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The 16 Best Summer Hikes Colorado

I moved to Colorado during the covid-19 pandemic back in the summer of 2020. It was the place where I learned to hike, camp, and find my love for the outdoors. It's a truly magical place, and while I no longer call it home, I love to visit. I spent several years here and tried to see and do as much as I could with (and without) my dog.

1. Lake Isabelle

This hike is incredibly beautiful and not terribly far from Denver. It's in Nederland/Brainard lake area, and you will need to obtain a permit to visit, but just try and go on a weekday to get one more easily. We saw lots of moose from afar (as you're almost guaranteed when you're in Nederland) and the river views and lake views were beautiful! We saw some people doing a little alpine swim there as well.

2. Blue Lakes (+optional: Mt Sneffels 14er)

I have an entire blog post devoted to this trail as it's one of my favorites of all time! The pictures speak for themselves here. It's a moderately hard hike that is 100% worth it. You can swim in the alpine lake in the summer, just remember it's still very cold! I like to start this one early in the morning when temperatures are cooler and to avoid afternoon storms.

3. Rocky Mountain National Park. - 12 mile loop (Emerald Lake + Skypond + Lake Haiyah)

Why choose one hike when you can do all them in one giant loop? The bear lake trailhead is needed to access the popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. I've had many times where I had a vehicle reservation to the park, but the lot was full so we couldn't do it sadly. The best way to experience all the beauty of Rocky Mountain is to just knock out all the major hikes in one go! Another blog has the route laid out for you already, so check it out here!

4. Maroon Bells Scenic Loop

Dogs are only allowed up until the scenic viewpoints on the paved trail, but you can do the full loop if you don't have the dogs! Though the money shot is right from the parking lots and at the beginning, so choose your adventure! I have an entire guide for visiting Aspen and Maroon bells area, including my favorite photography spots.

5. St Mary's Glacier

One of the most popular hikes near Denver and for a good reason! It's about a 30 minute drive from Denver, super short (less than a mile), you can see a year-round glacier (with people skiing down it in the summer!), has a beautiful alpine lake and lots of scenic spots for photos. I loved taking my friends here when they visited. It's dog-friendly and great if you're solo hiking because it's very heavily trafficked. The parking lot has a $5 cash fee to park, so don't forget as they do check here. You can usually get a spot (easy in the winter) and sometimes you'll have to wait a little bit in the summer, but I've done this a dozen times and never waited too long.

6. Hanging Lake

You'll need a permit for this one and it's an area that can often get closed due to wildfires, so i recommend trying to get a permit for earlier in the summer if you can. I've had my permit get cancelled (late august) due to fires before and it was so disappointing! This waterfall and lake is as beautiful as it looks in the photos! It is a pretty moderate hike, but the elevation gain can make it rough!

7. Black Powder Pass Summit

Bring your drone to capture some 360 mountain view shots! Parking is free here, the road can be kind of rocky, but it was doable in my old MINI cooper convertible, just drive slow! I loved coming to this hike to clear my mind and be alone in the mountains. This hike is usually not crowded. It's moderate, short, near Breckenridge, and very open/wide, so ideal for solo hiking with the dog! The beginning of the hike goes through a cute forest with wildflowers and then it opens up completely as you make your way to the top!

8. Bear Creek Trail (Telluride)

There are two trails near each other with the same name. I have only done the Telluride hike and it is absolutely worth it! The hike leading up to the waterfall offers stunning views of large mountains in the background, making for impressive photos. I went peak midday and the lighting was pretty harsh, so it might be better during sunset or sunrise. It's nice because this trail starts right from the town!

9. Dominguez Canyon Trail

This is one of my top favorite hikes of all time. You can bring the dogs, fly the drone, swim in random, remote watering holes and disperse camp for free. I love how unique this hike is and how calming the scenery is for me. Definitely pack your swimsuit to cool down in the river or swimming holes. This hike is completely exposed, so it's best to do this in the early morning or in shoulder season (spring and fall).

10. Snodgrass Trail

This trail is absolutely stunning in the summertime! You can see plenty of lupine and sunflowers. The sunflower field is in the beginning of the hike and it's also very close to the town of Crested Butte. We stayed at the lovely Nordic inn which was close to the trail.

11. Manitou Incline

I love a good workout and this hike is one of the best quick weekend workouts! It's 2000ft of elevation gain (starting around 6000 ft altitude and reaching 8000ft, so take your time to catch your breath!). The daily permits are free and easy to obtain and you can get them a few days in advance usually. I opted to wear lightweight running shoes for this and i packed my hiking shoes in my backpack for the switchback trail on the way down.

12. Garden of the Gods

Yes, this is one of the most popular hikes in Colorado, but for a good reason! It's a really unique, free park - full of climbing and hiking to experience. It's super easily accessible year around too! I've come here in the summer and winter. It's such a unique place, let yourself feel what it's like to be a dinosaur millions of years ago.

13.  Shrine Ridge Trail

This was one of the first hikes I did by myself when I first moved to Colorado during the pandemic. There was no one around, just me and Sora, and some beautiful wildflowers. We felt the whole world slow down and sat in silence atop the mountain for awhile. It gets quite muddy in the springtime, so aim for peak summer (july-august) for wildflowers and drier conditions!

15. Great Sand Dunes National Park

This is a great spot for a weekend getaway. These are the tallest sand dunes in North America! High dune is the most popular trail, but honestly whenever I go here I just kinda walk around and explore the dunes!

16. Royal Arch hike

I love this hike because it's a great workout and you get some amazing views of Boulder. It's really close as well, so you dont have to spend all day driving! It's a great hike to fit in after work or in the morning. The beginning of the trail takes you through Chautauqua trail which is also very scenic. The classic view of the flatirons is something i'll never get over! The hike is rated hard, but it's short, so it's doable.


Hi! I'm Jackie and my dog is Sora. I work remote as an engineer, but I love to spend my free time in nature and by traveling to new places. I take my camera wherever I go, and sometimes my drone.

Somewhere With Sora is a Seattle-based lifestyle and travel blog that provides helpful travel and adventure tips for all kinds of trips, with or without the dogs.

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