Hiking Davis Ponds Hike at Staunton State Park

The Davis Ponds loop is a short and easy hike, perfect for young families. Davis Ponds is a great place to take your kids fishing near Denver. Explore the full trail profile below for all the details: hiking trails, trail map, and detailed directions to the trailhead.

Staunton State Park is one of Colorado's newest gems and located just 45 minutes from downtown Denver. It's a great park for outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Staunton has some longer and more demanding trails, but this hike, the Davis Ponds Loop Trail, is a lighter option with some beautiful views to the mountains and the prominent Lions Head outcropping.

Trail Snapshot: Davis Ponds Loop at Staunton State Park

02-staunton-state-park-davis-ponds-hike_trailhead

The trail begins just to the north of the initial parking lot (pictured above). We hiked the trail clockwise, taking the trail to the left, but it can be hiked in either direction. The Davis Ponds trail is hiker-only, so you will not encounter any mountain bike or horse traffic, making this perfect for young kids. There is scattered shade as the trail winds in and out of meadows and pine forest. Deer make their way grazing near the trail and hummingbirds buzz by, finding nectar in the wildflowers growing out of the rocky soil.

03-staunton-state-park-davis-ponds-hike

Before the ponds, there is a cut-through trail that can be used to shorten the hike by approximately 1/2 mile, but it's worth going all the way to Davis Ponds and to gain views to the west. The Davis Ponds were under construction and improvements while we were there, but they have now been finished and stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout. If you are looking for a weekend destination near Denver to fish with your children, this may be one of the best.
05-235-staunton-state-park-davis-ponds-construction-ponds

On the way back, the trail will merge again with the cut-through trail. The trail back to the trailhead bears left and slightly uphill.

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 Davis Ponds Loop :

  • TIP: Getting into the park can be slow at times, so be prepared to wait at the entrance on busy weekends.
  • Wildlife: You'll find that deer are out grazing in the early morning and closer to twilight.
  • Winter: During the Winter, park hours are 8am - 7pm.
  • Trail Map for Staunton 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: Crow Hill Cafe in Bailey

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


Georgetown Railroad Hike & Train Ride

After the hike, I asked our 7 year-old daughter what she thought of it. Her reply said it all, “Dad, it was awesome!” Here favorite parts were the fairy pond, a small, moss-rimmed pool probably created by miners long ago to hold drinking water, and the gleaming minerals in the rocks she picked up along the trail. I enjoyed the history and stories told by our guide, Kelsey, who had a particular love for the town and people of Georgetown and Silver Plume. This not your typical Dayhike Near Denver because it's actually a guided historic tour meets hike, plus a train ride on a vintage train back to the trailhead. Read below for all the details for this reservation-required hiking tour.

Trail Snapshot: Georgetown Railroad Hike & Train Ride

The Georgetown Railroad hike is a one-of-a-kind guided hike through the clear creek valley, a landscape decorated by the rich history of the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. If you take just a moment to scan the mountainsides along interstate 70, you'll notice the yellow-stained tailings of abandoned gold mines. This hike takes you right through the very heart of that forgotten territory. We got to take a sneak-peek of the trail before it opened, so I brought our 7 year old daughter with me for our date-night, and she loved it.

georgetownrr08

The hike begins in Silver Plume, Colorado at the historical railroad station and museum. On the hike you'll have one to two guides who accompany your party. Groups are typically about 10 hikers. The hike begins on a nondescript gravel road, but soon enters an old, overgrown cemetery. From the graveyard, the trail descends into a healthy stand of lodgepole pines. We could see mist in the valley below, and the sound of the train in the distance. Though the sounds of interstate 70 are not far away, it's like stepping back in time. The hummingbirds zooming past us, and the rapids of Clear Creek below us brought the valley alive.

georgetownrr05
The best sounds, however, came from the steam train in the valley below. Kids will love this. It's a unique experience to be on a hike, then to watch a train pass in front of you, below you, and even above you on the tracks. And it creates anticipation of the train ride back.

The hike itself is quite easy and could be done in about 45 minutes--if it was all about speed. But the destination for the Georgetown Railroad hike is the entire journey. Our tour guide pointed out old claim markers from the 1800's, the remains of mining equipment, barrels, and tin buckets tucked away in the woods. She told stories, and showed us things we would have missed just hiking through. At roughly halfway through the hike, you'll stop for lunch (lunch is provided) in a grove of aspens that has a great story of its own. Keep your eyes peeled for the foxes and deer that frequent this part of the valley floor.
georgetownrr02
My daughter was captivated by the gleaming biotite and muscovite in the rocks alongside the trail. Our guide picked some special ones out for her to take home. After lunch, you'll hike by the Hall Tunnel, and the old Lebanon mine. Crossing the tracks, then following inactive segments, you'll make your way down into Georgetown. The trail leads under the the Devil's Gate High Bridge and ends at the Devil's Gate Station--named such because of the way the wind howls through this part of the valley.

