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As Coloradans in quarantine, we have to admit, we have it pretty good. Even with the necessary stay-at-home orders instituted by state and local governments, we are still encouraged to exercise outdoors—with precautions, of course—which means that hiking, biking, or running on our vast network of trails isn’t out of the question. But Denver’s requirement to remain within the county for recreation, along with the tempting springtime sunshine, has led to crowded trails in parts of the metro area—and that is something you want to avoid in the age of COVID-19.
With Denver’s stay-at-home order extended until May 8, and social distancing measures likely to be enforced for months to come, we sought out seven hikes, listed by difficulty and by county, that will help satisfy your need for fresh air and exercise while helping to avoid the crowds at more popular areas (remember, you should be staying within 10 miles of your home). Because the situation is rapidly evolving, it’s a good idea to check the Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) app to make sure nothing has changed before you head out on any hike. Enjoy!
Ladora Loop Trail
Length: 1.8 miles roundtrip
This mellow hike in the southwest corner of the 15,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge wanders across a floating boardwalk and through native shortgrass prairie en route to the serene Lake Ladora. Along the way, you’ll be treated to panoramic Front Range views and—with any luck—sightings of cormorants, pelicans, amphibians, and other creatures the refuge is known for. While there, you can also safely enjoy the 11-mile Wildlife Drive as long as you remain in your car. Find maps and trail information here.
Sand Creek Regional Greenway
Arapahoe and Denver counties
Length: 1.5+ miles roundtrip
This 14-mile-long trail follows Sand Creek, a little slice of nature that flows from Commerce City to Aurora. The most scenic portion is by the Bluff Lake Nature Center located near the Denver/Adams County lines. Although this facility is currently closed due to the pandemic, the trail is still accessible. The greenway is an urban oasis where you could spot red-tailed hawks, prairie falcons, and other birds, as well as bouncing jack rabbits, chattering prairie dogs, and shy coyotes. Find maps and trail information here.
High Line Canal Trail
Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas, Adams, and Jefferson counties
This trail, as the name suggests, parallels a century-old diversion ditch from Roxborough State Park all the way to Aurora, crossing five counties along the way. The path, which is paved in Denver and Aurora, is flat and easy to follow, making it a great place to up your daily fitness routine. Find maps and trail information here.
Barr Lake Perimeter Trail
Length: 8.8 miles roundtrip
A bit further afield but still in Adams County, Barr Lake State Park is centered around a sparkling reservoir. The crown jewel of its trail system is the Lake Perimeter Trail, a longer but still relatively flat path that circles the lake. The mountain views and tranquil setting are the perfect respite for cabin fever. Find maps and trail information here.
Turkey Trot Loop
Length: 3+ miles roundtrip
This forested loop on the east side of Jefferson County’s Mount Falcon Park climbs 1,000 vertical feet along the Turkey Trot Trail before descending back to the trailhead via the Castle Trail. Ambitious hikers can easily add to the distance and difficulty by hiking further west and exploring more of the park’s 12.2-mile trail system. Find maps and trail information here.
Red Mesa Loop
Length: 7 miles roundtrip
This challenging “lollipop loop” climbs 1,500 vertical feet to the top of a mesa that overlooks Chatfield Reservoir. From the park’s only trailhead, the route follows the Plymouth Creek Trail southwest to the Red Mesa Loop, which circles around the mesa’s edge before retracing the Plymouth Creek Trail back to the parking lot. With the recent snow, it’s a good idea to bring along spikes. Find maps and trail information here.
Length: 10.5 miles roundtrip
From the ample parking area at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), this route ascends the lowest of southwest Boulder’s three major peaks. It’s best to hike here during the week, when the trails accessing the mountain’s west ridge are less crowded. The route starts by heading west on the NCAR Trail to its intersection with the Mesa Trail. Next, follow the Mesa Trail south for about 0.8 miles to the junction with the Bear Canyon Trail, which you should follow west for a couple miles. Then turn north at the intersection with the Green Bear Trail and ascend this path to the Green Mountain West Ridge Trail. Turn east here to climb the last half mile to the tree-covered summit. Spikes are highly recommended in the spring. Find maps and trail information here.
Reminder: As more Coloradans are out recreating, it’s important that you maintain social distance in parking lots and on the trail. Consider arriving at your destination outside of peak hours (usually 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and if you find a packed lot, please consider moving on to another location. We recommend downloading the COTREX app before heading out so you can easily find other nearby trails that suit your needs—and provide even greater solitude.