The 7 Best Easy Hikes in Denver
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
Originally published on Landing.
Colorado is known widely as a hiker’s heaven, offering residents easy access to the world-famous Rocky Mountain National Park, the Front Range, and its over 50 fourteeners (mountains with at least 14,000-foot elevation). However, not all of us are avid hikers who are ready to sprint up a steep trail! During my time living in Denver, Colorado, I tried my hand at several easier hikes to enjoy all the stunning mountain views with none of the strenuous activity.
Whether you’re new to hiking or are just adapting to the mile-high elevation, here are seven easy hikes you can do around Denver, Colorado:
1. Red Rocks Park
Distance from Denver: Around a 30-minute drive
Red Rocks Park in Morrison, Colorado, is best known for housing the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater, but it also has several great beginner hikes for you to do. Some of my favorite easy, short hikes included the Trading Post Trail, the Mt. Vernon Creek Trail, and the Geologic Overlook Trail.
None of these hikes exceeded 1.4 miles, and they all offered gorgeous views of the surrounding landscapes of giant red rock formations, rolling green hills, and, of course, the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
This area was home to dinosaurs back in the Jurassic Period, which gives this location an other-worldly feel. Nowadays, there are modern animals like rattlesnakes, deer, and bobcats, so keep your eye out! These trails are primarily out in the open and don’t offer much shade, so I recommend bringing a hat and plenty of water.
When you’ve finished your hike, be sure to check out the Colorado Music Hall of Fame or visit Dinosaur Ridge, where you can see actual dinosaur footprints and learn all about the area’s history.
Red Rocks’ proximity to the city makes it perfect for a day trip or even an after-work hike if you want to avoid any crowds of Denverites on the weekends. There is also a parking lot available for guests, making it convenient to access. For a map of the park and a breakdown of all the available trails, visit here.
2. Castlewood Canyon State Park
Distance from Denver: Less than a one-hour drive
There are several hikes to do in Castlewood Canyon State Park in Franktown, Colorado. When I visited, I did the Lake Gulch and Inner Canyon Trail Loop with my dog and loved how close it was to the downtown area. Entrance to the park was $10.
The Lake Gulch and Inner Canyon Trail Loop was very easy to hike. There was only one spot that had elevation gain, and it was just hiking up steps. Since I did this short hike in the middle of August, I was grateful that there was a lot of shade along the trail—and my dog was happy to have so many spots to swim in the river along the way!
The views throughout the loop were very pretty, as we got to see lush hills, beautiful wildflowers, and large ranches in the distance.
Fun fact: Back in 1933, Castlewood Canyon Dam burst, flooding businesses and homes all the way in Denver. The broken remains of the dam can still be seen in the park.
3. South Platte River Trail
Distance from Denver: One-hour drive
The South Platte River runs for 439 miles from Colorado to Nebraska, where it then flows into the Missouri River. Located south of Denver in Pike National Forest, South Platte River Trail is a great, easy hike along the river.
To get to the trailhead, you’ll drive on a dirt road along the river for several miles. Depending on the time of year, you might see folks fishing, kayaking, or whitewater rafting. When you get to the trailhead, just park on the road by the abandoned South Platte Hotel, which was built back in 1887.
The scenic, 2.9-mile round-trip hike has hardly any elevation, making it a very easy activity for beginners. There are plenty of spots to stop off for a break along the way, so bring your bathing suit if you want to hop in for a swim!
4. Alpine Ridge Trail
Distance from Denver: Two-and-a-half-hour drive
When it comes to easy hikes near Denver, the Alpine Ridge Trail is truly like a walk in the woods—if the woods were at 12,000 feet.
From Denver, you’ll drive into the world-class Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the best national parks near Denver, to get to this summit. If you’re afraid of heights, just know that you’ll be winding your way from 5,280 feet all the way to 11,770 feet from your car. Throughout the drive, you’ll meander through the Rocky Mountains and hug your car toward the inside lane as you cruise along cliff edges.
When you get to Alpine Ridge’s trailhead, take a deep breath of that fresh mountain air and admire the 360-degree view of the Rocky Mountains surrounding you. The view from here—and from the 12,005-foot summit—is absolutely stunning. For a trail that’s less than a mile long (only 0.7 miles round trip!), this is the perfect trip for new hikers and gives you an amazing bang for your buck.
If you visit, you will need to purchase a $20 day pass to enter Rocky Mountain National Park.
5. The Flatirons
Distance from Denver: A 30-minute drive
If you’re spending time in Denver, a trip to Boulder, Colorado, is a must. This nearby city has so much to offer, including hiking the famous Flatirons.
These rock formations were fittingly named by a pioneer woman who thought they looked like the flat objects they used to iron their clothes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to hike straight up the slabs—there are easier trails you can take for a more casual stroll.
While you can hike to the top of any of the five summits, the easiest route is the Vista Loop Trail, which clocks in at 3.5 miles round trip. This flat trail will take you all around the Flatirons, giving you gorgeous views of the surrounding land. And, if you’re lucky, you may see some elk!
If you’re feeling more adventurous while you’re in Boulder, try out the First and Second Flatirons Loop. It’s a shorter distance (2.7 miles) than the Vista trail, but you gain over 1,000 feet in elevation. You may have a harder time getting to the summit, but trust me, the views are well worth the extra effort.
6. Roxborough State Park
Distance from Denver: A 45-minute drive
Roxborough State Park, a 3,339-acre park that was put on the map by Henry Persse back in the early 1900s, is a short, scenic drive south of downtown. This massive park offers hikes for people at all levels, with trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
One of the most popular day hikes is the Fountain Valley Loop Trail, which has some seriously great views without much elevation gain (344 feet). The 2.6-mile trail offers two scenic overlooks: the Fountain Valley Overlook at the very beginning and the Lyons Overlook (pictured above!) that’s a little further into the trail, depending on which way you enter the loop.
Along the trail, you’ll find Henry Persse’s original stone house on display—peek in the windows to get a glimpse of what life used to be like here.
While you’re hiking, keep an eye out for mountain lions, black bears, and rattlesnakes. A man I met along the trail had seen a mama bear with her cubs just the day before!
If you head here, just know there is a $10 fee to enter the park, and it’s not dog-friendly.
7. Lair o’ the Bear Park
Distance from Denver: A 30-minute drive
Lair o’ the Bear Park is a popular hiking spot in the Denver area located just west of the city. An easy day hike here is the two-mile out-and-back Bear Creek Trail to the Castle.
This trail is well shaded and runs along the beautiful, rushing Bear Creek, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to dip their toes in to cool down. It’s also dog-friendly, family-friendly, and bike-friendly—just make sure your pup stays on-leash. With an elevation gain of only 147 feet, this is a very easy trail for beginner hikers.
Toward the end of the trail, you’ll come across Dunafon Castle, which was built in Bear Creek Canyon back in 1941. It gives off very Irish vibes because the design was inspired by Celtic castles of the 13th century. Currently, it serves as a private wedding venue, so hikers can’t enter the property. But it’s beautiful to admire from afar!
Where to stay while living in Denver
To enjoy even more hikes all over Colorado, consider booking a stay with Landing! The modern apartment company offers flexible leases so that you can rent a furnished apartment for a week, a month, or a year!
Landing offers apartments in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and hundreds more cities all over the U.S., letting members live life on their terms and explore their new surroundings for as long as they’d like. Learn more about what a Landing membership can do for you today!
When you're done hiking, grab a drink at any of these great Denver breweries, these nine bars with great cocktails, or any of these six distilleries. Or, grab a great cup of coffee at these cafes!