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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

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.

Related Links

Hiking near Portland, Oregon is an incredibly easy feat, thanks to the dozens of parks, national forests, and recreation areas that surround the city. Whether you are into skiing, kayaking, or hiking, this city has everything for outdoor lovers. The hikes near Portland range in difficulty from short 1-milers through the city park, to epic mountain summits, offering a wide range of options for everybody. Check out our list of some of the best hikes near Portland, Oregon!

Easy Hikes near Portland

Hoyt Arboretum Trail

  • Distance: 1.3 mile loop
  • Location: Hoyt Arboretum

A free park located a couple of minutes from downtown, the Hoyt Arboretum is a sanctuary for trees. The trail is short and sweet, but can be combined with the multitude of other nearby trails to lengthen it (including the epic, nearby wildwood trail). You’ll see magnificent redwoods, spruce, and fir trees along the path. Situated so close to the city, every Portlander should check out this beautiful park.

Springwater on the Willamette

  • Distance: varies
  • Location: Eastern bank of the Willamette River

This paved riverfront trail will give you lost of options for an urban adventure. Commonly used by bikers and runners, the trail offers sights of the gorgeous Willamette river and the downtown Portland area. The trail is open all year round and is pet friendly. You can extend your trek into the nearby North Woodland and Bluff trails to circle back around Oaks Bottom Lake and catch some ospreys nesting nearby.

Photo credit: Mt. Hood Territory (Flickr CC)

Trillium Lake Loop

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Location: Mt Hood National Forest

Trillium Lake is a classic PNW experience. The lake offers scenic views of nearby Mt. Hood and is easily accessible by car. The lake loop is an excellent hike for beginners and families. The path is made of gravel but is well marked. It will take you through the edge of the woods surrounding Trillium lake, offering a different perspective of this iconic body of water. The area costs $5 to enter, or you can get in with your NW Forest Pass.

Haystack Rock Trail

  • Distance: 8.2 miles
  • Location: Cannon Beach

You’ve probably seen it in pictures before. Haystack Rock is a series of rocky, tall islands located right off the coastline that look imposing and bold up close. Although there are several of these types of rocky islands along Oregon’s coast, the rock near Cannon Beach is the most accessible one. You won’t need to hike the whole 8 mile trail to see the rock. The trail is on the beach, so ensure you have the proper footwear. Birdwatchers should bring their binoculars on them as the area is a bird and wildlife reservation.

Photo credit: Bonnie Moreland (Flickr CC)

Tamolitch Blue Pool

  • Distance: 3.7 miles
  • Location: Willamette National Forest

This gentle trail will take you through old fir trees to a beautiful turquoise colored lake. This trail is actually the site of some interesting geological formations. The Blue Pool is formed from a river that descends into a submerged lava tube. At the beginning of the trail, you’ll see the source of the pool, the McKenzie River. If you hike this trail after a particularly rainy season (or after heavy snow-melt), the submerged river will overflow over the lava tube and created a waterfall that flows into the Blue Pool. This is a great option for beginner level hiking near Portland, Oregon!

Moderate Hikes near Portland

Photo credit: gstewart83 (Flickr CC)

Ramona Falls Loop

  • Distance: 8.2 miles
  • Location: Mt. Hood National Forest

Ramona Falls is a gentle 120 ft tall waterfall near Mt. Hood. The waterfall is unique in that the water trails off and cascades into a hundred different fingers over basalt columns. The trails leading up to it is lollipop shaped and moderate in difficulty. The path is relatively well maintained, but does require a stream crossing over logs. You’ll start and end your trek at the base of the towering Mt. Hood.

Tamanawas Falls

  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Location: Mt. Hood National Forest

The Tamanawas Falls trail will take you a short distance into the woods to find a large waterfall covering a dry alcove. The trail is technically an easy hike in terms of difficulty, but ice and rain can make the rocks very slippery. If you are going in the cold, crampons/spikes are a must if you want to avoid injury. Despite this, the most magical time to go is winter as the snow and iced over waterfall will give the whole place a fairy-tale-like atmosphere (plus the crowds tend to be smaller).

Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain

  • Distance: 9 miles round trip
  • Location: Mt Hood

Take a walk up a mountain to get breathtaking views of Mt. Hood at the Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain trail. This hike will have you ascend 1,700 ft through moderately steep terrain. Somewhere near the halfway point, you’ll encounter Mirror Lake, a tranquil alpine lake that offers a good place to rest. Depending on the climate and snowfall levels, snowshoes or spikes may be required after the lake. Northwest Forest Passes are needed to access the trail during the summer time. Be sure to buy this in advance as you cannot buy them at the trailhead.

Photo credit: Rene Rivers (Flickr CC)

Cape Lookout

  • Distance: 4.7 miles round trip
  • Location: Cape Lookout State Park

If you’re looking for jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean, this is the place to go. This moderate hike will take you out on the cliffs of a peninsula overlooking the sea. The trail has a few moderate ascents and descents, and it will take you through a wooded scene on top of a 400 foot tall cliff in some parts. The views at the end of the trail are gorgeous, however, and the sunset on a clear day is something that’s unrivaled anywhere else. If you’re lucky, you’ll see whales and sea lions below, making this one of the most unique experiences you can get hiking near Portland!

Tryon Creek Loop

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Location: Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Inside a suburban park south of Portland, the Tyron Creek loop will take you on a short adventure inside a lush PNW rainforest. You’ll cross several small bridges that offer great views and great picture spots. The highlight of the trek is a green suspension bridge located in the Lewis and Clark Loop within the park. Trail-finding can be a little difficult here, so we recommend using either a GPS or obtaining a trail map at the information center.

Difficult Hikes near Portland

Salmonberry Trail

  • Distance: 12.5 mile round trip
  • Location: Clatsop State Forest

A trail for those seeking hikes that are truly off-the-beaten path, the Salmonberry Trail is a secluded trek deep within the Clatsop State Forest. Most of the hike follows an old abandoned railroad track, full of wild overgrowth. Make sure to wear long-sleeves and pants on this hike as you’ll constantly be rubbing up against thick bushes and plants. Some would even recommend a machete to chop your way through the dense bush.

The trail has a steep elevation gain of 1,600 feet over 6 miles. The path will take you through tunnels and over truss bridges. The abandoned nature of the tracks along with the dense foliage adds a spooky feel to the whole experience.

If you’re planning on doing this trek, drive up to the eastern trailhead off of Cochran rd and NOT the Beaver Slide road trailhead. The road on Beaver Slide is narrow, steep, and full of potholes. Low clearance cars without 4WD may get stuck.

Photo credit: David Prasad (Flickr CC)

Wildwood Trail

  • Distance: 29.6 miles
  • Location: Trailheads near Oregon zoo and Newberry road at the edge of Linnton Park

You don’t have to go far at all to get multi-day hiking near Portland. The Wildwood trail is an almost 30 mile path that zig-zags its way through Forest Park. Most runners and beginner hikers will stay within the first few miles of the trailhead near the zoo and arboretum. Most of the northern part of the trail is relatively flat. The difficulty progressively picks up the further south you go, with most of the elevation gain happening in the 5 miles closest to the arboretum. Near the southern trailhead, there is an optional quarter mile detour to the Pittock Mansion. Visitors can tour the mansion for a small fee. The rest of the trail is mostly dense redwoods, without many other epic sights. What the trail offers, however, is tranquility and peacefulness in an extremely close location to the city. This is a superb option for urban hiking near Portland.

Dog Mountain

  • Distance: 6 mile loop
  • Location: Columbia River Gorge

Easily accessible right off Highway 14, Dog Mountain summit offers a scenic overlook of the Columbia River and is well known for its wildflower blooms during Spring. This is a very popular hike and the parking lot can sometimes fill up. Be sure to arrive early and bring $5 cash to pay for passes per hiker. There’s a fork in the path a little less than a mile in where the trail splits into two paths that converge at a later point. The left is labeled “More difficult” and the right “Less difficult.” We recommend sticking to the “Less difficult” route as it is better maintained, less steep, and offers great views of the valley below. Be prepared to work out the calves; you’ll climb over 2,800 feet during this trek, making this one of the more difficult hikes near Portland.

Mt. Hood

  • Distance: Varies depending on route
  • Location: Mt. Hood National Forest

Mt. Hood is the pinnacle of hiking in Oregon (sorry, I couldn’t resist). There are several approaches to the summit, but all, obviously, require quite a bit of training and endurance. Be prepared for unpredictable weather and snow. One of the shorter approaches is a the Timberline route from the south side. This is a 7 mile trek that ascends over 5,200 feet to reach the summit at 11,240 feet. Hikers must obtain a wilderness pass; the US Forest Service has some important information on their website for anyone attempting the climb. The views at the top are unparalleled and you’ll forever have bragging rights for having climbed the tallest peak in Oregon.

