Top Summer Backpacking Trips Near Denver

May 3, 2014 6:00 AM

The Indian Peaks, as seen from Brainard Lake (credit: Gary Anderson)

The Indian Peaks, as seen from Brainard Lake (credit: Gary Anderson) The Indian Peaks, as seen from Brainard Lake (credit: Gary Anderson)

When it comes to backpacking escapes, Colorado has some of the best areas to explore. With a wealth of 14ers and the famous Colorado Trail, getting away from the real world is as easy as driving a few hours from Denver. There is just something beautiful about having everything a hiker needs strapped to his back without a care in the world.

The Colorado Trail
The Colorado Trail Foundation
710 10th St., Suite 210
Golden, CO 80401
(303) 384-3729

Known as one of the ultimate backpacking adventures in the country, The Colorado Trail offers 500 miles of spectacular mountain peaks, lakes, streams and adventure. Winding its way through eight incredible mountain ranges is the famous Colorado Trail. It is estimated that about 150 people a year complete the incredible journey of hiking and backpacking, while thousands of others take in the beauty from the 28 separate trailheads spanning from Waterton Canyon just outside of Denver all the way to Durango. Imagine spending four to six weeks on the hiking adventure filled with 13ers, forests and everything in between for a trip of a lifetime. Established as a trail back in 1973, it is continuously maintained by people as passionate about nature as the hikers who enjoy it.

Related: Top Hiking Trails Near Denver

Waterton Canyon
Waterton Road
Littleton, CO
(303) 791-7275

Not only is Waterton Canyon one of the two starting points for the famous Colorado Trail, it happens to be a popular spot for year-round hiking, biking and backpacking. Avid backpackers journey through the 6.5-mile Waterton Canyon on their way to find amazing hiking and camping through the North Fork of the South Platte and the South Platte River areas. Once the hikers reach the Strontia Springs Dam, they are welcome to camp anywhere along The Colorado Trail. This spot is filled with big horn sheep, mule deer and more than 40 species of birds. This is the only part of the trail where no dogs are allowed to protect the big horn sheep. Waterton Canyon also connects to the gorgeous Roxborough State Park trail system.

Camp Dick
Forest Road 1141
Allenspark, CO
(303) 541-2500

Located in the Peaceful Valley area of the Roosevelt National Forest, this campground is the jumping off point for some of the most beautiful backpacking in Colorado. Just 19 miles north of Nederland, Camp Dick is near the Middle Saint Vrain Creek in a valley mixed with a variety of trees with majestic mountain views. Along the hike the traveler will come across streams and wildlife on their exploration of the Sourdough and Buchanan Pass trails. Be sure to bring the fishing license as there are great locations to make the catch for that delicious rainbow trout dinner. Especially on the weekends, the campgrounds tend to be very crowded. The best way to explore is by backpack or off-road vehicles to escape and enjoy all that the Peaceful Valley area has to offer.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area
Brainard Lake Road
Ward, CO 80481
(303) 541-2500

Just a short drive from Boulder, the Brainard Lake Recreation Area is as beautiful as it is convenient. Ideal for both day trip or overnight hiking and camping, this area offers a getaway from the real world to lakes, forests and even a glacier. Attempt to catch the night’s dinner with fantastic trout fishing. Lose oneself in backcountry goodness of the Indian Peaks wilderness with 10-15 hikes of various levels. Escape the heat and lose oneself in backcountry goodness of the Indian Peaks wilderness including hikes around Lake Isabelle, Blue Lake, Brainard and Long Lakes.

Four Pass Loop at Maroon Bells
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-3237

Just outside of Aspen is a 26-mile loop of some of the most breathtaking views in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. Visitors from around the world come to explore the glorious Maroon Bells and there is no better way to see all of it than by backpacking. There are no campgrounds along the trails and backpackers are on their own to discover true beauty. The famous Four Pass Loop trail takes backpackers over four 12,000-foot mountain passes to view stellar 14ers, colorful wildflowers, stark cliffs and the surrounding wildlife. Deep green beauty awaits hikers as they navigate across Hagerman Peak, Buckskin Pass and Remuda Basin on the way to Crater Lake.

Related: Top Spots For Spring Camping Near Denver

Colleen Bement is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on