some mornings can be harder than others to get through the foothills and into the mountains. This trail is made for those mornings. We like to park downtown, grab coffee at the Windy Saddle, then stroll down the trail. A local training school is often seen near the Washington Street Bridge doing water rescue training. It's highly entertaining and a great opportunity. Visiting family and friends will find this trail accessible, easy, and refreshing.

Echo Lake Trail Near Mt. Evans

Colorado's Echo Lake is looped by an easy hiking trail and serves as a trailhead to even more classic Colorado hikes. When we have friends and family visiting Colorado from out of town, this is one of best destinations for a great views. Go early to Echo Lake to get perfect photos of Mount Evans reflected in the water. Explore the full hike profile below that will give you driving directions from Denver, a trail map, and all the information you need to launch out on this adventure.

Trail Snapshot: Echo Lake Near Mt. Evans

Echo Lake Area

A great Colorado park to take visiting family and friends. It's an hour from Denver and has very short trail, but it's a great place to introduce others to the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and to take in a high Colorado lake. The trail circles Echo Lake and connects to several other trails: Chicago Lakes, Bear Track Lakes trails, which give you access to Mount Evans Wilderness Area which is full of other great hiking trails,and Mt. Evans summit.

echo-lake-colorado-morning
Near the parking area, you'll find a stone picnic shelter which was built in 1937. When the weather is getting hot, it's a great place for a picnic or a wonderful place to break out the hot chocolate on a snowy winter day.

If you are looking for more Colorado lake hikes, be sure to check out our Lake Hikes Near Denver page.

Echo Lake Colorado Camping

There are great camping opportunities at the Echo Lake Campground near the lake. Near the shores is a spruce forest. For detailed information on camping near Echo Lake in Mt. Evans, see the Recreation.gov page.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Echo Lake, Colorado :

  • TIP: Early morning means that Echo lake is still, providing no windy weather, and is a perfect time to photograph or just to observe the rocky mountains reflected in the water.
  • TIP: A nice short Colorado hike can be made by parking at the parking lot (see map above & below), and hiking around the lake to the Historic Echo Lake Lodge. Visit there, then turn around and enjoy the lake on the way back again.
  • TIP: When you finish, drive up to the summit and enjoy the view from the top of Mt. Evans. Or visit Summit Lake Park
  • TIP: One of our favorite day-trips with visitors who are not from Colorado, is to take them to Echo Lake, Mt. Evans Summit (by car), then into Evergreen for Pizza at Beaujos Pizza
  • TIP: In regards to driving to the top of Mt. Evans: 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.
  • Weather: 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.
  • After the Hike: After The Hike: Beaujos in Evergreen
  • Looking for something more adventurous? Try the Chicago Lakes Hike. It starts in the same parking lot.
  • Trail Map for Echo Lake Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
aaron johnson author of dayhikes near denver with daughter in backpack flyfishing on bear creek at Lair o the Bear Park near morrison colorado

Bear Creek Trail at Lair o' the Bear Park

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

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

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

lair-of-the-bear-fishing

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

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

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

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