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Kay Rodriguez

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Kay Rodriguez is the Chicago-based travel writer and photographer behind Jetfarer and Skyline Adventurer. When she's not blogging furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, or paddling in a new city.

Let’s face it, we’re in a bit of a bind right now when it comes to truly getting outdoors like our outdoor souls are used to. State and national parks are closed, government warnings to stay indoors are plastered all over the place…and yet, with each passing day, you’re craving fresh air and a day of exploring more and more. (At least, I know I am…) Moreover, the media is pummeling us with foreboding messages about quarantine and staying inside, and it seems like our ability to go on true outdoor adventures is screeching to a halt.

Trust me, I get it. Being inside when your heart belongs in the wild frankly sucks. Being stuck indoors when spring is finally here and it’s hiking primetime is literally making my soul cry. But we’re just trying to survive as a species, here.

Given that there’s really not much we can do to help the current situation than by following the rules of social distancing, this means a lot of us intrepid outdoorsy people will be stuck indoors, trying everything we can to maintain our sense of wonder and adventure. While it surely won’t make up for that big trip to Yellowstone or the overnight backpacking trip you were planning nearby, I hope these suggestions help you bring some of your favorite things about the outdoors into your own home.

Psst…read all the way to the end of this post for an EPIC Giveaway we’re doing to help you explore the urban outdoors (without leaving the comfort of your own home).

1. Pitch Your Tent Indoors (and Sleep In It)

If you’re itching to go backpacking but are sad you can’t plan a trip yet, I’d strongly recommend pulling out all your camping gear and setting up your home as its own makeshift “campsite.” Pitch your tent, blow up your sleeping mat, unroll your sleeping bag, and get ready to have your own indoor camping trip.

This idea might sound stupid, but it worked wonders for our mental happiness and rekindled a lot of fond memories outdoors in the wild. Plus, it made me feel like a total carefree child again in a world where there’s a lot to be worried about.

If you need some outdoor gear for your indoor camping trip (and for future outdoor ones), head to REI.com to check out their awesome gear. They’ve got a fantastic return policy, meaning you can try out your gear and decide if you like it before you commit.

While setting up your campsite indoors is a great way to start, there are a lot of other things you can do to further enhance and enjoy your “outdoors indoors” experience, like…

2. Turn on a Campfire Video and Sing Songs to It

There are tons of videos on YouTube like this one where you can play a campfire video for hours at a time, and it even comes with crackling sounds for an added realistic effect. Sure, it’s not a real campfire, but there is a silver lining: you don’t actually have to light it (anyone who has gone camping and has unsuccessfully tried to light a fire knows what I’m talking about). For an even more realistic effect, you can buy a campfire scented candle, campfire marshmallow essential oils, or a campfire air freshener to really seal the deal.

One of my personal favorite camping activities is strumming on my ukulele and singing songs into the night around the fire. This is an experience you can absolutely replicate at home! Even if you don’t have any musical instruments, turn on your favorite mountain or camping-themed songs and jam out, by yourself or with roommates/family. It’s fun, I promise.

3. Open Your Blinds and Windows

This might seem like a minuscule change, but the fresh air blowing into your home will make a HUGE difference. If you’ve been self isolating for several weeks (like we have), you’ve probably grown tired of your home’s recycled air without even knowing it! By opening your windows to let some new air in and closing your eyes, it will feel like you’re outdoors even when you’re sitting on your couch (or in your tent).

4. Meditate to Outdoor Sounds

You may not know it, but many outdoor activities are meditation in their own way. Whether you’re wandering through the woods, listening to your feet crunch under you or you’re closing your eyes and listening to the birds in the morning from your tent, mindfulness and meditation go hand-in-hand with outdoor adventures.

My favorite meditation app, Calm, offers dozens of fantastic guided meditations that come along with some wonderful background nature noises, like running water, birds, rain, ocean waves, and more.

Meditation itself has helped me tremendously with the anxiety and fear I’ve been feeling during this outbreak. I try to do a guided meditation every single day, but if that’s not your thing, you can simply open the app to listen to the different outdoor sounds they have pre-programmed.

Listening to nature sounds in your own home is a way to remain mindful and immerse yourself in nature in a way that’s second only to hearing the actual noises in the wild. For now, this will do, right?

5. Grow Some Indoor Plants

One of the best things about being out in nature, in my opinion, is being surrounded by lush vegetation and colors around every corner. While you can’t exactly grow a forest in your home, you can start cultivating a collection of indoor plants. In my house, I have 12, and it makes me happy every day to catch glimpses of green, yellow, and pink leaves all over the place.

Your local plant store may be closed right now, but they often sell plants at grocery stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Alternatively, if you want something a little more tropical or aesthetic, consider ordering plants from a boutique online provider like Bloomscape. In my opinion, though, the best way to cultivate a garden is by growing your plants from seeds.

While you can buy all your supplies separately, I’d recommend getting a gardening kit for first-timers! There are tons of different gardening kits available online for those wanting to give it a try.

Additionally, you can sometimes put your produce waste to good use by replanting seeds or roots and growing them from your own home. There’s a great book, No-Waste Kitchen Gardening by Katie Elzer-Peters, that will tell you all about how to plant your used vegetables to grow your own food indoors. That’s pretty cool, huh? You’ll get your hands dirty AND create less waste – a win/win for outdoor lovers in my book.

6. Explore through Online Outdoor Photography

Photos are one of the most special ways to capture the beauty of places and the fabulous memories of adventures past. And, if you haven’t noticed, there are some extremely talented photographers out there who share their photos of their adventures FOR FREE to the outside world. It’s so easy to get lost flipping through photographs of the most beautiful places on Earth. I couldn’t probably do it all day every day.

Instagram is a great place to start. Some of my personal favorite outdoor Instagram accounts include: Jimmy Chin, Chris Burkard, Elizabeth Gadd, Tiffany Nguyen, Hello Emilie, and Lost With Purpose. Other wonderful sources of outdoor photography include National Geographic YourShot and Photo Contest Archives, 500px, and Flickr.

Alternatively, if you take your own photos, you can take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of your own adventures by flipping through photos on your computer or in an album. You’ll feel so excited as you’re reliving your favorite hikes, excursions, and adventures…trust me.

7. Make Some Nature-Inspired Arts and Crafts

Just because you can’t actually be out in nature doesn’t mean you can’t use natural elements to make beautiful artwork for your home! From flower presses to wreaths to candles, potpourri, and woodworks, there are a TON of things you can make from items gathered outdoors (or in your local flower shop). The Organic Artist is a wonderful guide to creating your own paper, paint, and other handy crafts completely from natural elements. I’m definitely going to be using this guide with alllllll this free time I have now.

For those who are less artistically-inclined, coloring books are a fantastic way to relieve stress and get in the zone – I recommend the National Parks Coloring Book for those of you dreaming about visiting (and don’t forget the colored pencils, too!).

8. Watch Epic Movies or Videos of Incredible Places

If you’re stuck indoors, in your tent, bored out of your mind but unable to go hiking or biking or paddling, the next best way to feel a sense of adventure is by watching an outdoor-themed movie. The best movies are those that can completely transport you to another place and make you feel like you’re part of the adventure. While there are hundreds of outdoor-themed movies to immerse you in an adventure, here are a few of my personal favorites:

Alternatively, you can get on YouTube and explore hours of outdoor videos from every corner of the world, like this 7-hour drone video or this video of the most beautiful places in the world.

