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Carpenter Peak Trail, Roxborough State Park in Littleton
Distance: 7 miles round-trip
Cost: $9 daily vehicle pass or free entry with an annual state parks pass ($80 to $120)
Climbing 1,000 feet in elevation typically means sore legs, but the route to the top of Carpenter Peak—the highest point in Roxborough—spreads the ascent over about three miles, making it more approachable and much kinder on the quads and calves. From the visitors center parking lot (where you’ll find bathrooms and a water filling station), follow the signs to a wide, red dirt trail; this is the easy part and connects you to the start of the climb. The incline begins with a series of wooden steps, and the uphill is sustained, but manageable—though there’s little shade to be found save for a brief forested section. The views of spectacular geometric red rock formations will stop you in your tracks (and are a good excuse for a photo-op break). The final junction alerts you that it’s just 0.1 more miles to the top. Pick a boulder to stand on and take in the 360-degree views over the treetops, toward Denver and Chatfield Reservoir, and of the thin, carved tops of those dramatic scarlet rocks.
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Who Will Love This Trail: Hikers who want their Fitbits to count some vert; those looking to really break in their boots for the fall hiking season
Take Note: Roxborough is a popular park and limits entry to the number of parking spots available; arrive early on weekends or expect to wait at the entrance until another car leaves.