Head for the Hills
You don't have to drive far to get away. Here, our 10 picks for off-the-beaten-path adventures in the foothills.
Six Great Foothills Hikes
1. Arthurs Rock Trail
Lory State Park, just west of Fort Collins
At 6,780 feet above sea level, Arthurs Rock is hardly a Himalayan giant, but the 1.7-mile trail to its bald summit is a microcosm of everything you love about foothills hiking: pine-dotted meadows, a profusion of wildflowers, raptors and mule deer, and rocky outcrops. Pack a picnic for lunch with sweeping views of Horsetooth Reservoir and the plains, which spread out as far as the eye can see.
2. Twin Owls Loop
Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, northeast of Estes Park on Devils Gulch Road
Ditch the crowds on this 11-mile loop through an untrammeled corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. While the tourists pack into shuttle buses to Bear Lake, you'll enjoy a lonely and lovely circuit below the granite turrets of Lumpy Ridge, with panoramic views of snow-capped peaks and frequent elk sightings. It's a long jaunt; remember to bring water and a generous bag of trail mix.
3. Heart Lake
East Portal Trailhead, end of County Road 16, west of Highway 119
The South Boulder Creek Trail is an oft-uncrowded alternative to the hectic Indian Peaks trails above Brainard Lake. The 4.6-mile (one-way) trail climbs to Rogers Pass and Heart Lake, nestled below the Continental Divide in the James Peak Wilderness. This area is also perfect for overnight backcountry camping. Visit or call (303-541-2500) the Boulder Ranger District for more information.
4. Mt. Galbraith
Cedar Gulch Trailhead, 1.3 miles west of Highway 93 on Golden Gate Canyon Road
Looming over Golden, Mt. Galbraith Park is a gem of Jeffco open space that's only half an hour from downtown Denver yet much less crowded than better-known parks like Apex and Mt. Falcon. Even better for walkers: No bikes are allowed on the 4.2-mile lollipop loop around Galbraith's summit.
5. Chief Mountain
about 12.5 miles west of Bergen Park on Highway 103
Chief Mountain is hyper-popular, and for a good reason: Leaving a high trailhead on Squaw Pass Road, the trail climbs just 1.5 miles and 1,000 vertical feet to Chief's 11,709-foot summit, with stupendous views up and down the Front Range.
6. Catamount Trail
Green Mountain Falls, about 16 miles west of Colorado Springs on Highway 24
Who wouldn't love a stroll through the Garden of Eden? From the village of Green Mountain Falls, walk up Hondo Avenue to the trailhead and then climb 22 switchbacks to the Garden of Eden Meadow, a lush valley flanked by funky rock formations. Continue to the Catamount reservoirs for views of Pikes Peak's steep north face. DM