Just when you think the fun is over, you get a 30-45 minute train ride back to your car in Silver Plume.

Tips & Resources for the Georgetown Railroad Hike & Train Ride:

  • Call Ahead to book Your Hiking Tour: 1-888-456-6777
  • Great for Kids: I would guess that the youngest age to take on this hike would be 6 years old, but it really depends on the child. Our daughter is pretty rough-and-tumble. The pace is right, and their are a lot of things to keep their attention.
  • Supervise Kids on the Tracks: Kids will want to run fast down the railroad tracks, but the ties prove to be pretty uneven ground. Our 7 year old daughter tripped and got a little scrape on her knee, but was fine. Your guide will give you safety tips, but they will also be very engaged in giving you the tour.
  • Restrooms: There are restrooms about 1/2 way through the hike at the Lebanon mine site.
  • It's a Hike: I'd classify this as an easy hike, but there are some segments where the trail is steep and runs through soft gravel, where it's easy to slip. While it's a guided tour, it's not a bike path--it's still a hike.
  • Footwear: Wear close-toed shoes. Boots are not necessary, but I'd recommend something that laces up.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: The Alpine Restaurant & Bar in Georgetown

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

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


Memorial Day Weekend Hikes

Top 7 Memorial Day Weekend Hikes


Trying to figure out where to hike this Memorial Day weekend? We've put together a list of recommended hikes within about an hour of Denver. We've also noted a seven to avoid this Memorial Day weekend. Unless you're backpacking deep in the wilderness, you're still going to encounter a lot of traffic and people. If you want to avoid all of that, you'll need to arrive at the trailhead before 7AM. Here's the criteria we've used to select these seven hikes near Denver: Be sure to download our Free Hiking Guide to help you prepare and pack smart for your dayhikes.

  • Ample Parking: Memorial Day Weekends generate some of the highest traffic to our website each year. So, I'm going to draw the conclusion that the trailheads near Denver experience the same high number of visitors. Vacationers are making their way into Colorado, and graduation events are in full swing. So, while I'd rather direct you first to some wonderful features like waterfalls and peak-top views, getting a parking space is probably priority number one.
  • Enjoyable with Friends & Family: Often on holiday weekends, like Memorial Day Weekend, we are out hiking with friends and family. I tried to put together a set of hikes that are not too difficult and open up spaces for conversation.
  • Close to Denver: This set of hikes are all within 60 minutes of Denver, Colorado. If you want to explore hikes that are further from town, check out our Hikes Worth the Drive page.

Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails

  • Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails

  • Distance: 1/4 mile to 4 miles
    Drive Time from Denver: 50 Minutes
    Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
    Castlewood Canyon State Park has a lot of hiking options, but some of the best hikes follow the creek along the canyon floor. It's important to know that parking is limited on the west side of the park, but the parking on the east side near the visitor center accommodates more vehicles. Check out our Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails page for a list of 5 different hike options.

    explorefulltrailprofile-buttons1

    Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

  • Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

  • Distance: 1.8 miles Round Trip
    Drive Time from Denver: 30 Minutes
    Difficulty: Easy
    The Clear Creek trail in Golden offers a great opportunity for families with strollers and groups to hike alongside one another. As I mentioned before, with water levels high and currents swift this time of year, be cautious around the water's edge. See our Clear Creek hike profile page for full details, including directions to several parking areas. It's not your classic backcountry hike, but it's a great weekend adventure.

    explorefulltrailprofile-buttons1

    Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park

  • Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park

  • Distance: 1.4-mile Loop
    Drive Time from Denver: 30 Minutes
    Difficulty: Easy
    I recommend the Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks more than any other hike in the Denver Area. I have three reasons: The hike is beautiful, it's short, and it's super close to Denver. There is more than just the trail to explore. Be sure to take in the amphitheater and the cave just north of the amphitheater. You'll find the cave info on another trail profile for the Red Rocks Trail below. This is a great hike for families with kids and the perfect hike for family who are visiting for the holiday weekend.

