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

Ultimate Guide to Maroon Bells in Colorado

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

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

Maroon Bells Hiking Guide Contents

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

Maroon Bells Hike Snapshot

Driving Directions to Maroon Bells

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

maroon-bells-drive-to-maroon-lake

Directions to Maroon Bells in the Summer

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to Maroon Bells During the Rest of the Year

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

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

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

Parking and Facilities at the Maroon Bells Trailhead

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

Guide for Hiking at Maroon Bells

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

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

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

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

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

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

maroon-bells-bighorn-sheep

Trail Option #3 - The Maroon Creek Trail

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

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

#1 - 2.5 Mile Hike:

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

#1 - 3.5 Mile Hike:

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

Maroon-Bells-at-Maroon-Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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


hikers in snow with evergreen trees in foreground and snowcapped mountains in background this is the cover of a hiking guide

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


Photography: How to Get Great Photos of the Maroon Bells

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

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

Hiking with Kids at Maroon Bells

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

Visiting Maroon Bells From Out-of-State

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

Camping Near Maroon Bells

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

Silver Bar Campsite

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

Silver Bell Campsite

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

Silver Queen Campsite

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

above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge hike finder


Backcountry Camping in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness

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

Things to Do Near Maroon Bells

History and Geology of Colorado’s Maroon Bells

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

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

How You Can Protect the Maroon Bells Area

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

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greenland open space trail near larkspur colorado header

Greenland Open Space Trail Near Larkspur, Colorado

Rolling meadows stretch to spectacular views of Pikes Peak on this easy Colorado hike near Larkspur. The Greenland Trail takes you across the stunning grasslands near Larkspur, Colorado, a Douglas County Open Space that spreads across 3,600 acres of sun-drenched fields.The Greenland Open Space trailhead can be easily accessed from I-25. Check out the full trail profile below for detailed descriptions, trail map, and driving directions to this great hike along Colorado's Front Range.

Trail Snapshot: Greenland Open Space Trail Near Larkspur, Colorado

greenland open space trail mountain

Greenland open space has one main trail, the Greenland Trail (appropriately named) that forms a 10 mile loop. However, your not stuck hiking the entire thing, you’ve got options. We’ll briefly profile three different ways you can hike the Greenland trail and customize it for you and your family (scroll past the video panorama for the three options).

It’s a perfect place for horseback riding. In fact, when I-25 disappears from view, you may think you’ve time-traveled back to the early 1800‘s. You can leave your trailer on the parking area, but keep in mind that Greenland open space can get very crowded on the weekends. So, get there early to make sure you’ve got a place to park.

There is also a great 17 acre off-leash dog park just to the east of the trailhead. The open space area requires fido to be on a leash. Click here for more info on the Devon Theune off-leash dog park and for a list of the others in Douglas County.

Hike Options at Greenland Open Space

#1 - Greenland Trailhead to the Santa Fe Trailhead in Palmer Lake - 5.6 Miles One Way
At the first fork in the trail, stay straight (right) on the Greenland Trail. You’ll pass a small pond and work your way through scrub oak and pines as the trail rises. At 3.5 miles you’ll see the option to turn left onto Kipps Loop. Instead of going left onto Kipps Loop, continue straight (South) on the trail. You’ll cross County Line road around 4.6 miles, then you’ll have one mile left until you arrive at the New Santa Fe Trailhead in Palmer Lake, Colorado. Out and back, this is an 11.2 mile trek across Greenland Open Space. The views of Pikes Peak and the neighboring Buttes of Spruce and Eagle Mountain mean a lot of beautiful scenery to soak in.

