Hiking in the mountains is our favorite way to cool off and escape the summer heat of the Front Range. Many Coloradans have a list of impressive hikes that never fails them since the amount of trails available within an hour of the metro area is so extensive. But while it might seem like winter is too far off to be concerned about in Denver right now, the same cannot be said for the high country. Some of the most scenic trails are best hiked by the end of September before the frost, snow, and ice settle in for the winter.
1. St. Mary’s Glacier
Where is it?: Exit 238 off I-70
Though the area sees snow year round, this time of year is one of the better trips up this trail without much delay. At only 1.5 miles roundtrip, it is hardly a difficult hike but it is one of the most popular scenic spots for Coloradans. The short trip will lead you up 1200 feet in elevation in a relatively short distance, making it of moderate difficulty. Seeing the glacier at the top as well as the glacier-fed alpine lake will have you adding this trail to your list of favorites.
2. Long’s Peak
Where is it?: Rocky Mountain National Park
A popular fourteener, Longs Peak didn’t get its reputation for nothing, and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. The summer time traffic on this trail is cause for distraction, but as kids head back to school and most people start to wind down their summer adventures, you can take full advantage of this one-of-a-kind trail. At 16 miles roundtrip, the famous Keyhole Route up Rocky Mountain National Park’s only fourteener, is a difficult climb even for the most experienced. So do your research and plan ahead. This is one hike you want to be over-prepared for.
3. Gibraltar Lake
Where is it?: Near the Indian Peaks + Rocky Mountain National Park border
Gibraltar Lakes are fed by the St. Vrain glaciers and are such a beautiful shade of green, you won’t believe it’s real. The rugged landscape is jaw-dropping and gives the feeling that you are hundreds of miles from home in this remote wilderness. At nearly 10 miles from the Middle St. Vrain Road trailhead, you will find moderate elevation gain on this train. Pack a picnic and, of course, bring your camera along to document this rare landscape.
4. Mohawk Lakes
Where is it?: South of Breckenridge
Pike National Forest is one of our favorite places to retreat to in all of Colorado, and Mohawk Lakes trail is one of many reasons why. This 8-mile roundtrip hike is rated difficult but is a great one if avoiding the crowds is high on your priority list. Dogs and horses are also welcome here so bring your favorite four-legged friends along for the adventure. This trail closes at the end of September so get in while you can.
5. Greyrock Trail
Where is it?: West of Fort Collins
This 7.5 mile hike is set amongst the mysterious Poudre Wilderness and is well worth a day out for making the most of what’s left of summer. This difficult trail climbs about 2,500 feet in elevation and ends at a stunning alpine lake. This is the perfect spot for enjoying a picnic, an afternoon siesta, or capturing some beautiful photos before heading back down. A quick drive back into Fort Collins is the perfect opportunity to stop for a pint.
6. Lost Creek Wilderness Loop
Where is it?: Near Kenosha Pass
If extreme adventures are your more your speed, this 28-mile loop will definitely fit the bill. But even if you can’t spare the time to complete the full loop, it is a great trail for day hiking. Here, you will find scenery unlike anywhere else in Colorado and will more than likely enjoy some hard-to-find peace and quiet if you journey up the trail far enough. While long, the trail is fairly moderate until mile 15 or 16 when the elevation starts to climb more dramatically. The sweeping views will reward you the entire journey so be sure to pack your camera.
7. Spruce Creek Loop
Where is it?: Near Breckenridge
A moderate, 6-mile loop, Spruce Creek is a busier trail, but worth it when you see the views and the alpine lake along the way. Bring your pooch along for an adventure through Arapaho National Park as you climb 1,700 feet in elevation. Get there early to beat the crowds and find a parking spot.
8. Roosevelt Lakes
Where is it?: Near Bailey
From the Deer Creek trailhead near Bailey, the trail will lead you to what feels like the end of the world. Tucked five miles into the wilderness is an alpine lake that dreams are made of. This difficult, steep trail will have you questioning how you could be so close to the metro area and yet feel so far away. Definitely remember your camera for this one, the views don’t get much better.