9. Investigate Conservation Organizations to Contribute To

Earth day is coming up! While we’re all crossing our fingers that we won’t be stuck inside by then, do your part and research some Mother-Nature-friendly causes to help. It can be difficult to figure out where your hard-earned money and time should go to, especially given the number of charitable organizations out there. Take the time you’re spending indoors to do the research on something that will help the outdoors, letting you and others enjoy it for generations to come.

Here’s a few of our favorite organizations:

If you want to make it even easier on yourself, or if you don’t have the cash to spend right now, there’s an easier option. Amazon Smile allows you to shop the entire amazon catalogue with your same amazon profile, but for every purchase you make, the company will donate 0.5% of the price of your order to an organization you choose. Over time this can really add up into a large quantity, and the best part about it is that you don’t even have to think about it!

10. Call a Friend and Plan an Adventure

With the rise of video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, it’s now easier than ever to have a virtual hangout with your friends. Take advantage of your next virtual hangout session to call up your favorite travel buddies and plan your next adventure together. As the warmer months draw closer, it’ll be the perfect time to go on a long hike when the quarantine lifts. Dreaming about adventures is most fun when shared with friends!

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can head over to some of our awesome guides to learn more about outdoor activities in your city, or use some of these fabulous resources:

  • US National Parks System – For the national parks vacation of a lifetime, the National Parks System website has a ton of great resources and information that you will need to plan.
  • Epic Hikes of the World (Lonely Planet) – This book has some of the most amazing multi-day treks around the world. Pick one (or more) and start dreaming.
  • New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2020 – I love awaiting this list every new year, because it gives me so much excitement about new places, as well as nostalgia for places I’ve already visited and explored.

11. Exercise to Prepare for Said Adventure

Whether you do stair climbs in your apartment complex, calisthenic workouts in your living room, or yoga in a quiet spot, getting some exercise in is a great way to burn off some steam and make sure you’re physically in shape when the outdoors is available to explore again. While you can definitely do the workouts that jive with you the most, here are a few I really like:

  • Sweat by Kayla Itsines – This paid workout largely requires equipment you can find in your own home, like chairs and small weights (I use large bottles or cans). The programs offer 3 strength workouts weekly, plus cardio (low intensity and high intensity) each week.
  • BIG Power Yoga at Home – Put on my my favorite yoga studio in the entire world, their online classes will kick your a$$ while also leaving you in a blissful, meditative state. Show up, get on your mat, and deepen your practice with their Powerful Flow classes, which they offer several times daily.
  • HIIT at Home – For those who prefer HIIT style workouts, here are 10 that you can do from the comfort of your own home.
  • Calisthenics – Calisthenic workouts are circuits you do using only your body weight. Believe it or not, when done correctly, you can get REALLY strong and build a lot of muscle this way.

12. Read Epic Outdoor Books

Reading is yet another way to escape your living room for a bit and be transported out into the beautiful, spectacular world. Whether you’re reading memoirs or fictional stories, books about the outdoors can help you follow along on some of the most epic adventures in the world.

Here are a couple of our top outdoor book recommendations:

You can also find tons of other book recommendations on Amazon Books or on Barnes and Noble’s website. If you don’t want to wait for shipping, Barnes and Noble has this great Curbside Pick Up program where you can order online and pick up a book at your local store. Win!

13. Eat Camping/Hiking Food

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been subsisting mainly on things you have lying around in your house already (helllloooo, pasta and ramen). As you know, food is one of the best ways to bring back fond memories, and outdoor adventure food is no exception. Stock up on your trail favorites, like trail mix, dried fruits, Clif bars, Snickers, and whatever else you enjoy eating while on the trails or paddling the river.

For cooked camping concoctions, the New Camp Cookbook provides a lot of camping-friendly recipes that will definitely remind you of nights in the wild. While the recipes definitely lean gourmet, they can be made with mostly non-perishables and produce, meaning you probably already have these items in your home or can easily get them via delivery or in your local grocery store.

14. Practice Leave No Trace

Just like you would on the trails, lakes, and rivers, practicing a Leave No Trace mindset doesn’t stop when you’re not on an adventure. You can take these principles home with you and reduce your environmental footprint by reducing the amount of waste and disposable items that you use at home. This could mean buying more produce and avoiding putting it in plastic bags. It could be prioritizing paper, metal, or glass packaging over plastic. Or, it could mean challenging yourself to have waste-free days, where you do not throw away anything that’s not biodegradable.

You could also go a step further and upcycle or reuse your disposable items, like turning old soda bottles/cans into gardening pots or using glass jars as flower vases. There are so many ways your can continue to minimize your waste and your carbon footprint while stuck at home, and this will help preserve and revive the beautiful nature that exists in the world. For more reading on a zero-waste lifestyle, check out 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg.

15. Support Your Favorite Outdoor Businesses

Travel, outdoor, and recreation businesses are facing a harsh reality during this pandemic, and it’s incredibly difficult for small businesses to stay afloat. Many of the restrictions are preventing people from taking long outdoor trips or traveling to new places, meaning that many online publishers, tour operators, gear outfitters, clothing/gear brands, and exercise studios are really struggling right now. There are tons of ways you can help these folks (myself and Skyline Adventurer included!) keep their businesses afloat during these difficult times, including:

  • Reading lots of travel articles on your favorite websites – Online media businesses like Skyline Adventurer make a significant portion of revenue from advertising, and we can earn money when people simply read and spend time on our websites. If you like what you see on our site (or on any other blog/publisher on the web), visit their websites often, read their guides, and consider purchasing from their gear recommendations.
  • Signing up for email newsletters from your favorite businesses – Another great way to help out small outdoor businesses is to sign up for their email updates. This way, you’ll know when things are open back up or if they’re having an online sale, AKA the perfect excuse to buy that new pair of hiking boots you’ve been eyeing. You can sign up for the Skyline Adventurer email list here, and we’ll send you lots of outdoor inspiration and the best guides for you.
  • Following businesses on social media – Same thing here, but following your favorite businesses on social media can help you stay updated on their latest offers, and also helps them perform better in social media algorithms so their messages will get shown to more people. Want extra credit? Share some of your favorite posts with your friends and family! You can follow Skyline on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
  • Leaving positive reviews – If you love a particular outdoor shop, tour company, rental kiosk, or nature center, consider leaving reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. When times are good, many customers rely on these reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. If you really believe in a company and want to help them thrive, this is an easy and small task to do that makes a huge impact.
  • Buying gift cards, making advance bookings, or purchasing products online – Many people who run small businesses rely exclusively on the revenue generated from their customers to survive – both as a business and as individuals. If you have the means, consider purchasing a gift card or making an advance booking with one or more of your favorite local businesses. Or, alternatively, buy a product you need online from businesses that are still able to fulfill eCommerce orders. Every purchase, no matter how small, helps these businesses survive, and your support will help them see through these tough times to much better (and sunnier) days.

My friend Amanda from A Dangerous Business wrote a fantastic article with even more recommendations for how to support businesses in the travel/recreation industry during these extremely difficult times. Plus, you’ll hopefully get some new gear and some future trips planned out of it too!

