Colorado is one of the hidden jewels of the United States. Jam packed with a variety of sights such as arid deserts, snowy mountains, scenic lakes, and beautiful night skies, The Centennial State is definitely a must visit for any lover of the outdoors. But, while most people naturally associate the summer months with hiking and camping, Colorado offers plenty of hikes for those that are more interested in climbing mountains during the colder seasons.
After all, nothing beats a nice winter morning trek along the river and through the woods of a nearby mountain, while taking in the magnificent feeling that being one with nature. But, in order to facilitate your next trip to Colorado, we researched the best hiking spots in the state, and found the best ones to explore while Old Man Winter is visiting in town.
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1. Emerald Lake Hike
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the best hikes Colorado has to offer. Emerald Lake is one of the most accessible hikes in this area, and for that reason it’s a great one to tackle with the family or simply by yourself (if solitude is what you seek). You’ll pass by a total of four lakes on your way to the finish line all of them with their own charm/beauty. Additionally, there are some magnificent photo opportunities along the way with sights such as Hallet Peak, which is even more beautiful when it’s covered in snow, and even cascading waterfalls. If you’re lucky (or unlucky) you might even get to see some of the wildlife that the park has to offer like elk, squirrels… or bears!
As far as basic information, this hike will last approximately two to three hours and while the family is welcome, dogs aren’t allowed so please leave Fido at home. You should have walked around 3.6 total miles by the time you return to your car. Don’t expect too much elevation as it is a fairly easy climb.
2. Lily Lake
Do you want to go hiking with small children, the dog, or would you rather go out on your own into a short hike that won’t cause you to feel sore the next day? If so, Lily Lake is your best choice.
Located in the scenic Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s a short trip that is just under a mile to complete. You’ll still get to enjoy some beautiful scenery and while it’s technically a “hike” the path is fairly flat on your way up.
3. Strawberry Park Hot Springs Hike
Hot Springs offer wonderful therapeutic properties to those bold enough to seek them out and brave their waters. But, most people these days would rather take a bus to them, instead of taking a page from our ancestors and trekking to them by foot.
However, if you’ve ever wanted to gain some insight into what our forefathers did back in their day, you can hike towards the Strawberry Park Hot Springs and get a feel for their experience yourself.
You need to start out from Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, which is close to the Steamboat Springs. From there, you’ll need to walk 5.7 miles in the snow, and brave the cold climate to reach your end goal.
Once you arrive at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, you’ll have earned yourself the mental and physical rewards provided by exercise, gorgeous scenery, and the restorative effects of the thermal waters on your sore muscles.
4. Lair o’ the Bear
The canyon on Bear Creek Road is one of the most amazing drives you’ll ever take in your life. But, it’s not until you arrive at the park that you’ll discover how nature can be truly magical.
Featuring a plethora of hikes, creeks, picnic areas, and the beauty of nature, Bear Creek Road is amazing and the Lair o’ the Bear is definitely one of the best trails in this area.
You’ll find plenty of open areas in this 1 hour long hike, which stands at a mere 1.6 miles long. Lair o’ the Bear is also kid and pet friendly (as long as you keep your puppies leashed you’ll be fine). The path is fairly level, and features plenty of sights to enjoy.
5. Opus Hut
Located in the San Juan Mountains just east of the Ophir Pass, Opus Hut is a backcountry hut that is touted as one of the best hiking lodges in the United States. At the cabin, you can enjoy some pancakes and bacon, soups, and some mean enchiladas all served at different times throughout the day.
But, if drinking alcohol is more of your style, you’ll find a fully stocked bar just inside. It’s a great place to stop by for a rest while hiking in the area and a wonderful excuse to enjoy a mixture of nature and civilization!
6. Lost Lake
Located near Nederland, the Lost Lake is a moderately challenging trail that takes you to a beautiful lake near the Indian Peaks. You’ll pass by the Middle Boulder Creek, a few cascading waterfalls, and ultimately become one with nature on the way to the trail.
