Best Hike Within Two Hours of Denver 2020 | Isabelle Glacier Trail | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

The Isabelle Glacier Trail offers exceptionally dramatic vistas of rugged peaks on its way past a small waterfall and two scenic mountain lakes. Take advantage of opportunities to view wildflowers, hear native songbirds and spot moose, elk, deer, marmots and pika. The moderate, well-maintained trail starts at the Long Lake Trailhead in the Brainard Lake National Recreation Area. The 8.6-mile round trip starts at an elevation of about 10,500 feet and gains about 990 feet, so take warm clothing and rain gear. Expect afternoon thunderstorms in the summer.

The aptly named Eagle's View hike at Reynolds Park near Conifer is appealing not only because of that forest view — which starts midway and is dominated at the summit by the north face of Pikes Peak — but also because it's a gently sloped and well-marked trek that allows you to get out there any time of year. At 4.3 miles and a 1,010-foot elevation gain, this lollipop loop takes about two hours, ideal for a snowy sojourn. Spikes are good to have on hand in the winter months.

Nestled between Golden, Lakewood and E-470, William F. Hayden Park is a picturesque oasis within spitting distance of Denver. Although there are a number of trails worth exploring in the park, our favorite is the Summit Loop Trail, which takes hikers to the top of Green Mountain, where they can enjoy views of Denver as well as the plains to the east and peaks to the west. The trail is especially beautiful in summer, when wildflowers dot the surrounding hillsides.

It's getting tougher these days to find a trail in Colorado that allows dogs off-leash, but they do still exist. The Mayflower Gulch Trail near Frisco offers six miles of out-and-back along with two spurs, so there's plenty of room for your pooch to run free (dogs must respond to voice commands). With its 1,478 feet of elevation gain from 10,955 feet, the trek is moderately difficult, but pockets of dense forest and mining ruins offer breathers for exploring. Pups love to dip into Mayflower Creek, which runs along parts of the trek, and in winter, this year-rounder is fun on cross-country skis or snowshoes.

Hiking is rewarding enough, but hiking while high can be transcendent. What's critical for a good high hike? First: that you can't get lost. Second: that the hike lasts long enough for you to come down before driving back to civilization. Third: the fewer people, the better. Wigwam Trail in Pike National Forest near Cheesman Reservoir checks all of those boxes, plus offers killer views of McCurdy Mountain and Buffalo Peak and the chance to wander through a red rock wall maze. The eleven-mile out-and-back is an amble through old-growth evergreens, aspen groves and wildflower meadows. Bikes aren't allowed, and you're not likely to encounter anyone else. Stop off at the beaver ponds and enjoy the quiet.

As any parent knows, family-friendly hiking requires planning and patience. It also helps to have distractions along the way, such as raptors — including golden eagles and red-tailed hawks — that perch on trees and fence posts, a creek to get muddy and cool off in, and animal-track impressions of animal tracks pressed into the pavement. Named for an environmentally passionate city councilwoman, Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area comprises the paved, 2.4-mile out-and-back Fossil Creek Trail, which winds wavy-gravy through an expanse of wetlands and grasslands. Restrooms and interactive placards round out an easygoing time, and extra mileage can be added via the connected Spring Canyon Park and Pineridge Natural Area. Bring binoculars to share.

Few mountain-bike trails start off easy, but the South St. Vrain Figure 8 begins with six miles of sufferfest, much of it a rough alpine ride through boulder gardens, loose rocks, ruts and roots that finally eases into nearly four miles of easy road and mellow singletrack before returning to the abuse for another six. The elevation gain is a not-trifling 2,116 feet, making for a great early-season technical training ride; this is also a popular fat-bike ride, with some of the ground gnar covered in snow. The full Figure 8 includes Sourdough Loop, Little Raven, Waldrop and the Brainard Lake Cutoff, all of which adds up to nearly sixteen miles of magnificent misery.

The fourteen miles of point-to-point alternating gravel and dirt that is the Coal Creek Trail winds between open space and residential sections along the creek from Superior to Erie, passing through Louisville and Lafayette on the way. It's flat and easy enough to bike year-round, including in the winter, when the snowpack usually builds up a solid enough surface to bike on fat tires or snow bikes. In nicer weather, picnic tables and benches offer rest stops, and there are a few restrooms, as well. If you long for more time out there, Coal Creek intersects with several other cool paths, including Flagg Park and the Rock Creek Trail.

Beginning in Thornton, this scenic bike path is a great way to escape the city. The Clear Creek Trail follows the creek of the same name over an eighteen-mile stretch that gains 700 feet in elevation as it moves westward. Along the way, bikers pass through green areas that will make them feel like they aren't in an urban area at all. It all culminates in Golden, and the ride back to Denver is almost entirely downhill.

Mount Falcon Park is a great reminder that nature is just a short distance from home. Located in south Morrison, the park encompasses 2,249 acres, with 12.2 miles of everything from advanced to beginner hiking, biking and equestrian trails. For an easy jaunt, head to the Turkey Trot Trail, which can be turned into a three-mile loop by connecting it with the Castle Trail. For more of a challenge, continue up the Castle Trail, which offers 2,000 feet of elevation gain and can be linked to the Meadow and Tower trails to reach the summit of Mount Falcon.

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