Or…Actually Go Outdoors (Safely)

Look, I’m just as frustrated as you are that we have to stay indoors for so long, under such strict provisions. However, we have to in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Moreover, there has been ZERO explicit advice by any US authority that prohibits people from going outdoors at all. The government permits going outdoors for essential activities. You can still walk your dog, go for a run, wander through new neighborhoods, or even take a stroll through empty pathways in urban parks that remain open.

Just DO NOT FORGET to follow the recommended precautions, including:

  • Don’t leave your house if you feel sick or are exhibiting any symptoms of cough, sore throat, fever, or respiratory issues
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from any other person you do not live with
  • Avoid touching public surfaces and your face
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as frequently as possible (yes, regular soap works)
  • Follow local guidelines and avoid any parks or areas of the city that have been closed

You can find the complete list of recommendations from the CDC here. Stay safe, stay vigilant, but most importantly, stay hopeful. We’ll be out of this and back exploring the outdoors in due time, and we’ll hopefully appreciate the sunshine even more this time around.

Don’t Worry, I Didn’t Forget About the Giveaway…

Skyline Adventurer is giving away a virtual outdoor book bundle to help you stay sane and inspired (and maybe learn a few things) during these difficult times. We’ll be giving away all 5 of the below books from our article to a lucky outdoor-loving winner in Kindle version (valid for the app or on a physical Kindle):

  • The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley
  • 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
  • Epic Hikes of the World by Lonely Planet
  • The New Camp Cookbook by Linda Ly
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Entering the giveaway is super easy: simply submit your email below and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to enter!

The giveaway entry period ends on April 12, so go ahead and get those entries in! (One entry per person – we WILL be checking for duplicates!)

Related Articles on Skyline Adventurer

Charlotte, NC may not be known for being the most outdoorsy city in the US, but there are a surprising number of fantastic parks and trails nearby. With the Appalachian Mountains nearby and several forests, rocky peaks, and lakes to explore, Charlotte is a totally underrated city for outdoor activities. Hiking near Charlotte is a fantastic, affordable, and accessible way to explore all of the beautiful nature that the area has to offer. We created this guide to the best hikes near Charlotte to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Photo Credit: ITRE Institute for Transportation (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes Near Charlotte, NC

Little Sugar Creek Greenway

  • Trail Length: 5.6+ miles
  • Location: South Charlotte (trailhead near Tyvola Road)

With paved, flat trails that run through some lovely green spaces, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a fantastic spot for hikers of all levels to take a nice, leisurely walk in the city. This multi-purpose trail running, biking, and hiking in Charlotte, NC is a local favorite, and is perfect for families or dog owners wanting a no-frills, easy walking path. Because it is an urban trail, don’t expect to feel like you’re out in the wilderness, but you will get to see some nice views of the creek and the surrounding forest along the trail.

Latta Nature Preserve Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.4 miles
  • Location: West of Huntersville, NC (~30 minutes north of Charlotte)

Located right next to the historic Latta Plantation, the Latta Nature Preserve Trail provides Charlotte hikers of all levels with a bit more immersion in nature than a typical city trail. It’s a great spot for hiking near Charlotte if you don’t want to travel too far but still want a nice, accessible trail through the forest. With its proximity to Mountain Island Lake, Latta Nature Preserve offers serene lake views along gravel paths that roll with gentle inclines and descents. Locals really enjoy this trail, but warn that it can get muddy after periods of rain. Check this website before you go for the latest trail status.

Photo Credit: Douglas Johnson (Flickr CC)

US National Whitewater Center

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Near Catawba Heights (western Charlotte)

While the US National Whitewater Center is best known for organizing whitewater rafting lessons, excursions, and competitions, there are a handful of lovely, easy hiking trails in the area as well. The trails here have a lot of variety, ranging from the powerful man-made river rapids to some more peaceful lakes and forests a bit farther out. The trails here are well-maintained and are largely accessible to families and beginners (though we’d recommend avoiding a visit right after heavy rains, as the trails can get very muddy).

Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center

  • Trail Length: 3.1 miles
  • Location: Northeast Charlotte off of Grier Road

For a fantastic family-friendly hiking option, the Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center Trail is one of the best spots for hiking near Charlotte. This paved path is easy to navigate and brings hikers to some very beautiful scenery, including small creeks, a peaceful lake, and some old stone ruins. Because it’s located in a city park, there are also lots of recreational facilities, including picnic areas, sports fields, and more. Locals note that this is a really interesting trail, especially because of the rock house ruins you can explore, but that it can sometimes be hard to follow. You can download a map here to stay on track.

Photo Credit: Chris Steude (Flickr CC)

Greenway Bridges and Lake Loop

  • Trail Length: 4.2 miles
  • Location: Anne Springs Close Greenway

As one of the most spectacular easy hikes near Charlotte, the Greenway Bridges and Lake Loop is a beautiful blend of history and nature. Located in the Anne Springs Close Greenway, the trail is mostly flat and accessible to hikers of all levels. Along the 4.2 mile trail, you’ll pass under a large, historic bridge, cross narrow suspension bridges, and enjoy the thick forests and nature areas located in the park. If you’re a beginner and are only going to tackle one easy hike in Charlotte, we’d strongly recommend this one for the most variety and picturesque views.

Photo Credit: Thomas Cizauskas (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Charlotte

Stone Mountain

  • Trail Length: 4.5 miles
  • Location: Stone Mountain State Park

Looking for a bit more of a challenge and a mountain to summit? As one of the coolest and most unique hikes near Charlotte, Stone Mountain is a wonderful hiking challenge for all levels with some stunning rewards. The trails wind through the forest, across bridges and up stairs, with a finale at the rocky summit of Stone Mountain. With smooth rock faces that are striped with different shades of gray, the summit boasts breathtaking views of the cerulean Blue Ridge Mountains nearby. While it’s definitely not an easy trail, we’d still recommend this one for hikers of all levels!

Cove, Cedar Ridge, Creekside and Chestnut Trail

  • Trail Length: 4 miles
  • Location: McDowell Nature Center (~30 minutes southwest of Charlotte)

If you’re looking for a bit more peace and solitude than some of the more popular trails on our list, head to the McDowell Nature Center for a hike along the Cove, Cedar Ridge, Creekside, and Chestnut Trail. This moderate trail is mostly wooded, but also features a lake, a few bridges and boardwalks, and some eerie ancient tree stumps that have stories of their own. While this trail doesn’t have many sweeping views or rocky outcroppings, it’s common here to have the entire trail to yourself, making it a perfect escape from the city. For hiking near Charlotte without any stress, this trail is a great option.

Photo Credit: M Fletcher (Flickr CC)

Lake Shore Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.7 miles
  • Location: Lake Norman State Park (~45 minutes north of Charlotte)

Water lovers will enjoy the 5.7-mile Lake Shore Trail in Lake Norman State Park, which spans the perimeter of a small peninsula. The jagged edges of the land near the water create a lot of variety along the lakefront, which offers stunning views of the forest reflecting into the still waters (especially in the fall!). While the trail can get popular in peak season, there’s a lot of space and small secluded areas to get your peace and quiet and enjoy the company of the lake and the surrounding trees.

Uwharrie Trail

  • Trail Length: 8.4 miles
  • Location: Uwharrie National Forest

The Uwharrie Trail is a 20-mile trail that stretches through the Uwharrie National Forest. While you have the option to hike the whole thing, you can also do just a section or two. If you do want to break down this long-distance trail into something more manageable, we’d recommend the section from Jumping Off Rock to Little Long Mountain, which is a moderately difficult trail that has plenty of campsites for backcountry trips. The trail is largely forested, and ends at the summit of Little Long Mountain, which has stunning views of the nearby mountain. You can even camp close to the summit to catch it at sunrise and watch the entire landscape glow in the morning light.

