Best Colorado Hiking Areas [Part 2]


Bradee Felton

January 30, 2024

On the hunt for the BEST Colorado hiking areas?! This blog post is a continuation of a post I did back in May discussing 8 of the best areas to hit the trails in the state of Colorado. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read that HERE. Today I’m going to talk about 5 more amazing areas in Colorado that are worth taking a weekend to explore! When I say hiking AREA, I’m not referring to specific trails, but rather a trail SYSTEM. A lot of areas in Colorado are so saturated with amazing trails that they then become a “Wilderness Area”, State Park, National Park, etc. That’s what I will be sharing with you. One of the main reasons I prefer seeking out hiking areas rather than exact hikes is because it opens up a world of options. Sometimes when you arrive to a hike, the parking lot is full to the brim, the road to get there is closed, or the trail conditions aren’t what you were hoping for. So typically what I like to do is research a hiking area in the app AllTrails, and save a few hikes as backups in that area in case the one I’m REALLY hoping to do doesn’t work out. Because things don’t always go as planned in the outdoors. 

So whether you live in Colorado and you’re itching to hit some new trails this summer, or you’re planning a big visit, I hope you enjoy learning about (in my opinion) the Best Colorado Hiking Areas! 

1. Dominguez Canyon Wilderness

Located in the Dominguez-Escalante Conservation Area, you may feel like you’ve crossed the border into Utah when exploring this area! Red canyon walls, desert terrain and waterfalls make up the landscape in the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness. You will also see the Gunnison River flowing between the canyon walls. The area is primarily known for rafting/floating, hiking, backpacking camping and mountain biking. Because of its extremely hot climate, it’s recommended to explore in the spring and fall rather than in the dead of summer. While dogs are welcome, you will want to take hot temperatures into consideration before bringing the pups along. The closest towns are Grand Junction and Palisade – about 5 hours from Denver making this a great long weekend destination. The top hikes in this area include:

  • Big Dominguez Canyon 
  • McCarty Trail
  • Gunnison Trail

2. Eldorado Canyon State Park

If you’re looking for an easy day trip close to Denver or Boulder, the Eldorado Canyon State Park is a great choice! Located less than 1 hour from Denver, this park allows for easy exploration without too much planning or traveling. The cost to enter is $10 (they accept card or cash). As you pay, you can grab a park pamphlet which has maps and info if you’re nerdy like me and live for pamphlets haha. After you pay you’ll proceed to the main parking lot. There is a bathroom facility there and picnic tables for the use of the public! Because of the convenience of the park, be aware that it may be full or very crowded if you try to go during main times over the weekends spring-fall especially. Even just going early or waiting until the late afternoon can help with this! If the main lot is full, keep driving up and park on one of the smaller street lots near different trails. There is no overnight camping in the park, and visitors must exit at sundown. Doggos are allowed on leash so they can come along for the fun! Main activities in the park include rock climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, picnics, and fishing. Due to the array of activities to enjoy, this park can be visited year round. Top hikes in this area include:

  • Fowler Trail
  • Rattlesnake Gulch Trail
  • Eldorado Canyon Trail

3. James Peak Wilderness

Located near Idaho Springs and Boulder, this stunning hiking area is only about 1 hour from Denver! So if you’re looking for some incredible hikes without a long drive, this is your best bet. The best part in my opinion, is the numerous peaks above 13,000 feet! This area is also adjacent to the Continental Divide, providing stunning views. This vast wilderness is made up of over 17,000 acres and does not require permitting to hike. Dogs are also welcome on these trails. Due to high altitudes, this area is best explored in warmer months. Top hikes in this area include:

  • Crater Lakes Trail
  • James Peak Trail
  • Forest Lakes Trail
  • Heart Lake
  • Rogers Pass

4. Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness

Of all the different wilderness areas, Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness has the most special place in my heart. Located in Aspen, some of the most stunning views in Colorado can be found in this area. For the most vibrant colors, wild flower viewing, and optimal hiking, I recommend visiting in summer and fall months. Many hikes in this vast 181,000 acre wilderness do require permits, so you will want to plan ahead! Be aware that several trails here are also very challenging and technical 14,000 feet peaks. Top hikes in this area include:

  • Crater Lake
  • Four Pass Loop
  • Conundrum Hot Springs
  • Maroon Bells loop
  • Snowpass Lake + Mountain
  • Capitol Peak
  • Rustler’s Gulch

5. Ridgway State Park

Located roughly 6 hours from Denver, this state park is closest to the towns of Ridgway and Ouray. With this area being called “The Switzerland of America”, you can guarantee that the mountain views are stunning. The main attraction of this particular park is its vast reservoir, making it most appealing to visit in the summertime. The park is also used for camping, picnics, hiking, and fishing. With the parks location being so close to the town of Ouray, I recommend going for a 4-day weekend to check out the area thoroughly. Top hikes in this area include:

  • Ridgway Reservoir
  • Uncompahgre Riverwalk
  • Ridgway Area Trails

I’d love to hear your feedback! Which areas of Colorado are YOUR favorite and which of these are on your bucket list?? 

Happy Trails,


Looking to level up your hiking to take on tough trails year round?

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