3 Great Hiking Trails in Colorado

By Martha Chitwood , last updated February 5, 2012

Finding three great hiking trails in Colorado is easy. The state of Colorado is practically synonymous with the outdoors, with thousands of hiking trails of every length and for all challenge levels. From the wide grassy plains of eastern Colorado to the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains north and south of Denver to the mesas and plateaus in the western region of the state, Colorado is full of wonders and surprises for all. No matter what part of the state you visit, you can find the perfect trail to suit any hiker's interests and abilities.

Eastern Colorado: Picketwire Canyon

Located in southeastern Colorado on the Comanche National Grasslands, a dozen or so miles south of the town of La Junta, Picketwire (also known as Purgatoire) Canyon is a great hike that offers sights you won't find anywhere else. About 5.3 miles down the trail you can see the largest known set of dinosaur footprints in North America, with over 1,000 tracks in a 1/4-mile area. Another highlight of the Picketwire Canyon trail is the ancient rock art created by the indigenous peoples of the area. The art you can see along the trail is estimated to range from 375 to 4,500 years old.

If you hike the entire trail, it will be 17.4 miles round-trip, and it is a challenging hike. Start from the trailhead at Withers Canyon, which is the only point of access to Picketwire for the general public. You can park at the Corral parking area on County Road 25 and walk about three miles to the trailhead or, if you have a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can drive down the Forest Service road and park adjacent to the trailhead.

Toilets are located at three points along the length of the Picketwire trail, but no drinking water is available, so you must plan to carry in all the water your party will need. Expect to ford a river on your way to the dinosaur track area.

The Rockies: Ouzel Falls Trail

If you're convinced that no hike is complete without a waterfall, you won't be disappointed by the Ouzel Falls Trail at Rocky Mountains National Park. En route to the trail's namesake, you'll hike a moderate 2.7 miles one way from Wild Basin trailhead, passing Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades as you go. Ouzel Falls Trail is located near the southeastern corner of the park, and makes for a great summer hike, with plenty of natural beauty that's accessible to the average hiker.

Western Colorado: Petroglyph Point Trail at Mesa Verde National Park

For folks who want to get a glimpse of ancient rock art, but prefer a shorter, less strenuous hike than the jaunt down Picketwire Canyon and back, give Mesa Verde's Petroglyph Point Trail a try. In a round-trip hike of less than 2.5 miles, you can get a close look at a panel of ancient petroglyphs, as well as spectacular views of Spruce and Navajo Canyons. Mesa Verde is a fascinating place, with many intact cliff dwellings to view and visit, an archeological museum, and plentiful wildlife on view.

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