Think you need pine trees for an exciting Colorado hike? Well, no, you don’t. So, instead, take a trail on our beautiful mountain passes for an exhilarating day! Twenty trails that I loved and can’t wait to share. Not all are at the summit, but all are phenomenal!
All the hikes are not on 4WD mountain passes; each one is easily accessible by car.
If weather conditions are favorable and you’ve acclimated to high altitude, wander and see Colorado at its highest! I stress being acclimated to the altitude because it is real and can make you sick. Read here for more info >High Altitude Effects and Advice
Know the weather forecast – before hiking above treeline – a good source is to search > mountainweather.com
Mountain Boy Ridge Hike at the Summit
Mountain Boy Ridge Trail at the Summit of Independence Pass is a must-do if prepared. Stunning as you hike past the Summit along Mountain Boy Ridge across the Continental Divide and see views like no other. Bring your boots and hiking essentials, and wander far beyond the lookout. You won’t be disappointed!
A dirt road leads off the paved path to the lookout. The dirt road is the start of Mountain Boy Ridge — No signage as of our hike.
6 miles out & back
Nearest towns; Aspen, Leadville
Highest elevation: Near 13,000′
Restrooms at Summit
Linkins Lake Trail
Linkins Lake Trail is short, steep, gorgeous, and packed with everything Colorado on such a small adventure. So take a break on the drive over Independence Pass, and take in this beauty that starts above the treeline to an Alpine Lake.
More trails leading in several directions from Linkins Lake make this an adventure.
1.6 miles out & back
Lake elevation: 12,008′
Popular for fishing
Tennesse Pass connects Leadville, CO to Minturn, CO
Fancy Lake Trail
Fancy Lake Trail is an enchanted forest with lush greenery, wildflowers, birdsong, craggy ledges, cascading waters from snowmelt, and one stunning alpine lake. Options for more alpine lakes can keep you hiking for days in wonder!
6.2 miles out & back
2,345′ elevation gain
Nearest towns: Leadville, CO, and Minturn, CO
Popular for backpacking
Restrooms at trailhead
Berthoud Pass Summit
Mt. Flora 13er
Mt Flora is a stunning hike up a Colorado 13er that starts at treeline, with spectacular 360-degree views the entire trek. My first 13er, and it was spectacular. The panorama of mountain peaks spellbound me! A perfect beginner peak bagger trail with an elevation gain of 1,778′.
West Ridge Trail
West Ridge Trail, at the summit of Loveland Pass, hop out and take this trail. You will love it hiking across the top of the Continental Divide. After a short steep uphill, the rest of the trail is a breeze. Meaning, easy and windy!
There is a pull-off area for parking at the summit; you can’t miss it. Across the street is a set of stairs; this is the trailhead — no signage as of our hike.
2.8 miles out and back
Elevation: 11,990 ft
Nearest Town: Dillon CO or Georgetown CO
Loveland Lakes Trail
Want to see one of Colorado’s most beautiful spots without any effort? Here you go; Loveland Lakes Trail is easy peasy and breathtaking. Driving over Loveland Pass, not far from the summit on the west side, you’ll find a road that leads to a parking area and trailhead #9044.
0.8 mile out and back
Elevation: Above 11,000 ft.
Watch for ever-changing Colorado weather above tree line. Comes in fast and furious at times. Head back down quickly at the earliest signs of rain, lightning, sleet, or snow.
Rabbit Ears Pass
Rabbit Ears Pass connects Routt County to Grand County (Kremmling, CO to Steamboat, CO)
Rabbit Ears Peak Trail
Rabbit Ears Peak Trail is genuinely a surprise at the summit, with jaw-dropping views stretching as far as 100 miles. Plus, roaming around unusual rock formations on the iconic Rabbit Ears Peak is unique and fun.
5.5 miles out & back
Rated: easy until the last 1/4 mile, then challenging!
Start elevation: 9,528′
Nearest town: Steamboat Springs
Routt National Forest
At the parking area – head down the road to intersecting roads. Go right, and you are on the trail to Rabbit Ears Peak; there is no signage.
Summer: Bring bug spray!
Cottonwood Pass connects Buena Vista, CO to Almont, CO, Gunnison, CO and Crested Butte, CO
Ptarmigan Lake Trail
Ptarmigan Lake Trail is a Colorado favorite trail and never disappoints! Ascend a moderate grade through a spectacular forest. Pass a sweet lake and dreamy dispersed campsites along the path before breaking out at tree line. Views of the highest peaks surround you as you hike across an expansive tundra meadow and upward to Ptarmigan Lake.
