It can be hard to leave the comfort of your air-conditioned home to go on a hike in the blazing heat, no matter how pretty the views are. Luckily, not all hikes are created equally, so we’ve found the ones in Colorado offering the most shade. Canopy trees, high-reaching rocks and refreshing lakes are the features you can look forward to enjoying on these hikes to keep you cool.
1. Panorama Point
Distance: 2.9 miles
Location: Near Golden
The Lowdown: As any Colorado native would know, there are numerous trails to get to Panorama Point. We recommend the Panorama Point to Bear Creek Trail loop for the most shade. Especially if you are trying to build up your hiking legs, this is a great option since you’ll only gain a handy 649 feet in elevation. Trees line the trail providing plenty of shade, and at this time of year you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful flowers along the way, too. You’ll want to hang out at the point for a while, as the view of the Continental Divide and Mount Evans never get old, no matter how many times you’ve walked this well-beaten trail.
2. Alberta Falls
Distance: 1.6 miles
Location: Near Estes Park
The Lowdown: If you’ve got the time to visit the Rocky Mountains, this is a perfect hike to cool down after a day in the sun. You’ll walk through forests of aspens and pines before you’re rewarded with the rushing water at the falls. On particularly brutal days, you might even make the trek from the falls to one of the nearby lakes for extra relief. This is a well-loved trail, so consider taking the shuttle to the trailhead instead of trying to find parking there.
3. Staunton Ranch, Old Mill and Border Line Trail Loop
Photo by John Booth.
Location: Staunton State Park
The Lowdown: Staunton State Park is Colorado’s newest state park, having opened only six years ago in 2013. It’s a favorite for many, with a bounty of trails and wildlife to offer us. These three hikes combined make for an 8.3-mile hike that is almost completely shaded. The incline is spread out well across the hike, so the distance is likely to be the only aspect that wears you out. This hike is unique because of the historic site, the old mill, along the way. It’s been around since 1920, and you can also check out the bunkhouse that used to be the home for six workers at a time.
4. Green Mountain Loop
Distance: 5.7 miles
Location: Near Boulder
The Lowdown: Make sure to bring plenty of water, and maybe a few snacks, when you attempt Green Mountain. The majority of the loop is uphill, but thankfully it’s almost entirely shaded by trees on the way up. This is perfect training for someone who wants to hike a fourteener (but isn’t quite ready). And don’t worry — the views are worth the burning calves. From the top, you’ll have a gorgeous view of both Boulder and the Rockies.
5. Kroenke Lake Trail
Distance: 8.6 miles
Location: Near Buena Vista
The Lowdown: Not only will you be shaded by trees for most of this lengthy hike, but you’ll also be walking along water (which makes for swimming and cooling off opportunities). You can easily make this a day hike, but if you have the time for it, this trail has an abundance of camping spots. Make sure you’re prepared to be one with nature before hiking this trail, as you’ll have to balance yourself across a log to cross a river. Other than that, this trail is kept up very carefully and will be easy to navigate.
6. Apex Trail to Enchanted Forest Loop
Distance: 3.5 miles
Location: Near Golden
The Lowdown: There are two options for this trail. The Apex side offers less shade than the Enchanted Forest side, so we’d recommend doing the incline on the Enchanted Forest path. This side runs alongside a river with wildflowers in bloom, as well. It’s likely you’ll run into some friendly wildlife, as many see deer while doing this hike. If you can, do this hike on an odd-numbered day of the month to avoid the downhill-bikers.
7. Hanging Lake Trail
Distance: 3 miles
Location: Glenwood Springs
The Lowdown: As a classic-Colorado hike, this one requires a permit and you’ll ride a shuttle to the trailhead. The walk is short, uphill, mostly shaded and has some waterfalls along the way. You’ll manage to stay pretty cool on the hike, besides the sweat you’ll work up due to the incline. If you take a short walk past the lake, you’ll reach a waterfall that is as close to the feeling of air conditioning as you can get while in nature. Try to go early in the day to avoid the crowds, and the heat. And remember that you are not allowed in the lake here.
8. High Line Canal Loop Trail
Distance: 4.2 miles
The Lowdown: You don’t have to drive out to the mountains to get in s0me scenic exercise. This hike combines the calm and quiet of a walk around the neighborhood with the joy of wildlife and wildflowers. The walk provides plenty of shade, but this is also a perfect after-work hike, so you can avoid the harshest of the sun’s rays altogether. Since the hike is in Littleton, it’s easy to throw on your running shoes and do this loop before the sun goes down. The path is well-kept enough that you can easily push a stroller or ride a bike, too.
9. Ice Lake Basin Trail
Distance: 8.1 miles
Location: San Juan National Forest
The Lowdown: The hike is mostly shaded, but crossing through water along the trail is sure to keep you cooled off, too — this said, make sure to wear water-resistant shoes, or bring a change of shoe. There are bounties of beautiful blue Columbine at the start of the trail. You’ll see numerous gorgeous lakes on this hike, as well as unobstructed views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Plenty of camping spots are on this trail, and once you see the turquoise pools, you’ll want to stay as long as possible.
10. Lake Isabelle Trail
Distance: 4.4 miles
The Lowdown: This is a hike even a Colorado-native is sure to return to. The drive to the mountains is gorgeous in its own right, but the hike is worth the $12 admission fee. You’ll be tempted to stop multiple times along the way at the numerous picnic spots and lakes, as well. The parking lot for the trailhead is typically filled early in the day, but there’s a lot nearby with plenty of spots that will add an extra lake to your hike. The hike is completely shaded, besides a half-mile where you’ll be too immersed in the wildflowers to notice the difference.