Colorado is legendary for it’s multitude of hiking options, from short half-day jaunts to exciting multi-day tours across the state. From the foothills of the Rockies in Boulder, to the James and Indian Peaks Wildernesses, and down to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Front Range is chockfull of some of the best and most legendary trails in America. Here is some of our favorite half and full day hiking trails across the Front Range.
Sitting high above the city of Boulder, Royal Arch is a spectacular sandstone formation that overlooks the Eastern Plains on one side, and the Western Edge of the Front Range rising spectacularly on the other side. Tucked away between the iconic Flatirons, Royal Arch is a gem in itself, featuring moderate to challenging uphill hiking, crossing a secluded stream and being rewarded with magnificent views that stretch far into the distance. The 3.2-mile trail gains 1433-feet in a wonderful loop trail which displays the best of Boulder.
On Boulder’s northern side, Mt. Sanitas caps the north edge of the Boulder peaks, with a gorgeous summit that overlooks Boulder and Denver and a challenging trail that goes to the top of one of Boulder’s most classic trails. The trail starts in the lower Sanitas Valley, at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This trail, just over 3-miles can be done either as a loop trail or an out and back, with just over 1200-feet of gain. This is a great trail for short jaunts just out of downtown Boulder, with many variations to make the trip longer or shorter including the superb Lions Lair Trail which ascends one of the alternate ridges.
Flatiron Loop Trail
The Flatirons are Boulder’s iconic sandstone formations, which rise high above the city. Vaunted as legendary by rock climbers across the world, the Flatirons have become a symbol of Boulder’s mountainous landscape. The Flatiron Loop Trail starts from the historic Chautauqua Park and rises up through the rolling hills of Boulder, heading towards Royal Arch. The trail then turns uphill and heads toward the three Flatiron formations, we’ll get to pass under the face of each, in a gentle rising trail that combines the best of Chautauqua with easy to moderate hiking.
For those looking for a gentler experience through the best of Boulder’s landscape, the Mesa Trail traverses the rolling hills south of Boulder all the way to Eldorado Canyon. This 6.7-mile trail is flanked by the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon, and traverses sparse forests and grassy hillsides. There are spectacular views both to the east and the west, overlooking the plains, including downtown Denver on one side, and the Continental Divide and the start of the Front Range to the west. This is a great trail for those who want to see the best of Boulder’s scenery with a nice and relaxed pace.
Full Day Hikes
Longs Peak is the pride and joy of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the highest summit in the park. For those who aren’t ready to reach for the summit, the Chasm Lake Trail will take you just under the Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker massif in a breathtaking trail that will take you to the heart of the park. This 8.5-mile out-and-back trail gains a total of 2500-feet and arrives to Chasm Lake, which is set under a breathtaking skyline of Longs Peak, with it’s iconic Diamond Face and Mt. Meeker. This trail will take you to some of the highlights of Rocky Mountain National Park, through gorgeous sub-alpine lakes and environments, and ending at an unforgettable Rocky Mountain skyline.
Starting from Bear Lake, the Emerald Lake Trail will take hikers past three spectacular alpine lakes, ending in a magnificent bowl underneath Hallett and Flattop Peaks, and featuring a overlook of Glacier Gorge and the alpine spires of one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most iconic districts. Starting at Bear Lake, the trail takes a 3.5-mile out-and-back trail with 650-feet of elevation gain across Dream Lake and finally Emerald Lake, set in a cirque of peaks and towers. This beloved lake among skiers, climbers, and hikers, is one of the most unforgettable treks in the park.
Set in Glacier Gorge, the Loch Vale Trail traverses 5.7-miles with just over 1,000-feet of elevation gain, across rushing streams and waterfalls, lakes, breathtaking Rocky Mountain peaks and towering formations, and a number of side trails including Mills Lake, Black Lake, and Lake Haiyaha. Hikers will also be thrilled by Taylor Peak and Taylor Glacier as well as Thatchtop, the Sharkstooth, and the Petit Grepon, some of the highlights of Rocky Mountain National Park’s hiking. Loch Vale is a great hike for those looking for a moderate to strenuous trail to one of the hidden treasures of Rocky Mountain National Park.