It’s spring in the Front Range! The grass is green, the birds are singing, there’s snow in the mountains…wait, there’s still snow in the mountains?!?
If you’re craving some warm sunshine before the high country has melted out, check out these trails close to home for some of the best spring hikes near Denver.
The Best Spring Hikes Near Denver, according to Cottonwood staff!
1. Lake Ladora Loop, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: 2.7 miles
Just north of downtown Denver and Aurora is an incredible spot to see bison, deer, raptors, coyotes, and other wildlife. There are also plenty of opportunities to fish in the lakes along this short loop. Find out more information about Rocky Mountain Arsenal here.
2. Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park: 3.6 miles
Have you been to the Wild Basin district of Rocky Mountain National Park? This area of the park is less traveled than the Estes Park entrance and is closer to Boulder! Field Instructor Amy Atkins does this hike to Calypso Cascades every May with her family. You can continue on to Ouzel Falls, too, for a longer day out.
3. Canyon Loop, Betasso Preserve: 3.3 miles
The last time Executive Director Ford Church hiked this trail with his family, they saw a black bear! Some members of the party were excited while others were terrified. This trail is closed to mountain bikes on Wednesday and Saturday, so choose to go on one of those days if you’re looking for a little more solitude.
4. Gem Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park: 3.2 miles
This “gem” of a trail near Estes Park was submitted by our Program Director Teagan Papke. Follow along to find a small lake and great views of the surrounding peaks. You will be within the national park, so don’t forget your parks pass.
5. South Valley Park Loop, Deer Creek Canyon: 4.5 miles
Program Manager Dru Falco recently moved to Littleton and is enjoying exploring some new trails in southern Jefferson County! This route covers lots of ground in South Valley Park and the South Hogback Open Space, but there are plenty of shorter loops to try here, too.
6. Bear Paw Loop, Staunton State Park: 8.1 miles
If you’re looking for a challenge, try this loop in Staunton, a state park off of Highway 285. Your effort will be rewarded by two excellent viewpoints along the Bear Paw Trail at the top of the ridge. Note that there are nearby trail closures from March to July each year for raptor nesting, so make sure you stay on the correct trail! If you’re looking for something shorter in Staunton, try the 2.3-mile Davis Ponds Trail. Don’t forget to bring your state parks pass! Thanks to our Events Manager Carly Winner for this suggestion.
7. Beaver Brook Trail, Golden: up to 13 miles
Education Director Chelsea Tossing loves a long run along this shady trail managed by Jefferson County Open Space. If you’re looking for something shorter, try hiking to the top of Lookout Mountain or Mount Zion from the same trailhead at Windy Saddle. Buffalo Bill Cody is actually buried at the top of Lookout, so if you head that way you can find his grave site and a small museum.
8. Rolling Creek Loop, Lost Creek Wilderness 25 miles (3 days of backpacking)
Field Instructor Jarrod Gaut writes, “My favorite spring hike is in the Lost Creek Wilderness. The trail loops around the Windy Mountain and starts out with a gradual incline through pines and then quickly leads into rugged terrain where you can explore the Lost Creek by hurdling onto boulders of granite. On the elevated saddle of the Windy Peak, you will likely still find deep pockets of snow in the mountain’s shadow. The snow melt makes the Lost Creek rage and splash among the rocks. You pass multiple biomes, until finally descending south into a burn scar, where you can see the land recovering in its slow but inevitable succession. The scar feels like regrowth among desolation, and you will have wide open views of the peaks around you. I like to mark down where the currant bushes are budding, so I can come back in the summer and munch on them (with ethical and sustainable foraging!). I usually do this trail in 3 days.”
We hope these trail suggestions inspire you to get out there this spring! What do you think are the best spring hikes near Denver?