ISO Denver/Boulder area hiking recommendations
August 24, 2011 4:58 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend a few excellent hikes near Denver/Boulder.

hello. I'd like to do a couple of hikes in the Denver area while I'm here this summer. I'm hoping for hikes with the following: characteristics

1. within 30-60 minute drive from Denver area
2. 5-8 miles in length
3. moderate elevation change
4. Beautiful views, scenery - possible wildlife viewing
5. Not too difficult to access, park at trail head
6. Some place interesting to stop and eat at after the hike

Thank you in advance for your guidance and suggestions! :)
posted by dmbfan93 to Travel & Transportation around Denver, CO (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Well, maybe because I hike all the time in Boulder, I don't think hikes in Boulder are really that amazing. I vastly prefer to hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area which fits all your criteria except distance from Denver. It will probably be about 1.5 hours + to get there but it is SO worth it! Check out Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Lake Isabelle/Isabelle Glacier is the most beautiful hike I have been on in Colorado and it is fairly easy. Also at Brainard Lake: Blue Lake and MItchell Lake. Both on the same trail and quite lovely. As for wildlife: I have seen picas and marmots but that's about it. Brainard is very busy in the summer so I suggest getting there early in order to find a parking spot at the trail head. Early=before 8AM. But it usually rains after noon anyway.
Oh, and for food, you can stop in Nederland after your hike and eat at any of the little places there. I seldom stop for food after hiking because I hike with dogs but a friend recommends "the smokehouse" in Nederland. I have no idea what its proper name is but Ned is pretty small and it should be easy to figure out! Ned is a pretty weird place that would be fun to walk around and check out.
posted by rachums at 5:25 AM on August 24, 2011

Wow. Quite the list of requirements. Estes Park is probably going to meet most of those. It'll be crowded most all the time but it's beautiful, about 75-90minutes, parking is close to trailheads, a myriad of trails to choose, and you can stop at the Rock Inn to eat on the way out. Brainard has been great when I've been there but I have seen much wildlife. It also wasn't crowded when I was there but it's been almost a year now. Indian Peaks is great. Chautauqua in Boulder is a great short but fairly steep hike to take and it's in south Boulder so I'd do this hike when you only have a few hours. Golden Gate Canyon State park should have what you're looking for as well. You could always hit up Summit county as well. Again, it'll be crowded but it'll meet the rest of your requirements.
posted by no bueno at 6:32 AM on August 24, 2011

Yeah, Indian Peaks is going to be pretty crowded. I'm a big fan of the hikes that start at the east Roberts Tunnel Access. Generally uncrowded, pretty alpine lakes, and the lengths fit your criteria. Not much in the way of dining up there, but you can swing through Nederland on the way back if you're headed up via Boulder.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:53 AM on August 24, 2011

There are some really nice open space areas that are about a 30-45 minute drive from Denver. Alderfer/Three Sisters, Elk Meadow, and Mount Falcon are few of my favorites and have a decent mix of terrain and challenges. For a small fee and a 45-60 minute drive you can visit Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The open space areas are mostly close to Evergreen which has a decent amount of neat places to stop for a bite. Golden Gate Canyon is pretty close to Idaho Springs and Golden, both of which have nice little main streets with restaurants and coffee shops. I've never had problems parking at any of these areas and the trails are well marked and free maps are easy to find. My favorite is probably Alderfer/Three Sisters because there's cool rock formations and old building structures on the north side of the park and challenging mountain trails on the south side for a lot of variety. Depending on how quiet you hike you can see plenty of wildlife at any of the parks. If you go to REI they have a wall of free maps to all of Colorado's Open Spaces and you can plot out a route that meets your distance needs.
posted by shornco at 8:38 AM on August 24, 2011

One of the Chautauqua trails, perhaps to the Royal Arch for an overlooking view of Boulder.
posted by fatllama at 7:49 PM on August 24, 2011

For a decent morning hike not very far away, you might check out Red Rocks. It can get hot as there's not much shade, but you can poke around the amphitheater, and explore some of the other cool rock formations.

The Morrison Inn is a popular spot for after the hike, but I prefer the food at Red Rocks Grill, personally.

Roxborough State Park will give you interesting rock formations and potentially a better shot at wildlife viewing as (in my experience) it's less busy than Red Rocks. There is a fee, as it's a state park (though it was nominal last I was there), and more extensive trails.

There's not too much notable around for an after-hike meal/drink. You might try the Arrowhead Golf Course, though.
posted by mmiller at 11:31 AM on August 25, 2011

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