    explorefulltrailprofile-buttons1

    Spruce Mountain Hikes Near Larkspur

  • Spruce Mountain Hikes Near Larkspur

  • Distance: 1.5-mile Out & Back and 4-mile Loop
    Drive Time from Denver: 50 Minutes
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Spruce Mountain is one of our favorites. The hike is south of Denver in the middle of a landscape of rolling green meadows and towering buttes. The views of Pikes Peak are incredible. Because it is elevated, you are more exposed to weather rolling in over the foothills. See our full trail profile of Spruce Mountain for directions, map, and hiking tips specific to this hike.

    explorefulltrailprofile-buttons1

    Red Rocks Trail at Red Rocks Park

  • Red Rocks Trail at Red Rocks Park

  • Distance: 6-mile Loop
    Drive Time from Denver: 25 Minutes
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Here's another trail in Red Rocks Park just outside of Denver. If you are looking for a longer trail with more options, this may be a great choice. It is very exposed to the sun, so remember to wear a hat and sunscreen. This hikes offers great views of the iconic red rocks of Denver, the amphitheater, hogbacks, and foothills.

    explorefulltrailprofile-buttons1

    Waterton Canyon Trail

  • Waterton Canyon Trail

  • Distance: 12.4 miles Round Trip with other options
    Drive Time from Denver: 35 Minutes
    Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
    Waterton Canyon is a popular hike south of Littleton that follows the Platte River for 6.2 miles up to Strontia Springs Dam. Every bend in the broad dirt road beckons you to discover new views just around the corner. No dogs allowed on this one because of the wildlife. I've seen golden eagles and bighorns sheep nearly every time I've hiked Waterton Canyon. For tips on where to spot the bighorns and for directions, see our full trail profile on Waterton Canyon. Waterton Canyon has experienced closures in 2016, but has been reopened for 7-days a week access beginning 5/15/16. Because of the high river levels, the river access is closed until about mile marker three.

    explorefulltrailprofile-buttons1

    White Ranch Sunset Loop Near Golden

  • White Ranch Sunset Loop Near Golden

Distance: 2-mile Loop
Drive Time from Denver: 45 Minutes
Difficulty: Moderate
White Ranch is tucked away in the foothills north of Golden and makes for a great afternoon sunset hike or morning sunrise hike. We've assembled a set of trails to create a loop that we've named the Sunset Loop. See our full trail profile for details a great loop hike at White Ranch.

explorefulltrailprofile-buttons1

7 Hikes to Avoid this Memorial Day Weekend

The following Hikes will likely be packed and have both parking and capacity issues.
- Eldorado Canyon
- Maxwell Falls
- Mt. Galbraith
- Roxborough Park
- Evergreen Lake
- Mt. Falcon
- Hikes out of Boulder's Chautauqua Park

Map of Top 7 Memorial Day Weekend Hikes


trading post trail at red rocks with green park below and blue skies with cumulus clouds at red rocks park near denver hike

Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park

Ready for a hike around Colorado's Red Rocks Park and famous amphitheater? The Trading Post trail at Red Rocks takes you around 10 of the park's giant red rock formations. It's a short, 1.4-mile loop hike just 25 minutes from downtown Denver. Check out our full hiking trail profile below for all the details.

Trail Snapshot: Trading Post Loop Trail

If you are looking for a family adventure that's quick to get to, this hiking trail at Red Rocks is a great option. The Trading Post trail weaves through some of Colorado's most majestic red rock formations, into meadows, and great views of Red Rocks park. Because the trail is narrow and has some steep areas, keep a good eye on the kiddos.

We hiked the Trading Post Trail on a sunny Saturday in February with our children, ages 7 and 4. They loved it, but were definitely tired at the end. However, after we finished the 1.4 mile loop, it was their idea to hike up to the amphitheater, then all the way to the top.

red-rocks-hike-trading-post-trail-midway

We started at the trading post, and hiked the loop counter-clockwise. I'd recommend hiking it this way because it gives you the move favorable views, and offers a bit of shade about 3/4 of the way through the hike--right when you need it the most. The sand and grave on the rock surface of the trail can cause your feet to slip, but as long as you are aware and take your time, it makes for a perfect leisurely hike.

You can bring your dog on this hike, however we haven't added this trail to our list of best trails for hiking with your dog near Denver because the trail can be narrow and can be high traffic. So, if you are bringing fido, we recommend going early in the morning, or take the Red Rocks trail, which is more open and has fewer people on it.

I get a lot of emails from people who are only in Denver for a few days, limited when it comes to their transportation, and want to experience the outdoors. This is the hike I send them to. Why?

