Even with wildfires and the change of season, hiking is still on for those interested in some quality outdoor time. Whether you’re hiking solo or with family to burn off your Thanksgiving food coma, there are trails for every ability and interest on the Front Range in every season.
A few things to factor in when hiking at this time of year:
There might be snow and ice on the trail, even if the weather is warm and sunny where you live. Invest in a pair of microspikes, such as Kahtoola, which can be strapped onto shoes to minimize the risk of a slip and fall during your hike.
Check trail conditions before leaving the house to find out if a trail is closed or if you need additional gear. Trails may be closed because of wildfire damage, mud, wildlife activity or for other reasons. Social media accounts and websites for various land managers should be updated for hikers.
Sunscreen — if not a hat to block the sun — will still be needed on most days out on the trail since Colorado gets so many sunny days a year, even when it’s chilly out.
Also note: Although the state’s newest COVID-19 regulations do not prevent anyone from traveling to the mountains to hike, take precautions (masks, etc.) and check the rules in the county to which you are heading.
Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to explore some flatter trails with plenty of spots for a rest. When considering hiking options for the whole family, you’ll want to beef up on scenery and scale back on elevation gain and miles so that little kids or others with physical constraints can enjoy the experience too.
Fountain Valley Trail at Roxborough State Park
Roxborough State Park is a gorgeous spot with jutting red rocks marking the scenery. Try the Fountain Valley Trail which gives you a 2.5-mile loop with benches, a historic home and rock formations. While not officially ADA accessible, strollers and wheelchairs are permitted on this trail. The visitor center at the trailhead has restrooms. Sign up for a state park pass or be prepared to pay the $9 daily entrance fee.
Davis Ponds and Historic Cabins Trail at Staunton State Park
Staunton State Park has a mix of trails, history, and a unique Track-Chair program by reservation. The Track-Chair program is a way for people living with disabilities to explore the park in a large and comfortable seat that can move over rocks and tree roots on the trails. Many of the trails here can be combined, and be aware that some trail segments on the website are only accessible after hiking in from another trail. I recommend either the Davis Ponds loop of 2.3 miles or taking the Staunton Ranch Trail for 1.8 miles to the .7-mile loop at the Historic Cabins Trail for a total 2.5-mile hike. There is so much to learn about on this hike in one of Colorado’s newer state parks. Sign up for state park pass or be prepared to pay the $9 daily entrance fee.
Sand Creek Greenway
If you’re in Denver and driving to the mountains isn’t an option, explore the Sand Creek Greenway and select one of the stops without doing the whole 14 miles of paved pathways. Try the Bluff Lake Nature Center for a little 1-mile loop around the namesake lake for a mix of urban and natural history on how this spot came to be what it is today. For those who cannot navigate the steps or a steep gravel ramp, there are places to sit and take in the view of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to the west on a clear day. There is no fee to walk here.
Waterton Canyon Recreation Area
The Waterton Canyon Recreation Area lets hikers choose their distance since it’s basically just a dirt road alongside the South Platte River. Don’t worry, there is no traffic on this road; it’s used for limited access by Denver Water only. Near the trailhead there is a wheelchair-accessible spot for fishing in the river and here and there along the trail/road there are picnic tables and restrooms. There are no dogs allowed here, though, because of the bighorn sheep herd that you are likely to see in the hillsides above you, or even on the road as they come down for a drink of water. There is no fee to hike here.
Central Garden Trail at Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods is no secret hike, but sometimes those of us who live here might forget how spectacular it can be — and just how accessible it is. Some of the trails are paved sidewalks, making it easy to walk around and stare up at the rock formations, getting those Instagram-worthy shots. There are guided tours available for $5 per person, but otherwise, it’s free to hike here. Start with the 1.5-mile Perkins Central Garden Trail to soak up the blue skies and red rocks, then check in at the visitor center for other trail conditions, as some can be steep in spots even if short in distance. Another gem nearby for exploring is the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, on the south side of the Garden of the Gods.
Flatirons Vista Trail
Just off Highway 93 between Golden and Boulder is the Flatirons Vista Trail, with pretty great views of, yes, the flatirons, but also the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and Eldorado Canyon State Park just a few miles west. This 3.5-mile loop that at times weaves through ponderosa pine trees is not designated ADA accessible but can be used by people who are in wheelchairs. There is a $5 fee to hike here, so bring exact cash or pay online in advance for the annual permit.
Wherever you are hiking, make sure to follow all trail rules, which are generally posted at the trailhead.
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