Best Backpacking Trails In Colorado
Embark on an unforgettable journey through the stunning backpacking routes of Colorado! From towering mountain passes to verdant valleys and tranquil glacial lakes, this glorious state offers some of the most remarkable hikes in existence.
No matter what your level is – beginner or experienced backpacker – you are sure to find a trail that suits you here. So gather up your gear, pull on those hiking boots and explore one these fabulous treks!
Four Pass Loop
The Four Pass Loop in Colorado is an iconic backpacking trail that takes you through the stunning Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. This 25.7-mile loop trail near Aspen, Colorado is generally considered a challenging route, taking an average of 15-16 hours to complete. It passes over four 12,000-ft mountain passes – West Maroon Pass, Frigid Air Pass, Trail Rider Pass, and Buckskin Pass – and offers some of the most amazing views of the Maroon Bells.
The Four Pass Loop begins at Maroon Lake and is a popular 3-4 day backpacking trip for experienced hikers. Along the way you’ll find plenty of opportunities to take in the breathtaking scenery and appreciate nature’s beauty.
Cascade Creek Trail
If you’re yearning for an exhilarating hike with stunning vistas, then the Cascade Creek Trail to Mirror Lake and Crater Lake is just what you need. Located near Tabernash, Colorado, this 16 mile out-and-back trail will take your breath away!
Your journey begins with a picturesque amble along the north shore of Monarch Lake, where you will be engulfed by beautiful meadows and towering pine forests, interrupted only by delightful cascading waterfalls.
At 8 miles in, you’ll reach Crater Lake which sits at an elevation of 8346 feet. If you’re feeling adventurous, continue on to Pawnee Pass at 10 miles in which sits at an elevation of 12541 feet.
The Hessie Trailhead near Nederland, Colorado is a popular access point to the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Devils Thumb, Lost Lake, King Lake, Woodland Lake and Diamond Lake trails. It’s a moderately challenging 4.0-mile out-and-back trail that offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
The trail starts with an uphill climb and narrows to singletrack after the second bridge across Middle Boulder Creek. The lake hosts several camping spots for those looking to spend more time in the area.
For those who don’t want to drive up to the Hessie Trailhead, Boulder County provides a shuttle from Nederland every 15-20 minutes on weekends and holidays.
Crater Lakes Trail
The Crater Lakes Trail is a popular hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, Colorado. The trail starts at the Fourth of July trailhead and takes hikers past several stunning alpine lakes.
The 10+ mile out-and-back trail travels through open meadows, dense forests and rocky terrain before reaching the stunning Crater Lakes. At the top of this moderate trek, hikers will be rewarded with views of Longs Peak and the Indian Peaks.
The South Boulder Creek Trail is well marked making it easy for experienced hikers to follow without a map. But maps are still a good idea because many trails connect from here, so it’s easy to get lost if you’re not careful!
Whether you’re looking for an afternoon adventure or an overnight camping trip, the Crater Lakes Trail via South Boulder Creek Trail is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.
The Pikes Peak is one of the most popular hikes in the Rocky Mountains. The trail starts just outside of Manitou Springs and takes hikers 13-miles round trip to the summit of Colorado’s highest peak.
The strenuous climb follows a well-marked route up a steady incline. Along the way, visitors will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Portions of the trail are very rocky, so proper hiking boots are recommended for anyone attempting this hike.
At 14,115 feet, the summit offers breathtaking views that stretch for miles in every direction. It also provides an incredible opportunity for wildflower viewing, birding and wildlife spotting.
If you’re up for a challenge, then make sure to add this iconic Colorado hike to your outdoor bucket list!
Spruce Creek Trail
The Spruce Creek Trail is a popular hike in the White River National Forest near Vail, Colorado. The trailhead is located just off of I-70, making it a convenient option for those looking for a quick getaway from the city.
The 4.8-mile out-and-back trail takes hikers through pristine forests and open meadows before reaching the Mohawk Lakes. The lakes are nestled in a beautiful cirque beneath Mohawk Peak and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
This trail is rated as moderate and is popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Dogs are also welcome on the trail as long as they are kept on a leash.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy hike with incredible views, look no further than the Spruce Creek Trail to Mohawk Lakes!
