Spruce Mountain Trail Scenic Vista, Larkspur, CO

6 Sensational Spring Hikes in Colorado

Colorado is without a doubt a hiker’s haven, but springtime hiking in the Centennial State is tricky at best. It’s that weird “in-between” time here in Colorado. You’re storing your ski gear away for the season and digging out your hiking boots, yet there’s still plenty of snow in the high country. So at this time of year, most Coloradans living at (or visiting) lower elevations near Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs, opt for hiking trails along the Front Range where the snow is generally melted by mid-March or April. However, if you’ve been here long enough, you know spring in the Rockies is comparable to riding an emotional rollercoaster from March until the end of May! Even at the lower elevation and milder region of the Front Range, one day it’s sunny and 75, and the next, a blizzard. But who’s gonna let a little hormonal weather get them down? If you’re anxious to get outdoors and hike (like we are), here are 6 of our favorite springtime hikes around the Front Range of Colorado.


Castlewood Canyon State Park ~ Photo Credit: The Denver PostPhoto Courtesy of Denver Post

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Tucked away in the plains southeast of Denver near the towns of Elizabeth and Franktown, this state park is often overlooked as a hiking destination in favor of the foothills of the Front Range. Yet Castlewood Canyon is a beautiful destination offering 15 different trails ranging in difficulty from mild to moderate. The canyon’s unusual geological formations provide a spectacular backdrop for a half day of exploring, and hikers and rock climbers alike enjoy its environmental diversity. Aside from its scenic vistas, this state park holds a unique part of Colorado’s history. In the late 1800s, it was the site of an early homestead—the remains of which (a two-story concrete house) still stand today. The area was also once the site of the Castlewood Canyon Dam, which was built in 1890 as a water source for settlers. Disaster struck in 1933 when the dam cracked during a wicked storm, sending 1.7 billion gallons of water toward Denver causing two deaths and extensive damage. Historical facts aside, hikers can also enjoy trekking along Cherry Creek, which flows along the canyon floor as well as a beautiful 20-foot waterfall. We think spring is an ideal time to hike Castlewood Canyon because the temperatures are much more tolerable than at the height of summer.


Trail Types: Out & Back and Loop Trails that range from .5 to 4 miles and can be combined for longer hikes.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Go For: Canyon views, beautiful meadows, interesting geology, creek, waterfall, historical ruins 

More Info: https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/Parks/castlewoodcanyon


 Waterton Canyon Trail ~ Photo Credit: Laura Bingham, AllTrailsPhoto Credit: AllTrails, Laura Bingham

Waterton Canyon Trail

Located in Littleton, this 12.4 mile trail is actually a dirt road that winds along the South Platte River and into a beautiful canyon where it’s not uncommon to spot Bighorn Sheep and Golden Eagles. At the end of the trail is the Strontia Springs Dam—a 200-foot high concrete structure that holds the Strontia Springs Reservoir—a popular fishing spot for perch, trout and walleye. The trail is wide enough that hikers and mountain bikers can easily share the trail and there are several picturesque picnic areas along the way. For most people, this trail is a fun day hike, yet Waterton Canyon is considered the starting point for the Colorado Trail, which weaves approximately 500 miles through the state all the way to Durango.


Trail Types: Out & Back Trail with a 12.4-mile round-trip distance

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Go For: River, fishing, bighorn sheep, also mountain biking and horseback riding.

More Info:  https://www.denverwater.org/recreation/waterton-canyon-strontia-springs-resevoir


Garden of the Gods ~ Photo Courtesy of Garden of the Gods Visitors & Nature CenterPhoto Courtesy of Garden of the Gods Visitors & Nature Center

Garden of the Gods

As its name suggests, this geological wonder located in Colorado Springs, is truly an inspiring place to hike. A registered National Natural Landmark, Garden of the Gods offers dramatic views, spectacular 300-foot red rock monoliths and 21 miles of trails to explore all among the magnificent backdrop of America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak. Entrance to the park is free and hikers are treated to numerous trail options among the striking scenery of the parks famous red, pink and white sandstone and limestone rock formations that were shaped millions of years ago during geological upheaval along a natural fault line. The Garden of the Gods Visitors & Nature Center is a great place to start for information and maps on the variety of trails but we especially like the Cabin Canyon/Siamese Twins/Palmer Trail which is a moderate 4.3-mile loop that overlooks the entire park. The Gateway Trail to Palmer Trail and Scotsman Trail Loop is another moderate 4.1-mile loop. An easier 2.5-mile hike is the Bretag Trail and Palmer Trail Loop. Since the Palmer Trail is a less-traveled route on the western edge of the park, you’ll likely encounter less crowds. Regardless of what trails you choose to hike in the park, you’ll be rewarded with an outstanding contrast of green junipers and pinyon pines among the red rock topography. You may even have the pleasure of wildlife viewing—mule deer, bighorn sheep and fox are all plentiful residents of the park. Having been there ourselves in the middle of summer when temperatures can be uncomfortably hot, we definitely recommend adding Garden of the Gods to your spring hiking plans.