Prepare yourself for some serious snowshoeing action as you climb the steep hills of Lost Lake Trail, and don’t forget to bring some sunblock!
We want to remind you though, that while it’s a hike that anyone can do, it’s going to be fairly demanding for the little ones and we don’t recommend bringing dogs even though they are allowed on the trail.
You’ll spend approximately three hours on this hike as it is about 4 miles long!
7. Two Rivers Lake
A beautiful view of Notchtop Mountain is visible from the wonderful lake that is just a bit off from the Bear Lake Trail. This particular hike is fairly long, sitting at a solid 6.4 miles, but the amazing scenery makes the trip all worthwhile.
We recommend taking as many pictures as possible of the breathtaking snow covered mountains in the area, and resting a bit when you arrive at the lake. You’ll need to, especially after the hike.
8. Shrine Ridge
You gain some wonderful insight into the true beauty of nature while hiking in Shrine Ridge. Snow truly makes the red rock formations, valleys, and mountains of the area stand out from the rest of nature as you gaze from the upper portions of the trail.
Shrine Ridge is located in the White River National Forest and it’s around a four-mile hike. But, none of that will be of any concern as you marvel at the silent beauty of winter.
9. Spruce Lakes Hike
If you like keeping your options open; take a look at the Spruce Mountain Hike in Larkspur. You have the option of either a four-mile long mountain loop hike or a shorter one-and-a-half long one to Greenland Overlook.
Colorado has plenty to offer to hikers, and you won’t be disappointed by this particular hike. Filled with unique scenery and a wonderful view of Pike Peak, you can find this place by simply going 45 minutes south of Denver.
You will trail along the edges of the mountain, which will give you plenty of photo opportunities that you wouldn’t get anywhere else! However, make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen as the snow can reflect Ultra Violet (UV) light.
There are some points that are fairly steep, and we’d like to remind people that children can in fact participate in this hike, it will take a slight toll on their bodies (you might have to carry them on your way back to the car). However, if the little troopers are up for it, they’ll be able to see some amazing sights, like Eagle Mountain and even the Windy Point overlook.
10. Alberta Falls Hike
One of the most accessible waterfalls in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and also a popular tourist spot, the Alberta Falls are definitely worth the trip! A short mile-and-a-half trip to your destination is all that’s required to visit this beautiful spot located close to the Bear Lake Trailhead, just look for the signs that point you in its direction once you’ve parked the car.
It’s definitely an easy hike, but one that the whole family can enjoy together, however as mentioned before in some of these other hikes, please leave Fido at home since dogs aren’t allowed in the park.
The trip is about an hour long, which is perfect for the whole family, and if you’re still feeling fresh after the hike, you’ll have the option of tackling the trail to Mills Lake.
11. Chasm Lake
You’ll find a hidden lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park that is truly spectacular, but only those that are strong will make it there. This 8.5 mile long trail will take you through steep terrains, and challenging areas that will test your body’s resolve as well as your mental fortitude. But, if you want to get some awesome pictures and enjoy the scenery, you’ll have to get there yourself!
The Chasm Lake hike begins near the Longs Peak Ranger Station, and it’s only going to get tougher from that point onward. But, by the end of it all, you’ll be sweaty, tired, and proud of your own accomplishment.
This hike is definitely not family friendly, and we don’t recommend tackling it by yourself either. Bring a friend and try to be in decent shape before trying it out.
Colorado is full of hiking, adventure, and outdoors, but the winter time just makes these hobbies that much more enjoyable/challenging. Your options are boundless, and this list is only scratching the surface of everything that is available to hikers in the State of Colorado.
Take a trip to the hot-springs, or simply enjoy the majestic beauty that the mountains offer. Take the whole family, or simply go by yourself and search your feelings within the solitude that nature has to offer. You’ll discover, enjoy, and even be awed by nature, simply by taking a step outside and hiking the many trails of Colorado during the winter.