With over five thousand miles of mapped hiking trails, it’s no surprise that people visit Colorado from all over to explore the great outdoors. Whether you have never hiked before, climb 14ers for fun, or are looking for a family-friendly getaway, Colorado has it all. And despite having the most 14ers, Colorado is still a great place to find beginner and family-friendly hikes. As someone who moved to Colorado with zero hiking experience, I’m hoping to share some of my top beginner-friendly hikes in Colorado.
What to Consider Before Picking a Hike
These hikes are beginner-friendly in elevation gain, distance, and difficulty. But remember, it’s always important to check the weather before you set off on your hike, and always let someone know where you’re going (cell service is extremely spotty). It’s important to be honest with yourself about your abilities and the experience you’re hoping to have before picking your hike.
Hiking Gear and Supplies
If the above sounds good to you, I figured I’d share some of my “must-haves” when hiking.
- – Windbreaker – whether it’s sunny or not, I highly recommend having a windbreaker. As you gain elevation wind picks up and it can be colder, having a good wind blocking layer can make your hike much more enjoyable.
- – Snacks! A non-negotiable. You’re exerting energy so you’re bound to get hungry on any hike, it’s best to have a few sweet & salty snacks to keep that hanger at bay.
- – Water – another must. When you’re up this high dehydration hits a lot harder, stay one step ahead by bringing more water than you think you’ll need. I like to bring at least 1 liter for 2-3 hour hikes and 2 liters for half day hikes. Hot tip: I also like to bring a BodyArmour during my hike or have it in the car for after to help boost my electrolytes.
- – Bandaids/Blister Pads – super clutch if you’re still breaking in boots or not used to hiking. No matter how prepared I am, I almost always end up with a blister unless I’m wearing these. The last thing you want it to be halfway through a hike and feel a blister forming – it’s not fun.
- – Sunscreen! The Colorado sun is stronger than you are and a sunburn is not a fun way to spend your trip. In the summer, we try to always remember sunscreen and instantly regret it when we forget it.
My Favorite Beginner Hikes in Colorado
Now to get into the fun part – the best scenic hikes for beginners in Colorado (in no particular order).
– Lake Isabelle – Summer Trail (Ward): Don’t let the distance on this hike scare you! It may look long, but it is one of the flattest trails I’ve hiked in Colorado. The Spring is my favorite time to visit this hike. It includes all the best of CO – wildflowers, an alpine lake, glaciers, and more. Pro tip: bring lunch and eat it overlooking Brainard lake or check out Nederland for some of the best wings I’ve ever had.
– Chief Mountain (outside Idaho Springs): This hike is not too far from Denver and has some of the best mountain views. It’s only 2.8 miles, but the elevation is no joke if you’re out of shape, like me. Definitely take breaks and drink water as you needed, but the views are definitely worth it. Make sure to bring a windbreaker!
– Sugarloaf Mountain (outside Boulder): This is a short and sweet hike just outside of Boulder, boasting amazing mountain views. It’s never too busy and is the perfect intro for someone accustomed to lower elevation. The perfect place to hang out and enjoy the sunshine and mountain views. After your hike, make the short drive to Boulder to check out Pearl Street and grab a bite to eat.
– Emerald Lake (RMNP/Estes Park): Probably the most popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, and for good reason. It is beautiful and one of the most iconic hikes in RMNP. There are many lakes and beautiful views along the trail. If this hike is too busy for you (it is for me), I also recommend checking out Bierstadt Lake in RMNP for a less-busy but equally stunning lake hike.
– Devil’s Head Lookout (Rampart Range): A stunning hike near CO Springs that takes you to an old Fire Lookout Tower. You can actually go up into the tower and see 360 views of Colorado’s moutaintops. This hike can get pretty sunny, so make sure to pack lots of water and sunscreen. A lovely hike for all experience levels. Check out Colorado Springs or Manitou Springs for lunch and exploring after!
– Hanging Lake (Glenwood Springs): This is a deceivingly hard hike, but a must-do if you’re in CO. It feels like you’re transported to another place entirely once you get to the lake, and there’s usually friendly chipmunks hanging out around the edge as well. Next to Hanging Lake there is a waterfall that you can stand under to take some fun pics (highly recommend a towel or water shoes for this, I didn’t have those and it was a wet hike back). This hike does require a reservation as it has gained popularity over the past few years.
These are just a few of my absolute favorite family-friendly and beginner hikes in Colorado. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do!
When enjoying the outdoors, please make sure to leave no trace and pack everything out to keep these sites beautiful for years to come.