Best Backpacking Trails in Colorado

Best Backpacking Trails in Colorado

Colorado; what's the first thing you think of? Mountains? Maybe, more specifically, the Rocky Mountains? True, the Centennial State is well-known for these. But, it offers many other interesting landscapes too. Sweeping plains to awe-inspiring arches to sand dunes, Colorado has a little bit of everything. 

Today, we're featuring a range of great trails from across the state. So no matter where you live or where you're visiting, you're sure to find an adventure close by!

Featured Photo: Great Sand Dunes by Scrub Hiker

Continental Divide Loop

The 3,000-mile-long Continental Divide Trail is an epic adventure. But, a lot of logistics and training goes into a journey like that. Looking for something more doable? Try out the 28-mile Continental Divide Loop. You'll get the majestic views from the Divide in a fraction of the time. The trail features waterfalls, alpine lakes, tundra, and, of course, amazing views. The loop is located in Rocky Mountain National Park. That said, be sure to get your permits asap. It's a popular hike for good reason! Find more details on this hike in our full write-up.

Continental Divide Loop

Source: Flickr

Pine River Trail

Looking for some seclusion? Head out to the Weminuche Wilderness in southern Colorado. This area is said to be the most remote in the state. The Pine River Trail is 23 miles of beautiful mountain and valley scenery. The trail is rated as moderate, but you will gain some elevation. This makes it a great option for intermediate hikers. The river is great for backcountry fishing. Enjoy the sound of the rapids and roaring waterfall. The route mixes in open meadows and conifer forests for good measure. Wildflowers put on a dazzling display starting in late July.

Maroon Bells/Four Pass Loop

The Rocky Mountains provide never-ending views. The Maroon Bells area is no different. The mountains are stunning here, especially reflected in the lake. Seeing this at sunset is photo-worthy. Your thighs will be burning by the end, though. You'll have to work for those views! As the name implies, you have several passes to climb over. The 27-mile circuit is best done clockwise. (Less steep while your pack is still full.) This trail is easily accessed because no permits are required. But, be sure to acclimate yourself to the high elevation before you begin. Nothing ruins a mountain trip quicker than altitude sickness! Read more details in our “Hike of the Week” article.

Maroon Bells Loop

Source: Flickr

Lost Creek Wilderness Loop

For something a bit challenging, check out the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop. It offers a mixture of terrain. This ranges from evergreen forests to open mountain meadows. There are lots of neat granite formations along the way too. The area is named after a creek that disappears underground and pops up elsewhere. That said, there are plenty of water sources to refill at. Plus, there are some great riverside campsites. Lengths vary for this route depending on other sections added. But, round-trip it is about 29 miles. Hiking counter-clockwise is recommended by most. It makes some of the elevation gains a bit easier.

Devil's Causeway, Lost Lakes, and Chinese Wall

You can find another hidden gem in the northwest section of Colorado. The Flat Tops Wilderness Area is the second-largest in the state. You will find plenty of solitude here, though. Old volcanic cliffs litter the area. This 23-mile route lets you see many of the area's popular features. Take a refreshing dip in Lost Lake. Take care climbing over the steep drops of Chinese Wall. The hike along Devil's Causeway is sketchy too. But, the views are amazing! The trail gets easier after this, heading back into the woods. This trail is best for experienced hikers. The trail and water can be hard to find in areas.

Gore Lake and Deluge Lake

Who doesn't love tranquil evenings next to the lake? This trail takes you to not one, but two peaceful mountain lakes. Deluge Lake is only a few miles from Gore Lake. The loop is only 14 miles altogether. This makes it a perfect route for a long weekend. You can explore, fish, or stargaze at your leisure. (Gore Creek is also said to be good for fishing. Make sure you bring your backcountry pole!) The pace for this trip is leisurely. (Don't forget to enjoy the wildflowers too.) Keep in mind that the elevation can be taxing, though. You can read more about this rejuvenating hike near Vail in our full Hike of the Week article.

Colorado National Monument Traverse

This trail lies in one of the lesser-known NPS areas of Colorado. The park and trail are located near Grand Junction in the extreme western part of the state. As such, it gives a taste of the desert southwest without traveling all that way. The Traverse covers 20 miles across the entire Monument. This lets you see all this unique area has to offer. This includes lovely desert shrubbery mixed with mesas and towering rock spires. The trail is rated as moderate, but be sure to take plenty of water. There isn't really anywhere to fill up. The best time to visit is March-October. But, it can be very hot in the summer months.

Colorado National Monument

Source: Flickr

Sand Ramp Trail

Want to see the tallest sand dunes in North America? Head to the Grand Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. The Sand Ramp Trail here is one of the more popular ones. Mostly, because it has many backcountry campsites to choose from. (You do need permits to stay at these.) There is a creek that runs along the dunes, so no worry about filling up. The dunes provide a stark contrast to the surrounding mountains and meadows. The route is 11 miles, much of it on sand. Don't let the relative flatness and length of this trail fool you. Hiking on the sand is grueling! Luckily, it's close to a road if you need to bail.


As you can see, there is no shortage of interesting hikes in the Centennial State. Have you completed any of the ones on our list? What is your favorite place to backpack in Colorado? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Read Next

If you're looking for more hike ideas, read our "Best Backpacking Trips in the Desert Southwest" round-up post. Also, the following Hike of the Week articles cover other great trails in the region.

Hike of the Week: Titcomb Basin
Hike of the Week: Halls Creek Narrows
Hike of the Week: Canyonlands-Needles District

For even more amazing backpacking trips, visit The Trailhead, our interactive hike map. It contains a curated list of dozens of hikes, each with a detailed write-up like this one.

The Trailhead - Interactive Map of Backpacking Trips

Finally, check out our comprehensive list of backpacking articles that cover just about everything there is to know about backpacking. If you're just starting out, our Backpacking 101 section covers all the basics. If you already have a few trips under your belt, you can find more advanced topics covered in our Expert Articles.

Hike Roundup USA West

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.