Photo Credit: Stuart Borrett (Flickr CC)

Fall Mountain Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.8 miles
  • Location: Morrow Mountain State Park

If you’re looking for a wonderful fall hiking trail with lots of photo opportunities, the Fall Mountain Trail at Morrow Mountain State Park is a great option. While there are lots of trails in the Morrow Mountain area, we like Fall Mountain the best for its variety, between mountain views, quiet forest paths, and picturesque sections. Locals love this trail for being extra quiet and peaceful, which is a great choice for weekends to let go of some of the stress of your daily city life.

King’s Pinnacle Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.7 miles
  • Location: Crowders Mountain State Park

No list of hikes near Charlotte would be complete without an ode to King’s Pinnacle Trail, one of the most popular and scenic trails in the entire state. Boasting some of the best views of Crowder’s Mountain State Park, the summit of King’s Pinnacle consists of a rocky outcropping that’s beautiful in its own rite. The trail itself consists of a gradual incline to the top, so it’s great for hikers of all levels who are willing to take on the challenge! Those who do will be rewarded with one of the most iconic hiking views in the area.

NOTE: This is one of the most popular trails on our list, so go early if you want to avoid crowds along the way!

Photo Credit: Jim Liestman (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Charlotte

Linville Gorge Wilderness

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Linville Gorge Wilderness

Located near Asheville, the Linville Gorge Wilderness area is a gorgeous place for hiking near Charlotte. There are several trails that weave throughout the region, but the two we’d recommend are Little Table Rock Trail (hard – 2.7 miles) and Hawksbill Mountain (moderate – 1.8 miles). We’d recommend both for experienced hikers, but if you’re looking for an extra challenge and workout, head to Little Table Rock Trail for some seriously steep inclines and rocky terrain. Because both hikes are so short, you could even do both in one day!

Ridgeline Trail

  • Trail Length: 14.7 miles
  • Location: Crowders Mountain and Kings Mountain State Parks

Have you ever wanted to do a hike that extended across two different states? The Ridgeline Trail is your chance! Spanning from Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina to Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina, the Ridgeline Trail is one of the most beloved hikes near Charlotte for experienced hikers. The trails take you through forested areas and to some very spectacular views of Crowders Mountain and Kings Mountain. Locals state that this is hands down, one of the best challenging hikes in the state, and is definitely worth the challenge if you’re in the mood to work hard.

Photo Credit: matthew mclalin (Flickr CC)

Chestnut Knob Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.1 miles
  • Location: South Mountains State Park

If it’s views of the tree-covered Blue Ridge Mountains you’re looking for, the Chestnut Knob Trail in South Mountains State Park is a great strenuous hike to tackle. Many of the viewpoints here offer uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains and forests, which is rare given how many trees there are in North Carolina! You can also catch views along the way of High Shoals Falls, the park’s most well-known waterfall. This trail truly has a little bit of everything, and is a wonderful option for experienced hikers wanting a challenge with many rewards.

Vertical Mile Challenge to Hollow Rock Loop

  • Trail Length: 3.6 miles
  • Location: Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area

Located just one hour from Charlotte, the Vertical Mile Challenge hike in Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area is a solid, strenuous hike to get your blood flowing. While you can hike Hollow Rock Loop on its own, for experienced hikers, we recommend combining both hikes for an extra scenic and challenging adventure. For beautiful views and a hike that you can write home about, the Vertical Mile Challenge & Hollow Rock Loop trail is one of the best hikes near Charlotte.

Chimney Rock State Park

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Chimney Rock State Park (Lake Lure, NC)

Chimney Rock State Park is one of the most well-known and iconic state parks in the area, and hiking here is nothing short of breathtaking. While there are many different trails and paths you can hike, we’d recommend Party Rock and Exclamation Point for their spectacular views (great names, right?!).

Exclamation Point is a short, moderate hike (less than 1 mile) to a viewpoint where you can see fantastic views of Chimney Rock and the nearby valley. For hikers who want a more strenuous challenge, head to Party Rock (2.3 miles) for absolutely spectacular views of the valley and nearby lakes. Because they’re both short, you can tackle both in one day for an awesome half-day adventure.

Mount Mitchell

  • Trail Length: 11.3 miles
  • Location: Pisgah National Forest

Although it’s over 2.5 hours from Charlotte, we couldn’t resist including the Mount Mitchell trail on our list, which brings hikers up to the highest peak in the state of North Carolina. This trail is NOT for the faint of heart – it’s an 11.3 mile slog up steep, rocky terrain to reach the iconic summit. You’ll ascend a whopping 3,700 feet over just under 6 miles, which will really make you feel your legs! On the plus side, the incline is gradual, which means you won’t experience too much variation in steepness. At the top, you’ll be treated to the most jaw-dropping views in the state, and on clear days, you can see out many, many miles across the mountaintops. For the ultimate North Carolina bragging rights, hit up Mount Mitchell trail and be prepared for an adventure.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Charlotte, NC

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

There’s a reason why we strongly recommend hiking in Canmore — it’s easily one of the most overlooked places to visit in the Canadian Rockies. Out of all of the dozens of outdoor adventures in the Canadian Rockies, the Canmore and Kananaskis hikes are some of the most incredible ones in the area.

At just an hour’s drive from Calgary, Canmore and the Kananaskis Valley are some of the most beautiful and underrated areas of the Canadian Rockies. They often get overshadowed by nearby Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Parks. But in just 10 minutes of driving through Canmore, you’ll find similar jagged rocky peaks, stunning alpine lakes, and breezy evergreen forests.

But don’t be intimidated by the stark peaks in the area. In addition to tough summit trails, there are plenty of hikes in Canmore & the Kananaskis Valley that are suitable for people who have never set foot on a trail before, too!

To help you choose the best Kananaskis & Canmore hiking trails for your own skills and preferences, we’ve created this guide to 15 of the most beloved Canmore hikes, organized by difficulty and length. 


By the way, if you’re heading to the Canadian Rockies, don’t miss our other hiking guides:


The Bow River Loop crosses through this picturesque bridge, which used to be part of the railway that ran through the Canadian Rockies.

12 Incredible Canmore & Kananaskis Hikes for All Levels

Easy Hikes in Canmore & Kananaskis

Bow River Loop

  • Distance: 2-3 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Loop
  • Estimated time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

For beginner hikers, families, or a nice, easy walk around the Canmore town area, the Bow River Loop is the perfect hike. For most hikers, this 2-3 kilometer loop can be done in less than one hour.

The Bow River Loop is a nice little trail that starts in Canmore town center, crosses the scenic Bow River Bridge and loops around along the Bow River. On the trail, you’ll catch scenic views of the town of Canmore, Mount Rundle, and the glimmering river itself.

If you’d like more information on the Bow River Loop hike, read this information page.

Grotto Canyon

  • Distance: 4.4 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 1.5 to 3 hours

One of the most unique hikes in Canmore, the Grotto Canyon trail is a short, easy hike that takes you through huge rock structures and canyon areas. Here, local rock climbers can often be found scaling the vertical rock faces.

