Colorado’s Best Trails
We laced up our boots, threw on our packs, and found the very finest hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking trails in the Centennial State.
- Emerald Lake
There are plenty of reasons why the 10-mile trek to Emerald Lake is beloved: elbow-high wildflowers, gin-clear trout streams, and views of 12,000-foot peaks, to name a few. From the Pine River Trailhead 32 miles northwest of Durango, the trail rolls through pine stands, past horse-dotted meadows, and along the Pine River, which is irresistible to skinny-dippers. At mile 6.3, after crossing roaring Lake Creek, turn left onto Trail 528, where the fun begins. The path climbs 1,500 vertical feet in less than 4 miles, through fields of wildflowers and views of steep mountainsides. After reaching Little Emerald Lake, pick out one of eight designated campsites hidden among the boulders. Then pick your afternoon activity: Hike 10 minutes to see Emerald Lake, cast for trout, take a dip in Little Emerald Lake, or, if the water's low enough, set up a sunbathing spot on a sliver of sand and enjoy the craggy peaks. —Kate Siber
- Lost Lakes to Devils Causeway
Flat Tops Wilderness area
This 19.5-mile loop is a greatest hits medley for the Flat Tops, Colorado's second-largest wilderness. Hit Stillwater Reservoir on a Friday evening and follow the East Fork Trail for 1.6 miles, climbing through aspens and wildflowers to Causeway Saddle. Here, on this tongue of tundra, you're treated to staggering views of Flat Top Peak and Lost Lakes Peak. It's the perfect spot to savor the sunset, so pitch your tent and enjoy the show. The next day, descend to Causeway Lake, pull out your fly rod, and toss at the trout near the lake's outlet. Then cruise on through lupine meadows and conifer forests to West Lost Lake and camp along its western edge. On Sunday, rise early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms for your final, 13-mile day, and climb 1,300 feet on the Chinese Wall Trail, which traverses a high plateau offering blown-open views of roadless wilderness. Then dash across Devils Causeway, a knife-edge of tilted rocks just three feet wide—and 1,500 feet high. Safely on its far side, rejoin the East Fork Trail and meander back to the start. —Kelly Bastone