Colorado is a wonderful place to live. No matter how long you’ve been here, there are still amazing, outdoor places to discover. Wild west, nature loving, and out-of-this-world hidden gems that will surprise you, and take your breath away. 303 Magazine has rounded up our favorite outdoor hidden gems in the state. Everything from Glacial lakes, to castles, to alligator farms— here are the 7 Most Amazing Outdoor Hidden Gems in Colorado.

1. Sky Pond and Lake of Glass, Rocky Mountain Park

Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Photo by Steven Bratman.

Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park, photo by Steven Bratman.

A scenic, shady, and intermediate (but quite long) 9 mile path takes you to two of the most beautiful peaks imaginable—crystal blue to emerald clear glacier lakes at high altitude known as Sky Pond and Lake of Glass. A beautiful refuge in Rocky Mountain National park, that welcomes close to 3.3 Million visitors each year, these long hikes are sure to feed your hidden gem appetite. Find these beautiful glacial lakes for a truly serene escape. Bucket list check. 9 Miles into Rocky Mountain National Park, find the map here.

2. Bishop’s Castle

Bishops Castle, photo by Rachel Bender.

Bishop’s Castle, photo by Rachel Bender.

This bizarre and totally unexpected two acres in the San Isabel National Forest is the child of Jim Bishop. In construction since 1972, it may be the largest one-man building project in the world. You’ll see Jim’s anti-government signs posted throughout the trail, along with an enormous, clay castle, dragon, and Eiffel tower shaped fire place. You can walk inside Bishop’s Castle and on several other spirally staircase like structures along the way. Jim started describing the Bishop Castle as “Built by One Man with the Help of God.” Truly something out of Willy Wonka or Dr. Suess, enjoy this local Colorado fairy tale. 12705 Colorado 165, Rye, CO, 81069.

3. The Incline in Manitou Springs

Manitou Springs Incline, photo by Rachel Bender.

Manitou Springs Incline, photo by Rachel Bender.

Not for the faint of heart, this vertical mile staircase in Manitou Springs known simply as “The Incline” is truly a flight of stairs worth taking. The really intense Colorado fitfam hiker could do the climb in 35-45 minutes. Feel the burn all the way to the top for one of the most spectacular hidden gem views that you have to see to believe. Ruxton St. Across from the Cog Railway in Manitou Springs

4. Forsythe Canyon in Boulder

Forsythe Falls, photo by The Trail Girl.

Forsythe Falls, photo by The Trail Girl.

This stunning Forsythe waterfall is on our list for the amazing scenery and hiking bliss, plus it’s relatively unknown among even the most versed hiking locals. Bring your dogs (on leash) and kids on this beautiful, shady hidden gem hike. Take the 2.2 mile hike to Forsythe Falls that will be situated along side Gross Reservoir. Check out the comprehensive Daily Hikes near Denver guide for the exact Falls Route, as the trailhead is easily missed. Be sure to make a day of it in Boulder! Slightly West of Boulder Mountain Park

5. Colorado Gators and Reptile Park

Alligator wrestling in Colorado. Yes, you heard right. If you think this echoes a banjo-playing, swamp people spot— it sort of does. But it’s also a kitschy, unique, immaculate, exciting, and really fun spot to visit. They welcome kids and encourage you to bring your dogs, who will have a lot of fun smelling alligators, turtles, birds, reptiles, and crazy animals they never knew existed. Check the pricing and hours of this weirdly cool hidden gem that will surely blow your mind. 9162 Ln 9 N, Mosca CO, 81146.

6. Booth Falls

Booth Falls, photo by Rachel Bender.

Booth Falls, photo by Rachel Bender.

This is a super beautiful Vail hidden gem that boasts the killer hike, stunning views, and aqueous quality that you will become accustomed to in Colorado. Most locals don’t need an excuse to get to Vail, but now you have one! It is quite possibly one of the most picturesque mountain towns in the state. Booth Falls Road, Vail, CO, 81657.

7. St. Mary’s Glacier

St. Mary's Glacier, photo by Rachel Bender.

St. Mary’s Glacier, photo by Rachel Bender.