After you’ve wandered past the rock climbers, you’ll hike through a boulder-filled trail and end at a waterfall, which makes for a really nice picnic spot or a scenic place to take a rest.

For more information on the specifics of the Grotto Canyon trail, read this guide.

One of the many lovely views from the Grassi Lakes trail.

Grassi Lakes

  • Distance: 4 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 1-2 hours

Grassi Lakes is one of Canmore’s iconic hikes and is a local favorite that’s perfect for hikers of all levels. It really brings out the best in Canmore hiking, as a family-friendly trail that offers both easy and more challenging ascents.

The trail takes you to two deep turquoise alpine lakes and a waterfall surrounded by evergreen trees. It’s a very tranquil place to go for a short morning hike.

For more information on the Grassi Lakes trail, read this short guide.

Quarry Lake

  • Distance: 3 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Loop
  • Estimated time: Less than 1 hour

This family-friendly loop trail winds around the banks of Quarry Lake, offering beautiful views across the water toward the mountains. The entire lake is surrounded by mountains and evergreen trees. In the summer, after your hike, you can also swim in the lake if the weather is warm enough!

If you’d like to read more on this hike, head to this resource page.

Yours truly on the summit of Ha Ling Peak.

Moderate Hikes in Kananaskis & Canmore

Ha Ling Peak

  • Distance: 5.3 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 3-4 hours

Open year-round, Ha Ling Peak is arguably one of the shortest, coolest, and most picturesque Canmore hikes. It’s on the shorter end of the hikes in Canmore, at less than 6 kilometers out and back.

But don’t let Ha Ling Peak’s short trail distance fool you: the hike is actually quite difficult, as you’ll ascend well over 800 meters in less than 3 kilometers. The peak itself rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the Bow Valley below.

Lady MacDonald

  • Distance: 9 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 4-6 hours

This hike, named after a tea house that was never actually built, is a gorgeous trail that has beautiful views start to finish. One of the more popular hikes in Canmore, this moderately difficult hike is a perfect half-day adventure for hikers looking for a bit of a challenge and the reward of stunning photogenic viewpoints.

For more information about the Lady MacDonald hike, read the full guide on 10Adventures.

Chester Lake

  • Distance: 10 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 1.5-3 hours

For a challenging but accessible hike for beginners, Chester Lake is a fantastic trail that leads out to a picturesque evergreen-rimmed lake. The trail is largely through forests and trees, until you arrive at the lake, which has turquoise water and is surrounded by snowy mountains.

This guide can help you find the trailhead and learn more about what to expect on the hike.

Galatea Creek to Lillian Lake

  • Distance: 14 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 4 to 6 hours

A nice, challenging but doable hike for beginners, this trail takes you from Galatea Creek to the gorgeous Lillian Lake. On the way, you’ll pass through stunning valleys and over a picturesque wooden bridge. Lillian Lake is a tranquil, deep turquoise lake surrounded by a rocky shore, pine forests, and vertical rock faces.

Difficult Kananaskis & Canmore Hikes

Mount Yamnuska

  • Distance: 11 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Loop
  • Estimated time: 6+ hours

By far, Mount Yamnuska is one of my favorite adrenaline-pumping, muscle-throbbing hikes in ALL of Canada! This 11-kilometer trail takes you through an evergreen forest, up a steep rocky scramble, around a chain cliffhanger (seriously), and up to the summit of this iconic Canmore peak.

It’s a whopping 900+ meters of elevation gain, so be ready for some SERIOUS uphills and downhills if you choose to tackle this one.

Heart Mountain Horseshoe

  • Distance: 11 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Loop
  • Estimated time: 6+ hours

I haven’t actually hiked this one, but I’ve heard awesome things about it from friends back in Calgary. This is a moderate to difficult trail that involves a bit of rock scrambling towards the top. The views from the trail and the summit are said to be absolutely incredible, sweeping down below to the valley and the highway below.

Read this guide for more information and photos about the Heart Mountain Horseshoe hike.

Centennial Ridge to Mount Allan 

  • Distance: 16 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 8 to 10 hours

This summit trail is a challenging hike that eventually rewards you with some of the most incredible views in Canmore and Kananaskis. You’ll hike up a steep ascent, to a ridge overlooking the valleys and fellow peaks nearby.

Here’s a complete guide to Centennial Ridge to Mount Allan.

Smutwood Peak

  • Distance: 17.9 kilometers
  • Type of trail: Out-and-back
  • Estimated time: 6 to 8 hours

Easily one of the most beautiful summit views in the entire Canmore area, Smutwood Peak’s trail isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll hike, you’ll scramble, and you’ll gawk and the stunning, stunning views of the ridge and the alpine lakes and valleys below.

While it’s best to do this in the summer or fall, you can tackle the hike as early as spring with the proper equipment.

Here’s a great guide to Smutwood Peak that details a bit more about the route itself.

Know Before You Go: Tips for Hiking in Canmore & Kananaskis

Things to Know Before Traveling in Canmore 

While traveling in Canmore is pretty straightforward, there are a few things you should know to help plan your trip:

  • Canmore is a year round destination! While most people flock to Canmore in the summer months (July through August), there are things to do here all year. In the summer, there are hiking and camping opportunities (like this ones in this post), while in the winter, there are amazing places to try snow sports.
  • Wildlife is rampant in Canmore. Chances are, if you’re in Canmore for any significant amount of time, you’ll run into some wildlife. We’re talking anything from chipmunks to grizzly bears. When hiking, always bring bear spray with you and walk with a buddy or a group to protect yourself. And, of course, DO NOT FEED OR APPROACH ANY WILDLIFE. EVER.
  • There can be ice and snow on the trails year round. Just because the weather is nice outside does not mean that the trails are free and clear of ice. If you’re hiking outside of June-September, it’s a good idea to bring over-the-boot crampons and sturdy trekking poles for extra support, and don’t be afraid to cancel a hike or turn around if conditions aren’t optimal.

Additional Canadian Rockies Travel Resources


Tampa is an amazing city known for the Bucaneers and its many white sand beaches. Admittedly, people don’t really associate Tampa with hiking or outdoor activities. However, during the cooler months of the year, there are some really special and beautiful places to go hiking in Tampa to learn more about local wildlife and ecosystems. Additionally, many trails in Tampa are exceptionally beautiful, with swamp or seaside terrain and lush vegetation. We created this guide to 15 wonderful hikes in Tampa so you can plan your next outdoor adventure!

Photo Credit: PilotGirl (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes in Tampa

Lettuce Lake Park Loop

For a short, easy hike close to home, the Lettuce Lake Park Loop is one of the best hikes in Tampa. Not only is the hike convenient to get to, but it’s also quite scenic, with well-maintained wooden boardwalks and mossy trees scattered throughout the trail. It’s also home to many unique bird species, including herons, egrets, ibis, and spoonbills. You can also catch a glimpse of several other species, including alligators and armadillo. For a quintessential Flordia hike without having to stray too far, Lettuce Lake is a perfect choice.

Little Manatee Short Loop

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Location: Little Manatee River State Park

Little Manatee River is one of the many rivers in the Tampa area, and it’s a beautiful spot to go hiking in Tampa. True to its name, if you get lucky, you might even catch a manatee swimming in the quiet, clear waters of the river! Known for being a prime spot for wildlife watching, there are also many reptile and bird species that live in the area. Because of the swampy environment, be sure to bring bug spray and use it liberally – they can get quite vicious here.