#2 - The Greenland Open Space Loop Trail - Approx. 10 Mile Loop

Our first tip on hiking Kipps loop is hike it counter-clockwise. This will give you a nice long and gradual two-mile descent as you are coming back into the trailhead. There’s only about 500’ of elevation gain on this hike, but your knees will be grateful at the end of the trip. Follow the same directions above, but when you get to the Kipps Loop option after 3.5 miles, take a left (East) onto the Kipps Loop of the Greenland Trail (your still officially on the Greenland Trail). The first 5 miles of the hike are uphill until you reach the high point which is at 7,400 feet. This is a great place to stop and enjoy the view. You’ll pass the gravesite of E. Kipp, and an unusual white rock formation along this eastern side of the loop. As we said before, the rest of your hike will be pretty much downhill from there back to the trailhead.

greenland open space entrance

#3 - Just Explore - Approx. 1-3 Miles

Just because it’s a big loop doesn’t mean that you have to hike the entire thing. If you are hiking this as a sunset hike, you’ll likely want to keep it short. You can take either the eastern or western sides of the loop and hike until you are ready to turn around. Sunrises and sunsets are quite glorious in Greenland, and this is a great way to enjoy them.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking Greenland Open Space Trail :

  • TIP: There is no water on this trail so bring more than one bottle just in case. Don’t forget, dogs need plenty of water too!
  • TIP: You are very exposed to lightning. Douglas County has some of the worst stats in the nation when it comes to lightning strikes, so really pay attention to the weather. Dark clouds moving over the edge of the foothills means that you should be headed back to the car.
  • TIP: Bring the Sunscreen - you are also very exposed to the sun - no shade in Greenland. If you are hiking mid-day, then be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen.
  • TIP: If you are snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or even hiking in winter, be aware that drifts form along the Greenland Trail.
  • TIP: There is a fantastic picnic area on the other side of the facade of the old Greenland general store.
  • Trail Map for Greenland Open Space: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Charito’s House

greenland open space general store

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baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


meyer ranch open space hikes header

Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes

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

Trail Snapshot: Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes

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

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

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

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

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes :

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

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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:

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

[unordered_list style="star"]

  • 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!


alberta falls waterfall in granite canyon with cascades in foreground in rocky mountain national park

Alberta Falls Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park is full of waterfalls and this hike takes you to one of the most accessible waterfalls in the park. Alberta Falls is one of the most popular, short destination hikes in the park, and for good reason. If you only have time for one short hike on the East Side of RMNP, this is a great choice. To get to Alberta Falls, park at at the Bear Lake Trailhead (see google directions below), then follow the signs south for Glacier Gorge and Alberta Falls. The waterfall is .8 miles down the trail from the parking area, make this a 1.6 mile out-and-back hike. Start early and hike the full 2.8 miles of trail in to stunning Mills lake inside Glacier Gorge.
Trail Snapshot: Alberta Falls

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Alberta Falls

  • Visitors and Vacationers: Alberta Falls is a great place to take visiting family and friends because it's not too difficult, and you have a lot of options if you want to explore the park
  • Bring a Lunch: Getting this far into the park, even just driving, is quite a trip from the outside world. We suggest packing a lunch so that you can stay longer. And food just tastes better outside anyway.
  • Trail Map for Bear Lake Corridor: Trail Map
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Maps: Maps Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Poppy's Pizza

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

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


lakes loop trail rocky mountain arsenal hike with sunrise on tree beside lake with snowcovered grasses

Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

An arsenal turned into a Wildlife Refuge. What a great idea! The refuge boasts over 15,000 acres and over 300 species of wildlife. It also hosts three lakes and Denver lake hikes. The Lakes Loop Trail at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is a 1.7 mile loop that winds along the shores of two lakes in the park, Lake Mary and Lake Ladora. Explore the full trail profile for all the details: hiking trails, trail map, and detailed directions to the trailhead.

Trail Snapshot: Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

How to Hike the Loop: Check in and begin your hike at the visitors center. Follow the Lake Mary Trail along the northwest of the lake until it merges with the the Prairie Trail. Follow the Prairie Trail to the south until it merges with the Ladora Trail which will take you back to the visitors center and along the shore of Lake Ladora.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal :

  • TIP: Hiking and site seeing are open 7 days a week. However, the visitors center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and pets are prohibited (makes sense - it's a wildlife refuge).
  • TIP: Trolley Tours are available on the weekends. Check out this tours link or call 303/289-0250.
  • Trail Map for Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Butcher Block Cafe
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Ray Fetherman for sharing such a beautiful photograph of this hike.

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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

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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