This final hidden gem is an ever changing canvas of the seasons. Enjoy Saint Mary’s Glacier in Summer, where the rocky path about a mile long takes you to the glacial lake. People ski and snowboard all season long down the glacial front. Check out Daily Hikes near Denver for the best route7599 Fall River Road, Idaho Springs, CO, 80452.

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Bishop's Castle, photo by Rachel Bender.

Bishop’s Castle, photo by Rachel Bender.

Bishop's Castle, photo by Rachel Bender.

Bishop’s Castle, photo by Rachel Bender.

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Denver Fashion Weekend Fall 2014.

Denver Fashion Weekend Fall 2014.

26 Responses

  1. kyle

    Should be renamed 7 hidden gems of the front range… these pretty much suck. Get up into the mountains a bit why dontcha??

    Reply
    • Ozzie Perch

      should add Alma, Middle Park and headwaters of Arkansas and Colorado rivers…all the hot springs places; Take the train all the way to Pike’s Peak and get out and enjoy the view; hike the last 200 ft to the top of Mt. Evans; go in the Country Boy mine; see Mesa Verde dwellings; Red Rocks from inside the amphitheatre; Black Canyon of the Gunnison…go on down to Palisade and have some wine…Colorado’s a big place!

      Reply
  2. Kenneth Griffin

    nothing scenic about the town of vail other then nature itself, the town of vail is an I-70 overpriced strip mall nothing more, sincerely summit/eagle resident.

    Reply
  3. Leslie Jones

    Does the Western Slope not exist?! How about Box Canyon Falls, Ouray? Or Hanging Lake outside of Glenwood Springs?! Colorado is not two separate states you know!!

    Reply
  4. Craig Wilson

    There are Lego structures safer to climb on than Bishop's Castle. Interesting yes, how it hasn't been shut down is beyond me.

    Reply
  5. trixdaddio

    There are Lego structures safer to climb on than Bishop’s Castle. Interesting yes, how it hasn’t been shut down is beyond me.

    Reply
  6. Lindsey Bartlett

    I do not consider Hanging Lake, nor Box Canyon, to be "hidden gems" simply because they are so well known and heavily visited. My article doesn't purposefully exclude the Western Slope, I just went with more places I felt people didn't know about which randomly happened to fall on this side of the state! Thanks for reading!

    Reply
  7. Scott Niles

    Lindsey Bartlett Write something nice and all you get is mostly negativity from people who have found a voice on the internet. These people have nothing to contribute vocally in person so they think they come off as intelligent on the web. Keep it up and don't feel you have to defend yourself at all! :-)

    Reply
  8. Carol Dauer

    This was a great article! However, I do have to admit Hanging Lake really should be on this list. It's not as overly visited as you think.

    Reply
  9. Beth Pratt Morales

    Carol Dauer But Hanging Lake is over visited. During the summer the parking is generally filled by 9 am. The trail has heavy traffic all summer from early morning to evening. I know I live here and send people there during the spring or late fall up there which still tend to be busy.

    Reply
  10. Beth Pratt Morales

    Carol Dauer But Hanging Lake is over visited. During the summer the parking is generally filled by 9 am. The trail has heavy traffic all summer from early morning to evening. I know I live here and send people there during the spring or late fall up there which still tend to be busy.

    Reply
  11. Carol Dauer

    I have been to both Hanging Lake and the incline in Manitou on several occasions, and Hanging Lake is by far less busy. Nonetheless, it is still not as over visited as people think. And it's usually empty during the week

    Reply
  12. Mark M. Medina

    That castle used to scare the shit out of me! No matter how many times I tried I could never get above the part where people fall through nd ring the rope lmaoo

    Reply
  13. Chuck Steigerwalt-Blankenship

    On this Veterans Day I would like to take a moment to remember Willard Bishop who started building Bishop's Castle. I miss you grandpa. I know the truth and will keep your memory alive.

    Reply
  14. David Armin

    Leslie, lets not encourage the Front rangers to show up on the western slope! Nothing good worth visiting on the western slope Flake (front) rangers!

    Reply

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