Family Fun: Seven Great Denver-Area Day Hikes
Apex Park, part of Jefferson County Open Space, is a local’s favorite for running, hiking, mountain biking and walking the dog. Gorgeous views of Golden and beyond can be seen as the network of trails winds its way up Lookout Mountain through evergreen pine forests and open meadows. Pick ‘N Sledge (1.5 miles), one of the longer trails, offers some of the most scenic views in Golden. It is a great, easy trek that crosses the ridgeline. This trail allows for two ideal seating areas with panoramic views of Golden and nearly the entire Denver metro area. It meets up with the Grubstake loop and Sluicebox trail, which wind around the west side of Lookout Mountain.
18301 W. Colfax Ave.
#E103, Heritage Square
Golden, Colorado 80401
A high-elevation hike, Castle Trail to Walker’s Dream Trail on scenic Mount Falcon is a great local staple hike. It starts as a wide path, expanding to a smaller trail. It is just under a mile to get to the Walker home ruins – where you can learn about the family castle home of John Brisbane Walker – and another mile to the Summer White House ruins at the end of Walker’s Dream Trail. The trail offers spectacular views of Denver, as well as a great view of Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison. You can pack a lunch to eat along the trail or back at the parking lot picnic tables. Be sure to take along water because there is not a lot of shade and it can get hot.
21004 Mount Falcon Road
Indian Hills, Colorado 80454
Meadowview Trail in Evergreen’s Elk Meadow Park is an easy, short hike with pretty views of mountain meadows and several great spots to stop for a snack and take in the purple mountain majesty all around. The trail starts higher on the mountain, so there is only a slight gain in elevation. A bonus to hiking this trail is the nearby dog park, Elk Meadow Open Space Bark Dog Park, where your dog can enjoy frolicking freely, surrounded by beautiful mountain vistas.
Lewis Ridge Trailhead
2855 Bergen Peak Drive
Evergreen Colorado 80439
Meadowlark to Plymouth Creek Trail in Deer Creek Canyon Park near Littleton is about a 2.5-mile loop with moderate elevation gain but well worth the effort. Hikers will first be awarded sights of layered, red rock formations and arid landscaping. As you trek farther along the path, you will wind through the foothills among scrub oak and may catch sight of mule deer or elk.
13896 Grizzly Drive
Littleton, Colorado 80127
Just a couple of hours away from Denver near Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to two other great hikes – Bear Lake Nature Trail to Emerald Lake and Alberta Falls Trail.
Bear Lake Trail is an easy hike, suitable for even small hikers. The trail is less than a mile and takes you along an alpine lake where kids can be introduced to a higher altitude climb without a gain in elevation.
If you want to be a little more adventurous, continue on to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. This easy but longer hike is 3.6 miles round trip and offers stunning views of the park and three gorgeous mountain lakes. Following signs
from Bear Lake, hikers can reach Nymph Lake by steadily climbing up the trail, which levels off on the shore of the small but scenic lake covered in lily pads and with views of two summits, Hallet Peak and Longs Peak. Continuing on, the path to Dream Lake goes over a bridge where you can spot colorful fish in the stream below, just before the lake comes into view. This lake is a perfect spot for little hikers (and big hikers) to take a break – soaking in the sun as well as the beautiful view of the sparkling water before continuing on. On the final leg, continue past a small waterfall. The trail will steepen for a bit – making you work for your views – before you reach the stunning, brilliant, blue-green waters of Emerald Lake. Relax and take in the breathtaking sights of this glacier-formed lake.
Finally, a hike your kids won’t want to miss – Alberta Falls Trailhead – because who doesn’t love a trail ending at a waterfall? This trail has only a slight gain in elevation and starts at Glacier Gorge Junction, taking hikers along Glacier Creek and opening into a thunderous waterfall at the end of the trail. Be sure to take your camera, along with lunch items for a picnic on the rocks.
1000 U.S. Highway 36
Estes Park, Colorado 80517
Laura Hartgerink is a freelance writer who lives in Golden, Colorado.