Additional Resources for Hikes near Portland, Oregon

  • 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.

Enjoy Hiking near Portland, Oregon? Check out these Other Resources!

While Baltimore may be best known for its Inner Harbor, there are actually several beautiful places to get outdoors in and around the city. Within just a few miles of the city, outdoor lovers can find forests, lakes, canyons, and more! Hiking near Baltimore is a wonderful way to experience nature and get your blood flowing without going too far from the city. We created this guide with some of the best hikes near Baltimore to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Photo Credit: Mike (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes Near Baltimore

Merryman’s Mill Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.8 miles
  • Location: Loch Raven Reservoir

Boasting beautiful, tranquil trails that run along the Loch Raven Reservoir, the Merryman’s Mill Trail is a quiet, peaceful hike accessible to all levels of hikers. Best done in the early morning hours when the fog hangs over the reservoir waters, this trail combines woodland trails, whispering streams, and varied terrain for a fun hiking experience. You can also find crumbling ruins of historic stone structures along the way! For hikers who enjoy solitude and nature, it’s one of the most peaceful places to go hiking near Baltimore!

Photo Credit: Mark S (Flickr CC)

Kilgore Falls

  • Trail Length: 1.3 miles
  • Location: Rocks State Park

Perfect for families and adventurous hikers of all levels, the Kilgore Falls trail is a short, fun hike to a gorgeous waterfall in Rocks State Park. While it’s one of the more popular (read: crowded) hikes near Baltimore, it’s a fantastic option for those who don’t mind getting a little muddy! The trail is easy and flat and is accessible for children and first-time hikers. Note that the trail also loops above and around the falls – don’t miss out on this part if you want to experience a new perspective!

Stony Run Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.6 miles
  • Location: Wyman Park

For a more urban trail just north of the city, the Stony Run Trail is one of the most convenient hikes near Baltimore for all levels. Waterfalls, tunnels, bridges, and forests are all highlights of this diverse and accessible trail. To make things even better, there have been some recent improvements to the trails, and they’re very well-marked and maintained to ensure hikers’ safety and enjoyment.

The trail does run through neighborhoods and residential areas, so if you’re looking for a complete nature experience, this isn’t it. But if the outdoors is calling you and you don’t want to stray too far, the Stony Run Trail is the perfect option.

Photo Credit: Paul Waldo (Flickr CC)

Swallow Falls Canyon Trail

  • Trail Length: 1.1 miles
  • Location: Swallow Falls State Park

The Swallow Falls Canyon Trail might seem like a short hike, but it really is one of the most beautiful easy hikes near Baltimore. Located in Swallow Falls State Park, the trail brings hikers of all levels to a picturesque waterfall, rocky canyon-like terrain, and peaceful forests. For a quieter hike through some of the most scenic nature in the Baltimore area, the Swallow Falls Canyon Trail is a fantastic, family-friendly option.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Baltimore

Grist Mill Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.2 miles
  • Location: Patapsco Valley State Park

The Grist Mill Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park is the perfect blend of history and nature. With historic tunnels, beautiful suspension bridges, and miles of old trees and forests, this trail is certainly one of the most diverse places to go hiking near Baltimore. On this journey, you’ll wander past train tracks and stone ruins, along streams and large bridges, and through tranquil nature areas with a shady tree canopy.

Photo Credit: Patrick Gillespie (Flickr CC)

Annapolis Rock via The Appalachian Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.1 miles
  • Location: South Mountain State Park

Have you ever wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail without spending several months on it? The Annapolis Rock Trail is a fantastic place where you can do just that! This absolutely jaw-dropping hike is a 2.5 mile ascent to a very beautiful viewpoint – a rocky outcropping overlooking the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. While the incline can be quite steep, the rewards at the top are well worth the trek.

Pro tip: This is one of the most popular hikes near Baltimore, so go early or on weekdays to avoid the crowds that flock here during peak hours.

