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Top Hiking Trails Near Denver

CBS4's Doug Whitehead hikes on a section of the Continental Divide Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2011. (credit: CBS)

Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Colorado, particularly in the warmer summer months. With all the stunning panoramas, it's easy to understand why. The views to both the east and the west in the state are nothing short of spectacular. The only difficult thing to do is to decide where to go. So, here are a handful of recommendations that may help narrow things down.

Chautauqua Park
(credit: Jason Hussong)

Boulder's Chautauqua Park Trails

Chautauqua Park, as well as Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks, are perfect for anyone looking to get out and enjoy some beautiful mountain scenery while not spending hours in traffic traveling Interstate 70. The amazing views of Boulder's iconic flatirons, as well as the mountains and eastern plains, make Chautauqua Park a favorite of Front Range hikers. The trails are well-maintained and perfect for people of all abilities and skill levels. With so many interconnecting trails to choose from, it's easy to spend all day wandering in the foothills on the West side of Boulder. But, just the same, a worthwhile hike can be done in just a few hours in the morning or afternoon. A shorter hike will leave plenty of time to enjoy all the other great sites Boulder has to offer. Cost: Free. Skill Level: Easy to Difficult.

Roxborough Park
(credit: Jason Hussong)

Roxborough State Park

South Rim Trail

The extensive Colorado State Park System offers something for everyone, and Roxborough State Park is surely a gem. The views of the red rocks, which are also popularly known from Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, are nothing short of amazing with a mountain backdrop to the West. These views are best enjoyed from the South Rim Trail, a three mile loop that cuts through the south side of the park. This hike can easily be completed in a morning or afternoon, but make sure to take the time to experience the other trails in the park. Wildlife encounters are possible, and even frequent, so the more you hike the better your chances of an memorable encounter. Skill Level: Moderate, although other trails in the park range from easy to strenuous.

Mt. Galbraith
(credit: Jason Hussong)

Mount Galbraith

There are so many impressive and well-known hikes in and around the Denver metropolitan area, and a little-known favorite is managed by the Jefferson County Open Space Foundation. Just northwest of Golden, a short drive up Golden Gate Canyon, is the Mount Galbraith Loop. The loop is accessed by two different trailheads – Cedar Gulch Trail and Nightbird Gulch Trail. The hikes to the loop are moderately strenuous due to the elevation gain. The loop itself is easy and offers amazing views to the west toward the Continental Divide, and to the east over Golden, Denver and on toward the plains beyond. At only approximately 4 miles in length, it's a quick hike that can easily be combined with a number of other nearby places like Golden Gate Canyon and Eldorado Canyon State Parks. Cost: Free. Skill Level: Moderate.

Cherry Creek State Park
Cherry Creek State Park (credit:

Cherry Creek State Park

It's difficult to argue with the convenience to the Denver metropolitan area of Cherry Creek State Park. The park is a short drive to the southeast of downtown. With so many other activities- camping, boating, and horseback riding to name a few- also conveniently in reach, Cherry Creek State Park is a great place to spend a weekend getting away from it all right in the heart of the city. The hiking trails, many of which are paved, are all relatively easy with very little up and down. Sometimes, though, crowds can detract from the experience, so an excellent alternative, also amazingly convenient to the city, is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on the east side of Commerce City. Daily Cost: $9. Annual Colorado Park Pass: $60. Skill Level: Easy.

Alberta Falls
(credit: Carren Mines)

Rocky Mountain National Park's Alberta Falls

There are so many options for great hikes in and around Denver, but we'd be remiss if we didn't include Rocky Mountain National Park. The scenery in the park is second-to-none when it comes to Colorado. There are so many great hiking trails that it's an impossible task to choose just one. A favorite of many visitors in the park is around Bear Lake and to Alberta Falls. The hike features a serene lake experience combined with a towering waterfall that will leave a camera's memory card full. The trailhead is almost always crowded particularly in the popular summer months, with friendly outdoor enthusiasts enjoying a hike on trails built for those of all ability levels. Looking to get away from the crowds, though? Then try something on the western, and less visited, side of the park. Cost: A $20 fee per vehicle is good for seven days from purchase. Annual Park Pass: A $40 fee allows unlimited visits to the park for a year. Annual National Park Pass: An $80 fee allows unlimited visits to all national parks in the country. Skill Level: Easy to Moderate.

- Jason Hussong is an Assignment Editor at CBS4. He has traveled to all seven continents, most of the states, and almost all of the counties in Colorado; he writes about his travels at

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