15 Best Hikes in Colorado, from Alpine Meadows to Otherworldly Rock Formations

Colorado’s snow-capped Rocky Mountains may be world-famous, but the state’s landscape is diverse and extends well beyond postcard-perfect peaks and evergreen forests. The Centennial State is also home to red rock formations, flat-topped mesas, rolling meadows dotted with wildflowers, crystal-clear alpine lakes, golden-yellow aspen groves, rocky alpine tundras, narrow canyons, grass-covered prairies…you get the picture.

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience Colorado’s varied terrain—thanks to the more than 39,000 miles of trails of varying lengths, difficulty levels, and scenery spread across the state. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best hikes in Colorado for exploring everything the state has to offer on two feet. 

1 to 3 mile hikes

Mount Sanitas

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Mount Sanitas

Easily accessible from downtown Boulder, this popular route is short, at just 1.3 miles, but still very difficult because it gains 1,323 feet of elevation over such a small distance. As you’ll pass by striking rock formations and through grassy open meadows on the way to Mount Sanitas’ 6,843-foot summit, hikers are rewarded with expansive views of Boulder’s cityscape and the plains beyond.

Shine Ridge

Get acclimated to Vail’s altitude by slowly meandering to the 11,899-foot summit of Shrine Mountain. First used by Ute Native Americans, then later adopted by settlers and silver miners, this 2-mile one-way trail climbs through meadows dotted with pine trees until it reaches the top of the impressive peak in Colorado’s Sawatch Range. Before heading back down, stop and catch your breath while taking in the panoramic views of Mount of the Holy Cross, Uneva Peak, and the ski runs at Copper Mountain resort.

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