6.8 miles out and back
Elevation end: 12,300 ft.
Restroom at trailhead
Nearest town: Buena Vista, CO
Boreas Pass Summit
Connects Como, CO to Breckenridge, CO
Black Powder Pass Trail
Black Powder Pass Trail at the Summit of Boreas Pass is a slightly challenging hike to a panorama of gorgeous high-peak views! So, pack a lunch, check out the railroad relics of yesteryear, and wander up Black Powder Pass.
For the history of Boreas Pass, > Breckenridge History has excellent information about the history in the area.
3.4 miles out & back
Elevation Gain: 1,000′
Elevation Summit Boreas Pass – 11,481′
Nearest Town: Breckenridge, CO
Boreas Pass is closed to vehicles in the winter (approx: Oct-May) and is famous for snowshoeing and XC skiing when closed to traffic.
Connects Fairplay, CO to Breckenridge, CO
Hoosier Pass Loop at the Summit
Hoosier Pass Summit is an adventure in any season — glorious views when summer hiking, famous for winter backcountry snow sports, skiing, snowshoeing & snowboarding.
The loop is approx. 3.5 miles
Large parking area
Known for extreme weather conditions
Dogs ok on leash
Park & Summit County
There is no protection from the elements above the tree line. Watch the weather before you go, and watch the skies as you hike. Colorado weather is fickle and can change in minutes at high altitudes. Look at the Practical gear in our backpacks
Wheeler Lake Trail
Wheeler Lake Trail is a hidden gem beyond Montgomery Reservoir, located not far from Alma, CO; you’ll find Montgomery Reservoir and a great day hike. A gorgeous waterfall, an old mine to begin or end your day, and a trail with views of North Star Mtn, 13,406, Wheeler Mtn. 13,629 ft, and Clinton Peak, 13,813 ft. until reaching beautiful Wheeler Lake at 12 + ft.
This area is popular for weekend backpacking and exploring the 13ers.
6.5 miles out & back
Nearest Town: Alma, CO
Pike National Forest
Fishing: Rainbow Trout stocked in Montgomery Reservoir. Shore fishing only.
McCullough Gulch Trail
McCullough Gulch is a popular, sought-after hike in Breckenridge, CO. The trail is on the strenuous side of moderate but worth the effort. We’ve hiked here often!
Nothing is lacking on this trek; it is an alpine playground sitting alongside Quandary Peak. In addition, you will find old miners’ cabins, a stunning waterfall, a gorgeous alpine lake, and log water crossings.
NOTE: Must reserve a parking spot or take the shuttle in busy months at > Quandry Peak Trailhead Parking Reservations
2.7 miles out and back from the Trailhead + a half-mile trek to the Trailhead, making it 3.7 miles.
Start Elevation: 11,100 ft. Elevation gain: 1,578 ft.
Portable restrooms at the overflow parking lot for Quandary Peak
Popular for snowshoeing: Contact Dillon Park Ranger District for Trail conditions.
Nearest town: Breckenridge, CO
Kenosha Pass Summit
Colorado Trail (Section 6)
The Colorado Trail (Section 6) crosses Hwy 285 at the Summit of Kenosha Pass. You can hike east or west and find miles of gorgeous hiking for as long as you want in all seasons. Spectacular in the fall for its golden Aspen tree forest. Go far enough to glimpse South Park and the Continental Divide range.
The Colorado Trail is a 537-mile thru-hike from Denver to Durango > CTF Homepage
Your Footwear Matters!
In the hiking community, the newest trends in footwear for day hiking and thru-hiking are Altras and Hokas.
I own two pairs of Altra Lone Peaks, the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. I wear them daily! I love my > KEEN Hiking Boots for the rocky, steep terrain hikes. However, the > ALTRA Hiking Boots are on my wish list. I can’t comment on > HOKA Hiking Boots; I have never tried them.
Connects Crested Butte, CO to Paonia, CO
Dark Canyon Loop
Dark Canyon, Irwin, and Dyke Trail Loop on Kebler Pass are known for their massive aspen trees in the fall and sensational wildflowers in the summer months — A beautiful hike with endless views, incredible forests, beaver dams, and rugged mountains.