  • The Trading Post is gorgeous year round.
  • Red Rocks is super close to Denver, and while it's still expensive, you could take a Lyft or Uber there from downtown. Get a group of friends to share the cost and you're golden.
  • Elevation is less of an issue for out-of-towners, and it's a relatively easy hike. It's short, but long still long enough to get a workout.

red-rocks-hike-trading-post-trail

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks :

  • Sunscreen: There's not much shade on this hike, so bring the sunscreen
  • Rattlesnakes: There are rattlesnakes in Red Rocks, as there are in many parks along the front range. Like us, they love to sunbathe, but on rocks and other warm areas. Don't let their presence deter you from enjoying this hike, but keep an eye out for the varmints.
  • Climbing: Rock Climbing is Prohibited at Red Rocks
  • View of Denver: After your hike around the Trading Post loop, walk up into the Red Rocks Amphitheater. It's worth climbing all the stairs to the top for a great view of Denver.
  • Hours: The hiking trails at Red Rocks open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset
  • After the Hike: Ice Cream @ The Blue Cow
  • Trail Map for Red Rocks Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

Weather

 

Map & Driving Directions to the Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks


Click for Driving Directions

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


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

pine-valley-ranch-park-north-platte-river
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-valley-ranch-park-pine-lake

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:

    pine-valley-ranch-park-gazebo-island

  • 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

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


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!


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

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


maxwell falls with waterfall and hikers above and at the base of the waterfall

Maxwell Falls Near Evergreen, Colorado

The Maxwell Falls hike is our most popular hike near Denver. Why? Because it's a perfect Colorado family hike with a variety of terrain, and the it takes you to one of the closest waterfalls to Denver. Below you'll find three different hike options: a one mile hike, a three mile loop, and a four mile trek--all taking you to Maxwell falls.

In the last few years, Maxwell Falls has become one of the most popular destination hikes near Denver, and it's having a negative impact. In other words, Maxwell Falls is being loved to death. Please read through the orange box for some of the basic trail etiquette that will help protect this beautiful place.

Trail Snapshot: Maxwell Falls Hike

When we were moving to Denver, we were looking for a great house and for great hikes, and our favorite hikes end with a waterfall. Waterfalls close to Denver, Colorado don't have a lot of wow-factor, but they make great for great destination hikes. There are 3 ways to hike to Maxwell falls. Our favorite is the Cliff Trail loop because it gives you the falls a reward at the end. The falls are more of a series cascades, but are worth the hike. If you want to explore more waterfalls near Denver, check out our Waterfall Hikes Near Denver page.

Hike Options for Maxwell Falls Trails.

1. The Short Version:

Less than 1 mile round trip - Begin at the Upper Trailhead and follow the signs to the falls. It's just under half a mile, one way.

2. The Cliff Trail Loop:

3 Miles - Start at the upper trailhead lot. The trail will split a couple times and you'll want to bear left, following the signs that point you down the Cliff Trail. You'll climb a bit to a rock promontory that gives you beautiful views of the valley below. You will begin a descent to the creek bed, then the trail will turn and head upstream. Follow it until you hear the falls. After the falls, follow the trail back up to the upper lot.

maxwell-falls-hiking-with-kids

3. Lower Maxwell Falls Hike

- 4 Miles Round Trip - Begin at the lower parking area and hike up the valley and along Maxwell Creek for about 2 miles. About 1.7 miles along the trail, you'll cross to the other side of the creek. Shortly after that, you'll hear the falls. Return the same way you came.

We've had some inquiries about whether or not there is camping at Maxwell Falls. Because this area gets so much traffic, we recommend camping elsewhere. It is permissible to camp on USFS land, but it's important to take into consideration our impact, and the Maxwell Falls area is getting loved to death. I'd recommend checking out Reserve America for other camping ideas.

So, strap on your hiking boots, grab a picnic lunch and your trekking poles, then hit the trail to Maxwell Falls.

Help Care for Maxwell Falls Area

Maxwell Falls and the surrounding trails get an incredible amount of traffic, and in recent years, hikers have really harmed the area. So, during your visit (and as always), follow Leave No Trace principles and the following:

  • Pick up trash on your hike (especially your own). There is no trash service at this trailhead.
  • Pack out dog droppings
  • Keep Dogs on a Leash
  • No fires or digging fire-pits. Fires pose an extreme danger to nearby residents.
  • If parking is full, come back later, or find a different hike. Roadside parking is causing erosion and safety hazards.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Maxwell Falls:

  • TIP: This trail gets a ton of use, so make an effort to pick up a few pieces of trash while you are making your trek to the falls.
  • TIP: Be on alert for the signage. It's easy to miss, and sometimes in disrepair. I'd recommend reading through the comments section below for details.
  • After the Hike: Beaujos Pizza in Evergreen
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

Weather

Map & Driving Directions


Click for Driving Directions for Upper Lot

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.


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.