The Best Hikes In Colorado to do Before the Summer Heat

Jason Cummings  |  July 5, 2022

Colorado is home to many gorgeous hikes ranging from easy, kid-friendly walks to more advanced expert-level hikes with lots of options in between as well. Whether you want to stay close to Denver or travel out into the mountains to find some cooler temperatures this summer - these hikes will not disappoint! 

Starting off easy, we have the Rainbow Lakes Trail. This hike is out near Nederland, Colorado in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, about 1.5 hours from Downtown Denver, and is 2.6 miles total. The trail is considered easy because it is relatively short and only has an elevation gain of 341 feet throughout the whole hike. The route type is out and back and is dog-friendly as long as they’re on a leash. This trail is also popular amongst fishing and camping enthusiasts so be prepared to see others on the trail! Something to be wary of is the road leading up to the trailhead has been reported to have many potholes and the lot may fill up so be prepared to arrive early to beat the crowd!

The next easy trail is Monarch Lake Loop Trail near Granby in Arapaho National Forest, just over 2 hours from Downtown Denver. This trail is 4 miles total, has an elevation gain of 278 feet and the route-type is a complete loop. The hike is said to take an average time of an hour and a half to complete and, again, dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash! This trail could be a great transition hike if you want to try to work your way up to more moderate hikes since it is a bit longer (almost twice as long as) than Rainbow Lakes Trail!

Looking for more of a challenge? Try Emerald Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park just over 2 hours from Denver. This trail is more moderate intensity-wise and is 3.2 miles out and back with an elevation gain of 698 feet! The estimated time spent completing this hike is about an hour and 40 minutes. This hike unfortunately is not suitable for dogs therefore they are not allowed on the trail at all. 

Another more challenging hike is the Saint Mary’s Glacier Trail which is a bit further from Denver out by Idaho Springs but is well worth the drive. This trail is 2.4 miles out and back and has an elevation gain of a whopping 1,030 feet! Again, since this trail is more difficult dogs are not allowed on the trail at all. These two hikes are a great option if you want to escape the heat in Denver and also see some beautiful mountainous landscapes!

For all the expert and avid hikers out there (or if you feel up for an intense challenge!)... these next two hikes are for you! The first is Crater Lakes Trail out between Idaho Springs and Nederland in the James Peak Wilderness. This hike is rated hard, 7.4 miles total out and back, and has an elevation gain of 1,870 feet! After this long and steep hike, you luckily are rewarded with a beautiful view of a bright blue lake surrounded by enormous mountains. The other hike, which is just as beautiful is the Royal Arch Trail in Boulder, Colorado only 30 minutes from Denver. The Royal Arch trail is one of the harder trails at Chautauqua Park but is very rewarding as you get to see a birds eye view of all of Boulder and beyond! This trail is 3.1 miles with an out and back route type and also has an elevation gain of 1,394 feet, making it very strenuous at times. The trail takes an average of 2 and a half hours to complete roundtrip but is well worth it in the end.

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