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Colorado Trails

Hike Like a Local in Denver

The Mile High City enjoys great beer, food, and a border with the Rockies. But get beyond the foothills for grander sights: From the sheer granite faces of Rocky Mountain National Park to the underrated Tenmile Range to the high lakes in the Indian Peaks, there’s an embarrassment of riches within a few hour’s drive of the state’s capital.

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Best Local Hikes Denver Atlantic Peak
Photo by Jordan Copenhafer

Atlantic Peak, White River National Forest

Miles 4 (out and back) Drive from town 1 hour 30 minutes

The only problem with an outdoor Mecca like Colorado? In summer, the high country can be as busy as an REI holiday sale. That’s why locals avoid crowd magnets like Fourteeners and target slightly lower peaks, like this Thirteener near Copper Mountain ski area. The approach passes through the remnants of Boston Mine, which thrived during the late 19th century. From there, the trek ascends 2,500 feet through willow thickets; at about mile 2, the trail peters out into a steep, unmarked climb. Pick the path of least resistance to reach the ridgeline and summit, where you can see 14,265-foot Quandry Peak one mountain to the south. Trailhead Mayflower Gulch Info

Meridian Peak, Eagles Nest Wilderness

Miles 14 (out and back) Drive from town 1 hour 45 minutes

For a Gore Range summit without the Gore Range effort, cruise up the Elliot Ridge Trail to 12,426-foot Meridian Peak. From the remote trailhead (4WD required), head south on the trail’s namesake ridge where constant views spread out across alpine grassland (watch for elk and wildflowers in the summer), intermittent snowfields, and the pointed spires of the Gore Range. At the summit, stand face to face with Eagles Nest and Mt. Powell before turning around and heading back to the car. Note: Elliot Ridge is exposed for its entire length, so check the weather, especially in summer. Trailhead Elliot Ridge Info

Best Local Hikes Denver Sawtooth Traverse
Photo by Andy Brinkman

Sawtooth Ridge Traverse, Mt. Evans Wilderness

Miles 10 (loop) Drive from town 1 hour 30 minutes

Another strategy for losing crowds? Hike between the mountains. Ridgeline traverses have all the views and scrambling fun of our favorite peaks, but they look intimidating to the casual crowd. Case in point: The Sawtooth Traverse links two of the Fourteeners closest to the city, Mts. Evans and Bierstadt, but sees a fraction of the traffic. Where most peakbaggers are high-fiving atop 14,060-foot Bierstadt, your day is only beginning. Step onto the ridge (the route is exposed but difficulty tops out at nontechnical class 3 scrambling). The 2-mile traverse—and Rockies views—will keep you focused, but pay attention to the weather. There are no bail-out points if afternoon storms threaten. Tip: Leave a car parked at the summit of Evans to cut 4 miles off the return. Trailhead Mt. Bierstadt Info

Daily Walk

When you only have an hour, head to Cheesman Park, which was originally a cemetery. While some of the bodies were interred in a new location, many others were simply dug up, and others were never moved at all. A shady, 2-mile loop rings the park—just trying not to think about what lays beneath your feet.

Best Local Hikes Denver gear

Where to Buy Gear in Denver: Feral Mountain Co.

Best Local Hikes Denver food

Where to Eat Near Denver

Tommyknocker in Idaho Springs is right off I-70, at the gateway to the mountains.

Don’t Forget: Pack some mid-cut boots for the scree fests above treeline.

Best Local Hikes Denver scout

Our Scout: Heather Balogh Rochfort

Best Local Hikes Denver scout

Our Scout: Stasia Callaghan

How to Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Get to know the winter safety gear you need in your pack.