Top Five Hikes Near Denver

Clawing your way up a fourteener is almost a rite of passage for Coloradans and visitors. (For those unfamiliar, the peaks are Colorado's crown jewels that stretch above 14,000 feet). But conquering a massive mountain can mean getting up before the sun, plus lots of planning and packing before making a lengthy commute to the base of the mountain.

Thankfully, Colorado boasts lots of great parks and trails perfect for adventurous day hikes (and some where you can camp, too!) For those weekends when you want to hit the snooze button, consider one of these great escapes.

All five destinations are considered moderate hikes. The terrain ranges from paved trails to more rugged trails. Some of these hikes are just 30 minutes away from Denver.

  • 01 of 05
    Castlewood Canyon
    ••• Erik Rank / Getty Images

    Castlewood Canyon is located south of Denver off S. Parker Rd. near Franktown. Most of the trails are less than two miles, but hikers can combine loops to make for a longer hike. The Creek Bottom trail pictured at right winds along Cherry Creek, and connects to the Dam Ruins trail for a view of the now-defunct Castlewood Dam.

    While in the park: Bring your binoculars for some birdwatching! Castlewood Canyon is home to Turkey Vultures, Bluebirds and Canyon Wrens.

    Castlewood Canyon State Park
    Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Cost in 2016: $7 daily park pass (per vehicle)

  • 02 of 05
    Golden Gate Canyon colorado
    ••• Eli Duke / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Golden Gate Canyon is located west of Denver off Highway 93. The trails vary in length from less than a mile to over six miles. A good moderate trail is the Horseshoe Trail at 1.8 miles, which takes you through Frazer Meadow for prime wildflower viewing in the spring and summer months.

    While in the park: Stay the night! The park rents out guest houses, a first for a Colorado state park. Overnight campers can also rent a cabin or a yurt. Come winter, you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, sled, ice fish and ice skate in this park.

    Golden Gate Canyon State Park
    Hours: 5 a.m. - 10 p.m.
    Cost in 2016: $7 daily park pass (per vehicle)

  • 03 of 05
    Bear Lake
    ••• Bear Lake at sunrise. Jason Langley / Getty Images

    Rocky Mountain National Park is located northwest of Denver near Estes Park. The trail at photogenic Bear Lake is a paved 0.6 mile loop. From the Bear Lake trail head, hikers can continue to Dream Lake (1 mile) and Nymph Lake (2.2 miles.) A free shuttle bus runs from the parking lot to the Bear Lake trailhead during the summer. Dogs are not allowed on trails.

    While in the park: Visit Kawuneeche Valley. It's the best place in the park for spotting moose.

    Rocky Mountain National Park
    Cost in 2016: $20 daily park pass (per vehicle)

  • 04 of 05
    Matthew/Winters Park
    ••• Vaquero Cooper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Matthews/Winters Park is located west of Denver off I-70. The Red Rocks trail at a moderate 2.8 miles features views of adjoining Red Rocks Park. The Village Walk trail at .9 miles goes past old gravestones from the historical site of Mt. Vernon town.

    While in the park: Strike it rich! Or, at least channel the excitement from the gold rush that brought settlers to Colorado. Recreational gold prospecting is allowed in the park so long as you follow the rules.

    Matthews/Winters Park
    Cost: Free

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05
    Chatauqua Park
    ••• susancycles / Pixabay

    Chatauqua Park in Boulder provides an unparalleled view of the Flatirons mountains. Hikes range from less than a mile to more than six miles for all ability levels. Most hikers start on the Chatauqua trail, and then take one of the the three Flatirons trails. The only downside to Chatauqua is that the park gets pretty crowded on the weekends. If you're up for it, the Mesa Trail is a 6.9 mile hike that starts at the first turn at the top of Bluebell road. It's hilly and will lead you through forests and meadows.

    After your hike: Head to nearby Pearl Street. On the weekends, you'll catch street performers, like the ultra-flexible Ibashi who can fold himself into a cube. Let your kids cool down at the Pop Jet Fountain on the 1400 Block of Pearl.

    Chatauqua Park
    Cost: Free

    For a little extra motivation to lace up those hiking boots, visit 5 Reasons Why You Should Go Hiking and 10 Tips for Responsible Hiking.

    This article was updated by Brittany Anas.

This article was updated by Brittany Anas.