Here’s a secret about Colorado that many people don’t realize: Yes, it has some of the best skiing in the world. But even when the ground is covered in snow, the weather here is surprisingly mild. You can experience all four seasons in one afternoon. And the skies are almost always blue.
That’s why Coloradans don’t just limit their outdoor activities to spring and summer. They go out all year. Hiking is activity throughout the year.
However, not all trails are ideal for winter conditions. The higher altitude trails can be closed due to avalanche danger and some get muddy, as the snow falls and then melts. Other trails are covered in snow so easy to get lost if you are snowshoeing and not careful.
Because of this, we always recommend stopping by a ranger station before heading out on any winter hike. Rangers know which trails are best for that particular day and time. It’s also smart to let them know you’re out there, in case something happens.
However, don’t let that stop you from going on a beautiful winter hike. Snow hikes tend to be much less crowded than in summer and the views are just as spectacular, in a different way.
It’s easy to hit the best winter hikes and shelter from the wind, which can make the cold air miserable. The best hikes aren’t too long either (three hours max). And most of all, they are all incredibly beautiful.
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Easy: Lily Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of our favorite national parks (Colorado has four) because it is easily accessible, accessible to tourists of all levels and ages, and close to the charming town of Estes Park. There are too many great year-round trails in the park to list, but one of the standards for beginners is Lily Lake.
Lily Lake isn’t a hidden gem, but in potentially risky conditions when you’re looking for an easy hike, you don’t necessarily want to stray too far off course. Lily Lake is low and flat. It is less than a mile round trip. You’ll be in and out before you need hand warmers.
The trail itself tends to be visible in winter; Snowshoes are not needed. Underneath, it is gravel. It is even handicapped accessible. This means that it is also ideal for families and people of all ages.
Easy: Red Rocks Park, Morrison
The Red Rocks Amphitheater is famous for being one of the world’s most incredible music venues, drawing world-class artists to its rock-flanked stage. But it is also a picturesque place to get a good workout. Especially in the winter when concerts are not so common. However, the dramatic red stones remain, and the long, steep staircase is more entertaining than the Stairmaster in the gym. Explore this interesting area on foot, which includes several trails that take you through the rocks and higher up, through valleys and a meadow.
Easy: Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Again this trail is so well known that it is almost a cliché, at least to the locals. But visitors love it because it’s easy to find in Rocky Mountain National Park and it’s a mix-and-match destination, with several trails to choose from.
Looking for something easy? Choose a trail that lasts less than an hour. Or plan an all-day hike in the mountains to Glacier Gorge. Longer walks are naturally more difficult. Plan accordingly.
Easy: Saint Mary’s Glacier, Idaho Springs
If you’re driving Interstate 70 to a ski town and get stuck in a mountain-style traffic jam (a million cars heading to ski resorts), the worst traffic is most likely somewhere. place around Idaho Springs. Instead of fighting the traffic, skip it and turn into Idaho Springs, where you’ll find the Saint Mary’s Glacier Hiking Spot in the Arapahoe National Forest.
The trail itself is easy if you are prepared and have sturdy shoes, preferably studded, and it tends to be quite popular. One of the standout features of this trail is the number of people walking with their snowboard gear then tackling the front of the mountain.
Easy: Three Sisters Park, Evergreen
Head to Evergreen for Three Sisters Park and the Alderfer area, which has tons of different trails to choose from. Get a map at the trailhead and create a plan, based on how long you want to hike and how hard you want to hike. It is absolutely possible to enjoy a sweet, simple, and short hike here that is great for families.
Easy: Mount Falcon’s Castle Trail, Morrison
This hike along the Castle Trail is flat, easy, and long enough to be entertaining (but not too long, just two hours). But what makes it really remarkable are the castle ruins and a watchtower along the way. This makes it ideal for families. The hike doesn’t have too much elevation gain, which is good for people visiting from sea level who want to get into the mountains but still want to, you know, breathe air.
This hike will take about an hour and a half and will provide views of Red Rocks and Denver. It is not far from Denver, so it is easily accessible.
Easy: Alberta Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park
Alberta Falls is another popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this one ends with a waterfall. If you’ve never seen a frozen waterfall, add this to your wish list, because it’s more than surreal. This hike is popular, especially in the summer, and it’s short. Approach from Bear Lake. The hike is about a mile and a half to the waterfall and back.
Moderate: Mount Sanitas, Boulder
Boulder is especially lovely in winter. The Pearl Street Mall is glowing with Christmas lights and you will see a giant shining star on the mountainside. See the city from above when you hike Mount Sanitas, just at the western end of the city. This trail has several different options you can choose from, but the most popular is the Mount Sanitas Loop, which has some pretty steep slopes but a worthwhile view.
The loop is just over three miles long and includes log and rock steps that provide a good workout. It is not easy, especially in bad weather conditions or with snow and ice on the ground. If you have the strength and your lungs can handle the altitude, there is no better view in Boulder that is so close to the city.
Moderate: Gem Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Gem Lake is a slightly more challenging hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s not far, just a mile and a half each way (about three miles total), but where this trail takes you is on the incline. It packs a whopping 1,000-foot elevation gain in a short distance. Add to that the already high elevation of Gem Lake (around 8,800 feet above sea level), more setbacks along the way, and you’re sure to break a sweat. (Make sure to dress in layers in case you need to cool down.)
As you would expect at such a height, the views here are spectacular. Keep your eyes peeled for the continental divide.
Moderate: Devil’s Spine, Loveland
Devil’s Backbone can be easy if you just explore the trailhead. But it can also be as challenging as you want. This time, not because of the elevation gain but because of the length.
The Devil’s Spine (an unusual rock formation that sticks out of the ground like, well, like a spine coming from the underworld) has over 12 miles of trails connecting various open spaces. Add more miles, if you can handle the challenge.
As a bonus, it is very easy to find. It is right on the west edge of Loveland and impossible to miss. You’re heading up the canyon into Rocky Mountain National Park, which makes for a convenient stop along the way. If you’re feeling tough, you can walk to Horsetooth Park in Fort Collins.
Difficult: Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Here’s a real challenge in Rocky Mountain National Park. Chasm Lake is tucked away in the mountains, and it will take you 8.5 miles round trip to see it, along with challenging and steep trails. No wonder this trail is close to Longs Peak, one of the fourteen hardest (mountains over 14,000 feet high) in the Front Range of Colorado.
Difficult: Manitou incline, Manitou springs
Here’s an unusual hike to try and conquer, if you’re tough enough. Walk, walk, or try to run it.
The 3.7-mile Manitou incline is about as tough as it can get, surpassing more than 2,000 feet of elevation in a single mile. At some points, you will find almost a 70 percent grade. Finally, you will end up less than 9,000 feet above sea level.
This is just for the hardcore.
This trail actually used to be a cogwheel railway. Today, Olympic athletes, military, and extreme sportsmen use the crazy way to challenge themselves and train. This part of Colorado is home to an Olympic training center and a military base.
Beyond bragging rights, at the end of this trail, you’ll find rewarding views of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.
Difficult: Deer Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park
Deer Mountain is rugged, full of curves, and a challenging elevation gain of over 1,000 feet. It is also quite long, six miles out and back. Deer Mountain takes you to the top of just over 10,000 feet above sea level, which can be a challenge in itself.
The higher you climb, the more snow you can expect to find. Be careful not to get lost if snow covers the trail. In the winter, you may not be able to do it without snowshoes.