Monday, October 15, 2012

My favorite Colorado hiking trails; need a hike suggestion?

Mt. Sniktau, Continental Divide
Lately I've been asked by several readers and a few hikers on the trail about which hike is my favorite and I'm always stumped by this question because I love so many trails for different reasons.  Some hikes I love because of the trail itself, maybe the scenery is great, or the hike ends in an awesome peak, lake, waterfall, arch or view that leaves me amazed.  Other hikes are memorable because of the way that I felt on the trail, maybe it was just a great day overall, or the hike was difficult and I felt accomplished when I completed it. 
After much thought on my part, I have included some of my favorite hikes and trails, they are my favorites for various reasons as well.  
The first trail I'd like to include (in no particular order) is Mt. Sniktau, which starts on the Continental Divide at Loveland Pass near the Eisenhower Tunnel.   This trail is at high elevation, starting at the top of the pass and my reason for listing this trail as one of my favorites is twofold.  First, I love looking at views while on the trail and I'd rather hike where I can see scenery than in a treed forest any-day.  Mt. Sniktau offers views in all directions including great views the Continental Divide; its also a high altitude hike which leads to a peak and when I reach a peak I always feel a sense of accomplishment.  But the reason that this trail stands out to me was because I was just having a great day on the trail. 
I hiked this trail back in 2010, which was the year that I had quit my job to pursue my artistic dreams, this hiking blog and my photography career; so I was in a great place personally, the day was beautiful and I was with my two doggies, there were wildflowers everywhere in August and I spent a good hour or more on the 13,234 ft peak, reading, talking to family on the phone, and enjoying the solitude and views.  Click here for info and directions on Mt. Snik' as its called. 

Views looking west from Bear Peak, Boulder Colorado
The next trail that I'd like to include is Bear Peak in Boulder, Colorado.  I hiked this peak in the winter of 2010, on a balmy Monday morning; that winter I got out often to hike peaks because I was working toward getting in shape for the 13 and 14ers that I planned to climbed that summer, and I was also pretty tired of hiking Jefferson County Open Space because I had done the same trails over and over for years, especially in the winter due to other trails being covered in very deep snow.  Bear Peak in the winter was quite a trek!  It took several hours to reach the top, but when I did, I was greeted with amazing views in all directions; looking east I was able to see Boulder, Denver and the airport.  Looking west I could see all the mountains of the Continental Divide on that clear day and south Pikes Peak was visible and to the north Longs Peak.  The top of Bear Peak itself is a little rocky and requires some scrambling, especially in the winter months.  I felt very accomplished when I completed the 7 mile round trip hike and the views were some of the best that I've seen, ever, in Colorado!  Click here for Bear Peak.  

Harmonica Arch in Lost Creek Wilderness
Next I'd like to add Harmonica Arch to this list, which is located in the Lost Creek Wilderness west of Colorado Springs.  I like the Lost Creek area because it boasts unique rock formations and has lots of hiking trails.  It's also located in part of the Hayman Burn area and the undergrowth is lush with flowers and new growth.  The hike to reach the arch takes you through lots of different scenery, next to the river, in the forest, and then ending in a climb up the rocks to reach the arch and views for miles.  Click here for Harmonica Arch.  

The next hike I'd like to include is also near Colorado Springs, Raspberry Mountain, which was hiked one weekend with my husband and dogs.  This trail was stunning in the fall and offered sneak peek views while hiking in the brightly colored aspen and pine forests and then the final part of the trail gets you out of the trees and you climb up to see views of Pikes Peak and the surrounding mountains and mountain towns.  This is definitely a hike to save for the fall foliage because it was amazing!  Click here for Raspberry Mountain.  

Diamond Lake
Diamond Lake and the Fourth of July trailhead is one of the few trails that I've hiked twice, and thats because its just that great!  This trail offers scenic views, several waterfalls, amazing wildflowers, and a high altitude lake in a field of beauty!    It takes a bit of driving to reach this location, including a long 5 miles up a bumpy dirt road to reach the trailhead, which is typically busy.  But the hike is worth it!  I have two reviews for this trail, one just recently this fall here, and another from the summer with the wildflowers at their peak and that time I hiked all the way to Diamond Lake, here.   

