Living in Denver gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to urban life and the great outdoors. You have all the comforts and conveniences of the city — including amazing restaurants, fascinating museums, and a steady stream of new events — and yet you can be hiking in some of the most breathtaking landscapes within less than an hour drive. Something I also love about the hikes just outside of Denver is that there is something for everyone. Whether you want to enjoy a peaceful day with the family, challenge yourself to a steep climb, spot some wildlife, or learn about the beautiful wildflowers, it’s easy to find a hike to suit your needs without heading too far from the city.
Here are five of my favorites hikes just outside Denver that will have you back in the city by dinnertime.
Located at Lookout Mountain Nature Center, this is a perfect hike for families who want to enjoy an afternoon in nature. There are two short, easy loops, both under a mile, a nature center, beautiful views, and places to stop with a snack or picnic lunch. It’s located in Golden, CO, about a thirty-minute drive from Denver. If you’re not sure that the kids are ready for a full day of hiking, but still want to give it a try, this hike is a great place to start.
2. Ouzel Falls
Two of the best parts of hiking at Ouzel Falls, located in the Rocky Mountain National Park, are the amazing fields of wildflowers you’ll see along the way and the incredible 40-foot waterfall. The hike to Calypso Cascades, where you’ll see the most wildflowers, is just under 4 miles roundtrip. Getting to the waterfall and back is about a 5.5-mile hike and well-worth the effort. A little over an hour from the city, these moderate hikes are great options to satisfy your weekend nature craving.
Check out this hike if you’re looking to be blown away by the majestic view. Under 3 miles roundtrip, this medium-difficulty trail takes you to an incredible view of the mountains and plains. There are two easily-accessible trailheads into Corwina Park. If you start from the west parking lot (the second one on your way in from Denver) you’ll find a babbling brook keeps you company along much of the path.
Just as the name suggests, this is a great hike to choose if you’re hoping to see some wildlife. From mountain bluebirds and red-tailed hawks to herds of grazing elk, it’s likely you’ll find yourself witnessing some beautiful wildlife on this hike. Elk Meadow Park has a good variety in its trails as well. You could stick to flat trails and wildflower meadows, or check out Bergen Peak Trail if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging.
This is a spot you can return to several weekends in a row and still find a new trail to explore. With over 15 miles of trails, it’s a good idea to bring along a map. It’s easy to find a shorter path for families to explore, and there’s a more difficult 10-mile loop for those looking for a bit of a challenge. Whichever trails you choose to explore here, you won’t be disappointed.
The best thing about these hikes is that they don’t require a car full of gear, hours in a car, or an entire weekend away from home. You can start your day with a hike and find yourself at your favorite restaurant in Denver for dinner. With a demanding job, I love that Denver makes it so easy to unplug on the weekends. There is so much nature at your fingertips here, you can be forever exploring.