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best hikes on guanella pass: a colorado hiking lovers guide

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Unearth the Wonders of Colorado: Top Hikes on Guanella Pass

The grandeur of Colorado is unveiled in its open skies, untamed wilderness, and awe-inspiring mountain trails. Among these, Guanella Pass stands out, a beacon for hikers, showcasing the state's natural beauty and dramatic landscapes. If you're an outdoor enthusiast, it's time to strap on those hiking boots and get ready for an adventure. Another huge bonus is that Guanella Pass is one of the closest hiking areas to Denver, Colorado, and is jam-packed with great camping and other activities.

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Welcome to our guide on the best hikes on Guanella Pass, a treat for all Colorado hiking lovers. We'll cover everything from easy trails for beginners to challenging treks for the seasoned explorer, ensuring your time in the great outdoors is unforgettable. Whether it's the panoramic vistas, wildflower-filled meadows, or the chance to spot wildlife that inspires you, Guanella Pass has something for everyone. Let's get started on planning your next big hiking adventure!

If you want to go hiking in Golden, Colorado instead, check out our hiking guide to that area.

Read our full Guanella Pass campground guide, here.

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South Side of Guanella Pass

Abyss Trailhead to Helms Lake

Distance: 11.7 miles out and back (19 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 2,400 feet (731 meters)

Peak Elevation: 12,200 feet (3,718 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

This trail is considered moderate to difficult depending on your comfort level with hiking at altitude. The trail is mostly a gradual incline with a few spots of steep incline and rocky terrain. When you're headed up, don't forget to look back at the incredible views throughout the journey. Once you're at the top, you will find a beautiful breezy alpine lake with views of jutting peaks all around. We weren't sure if it was the breeze coming off the lake or the sweat, but we got a little chilly at the top on a mid-summer day. From Helms Lake, you can choose to head on to Abyss Lake (another 3 miles) or call it a day and head on down.

Abyss Trailhead to Abyss Lake (One of the Best Hikes on Guanella Pass)

Distance: 17 miles out and back (27.3 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 3,333 feet (1,015 meters)

Peak Elevation: 3,133 feet (4,000 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

If you find yourself at Helms Lake with a little more gas to burn, then we say go for the gusto and make your way all the way to the top. We'd love to tell you all about Abyss Lake, how beautiful it is, and how it is so worth the extra climb -- but we never made it up to Abyss Lake. We can't exactly remember... but we think our decision to turn back had something to do with getting back to camp to crack open a craft beer and cook up something delicious over the campfire!

Burning Bear Trailhead

Distance: 7.5 miles out and back (12 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 1,253 feet (318 meters)

Peak Elevation: 11,153 feet (3,368 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Unless you are looking to go on an extremely rigorous adventure, we can not recommend this hike enough for all it has to offer. The calming sound of the creek running right by the trail, then on to the epic views of the open meadow and the area peaks, and several meadows of wildflowers, it will not disappoint! To get to the trailhead from the Abyss Trailhead parking lot, follow the west side of the Guanella Pass road to the south, and eventually, you will see a trailhead with a small gate off to the right of the road.

Geneva Creek Trailhead

Distance: 14 miles out and back (22 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 2,171 feet (661 meters)

Peak Elevation: 12,000 feet (3,657 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

We have never hiked this trailhead, but it is highly rated and is considered a moderate trek.


North Side of Guanella Pass

Mt. Bierstadt (A 14er!)

Distance: 7.5 miles out and back (12 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 2,782 feet (847 meters)

Peak Elevation: 14,000 feet (4,267 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

This is certainly one of Colorado's most famous 14ers, so be prepared to see quite a few people along the way. Our two tips for climbing 14ers are: know the best practices for altitude sickness and start this hike very early in the morning due to dramatic weather changes. Most days, the weather can start to shift for the worst around 10 AM each day. Trust us, you do not want to feel like you are at the mercy of Mother Nature on top of a giant mountain peak. Most people start the hike at 4:30 or 5 AM. Due to the early start time, be sure to pack a headlamp or flashlight as you will be hiking in the dark in the beginning.

Squaretop Mountain

Distance: 7.2 miles out and back (11.58 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: 2,447 feet (746 meters)

Peak Elevation: 13,794 feet (4,204 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Squaretop Mountain, annoyingly shy of a 14er, is less crowded than its neighbor, Mt. Bierstadt. Don't be fooled by the line of cars along the side of the street, because the majority of those cars belong to people who are hiking Bierstadt. The trail begins gradually, with slights ups and downs before coming upon an Alpine Lake. From the lake, the trail juts straight up the mountain to the top. Our legs were on fire during this hike and we had to stop every 20ish steps towards the top! As mentioned before, start this hike very early. We mistakingly began around 9 AM on the Fourth of July and ended up running down the mountain in the middle of a hail/lightning storm. Don't be like us.

Couple hiking at Squaretop Mountain Guanella Pass Colorado

There are endless other hikes on Guanella Pass like Alpine Lake Hike, Shelf Lake, and Silver Dollar Lake.


Other Activities

Guanella Pass Brewery

If (or rather when) you're exhausted from all of those mountain hikes, stop on by this brewery in Georgetown. They have a variety of beers with historic ski poster branding. Their brewery is dog-friendly and the beer is available for take-out as well.

Georgetown Loop Railroad

Travel back in time with a train ride through the rugged Rocky Mountains. This four-mile loop takes its visitors back to what it was mining in Colorado was like in the 1800's. A variety of cars are offered like Coach (open air), Parlor (closed with food and drinks), and President (VIP). Other activities are available like gold panning and mining tours. We've never taken this tour, but it's definitely on our bucket list!

Mad Jacks Mountain Brewery

This brewery in located in Bailey, Colorado just down the road from Guanella Pass. The owners lived in Germany for a few years, tasted too many beers to count, and were inspired to open up their own brewery in Colorado. The food, beer, and outdoor seating make for a great time!

One last tip: if you're returning to Denver via I-70, stop in Idaho Springs at Beau Jo's for some famous Rocky Mountain pizza pie. Don't skip out on adding hatch green chile to your pizza! *drooling now*

For the love and adventure,



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