Photo Credit: Kim Seng (Flickr CC)

Banyard and Seminole Trails

  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Hillsborough River State Park

From rivers to forests, Hillsborough River State Park has it all, and the Banyard and Seminole Trails are no exception! These two trails form a nice, easy 5.5-mile loop around the park, with beautiful dirt paths and wooden bridges passing through lush, mossy biospheres. Along the way, you’ll find swamps (with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities), quiet rivers, and unique, eerie trees.

Honeymoon Island and Caladesi State Parks

  • Trail Length: 2.5+ miles (depends on trails chosen)
  • Location: Dunedin, FL

Located off the coast of the Tampa area, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi State Parks provide a beautiful, white sand outdoor getaway that you’ll be sure to remember. These parks occupy two separate islands; you can get to Honeymoon Island by car, but need to take a ferry to continue on to Caladesi. Here, you’ll find lots of palm trees, white sand beaches, and sparkling blue waters. Additionally, these are both fantastic places for seafowl watching, especially during the off-peak hours.

On Honeymoon Island, hikers generally enjoy the Osprey and Pelican trails. Caladesi offers a nice 2.8-mile loop trail as well. Regardless of which trail(s) you choose, bring LOTS of bug spray – there are lots of mosquitos in the area that can be vicious without protection.

Photo Credit: City of St. Pete (Flickr CC)

Boyd Hill Main and Lakeside Trail Loop

  • Trail Length: 3.3 miles
  • Location: Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

If you want to explore a swampy area on wooden boardwalk trails, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is one of the few hikes in Tampa and the surrounding areas to do so. While this park is quite scenic, surrounded by mossy vegetation and shady trees, is its abundance of wildlife (in particular, alligators and armadillos).

As referenced by the large armadillo statue along the trail, many species of wildlife – including reptiles, mammals, and birds – call Boyd Hill home. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the park hours are extended, making it easier to view wildlife in the morning or early evening.

Robinson Preserve

  • Trail Length: 7.5 miles
  • Location: Bradenton, FL

For even more wildlife and a longer (but still accessible) trail, the Robinson Preserve Trail is a fantastic option for hiking near Tampa. This beautiful recreational area offers opportunities for hiking, biking, and paddling to see some of the unique bird species and mangrove areas that are indigenous to this part of Florida. Locals who frequent this trail love how secluded it is, citing it as a great way to escape the city and feel totally immersed in nature.

Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife (Flickr CC)

Rainbow Springs Falls

  • Trail Length: 2.1 miles
  • Location: Rainbow Springs State Park

As the only waterfall hike on our list, Rainbow Springs Falls is one of the more unique hikes in Tampa and the surrounding areas. Instead of swamps and wildlife, this park features a large spring area and a quaint waterfall that sits beautifully in a tropical-looking backdrop. The hike itself is only 2.1 miles, perfect for those not wanting to spend too long on the trails. Afterward, you can take a dip in the Rainbow Springs swimming area to get some cold relief from the Florida heat.

Weedon Island Preserve

  • Trail Length: 4.3 miles
  • Location: Weedon Island Preserve

Mangroves, mossy trees, and wooded boardwalks make the Weedon Island Preserve trail a local favorite. The boardwalks here extend around a massive mangrove forest, which is perfect for wildlife viewing and enjoying the eerie scenery, with tree roots and wide canopies galore. There’s also a lookout tower on the trail to get some bird’s eye views of the park. You can also opt to canoe or kayak here to explore the mangroves even further – just be sure to bring a LOT of strong bug spray.

Photo Credit: Diana Robinson (Flickr CC)

Fort De Soto Park

  • Trail Length: 1.5 to 4+ miles
  • Location: Fort De Soto Park

A largely oceanside trail, the Fort De Soto Park trail is a lovely, short, easy hike along the shoreline in a very scenic island near St. Petersburg. As one of the quieter hikes in Tampa, the Fort De Soto Park area is known for incredible bird watching opportunities. While the trail is short, it provides a great place to learn about nature and soak in ocean views. It’s a little wilder and more overgrown than some of the other places on our list, so if you’re seeking a more rugged trail, this is a cool option.

Terra Ceia and South Restoration Loop

  • Trail Length: 2.1 miles
  • Location: Emerson Point Preserve

Quiet, gravel paths wind through the lush forests of Emerson Point Preserve, and the Terra Ceia and South Restoration Loop is a fantastic way to enjoy the beautiful nature here. There’s also a lovely tower you can climb to capture views of the park and the nearby bridge. You can also catch a wide variety of wildlife here, from bird species to dolphins and manatees to turtles and snakes. There’s something for everyone on this easy, accessible spot for hiking near Tampa.

Photo Credit: Steven Martin (Flickr CC)

Moderate & Hard Hikes in Tampa

Weeki Wachee River

  • Trail Length: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Spring Hill, Florida

The Weeki Wachee River is well-known for some of its more famous aspects, like a large waterpark and kayak and canoe tours, but it’s less well-known for its hiking. However, hiking here can be a real gem, and the trail from Weeki Wachee Spring to Gardens is a must-do if you want to experience this area in a quieter, more contemplative way.

Located in a state park of the same name, the trail follows the river, which boasts crystal clear water that’s sightly tinted light blue. Plus, while walking or paddling in the area, you have the chance to see manatees! (Reason enough to go, right?!)

Photo Credit: Allen Forrest (Flickr CC)

Big Shoals Trail

  • Trail Length: 2.4 miles
  • Location: Big Shoals State Park

The Big Shoals Trail in Big Shoals State Park is a beautiful, slightly more challenging hike that’s suitable for hikers of all levels. Here, the trail brings you past a river to eerie, cool swampy areas that feature trees with protruding roots and local wildlife. Nearby, there are river rapids you can admire, a rarity in the mostly swampy waters of central Florida. Additionally, vibrant plant life surrounds the trail, providing shade from the sunlight and some beautiful spots for photography.

Old Welcome Trails Loop

  • Trail Length: 7.9 miles
  • Location: Lithia, Florida

Whether you’re looking for prairie, swamp areas, or mossy forests, the Old Welcome Trails Loop has it all. This area is actually separated into several shorter trails, but the 7.9-mile loop trail will take you past all the highlights. There have been many reports of wildlife spottings, like deer and birds, and visitors will certainly enjoy the solitude and escape from the city that this peaceful, serene environment provides.

Photo Credit: Michel Curi (Flickr CC)

Alafia River State Park

  • Trail Length: Up to 6.4 miles
  • Location: Alafia River State Park

Our absolute favorite park for hiking near Tampa is Alafia River State Park, which is home to some of the most quintessential Florida landscapes in the area. The many trails here cut through thick, mossy vegetation and pass by tranquil swamp areas, and you’ll have the chance to view many species of wildlife here! For an extra challenge, the terrain here changes from dirt paths to san to boardwalks, providing a lot of variety and diversity along the way.

Additional Resources for Hiking in Tampa

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

Denver is one of the most famous cities in the United States for outdoor activities, and there’s no question why: the mountains, forests, and rivers nearby are nothing short of spectacular. Whether you’re a Denver local or are visiting to experience Colorado’s wild beauty, hiking near Denver is a great way to get outdoors and explore. We created this list of our favorite hikes near Denver so you can plan your next hiking adventure ASAP! (Trust us, it was nearly impossible to narrow our list down to just 25 hikes in Denver and the surrounding areas.)