5.9 Mile Loop
Open to dogs, horses
Gunnison National Forest
Nearest Town: Crested Butte, CO
Three Lakes Trail
One of our favorite “off the beaten path” trails we found. Three Lakes Trail is a loop around three lakes on a moderately easy hike of alpine wonder. So close to timberline, yet perfect for seasoned or newbie hikers. Sporadic views of the Ruby Range & Beckwith Mountain are stunning, yet you’ll find that Dollar & Lost Lake are the highlights!
4.7- mile loop
Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests
Start elevation: 9,612 ft
Open to hiking and horseback
Nearest towns: Crested Butte CO, Paonia, CO
Connects Copper Mountian, CO to Leadville, CO
Mayflower Gulch Trail is a fantastic adventure in any season. An easy uphill mile tops out at what some call the Mayflower Amphitheater with its surrounding views of Mayflower Hill (elevation 12,389 ft), Pacific Peak (elevation 13,950 ft), and Fletcher Mountain (elevation 13,951 ft). Stunning!
Exploring the impressive remnants of the early 1800s Boston Mine scattered throughout and venturing onto the Gold Crest Mine site adds to the hike.
This trail is an excellent hike for kids and visitors. A favorite of ours and a Thanksgiving tradition every year. Winter or summer, this hike is magical.
Boston Mine Camp, 1.8 miles,
Elevation: 10,994 ft. – 11,980 ft.
Gold Hill and across the top: approx: 4 miles out and back
Gold Crest Mine Site: approx: 3 miles out and back
Rated: easy to moderate
Open to: hiking, snowshoeing, nordic skiing, dogs, mountain bikes
Connects Poncho Springs, CO to Gunnison, CO
Monarch Crest Trail at the Summit
Be at timberline in minutes on the Monarch Crest Trail leading off the Continental Divide Trail. One of those trails you will be excited you hiked for the views!
At the summit, start at Monarch Crest Gift Shop, walk up under the Gondola, and take the Continental Divide Trail off the road.
You will share this trail with groups of mountain bikers heading for Marshall Pass and beyond on the Monarch Crest Trail, a point-to-point popular 31.5-mile route for mountain bikers.
Start Elevation: 11,312 ft
Miles – your choice
Be mindful of the high altitude and weather.
Waterdog Lakes Trail
Hidden on Monarch Pass, about 22 miles from Salida, Colorado, is a hiking trail soon to become one of your favorites. Challenging and invigorating, it’s a must-do for hiking enthusiasts.
You might drive by the trailhead sign several times before finding it hidden in the trees. You can find the trailhead between mile markers 202 and 203.
This area would be a perfect overnight backpacking trip. Visit San Isabel National Forest, for information on camping and any restrictions.
3.6 miles out and back
Start elevation: 10,450 ft
Top elevation: 11,400 ft.
Connects Georgetown, CO to Grant, CO
Silver Dollar Lake to Murray Lake Trail
Silver Dollar Lakes Trail is an authentic Colorado experience! Beautiful dense pine forest to high above timberline reaching spectacular views while passing one alpine lake, and greeted by a 2nd alpine lake, and reaching the 3rd lake at 12,178′ in elevation!
Most of the trail is across open tundra with phenomenal views of Square Top Mountain to the south and Mount Wilcox to the north.
3.3 miles out and back to Silver Dollar Lake
4.3 miles out and back to Murray Lake
Silver Dollar – 11,950′ elevation
Murray Lake – 12,178′ elevation
Camping: Guanella Pass Campground
Open to leashed dogs, horses
Nearest town: Georgetown, CO
Threemile Creek Trail
Threemile Creek Trail is a woodland wonder. It is a delightful trek in the forest with dense pine forests, aspen trees, rushing waters, numerous creek crossings, and extensive beaver dams. A happy place!
The trail is rated moderate but gentle, up to 4 miles. Lovely beginner hike.
Want more? You can go 12 miles out and back, gaining 2,780 ft elevation. After 4 miles, the trail becomes a steep climb up switchbacks to tree line where views of Mt. Evans, Mt Kataka, and Mt. Bierstadt are amazing.
9 miles out and back (varies)
Rated: moderate, lots of rocks & roots
Open to leashed dogs, horseback
Known for wildflowers, fall colors
Restroom at Trailhead
Large parking area
Pike & Arapaho National Forest
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Memorable Colorado Day Hikes!