the best hikes near golden, colorado

So -- you've planned your trip to Denver, Colorado and upon landing at Denver International Airport, you might be surprised and/or confused by how flat the landscape is. Where are the famous Colorado Rocky Mountains? Where do I hike? Did the pilot accidentally land in Kansas? Every time we land in Denver, we giggle as we overhear passengers asking similar questions. Luckily, the mountains aren't far away. Golden, Colorado is your ticket to hiking paradise. This small town is only 15 miles from downtown Denver and is home to some of the best hiking trails in the state of Colorado.


Golden is also home to the famous Coors Brewery, which isn't our first (or twentieth, to be honest) choice of beer, but we admit that a factory tour makes for a good post-hike activity. Downtown Golden is charming, filled with boutique shops and small restaurants, and nestled right at the foot of the Rocky Mountain range. Hike until your legs give out on you and fulfill your dreams of an epic Colorado vacation with our favorite five hikes near Golden.


Here are a couple of quick Colorado hiking tips to note before you go:

  • Altitude sickness is real. When standing in downtown Denver, you'll find yourself roughly 5,280 feet (1609 meters) above sea level. Start hiking most anywhere in Colorado and you'll quickly be anywhere from 7,000 to 14,000+ feet. Make sure you take a few days in Denver to acclimate before heading out on any serious hikes. Follow these safety tips for avoiding altitude sickness when in Colorado!

  • Sunscreen is vital. Higher altitudes mean you're much closer to the sun, which raises the UV index significantly. Whether hiking or walking around the city, make sure you lather on a good face sunscreen and hit your shoulders and chest as well.

  • Remember to pack plenty of water and snacks. Drinking water in small consistent increments, as opposed to gulping, helps with altitude sickness.

  • Some hikes are well marked and others aren't. Some trails might have spotty cell service, but most don't (which is the best!). If you're worried about getting lost, download an app like Alltrails and subscribe to their premium service at about $30.00 per year. The app relies on GPS rather than cell service and will show you exactly where you are on the trail.

  • Lastly, think about your shoes. For most of the hikes in Colorado, you don't need serious hiking boots. Unless you're climbing a 14,000 ft peak, plan on nice light tennis or hiking shoes. A trail running shoe is a great hybrid tennis/hiking shoe with good stability and less bulk.

WINDY PEAK VIA BURRO TRAIL


Distance: 6.5 miles out and back (10.5 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 1,600 feet (488 meters)

Peak Elevation: 9,460 feet (2,883 meters)

Cost: A state park pass or pay $9 cash (bring exact change) for a day pass

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Our Recommended Post Hike Beer: The refreshing and slightly hoppy Upslope Rocky Mountain Kolsh


Although we normally don't like to pick favorites, this hike is our most loved in Golden. It has challenging uphill moments, wildflowers galore, smooth downhill moments, pine forests, views for days, and it's the least traveled of the hikes we've listed. If you look up this hike on AllTrails, you may be a bit confused about the listing Windy Peak Via Mountain Lion Trail. The truth is, we never once stepped foot on Mountain Lion Trail. Instead, we stayed on Burro Trail the whole time and followed signs to Windy Peak. After entering Golden Canyon State Park and purchasing your day pass (do this at either pay station as you enter), you can park in one of the three small lots we've linked below. Google Maps has the parking lot called Bridge Creek Trailhead. The signage in the parking lot is non-existent, but once you're on the trail, it's well-marked up to Windy Peak.


Trailhead:

https://goo.gl/maps/DAUpbeudbbPrxZ6U8


MOUNT GALBRAITH LOOP VIA CEDAR GULCH TRAIL


Distance: 4 mile loop (6.5 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 900 feet (274 meters)

Peak Elevation: 7,260 feet (2,213 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Our Recommended Post-Hike Beer: The hoppy but juicy Odell Drumroll Hazy Pale Ale


If you're looking to hike Mount Galbraith, arrive early in the morning to ensure a parking spot. This hike gets busy on weekend mornings. To start out, this trail gradually hugs the side of the mountain before veering off to a rocky loop. Rattlesnakes have been sighted on this trail, so keep your eyes and ears open!


RAWHIDE TRAIL IN WHITE RANCH PARK


Distance: 5 mile loop (8 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 900 feet (274 meters)

Peak Elevation: 7,558 feet (2,304 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Our Recommended Post-Hike Beer: The light and refreshing New Belgium Agua Fresca


Do you prefer hikes that ride like a slow-motion rollercoaster? Not too much uphill, not too much downhill, and more steady? Then this is your best bet. The trail offers picturesque views of Colorado mountains in one direction and the Denver skyline in the other direction. You'll be welcomed with a great mix of pine forests and big open green meadows. This trail is straight-forward and impossible to get lost on. We hiked the trail counterclockwise, but this can be completed in either direction.


NORTH TABLE MOUNTAIN


Distance: 7.7 mile loop (12.4 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 1,100 feet (335 meters)

Peak Elevation: 6,555 feet (1998 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Our Recommended Post Hike Beer: The creamy WeldWerks Juicy Bits IPA


If you're more of a desert person than a forest person, this hike is for you. Just outside of Golden is the North Table Mountain hike. Park in the North Table Loop Trailhead lot off of Highway 93. To start, the trail begins with a steep incline for 1/4 mile up a gravel road. This is a serious leg and lung burner, but we promise it doesn't last for long! Once at the top, the trail levels out and continues on a seven mile loop. This trail doesn't have any shade, so load up on the sunscreen and water. Table Mountain has a spiderweb of hiking trails, but we opted to stay on the North Table Mountain trail the entire time and hike the perimeter of the mountain.


APEX TRAIL AND ENCHANTED FOREST TRAIL LOOP


Distance: 5.5 mile loop (8.9 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: About 1,200 feet (366 meters)

Peak Elevation: 7,496 feet (2285 meters)

Cost: Free

Dogs: Allowed on a leash

Our Recommended Post Hike Beer: The fruity and funky Great Divide Brewing Strawberry Rhubarb Sour Ale


From the Apex Trailhead, this trail begins with a steady climb uphill. For the first mile or so, there isn't any shade cover and you'll likely be facing the sun (depending on the time of year). The trail gets pretty narrow in some spots, so you might have to pull over to let mountain bikers or quick hikers past. Once at the top of the climb, turn left to head to the Enchanted Forest. The tall pine trees offer welcomed shade after the sunny incline. We took a break in the forest and sat by the stream and enjoyed a beer from Great Divide.


Tip: mountain bikers are allowed on the trail on odd-numbered days. If you want a more peaceful hike, aim to be there on an even-numbered day.


We hope this post inspires you to get out and hike -- regardless of whether or not you live in Colorado! During the COVID pandemic, getting out in nature is so healing and grounding. In our experience, Coloradans take the pandemic seriously, so please bring your face mask! You don't need to wear your mask the whole time, but make sure to put it on as you pass other hikers. Many people will thank you for doing your part. We can all enjoy nature and stay safe.


For the love of hiking,

Daniel & Bre

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