Photo Credit: Lee Coursey (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes Near Denver

Castle Rock Trail

  • Trail Length: 1.3 miles
  • Location: Castle Rock Park

Located in Castle Rock, Colorado, this Castle Rock hike is one of the most accessible and fun hikes near Denver, which leads to a strange rock formation. At just over 30 minutes from Denver, this short hiking trail is accessible to all levels of hikers – there’s a bit of a steep ascent, but the views at the top are absolutely worth it! Along the way, there are lots of rocks for scrambling and climbing (but be careful and only do so if you know how!).

Clear Creek Trail

  • Trail Length: 20.1 miles one way
  • Location: Golden, CO

The Clear Creek Trail is a long distance trail that extends from Golden, CO to Commerce City along a beautiful creek. Locals love this trail for mountain biking, trail running, and hiking near Denver. Along the paths, you’ll find scenic views, forested areas, bridges, and lots of opportunities for viewing native wildlife. Of course, you could hike the entire trail, or you could break it up in sections, exploring different parts of the area as separate out-and-back hikes.

Photo Credit: Rob Lee (Flickr CC)

Three Sisters Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.8 to 6.7 miles
  • Location: Evergreen, CO

Located near Evergreen, CO, the Three Sisters Trail is a popular, extremely scenic hike that brings hikers of all levels to some stunning mountain viewpoints and rock formations. While the trail does require a gradual ascent, we’d recommend it for all levels of hikers, including families and beginners! At the top, you’ll find a large rock formation that’s surrounded by evergreen trees and large boulders, perfect for exploring and photos!

The Three Sisters Trail is one of the best year-round hikes near Denver; we tackled it in the winter and had tons of fun in the snowy pine forests and majestic boulder areas.

Coyote Song Loop

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Location: South Valley Park

For a short hike that’s got a little bit of everything, head to the Coyote Song Loop. This flat loop hike wraps around a serene lake and up to some very beautiful rock formations. Perfect for families and beginners, we’d recommend this trail to those looking for diverse views over a short distance. Because it’s an easy and beautiful trail, it does get very, very crowded, so head out early to maximize your experience and have the trails more or less to yourself.

Photo Credit: sk (Flickr CC)

Red Rocks Trading Post Loop

  • Trail Length: 1.5 miles
  • Location: Red Rocks Park

Known for its outdoor amphitheater and concert venue, Red Rocks Park is a beautiful, breathtaking park full of unique rock formations located just outside of Denver. The Red Rocks Trading Post Loop is a beautiful gem of a hike that wraps around the amphitheater’s perimeter. This flat, easy loop takes you through and around some of the park’s most stunning red rock structures, from which the name of the park originates. Suitable for all levels of hikers, you can’t miss this wonderful spot for hiking near Denver.

Elk Meadow South Loop

  • Trail Length: 4 miles
  • Location: Elk Meadow Park

On the Elk Meadow South Loop trail, you’ll find forests, meadows, and wildflowers galore! This beautiful area is perfect for beginners and families to go hiking near Denver, as you’ll find flat trails and stunning views here. Locals love how well-maintained the trail is here, but recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots, as the trails can get quite muddy (especially after rain or in the springtime).

Photo Credit: Peter Ciro (Flickr CC)

Flatirons Vista

  • Trail Length: 3.5 miles
  • Location: Boulder, CO

Flatirons Vista may be the most gorgeous of the easy hikes near Denver, but only you can decide that for yourself! With views of rocky, rugged peaks and emerald evergreens, it’s a wonder that there’s an easy, accessible trail where hikers of all levels can soak it all in. The mountaintops here are iconic in the area, known for their jagged edges and unique shapes. We’d strongly recommend heading here in the early morning or late afternoon to get some stellar sunrise/sunset views and alpenglow on the mountains.

Photo Credit: Crystal (Flickr CC)

Waterton Canyon

  • Trail Length: 12.4 miles
  • Location: Chatfield State Park

For wildlife lovers of all hiking abilities, Waterton Canyon is a fantastic trail for viewing opportunities. Located in Chatfield State Park, many visitors report seeing wildlife ranging from bighorn sheep to foxes to eagles and more. The trail passes along the South Platte River and provides a peaceful and photogenic environment for an easy walk through nature. Note that you can hike the whole thing (12+ miles) or cut your trip short and turn back to the trailhead whenever you please.

Photo Credit: Pete (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Denver

Mayflower Gulch

  • Trail Length: 5.9 miles
  • Location: White River National Forest

There’s a reason why the Mayflower Gulch trail is one of the most beloved in the Denver area -it’s absolutely jaw-dropping. The nearly 6 miles of this trail brings hikers through a variety of trail terrain, past fields of wildflowers, vistas of the nearby mountains, near abandoned log houses, and through evergreen forests. If you’re looking for a trail that’s as close to heaven on Earth as possible, this one fits the bill, hands down.

Hell’s Hole Trail

  • Trail Length: 7.9 miles
  • Location: Arapaho National Forest

As one of the stunning hikes near Denver, Hell’s Hole Trail is somewhat of a misnomer, as nearly everything about this trail is heavenly, and there’s really no hole (that we can see). Along this trail, there are tons of unique, old trees with warped branches, adding a magical charm to the area. The trail leads hikers up a gradual incline, through some shady areas, to an almpine meadow surrounded by rocky cliffs and peaks. It’s a great half-day hike for adventurous souls!

Photo Credit: John B. Kalla (Flickr CC)

St. Mary’s Glacier

  • Trail Length: 1.9 miles
  • Location: Arapaho National Forest

Although it’s often crowded, the local love for the St. Mary’s Glacier trail is warranted. This short but steep hike takes hikers up a tricky ascent to a small alpine lake that boasts beautiful mountain views in the distance. You’ll hike through the forest and above the treeline before arriving at the lake. The trail then extends further uphill if you’d like to catch a glimpse of the lake with the mountains in the background, as well as the glacier to the side. If you’re crunched for time or want the best views in the shortest distance, St. Mary’s Glacier takes the cake.

Devil’s Head Lookout

  • Trail Length: 2.5 miles
  • Location: Pike National Forest

With one of the most unique landscapes and views of all the hikes near Denver, the Devil’s Head Lookout trail is a short but mighty hike. The highlight of this hike is a lookout area that gazes upon beautiful, eerie rock formations interspersed between green pines and blue skies. While the trail is rated as moderate, it’s accessible to all hikers who are willing to take on a bit of an uphill challenge to reach outstanding views. We’d say the reward is well worth the effort!

Photo Credit: Cathy McCray (Flickr CC)

Castlewood Canyon Rim Rock Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.3 miles
  • Location: Castlewood Canyon Rim Rock Trail

If you’re looking for a break from the alpine meadow hikes we’ve listed, the more desert-type landscape of Castlewood Canyon’s Rim Rock Trail might strike your fancy. Here, evergreen trees meet golden, sandy terrain and abandoned stone ruins for an eerie, almost “Wild West” style setting. The incline here can be a little slippery after rain, but it’s achievable for hikers of all levels. Note that the trail is quite sun-exposed, so be sure to pack sun protective gear!