Photo Credit: Kay Rodriguez

Maryland Heights Loop

  • Trail Length: 6 miles
  • Location: Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

History enthusiasts will really enjoy the Maryland Heights Loop at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, an important landmark of the Civil War. Here, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge, as do the borders of three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, don’t let this forested, rural area fool you: Harpers Ferry is less than two hours from the city. It’s a perfect place to go hiking near Baltimore on a day trip or weekend getaway.

There are two trails available that stem from the Maryland Heights trailhead – the overlook and the full trail. If you’re strapped for time or want to spend the afternoon exploring the town of Harpers Ferry, we recommend opting for the shorter trail, which brings you to the most stunning viewpoint in the entire park. The viewpoint is full of boulders and captures a bird’s eye glimpse of the convergence of the rivers, as well as the town of Harpers Ferry and the historic iron bridges that lead into it.

CLICK HERE TO READ OUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE MARYLAND HEIGHTS LOOP

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond (Flickr CC)

Paw Paw Tunnel Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.9 miles
  • Location: C&O National Historic Park (West Virginia)

Another one of the historic hikes near Baltimore is the Paw Paw Tunnel Trail, a former railroad tunnel that was converted into a hiking path. The unique thing about this tunnel is that it’s surrounded by waterfalls, making for an incredibly unique and picturesque setting for hiking near Baltimore. If you’re looking for something different than the forest hikes on this list, the Paw Paw Trail is one you can’t miss.

Photo Credit: Bart

Cascade Falls Trail

  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Location: Patapsco Valley State Park

Locals love the Cascade Falls Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park because it’s a fun, moderate trail through some muddy and varied terrain. It’s a great place to get your hands (and feet) dirty in a totally spectacular environment. A trail through the woods leads you past rocks and trees to a small but scenic waterfall – the Cascade Falls. Though crowded, the Cascade Falls Trail is a lovely place to escape the city and get outdoors!

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston (Flickr CC)

Billy Goat Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.6 miles
  • Location: C&O National Historic Park

One of the best hikes near Baltimore, the Billy Goat Trail is a fun and adrenaline-inducing rock trail that runs alongside the Potomac River, right near Great Falls. The entrance/trailhead starts at the parking lot of the C&O National Historic Park – you’ll need to walk a bit along the canal before the official entrance to the Billy Goat Trail itself. Once you are on the trail, you can choose from a few different sections and trails, each ranging from 1.5-2 miles in length.

After you’ve started on the trail, it’s a bit of climbing and hopping over the rocky cliffside of the river before getting to the large, “famous” scramble up the side of a cliff. Leave your trekking poles at home – you’ll need your hands AND feet for this hike!

Photo Credit: Rick Schwartz (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Baltimore

Catoctin Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.7 miles
  • Location: Cunningham Falls State Park

The Catoctin Trail is a beautiful point-to-point hiking trail located in Cunningham Falls State Park. Featuring lots of bridges, varied terrain, and plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, this challenging trail is definitely worth the effort. While we wouldn’t recommend this trail for beginners, intermediate and advanced hikers can enjoy the difficult, technical terrain here. Worst case, you can always shorten the journey or turn it into an out-and-back trail by turning back when you’re ready to wrap up.

Raven Rocks Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.3 miles
  • Location: Bluemont, VA

For hikers who want a short but challenging hike to a spectacular viewpoint of the Appalachian Mountains, the Raven Rocks Trail is a fantastic option for hiking near Baltimore. Dirt trails wind through the forests on a challenging but even uphill, bringing you to outstanding views and cool rock formations along the way. There are 4 different viewpoints along the trail, but the final one is by far the most breathtaking, especially in the fall with shades of red, orange, and yellow. You’ll also cross the Virginia/West Virginia border during this hike!

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program (Flickr CC)

Pinnacle Overlook via Conestoga Trail

  • Trail Length: 10.3 miles
  • Location: Conestoga, PA

Another very special hike within driving distance of Baltimore is the Pinnacle Overlook Trail, located near Lancaster, PA. As part of the Conestoga Trail, the Pinnacle Overlook hike brings you to some very unique and beautiful views over the Susquehanna River. The terrain here is quite rocky and challenging, not suitable for beginners but fantastic for experienced hikers who want a blend of beautiful views and difficult terrain. If you’re a hiker who is itching for a challenge, there are few better hikes near Baltimore than to Pinnacle Overlook.

Additional Resources on Hiking Near Baltimore

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.

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