Diamond Lake Trail
Find solace in nature and explore the majestic trails of Mount Zirkel Wilderness! The Diamond Lake Trail, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is located just off US Highway 40 and is a favored hike all-year round.
The 5-mile out-and-back trail weaves through verdant meadows and towering old growth forests before revealing the glimmering lake. The lake is nestled at the base of Mount Zirkel and provides mesmerizing views of the snowcapped peaks that surround it.
Adventurers of all levels are welcomed to explore this picturesque and moderate trail. It is especially suitable for those who seek an outdoor experience without expending copious amounts of energy. Hikers can traverse the trail in a few hours or less; furry friends may also join you on your journey, provided they are kept leashed at all times.
Ice Lake Basin
The Ice Lake Basin is a stunning hiking destination located in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. The 8-mile loop follows a scenic trail past several alpine lakes and offers incredible views of the surrounding peaks.
The trailhead is located at the end of County Road 10 near Silverton and can be accessed year-round, weather permitting. It’s important to note that parts of the hike can be steep and rocky, so proper footwear is recommended.
Highlights along the route include Upper Ice Lake, Lower Ice Lake, Island Lake, Vermillion Peak and Pilot Knob Mountain. All of these areas offer stunning views and make for great photo ops! Hikers will also have plenty of opportunities to spot some local wildlife along the way.
If you’re looking for an epic outdoor adventure in Colorado, then don’t miss out on the Ice Lake Basin!
Fern Lake Trail
If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure near Estes Park, Colorado, the Fern Lake Trail is a great option. This 7.5-mile out-and-back trail offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and Big Thompson River. Generally considered moderately challenging, the trail alternates between forest and open areas that provide some beautiful scenery.
The hike to Fern Lake is around 9 miles round-trip with 1,453 feet of elevation gain. You’ll be rewarded with solitude and stupendous views at this high alpine lake in the Entiat Mountains. If you wish to summit Carson, follow the Fern Lake Trail as it will put you closer to the ridge line. This strenuous 3.38 mile hike has an elevation gain of 1,890 feet.
No matter your skill level or experience, there’s something for everyone on the Fern Lake Trail! So grab your hiking gear and explore this amazing area near Estes Park!
Rocky Mountain High Trail
The Rocky Mountain High Trail is a 7-mile loop trail located near Pinecliffe, Colorado. It is generally considered to be moderately challenging, with creek crossings, lush plains and meadows, and aspen groves making for a beautiful hike. The trail has recently been renamed in honor of the 50th anniversary of John Denver’s iconic song “Rocky Mountain High”.
Blue Lakes Trail
If you’re looking for an adventure that will take your breath away, then look no further than the Blue Lakes Trail in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness of Colorado. This 13-mile out-and-back trail is considered to be a challenging route, but it’s worth it for the stunning views and unique landscape.
The drive to the trailhead is already quite spectacular, with panoramic views of Mount Sneffels (14,156 feet) rising to the east. Once on the trail, hikers will traverse steep scree slopes down into a glacial basin with three beautiful lakes: Lower Blue Lake, Middle Blue Lake and Upper Blue Lake. The fishing here is great too!
For those who don’t wish to summit Mt. Sneffels, you can turn around at Blue Lakes Pass for 11+ miles round trip or continue down rocky trails and onto 4WD road in Yankee Boy Basin. No matter which route you choose, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience!
Browns Creek Waterfall Trail
If you’re looking for a moderately challenging hike with beautiful scenery, then Browns Creek Waterfall Trail in Nathrop, Colorado is the perfect choice. Located about 30 minutes from Buena Vista and Salida, this 6.2-mile out-and-back trail offers stunning views of the Central Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Along the trail, you’ll find plenty of variety to keep your interest piqued – meadows, pine forests, aspen forests and small waterfalls can all be found along the way. The highlight of the hike is Browns Creek Falls – a spectacular waterfall located approximately 3 miles from the trailhead.
Colorado is a great place to go backpacking. With its diverse landscape, ranging from high mountain peaks to lush forests, there are plenty of trails to explore and enjoy. From the Four Pass Loop to the Browns Creek Waterfall Trail, Colorado has some of the best backpacking trails in the country.
Whether you’re looking for an easy day hike or a multi-day adventure, Colorado has something for everyone. So grab your pack and hit the trail!