5 Favorite Trails Near Denver

We just got back from our Ouray/Telluride trip and the OPUS hut, and can’t wait to tell you all about it!  Spoiler alert: we made it out alive, but there were some close calls.  But today, I’m going to tell you about my 5 favorite trails near Denver since I haven’t gotten my photos loaded onto my computer yet.  I’ve read a few of these types of posts in hopes to discover new places to trail run, so hopefully there are a few surprises in here for you!

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William F Hayden/Green Mountain Park
Though we lovingly refer to it as “brown mountain” starting in July, I just love running here.  You can do a short 1.4 mile loop all the way to ~8 miles.  I’ve found that people usually hike the first climb from the main parking lot and then turnaround, so once you get past the first .5 – .75 miles, the trails really aren’t crowded at all.  The initial climb is a tough one making for good hill training (I’m still trying to conquer it, aka get to the top without stopping).  My favorite loop is the Rooney Valley Trail (~5.5 miles), and if you are going for something longer, tack on the Summit Loop.  Be prepared – there is no shade here and it can get hot, so time it to avoid the high heat and afternoon storms.  The lack of shade means this is the first trail to dry out in the winter, and I find you can run here year-round.  This park is perfection in June when it’s at peak greenness, especially in the early evening.

White Ranch Open Space Park
After discovering White Ranch, I stopped going to Table Mountain.  The lower parking for White Ranch is off of 93 on the left, just past the main parking for Table Mountain.  But White Ranch is much lesser known, less crowded, and I think more scenic.  My main run here is Belcher Hill to Whippletree to Long Horn, Maverick, and then back down Belcher Hill (~7 miles); you can also take Long Horn to Short Horn for a 4 mile loop.  Enjoy some varied terrain and a partially shaded trail here.  In the winter, always bring your YakTraks – I’ve gotten into some seriously slippery situations on the initial climb up Belcher Hill and down into the bottom of Long Horn.

Marshall Mesa Trail
I think this trail near Boulder may have been my first trail run in Colorado and it’s still a favorite.  There are 3 and 4 mile loops, or a long 15 mile loop.  The long loop winds through meadows and past grazing cows (I love cows) with views of the flat irons the entire way.  This trail is nice because there are some rolling hills, rather than a single long climb followed by a single long descent, like many of our nearby trails.  The 3 mile loop is a good short hike for visitors, too.  Not a lot of shade here, so be sure to get out early in the summer!

Golden Gate Canyon State Park
I haven’t been able to bring myself back here yet since my 50k in June, but I think I’m almost ready.  There are SO MANY miles of amazing trails, and being a State Park that’s a bit off-the-beaten path, it feels much more remote than its 45 minute drive from Denver.  I like to park at the Horseshoe Trailhead and do a long ~12ish mile loop up the Horseshoe Trail, all the way around the Burro trail, and back down Horseshoe.  When the aspens are turning in the fall, it’s one of the best places to experience them near town.

Alderfer Three Sisters Park
We’ve already told you about mountain biking here.  It’s a great place to run because it’s well-shaded, has a good climb, and also has some nice flat areas.  Get there early to park in the East Parking lot so you can tackle the Evergreen Mountain Trail first (~5 mile loop), and then cross the street to the mellower meadow trails to tack on additional mileage.  There’s nothing too technical here, and I’ve had fun running up alongside mountain bikers (who of course breeze by me on the way down).

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BONUS: Colorado Trail – Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass
If you are looking for something longer and are willing to drive about 70 minutes outside of Denver, you are in for a treat!  I love this trail – there is a short climb through an Evergreen forest at the beginning, a rolling descent through Aspens and wildflowers in the middle, and a long, forested climb as long as you want to go before you turn around.  You can easily do 20-25 miles here.  I haven’t yet had Andrew drop me off so I can cruise all the way into Breck instead of doing an out-and-back, but that 30 mile run is high on my list.

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