No visit to Denver is complete without a hike, whether it's strolling around City Park or summiting one of Colorado's famous fourteeners (mountain peaks rising higher than 14,000 feet in altitude). Denver has a multitude of hiking options located within 100 miles, or a few hours of driving, making it possible to venture into the hills for the day and be back in the city by dinner time.
Located just 30 miles away, Boulder is a favorite hiking destination of many Denverites, thanks to its unique location nestled at the base of the foothills. Visitors are greeted by the shining stone faces of The Flatirons, the city's signature geographical anomaly. Boulder's Chautauqua Park is especially popular for its sprawling lawn, historic restaurant, rental cabins and access to a variety of trails for all fitness levels. One of the most revered treks that originates from the park is the Royal Arch Trail, a moderately challenging 3.5-mile round-trip climb that leads to a beautiful rock formation similar to those found in Utah's Arches National Park, while offering sweeping views of Denver. "Chautauqua Park is gorgeous," Schmidt says. Plan to spend some time at the top taking pictures, sunning on the large boulders and refueling with a hard-earned snack.
Red Rocks Park
Part of the expansive Denver Mountain Park system, the trails surrounding this famous concert venue boast striking rock formations, lush meadows and views of the city, just 16 miles away by car. "A lot of people go to Red Rocks for easier hikes," explains Zeyna Aouad, social media coordinator at the Grand Hyatt Denver. "It offers a good way to get into the outdoors without getting too far away from Denver." For a longer hike with better views, or if you prefer to ride a mountain bike, hit the Red Rocks Trail, which connects more ambitious hikers to additional trails in Matthews/Winters Park.
Evergreen is a bucolic community about 28 miles west of Denver that is full of great trails. From Evergreen Lake to Alderfer/Three Sisters Park to Evergreen Mountain and its views of the Continental Divide, Evergreen has recreational sites that accommodate visitors of a range of skill levels.
For those who are wooed by stories of thru-hiking (think Reese Witherspoon in the 2014 flick "Wild"), the Kenosha Pass trail is a dream, particularly in the autumn months. Thick groves of age-old Aspen trees and meadows full of wildflowers grace this section of the Colorado Trail, whose scenic beauty and well-maintained trail is worth the 65-mile haul from Denver.
The terrain is gentle enough for most hikers, but beware the elevation: Standing just shy of 10,000 feet, Kenosha Pass is not for the faint of heart (or the under-acclimated).
Echo Lake Park
Sheila Gargan, concierge at The Westin Denver Downtown, often sends visitors to Echo Lake for a hike. Echo Lake Park is located off the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, about 45 miles from Denver. There are a few different routes that lead to the lake through Arapaho National Forest, and all of them showcase spectacular mountain scenery. In addition to Echo Lake, the park offers a dining lodge, picnic areas and several hiking trails featuring views of nearby Mount Evans.
For a quick and easy nature walk, follow the mile-long Echo Lake Trail that loops around the lake. For a longer and more difficult trek, opt for the roughly 9-mile out-and-back Chicago Lakes Trail that climbs through forests and canyons leading hikers to a picturesque picnic spot featuring two alpine lakes and a waterfall. If you're hoping to conquer a fourteener during your trip, continue driving past Echo Lake Park and park at Summit Lake Park instead. From there, hike up Mount Evans, whose peak reaches more than 14,000 feet.