Sleepy Lion Trail from Button Rock Preserve

  • Trail Length: 5.4 miles
  • Location: Roosevelt National Forest

With views for miles and lovely forested pathways, the Sleepy Lion Trail is a fantastic hike through the pine woods of Roosevelt National Forest. While the trail does require some uphill hiking, it’s suitable for all levels of hikers who are willing to brave the ascent for the beautiful views at the top. The overlook of the reservoir is absolutely magnificent, and you can wander around to get a few different perspectives of the water down below.

Photo Credit: Vicky Devine (Flickr CC)

Herman Gulch to Herman Lake

  • Trail Length: 6.3 miles
  • Location: Arapahoe National Forest

As a trail that gives off alpine vibes with every step, head to the Herman Gulch trail, which is one of the most beloved hikes near Denver. This moderate hike runs through pine forests and above the treeline to alpine lakes and snowy mountaintops. Towards the top of the hike, you’ll find some of the most spectacular views of the Arapahoe National Forest area, including many surrounding mountains.

North Table Mountain & Rim Rock Loop

  • Trail Length: 8.3 miles
  • Location: North Table Mountain Park

There are two Table Mountains in the Denver area – South and North. On the north peak lies one of the most gorgeous places to go hiking near Denver: the North Table Mountain and Rim Rock Loop. Stunning views of the oddly-shaped rock formations that give the mountain its name will greet you at the top, and along the way, you’ll get a chance to see waterfalls and local wildlife, too. Locals really love this trail for a half-day hike, but recommend getting there early as it fills up quickly with people on nice days.

Photo Credit: Paul Iwancio (Flickr CC)

Mount Flora from Berthoud Pass Trailhead

  • Trail Length: 6 miles
  • Location: Arapaho National Forest

Mount Flora‘s 6-mile trail may be, hands down, one of the most jaw-dropping spots for hiking near Denver. Unlike some of the trails that require you to hike through the forest before seeing any views, the Mount Flora trail has breathtaking panoramas throughout. The trail offers sweeping views of the nearby mountains and forests, and in the spring, colorful wildflowers grow like crazy here.

Local hikers rave about this trail, citing its gorgeous views as a favorite aspect. However, be aware that the wind above the tree line can get quite strong – come prepared with layers and poles!

Photo Credit: Rick Kimpel (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Denver

Booth Falls Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.9 miles
  • Location: Eagles Nest Wilderness

The Booth Falls Trail is a short, challenging year-round hike for intrepid hikers who are looking for a shorter adventure. Wide views of the nearby mountains, a beautiful waterfall, and a serene alpine lake are all part of the package here. While locals enjoy the waterfalls and the lake, the real draw is the views, which extend out for miles and are especially eye-catching in the fall.

Barr Trail to Pikes Peak

  • Trail Length: 21.3 miles
  • Location: Pike National Forest

Among the hardest hikes near Denver, the Barr Trail to Pikes Peak is NOT for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of stamina, persistence, and skill to make the trek to the summit and back. But, if you’re a very experienced hiker and feel that you have what it takes, the rewards are well worth the effort you’ll need to put into conquering this trail. First of all, the summit is a 14-er (hello, massive bragging rights!). Second of all, the views and natural beauty of the trail are second to none.

While Pike’s Peak can technically be done in a day, we’d strongly recommend planning for a 2-3 day backpacking trip to get the most out of this exceptional trail. There are several campsites along the way that are great for pitching a tent and soaking up the wild, rugged beauty.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Reyes (Flickr CC)

Mount Audubon & Paiute Peak Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.5 miles
  • Location: Roosevelt National Forest

Ready to scramble? Then the Mount Audubon & Paiute Peak Trail is probably a great adventure for you! As a less-crowded challenging trail, this hike definitely has a rugged feel across its 10.5 miles. It also boasts absolutely epic views of the alpine lake below and the valleys nearby.

Complete with a ridge walk across a scree field from Mount Audubon to Paiute Peak, this trail is for EXPERIENCED HIKERS ONLY. It requires a lot of know-how to traverse between the two peaks, as well as the ascent, and the wind can be extremely dangerous at the top. However, if you summit Mount Audubon and find that the wind is too strong, you can turn back around and hike back the way you came (click here for the directions to summit Mount Audubon on its own).

Elk Falls Overlook

  • Trail Length: 11.6 miles
  • Location: Staunton State Park

Waterfalls, rock formations, pine forests, and alpine lakes…Elk Falls Overlook has it all, and experienced hikers will find a fun half- to full-day adventure here. The rock formations that line the trails here are totally unique and eye-catching, and the views as you ascend are absolutely heavenly. In the summer months, the waterfalls are usually flowing as the trails bloom with wildflowers. And while the hike is difficult, it’s not quite as technical as some of the summit hikes on our list. If you are looking a beautiful hiking challenge, this is it.

Photo Credit: schramroyal (Flickr CC)

Grays and Torreys

  • Trail Length: 7.9 miles
  • Location: Arapaho National Forest

For experienced hikers, the Grays and Torreys Trail is a local favorite for a challenging but attainable summit hike. On this hike, you’ll traverse two peaks: Grays Mountain and Torreys Mountain. Many people choose to tackle this trail as their first “14er,” and for good reason – it definitely requires experience, but isn’t quite as technical as some of the others. Plus, the views from the top are jaw-dropping, with spectacular, sweeping panoramas of the mountains for miles and miles.

Square Top Mountain from Guanella Pass

  • Trail Length: 6.9 miles
  • Location: Arapaho National Forest

As a shorter alternative to most of the other hard hikes on our list, Square Top Mountain is a local favorite for its magnificent views of several of Arapahoe National Forest’s 14ers. The panoramas here are out of this world, as the trail is fairly exposed and tree-less. Instead of trees, you’ll find wildflowers and views of the sparkling teal alpine lakes below. You can even see down to nearby Keystone on clear days! Note that it can get quite windy here, so bringing layers is recommended.

Photo Credit: qJake (Flickr CC)

Mount Sniktau from Loveland Pass

  • Trail Length: 3.5 miles
  • Location: Arapahoe National Forest, near Loveland Ski Resort

Sitting at a couple hundred feet under 14,000, the Sniktau Mountain Trail from Loveland Pass will take you just 3.5 miles up a very strenuous pathway. While you’ll be starting at about 12,00 feet altitude, this short hike takes you up almost 1,000 feet in the first mile alone… without switchbacks. Along the way, there are two false summits, but the views from them will already be worth the effort. The true Sniktau Mountain summit will offer you breathtaking panoramic views of several 14ers in the distance, as well as the valleys below.

Cupid Peak to Grizzly Peak from Loveland Pass

  • Trail Length: 6.7 miles
  • Location: Arapahoe National Forest, near Loveland ski resort

Grizzly and Cupid Peaks are neighbors to the nearby Sniktau Mountain, meaning you can bag all three peaks together in one day if you’re ambitious! This is undoubtedly one of the most scenic spots for hiking near Denver, with panoramic mountain views that are well worth the effort you’ll put into getting to the top.

You’ll start your trek at the Loveland Pass Summit, and you’ll take the same path you’d take to the summit of Sniktau. When you reach the saddle, you’ll turn right and continue to Grizzly Peak. You’ll eventually reach Cupid Peak a few miles afterward, your second (or maybe third?!) peak of the day. The views from the peaks are absolutely outstanding, with incredible visibility to nearby peaks on clear days.

Additional Resources for Hiking in Denver

What to Pack for Hiking Near Denver

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

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