Trail Types: Out & Back and Loop Trails that range from .5 to 4 miles round-trip and can be combined for longer hikes.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Go For: Dramatic views of Pikes Peak, red rocks, wildlife, wildflowers, Aspens

More Info: https://www.gardenofgods.com


Roxborough State Park ~ Photo Courtesy of Roxborough State ParkPhoto Courtesy of Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park

Clearly we can’t get enough of the beautiful red rock geological formations found throughout Colorado. Another state park, the 4,000-acre Roxborough State Park is a short drive southwest of Denver. Like Garden of the Gods, the park’s dramatic red rocks provide a stark contrast to the lush green plant life growing here and it’s home to a variety of wildlife ranging from black bears to mule deer. The trail system at Roxborough consists of eight trails totaling about 14 miles. While the park offers trails for every level of hiker, for a moderate difficulty hike, we recommend the South Rim and Willow Creek Loop Trail. Starting from the Visitor Center, you’ll hike the moderate single track Willow Creek Trail weaving through a landscape of grassy meadows, cottonwoods and scrub oak. For an easier trek, you can simply stay on the Willow Creek Loop Trail or challenge yourself by detouring off onto the South Rim Trail which eventually leads up a section of rocky outcrops known as the Dakota Ridge Hogback where you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a nice view of the valley below. Keep going until you loop back to the Willow Creek Trail and back to the Visitor’s Center for a total loop of 2.8 miles and a 465-foot elevation gain. For extra credit, try the more challenging Carpenter Peak Trail which also branches off the Willow Creek Trail. This single track trail is approximately 6.5 miles round-trip and covers some fairly steep terrain. It is considered a moderate to strenuous hike with an elevation gain of roughly 1,000 feet. Your efforts will be well worth it however once you reach the summit, which is the highest point in the park—offering a spectacular 360-degree view spanning downtown Denver to the Pike National Forest. Be warned that this trail may still be pretty muddy in April. May-September are the generally recommended hiking months.


Trail Types: Loop Trails that range from .5 to 4 miles and can be combined for longer hikes.

Difficulty: Moderate

Go For: Red rock views, wildlife, bird-watching, panoramic views

More Info: https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Roxborough


Spruce Mountain Trail ~ Photo Credit: Adventum ColoradoPhoto Credit: Adventum Colorado

Spruce Mountain Trail

Rising up from the plains of the Front Range, this scenic trail located just north of the small town of Palmer Lake, is known for its limestone butte offering expansive views of the lush grasslands and meadows below. Rated as moderately challenging, the 5.5-mile loop winds up to the top of a scenic butte and through a lovely shaded pine and fir tree forest. This trail has an elevation gain of 600 feet and offers spectacular views of Pikes Peak, Rampart Range, the Greenland Open Space and the Palmer Divide. Be prepared to share the trail with plenty of friendly mountain bikers and pooches. Quick Tip: When looking for the well-defined parking lot for the trailhead, be sure not to confuse this area with the nearby Spruce Meadows Open Space Hiking Trails.


Trail Type: 5.5 mile Loop Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Go For: Shaded forest experience, valley views, nice elevation gain

More Info:  https://www.douglas.co.us/dcoutdoors/openspace-properties/spruce-mountain-open-space-and-trail/


 Mount Sanitas Trail ~ Photo Credit: Alexandra Rembac, AllTrailsPhoto Credit: AllTrails, Alexandra Rembac

Mount Sanitas

If you’re in the Boulder area, this is a must-do hike. Sanitas is a Latin word meaning “health”…and the challenging trails at Mount Sanitas will certainly help you maintain a healthy outdoor lifestyle. There are a few different hiking options ranging from a leisurely walk through a beautiful valley to a challenging climb up the mountain. Which one you choose, depends on your goals for the day. If you’re up for some vertical gain, take the Mount Sanitas Trail Loop. This 5-mile loop trail features a series of log and rock steps (aka: quad burners) and an elevation gain of 1,489 feet so you’ll definitely get a great workout, but the gorgeous views at the end are so worth it. The easier Dakota Ridge Trail is a 2-mile loop which will take you up onto a ridge or hogback with beautiful views of the Sanitas Valley. Since there is no shade along these trails, definitely don’t forget your sunscreen.


Trail Types: Out & Back and Loop Trails ranging from 2 to 5 miles with a variety of difficulty.

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Go For: Views of Boulder, views of the Front Range, wildlife viewing including mule deer, fox and coyotes.

More Info: https://bouldercolorado.gov/trail/mount-sanitas



  • Remember to always check (and re-check) the weather forecast before hitting the trails. Spring weather in Colorado is notorious for suddenly changing.
  • Dress in layers—always wise when hiking in Colorado, especially in the spring. This year has also been especially windy—so consider bring a windbreaker and buff to protect your skin from annoying windburn.
  • Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. You may wish to bring a beanie to keep warm if starting out very early in the morning and a ball cap for later to shade your face.
  • If tackling steeper terrain, bring micro spikes just in case you hit muddy or icy sections of trail for better traction.
  • If you like to hike with your dog, please check websites prior to going to make sure dogs are permitted on the trails.

See you on the trails! ~ KM


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