As I type this post, I think of many other trails that I really love, so maybe a part #2 is in order, sometime in the future.  Here are a few other trails that you might like.  If you are into rock formations, there is an arch in Boulder called Royal Arch, you can find that review here
If you like waterfall hikes, try Upper Maxwell Falls or Lower Maxwell Falls in Evergreen Colorado, this is a very popular trail in the area, and you can even hike on the Rim trail to see views of the surrounding cliffs and mountains.  

My favorites list wouldn't be complete without at least one 14er (peak over 14,000 feet) included.  It is hard for me to pick a favorite for a lot of reasons, first 14ers are hard and can be somewhat punishing, also the views are incredible from every 14er and its hard to pick a favorite.  Mt. Elbert, which is the tallest peak in Colorado and the second tallest peak in the Continental USA behind Mt. Whitney.  It was amazing to stand on the tallest mountain around and the views are incredible.  I also loved hiking Mt. Belford; the trail up to the top and back is fairly short, but very steep and punishing.  The views on top were amazing, the color during the fall season was beautiful and it was one of the harder hikes that I've ever done.  I actually remember sitting down on the trail near the end and telling Josh to leave me because my legs were so tired; I told him I'd catch up later.  It wasn't one of my finer moments, but it was memorable for that reason. 
Another very cool trails that are at high altitude and must be included in this list are James Peak at St. Mary's Glacier, on this hike you can go just a short way to reach the glacier and lake, but you can venture all the way up to the top of James Peak as well.  Also, Mount Audubon is another high altitude hike and one of the first peaks that I summited by myself; it was truly a cold and windy day and I wasn't sure that I could hike all the way up to the peak and back by myself, but I made it and it opened the door for me to hike lots of others solo.  It offered good views and a pretty scenic location, but the main reason its memorable is because it was something that I had accomplished.  
From the top of Mt. Elbert

If you want to hike in Golden, I have two favorite places; Table Mountain, which I have nuked numerous times and offers views of the town of Golden and City of Denver.  

But my absolute favorite trail near Golden is Mt. Galbraith; I like this because it was one of the first hikes that I ever did when moving to Golden 10 years ago and it offers scenic views and a longer trail that offers a backcountry experience close to home.  

Here are a few more shots of my favorite trails, I hope you like this post and it helps you figure out your next hike.  I plan on doing a favorites #2 in the future.  

 This photo was taken at Harmonica Arch in the Lost Creek Wilderness. 

 This photo was taken on North Table Mountain, you can find many reviews of Table Mountain in Golden.  

 Tunnel of aspen trees on the Raspberry Mountain trail in Colorado Springs.  

 This was taken on Mt. Sniktau, the wildflowers and views were amazing on a beautiful summer day!  

Josh climbing up Mt. Belford.  

Thanks for reading, and please post a comment with your favorite hike and why, I'd love to hear about them and possibly hike them myself.  If you'd like to join my mailing list to be updated when I post a new trail please subscribe here.   You can also find some of my photography for sale here to commemorate your favorite hike; I also sell prints directly off my site so if you see a photo you are interested in, please message me! 


  1. Like you, it's hard to pick just one favorite. Although I don't live in Colorado anymore, I still have fond memories of many places. Probably one of my absolute favorites is Blue Lakes trail in Mt. Sneffels Wilderness. It's absolutely stunning and the views are phenomenal! I also love the loop hike in the Buffalo Creeks Wilderness, mostly because I lived in Fairplay, near the base of the Wilderness for many years, and it's nostalgic for me. I also love the Beckwith Pass trail in the West Elk Wilderness. It's very remote and we only came across one other person on our 2 day backpacking trip there. And, finally, the Crag Crest Trail on the Grand Mesa is absolutely spectacular in the fall! The aspens are so gorgeous and the views of the desert below are fantastic!

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  3. Hi, a group of 4 of us from Chicago are heading out the first week of September for a 6 day backpacking / fly fishing tip. We are looking for advice on either good loop trails for that length of trip or base camp / day hike options. We prefer to be more remote ( less people) and have access at least part of the time to fly fishing. We are flying into Denver so would like to be within a few hours of there if possible. Any advice you can give would be great! My number is 312-286-1801, or email me.