Trail sign

Colorado is beautiful any time of year, but there’s no getting around it: Summer here is special! And if you love to explore the mountains on foot, you’re in luck. Wherever you live on the Front Range, there are endless hiking options for the bold to the casual hiker—and everyone in between.

Ask any Coloradoan what their favorite hike is and chances are, you’ll get a variety of answers. We decided to do just that with some of FRCC’s employees who love to hit the trails in the summertime. Read on for their recommendations!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Hike: Wild Basin

Recommended by Steve Johnson | Instructor—Forestry, Wildlife & Natural Resources

I like loop hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. In Wild Basin, there are ways to link several lakes or peaks into a long loop hike that brings you back to your car.

Ouzel Lake

For example, if you are willing to do some route finding, starting on the Ouzel Lake trail, you can cut over Mahana Peak to Eagle Lake and Box Lake on to Thunder Lake and back down the trail to your car.

A much more popular loop hike is the circle of lakes starting at Bear Lake trailhead then hiking to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Lake Haiyaha, and either The Loch and/or Mills Lake before returning to the shuttle bus.

These hikes put me in the heart of the mountains and in some of the most incredible scenery anywhere. I’ll admit, it’s difficult to pick a favorite hike because each adventure into the mountains brings great joy and awe at the creation surrounding us.

Near Boulder

Hike: Bear Peak

Recommended by Jim Voss | Faculty—Math

I like to do the loop that starts west on the Mesa Trail from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), goes up Fern Canyon, goes down via Bear Canyon back to the Mesa Trail, then back to NCAR.

Fern Canyon takes you up a steep area along rock climbing cliffs and through cool fern patches. The top of Fern Canyon puts you on the Bear Peak ridge with dramatic, 360-degree views of the Continental Divide and the plains.

This is a great long hike or training hike for those doing a fourteener. There’s real contrast between the uphill and the downhill parts of the hike.

Near Denver and Golden

Hike: Roxborough State Park and Red Rocks Park

Recommended by Jessica Peterson  |  Director—Public Relations

I was trying to think of a great hike that is closer to Denver, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one! Roxborough is just a short drive southwest of Denver (Littleton area)—and it is absolutely stunning. If you like red rock formations, you’ll love any of the hiking options in the park. It’s great for kids, too, but sadly, pets are not allowed here.

Red Rocks Park

Another spectacular place that doesn’t require a ton of driving from our Westminster Campus is Denver’s most famous mountain park: Red Rocks. (Can you tell I love red sandstone? I used to live in Moab, so this park is where I get my local red rock desert fix.)

Most people recognize the world-renowned amphitheater, which has been host to many unforgettable concerts over the years. But there are also beautiful hikes all around Red Rocks, so grab your water bottle and go check out these amazing rock formations.

Near Rustic and Fort Collins

Hike: West Branch Trail

Recommended by Jennifer Lee | Director—Forestry, Wildlife & Natural Resources

This hike holds many memories of backpacking trips and day hikes—and has stunning scenery, low crowds and moose! Hikers might see wildflowers in the spring and summer and colorful foliage in the fall.

I like to do a loop through the Rawah Wilderness with this as the access point. It does climb pretty quickly, and it’s smart to wear orange if hiking during fall, since that’s hunting season.

Near Walden

Hike: American Lakes Trail

Recommended by Andy Caldwell | Faculty—Astronomy and Geology

I love going up Cameron Pass west of Fort Collins in the summer, and I often see other FRCC faculty and staff on those hikes as well! I always see moose on the American Lakes hike.

But it’s so hard to pick a favorite. I have favorite local day hikes, favorite Rocky Mountain National Park hikes, and favorite Poudre Canyon hikes. 

I actually like hiking RMNP in the winter more because it’s less crowded and I feel like it’s an entirely different world than in the summer.

Near Ward and Jamestown

Hikes: Brainard Lake and Miller Rock

Recommended by Courtney Graeff | Director—Boulder County High School Programs

One of my favorite places to hike is the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. There are a variety of trails to connect on for shorter or longer hikes, but regardless of the path chosen, the view is breathtaking! I love the Isabelle Glacier Trail full loop.

It is not an easy hike, but it is worth it. The lake, the flowers, the mountains… It’s all a reminder of why we live in Colorado.

A shorter but also lovely hike is Miller Rock in Jamestown. It offers an incredible view and the trail has a stream that runs along most of it. When you leave the stream behind, you’re then on a beautiful shaded trail with lots of wildlife to spot. It is very family friendly and great for those who would like a challenging, yet easy enough hike.

Near Fort Collins

Hike: Young Gulch

Recommended by Eric Salahub | Faculty—Philosophy

This hike is close to Fort Collins, up the Poudre Canyon, but not typically crowded. It travels through an area partially burned several years ago in a wildfire, so there are sections of burned trees along with areas that didn’t burn.

In the spring, the wildflowers are prolific and the trail crosses a creek many times with log bridges. I personally love this hike because of more than 20 years of memories of running and hiking with my dogs.

If you go early in the morning, expect to see deer or elk along with chipmunks!

More Great Trails

Looking for other hikes throughout the Front Range? There are lots of resources you can explore to find one that fits your desires:

Rocky Mountain National Park trails

Grand County trails

Jefferson County Open Space trails

Larimer County trails

Boulder County trails

Summit County trails

Clear Creek County trails

So, get out and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer this summer. Happy trails!

Related Posts