Colorado’s Top 10 Trail Runs

Blooming flowers and chirping birds can only mean one thing — it’s running season. With 300 days of sunshine a year, no one can deny Colorado is one of the best places on earth to be a trail runner. From casual jogs to gnarly mountain climbs, here are ten of our favorite trail runs throughout the state.

Mesa Trail, Boulder

A quintessential Boulder run, the Mesa Trail is a great out and back, connecting Chautauqua Park with Eldorado Canyon Road. Soak up striking views of the Flatirons to the west, while the horizon stretches as far as the eye can see to the east. You can also do it as a point-to-point with a shuttle. Either way, end with a meal at the Chautauqua Dining Hall.

Photo credit: City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks

Distance: 13.4 miles (out and back)

Elevation Gain: 801 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead Info: Park at Chautauqua park in Boulder and take the Bluebell Road to the Mesa Trail

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Animas Mountain Trail, Durango

Most commonly run counter-clockwise, this loop features a steady climb for the first three miles to the top of Animas Mountain before it plummets into an exciting descent down the east side. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with incredible 360-degree views.

Photo credit: Durango Area Tourism Office

Distance: 5.9 miles (loop)

Elevation Gain: 1,494 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead Info: From Durango, drive north on Highway 550. Turn left on 32nd street then right on West 4th to reach the main parking lot

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Betasso Preserve Canyon Loop, Boulder

A classic and scenic trail, the Canyon Loop is a well-trafficked, multi-use path just outside downtown Boulder. Popular with bikers and hikers alike, the trail is restricted to foot traffic only on Wednesdays and Saturdays if you are looking to avoid the crowds.

Photo credit: Boulder County Parks & Open Space

Distance: 3.3 miles (loop)

Elevation Gain: 429 feet

Difficulty: Mild

Trailhead Info: Drive west from town on Boulder Canyon Drive (CO-119) for six miles then take a right on Sugarloaf. Take another right on Betasso Road and reach the trailhead.

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Spring Creek Trail, Steamboat Springs

Leaving right from downtown Steamboat, the Spring Creek Trail has just about everything you could want out of a trail run. Single track, aspens, wildflowers, and rock formations, it’s no wonder this is one of the more popular trails in Steamboat.

Photo credit: Shannon Lukens

Distance: 10.4 miles (out and back)

Elevation Gain: 1,435 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead Info: Parking can be found at the intersection of East Maple Street and Amethyst Street

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Sage Trail, Boulder

It’s hard to believe you’re only four miles from downtown Boulder on this quiet run through picturesque farmland. The three-mile loop is a nice, quick outing and it can be used to access the Eagle Trail to the Mesa Reservoir for a longer run.   

Photo credit: City of Boulder

Distance: 3 miles (loop)

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Difficulty: Mild

Trailhead Info: Drive north on Highway 36 out of town and turn right onto Longhorn Road. After one mile, the Boulder Valley Ranch trailhead will be on your right.  

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Golden Gate Canyon Loop, Golden

Dishing out technical climbs mellowed out  with open meadows and jagged rock formations, the Golden Gate Canyon Loop is the whole nine yards. It’s the perfect loop to test your stamina, serving up plenty of natural beauty to distract you while you up your heart rate.

Photo credit: City of Golden

Distance: 13.2 miles (loop)

Elevation Gain: 2,485

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trailhead Info: You will have to pay a $7 park fee to enter the state park. After the visitor’s center continue the main road and park just before Horseshoe Trailhead. Start the loop from Black Bear Trail.

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Turquoise Lake Trail, Leadville

While the trail alongside Turquoise Lake is relatively flat, running at almost 10,000 feet is always a challenge. It is, however, a great place to acclimatize and enjoy a pleasant waterfront trail along one of the largest bodies of water in Colorado. Just ten minutes outside of town, it’s typically done as an out and back so you can make it as long or short as you please.

Photo credit: Aaron Palaian/Leadville Race Series

Distance: 12.8 miles (out and back)

Elevation Gain: 133 feet

Difficulty: Mild

Trailhead Info: Park at the Molly Brown Campground off County Road 4 on the eastern shore of the lake

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Crag Crest Trail, Grand Mesa

It’s time to hit one of the most scenic runs in Colorado. Let it out atop Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-topped mountain. Below treeline, the trail winds through lakes and scenic wildflowers. The whole run sits above 10,000 feet so it can be difficult for out-of-towners who aren’t yet acclimated.

Photo credit: Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau

Distance: 10.9 miles (loop)

Elevation Gain: 1,521 feet

Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous

Trailhead Info: From I-70, get on Highway 65 towards Grand Mesa. Continue about 35 miles to the top of the Mesa until you reach the West Trailhead

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New Santa Fe Regional Trail, Colorado Springs

Enjoy incredible views of Pikes Peak on this 20-mile pathway that connects Palmer Lake and Colorado Springs. Seven miles of the trail wind through Air Force Academy grounds, making it a unique way to see the place. Run north to south and enjoy a gradual descent all the way down.

Photo credit: Katlyn Sheppard

Distance: 20 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,120 feet descent (north to south)

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead Info: From Colorado Springs, take exit 163 off I-25 then go northwest on Route 105 for five miles. Go east on County Line Road until you reach the Palmer Lake Recreation Area.  

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Wheeler Trail, Summit County

This steep, technical trail is not for the faint-hearted. The incredible high-alpine views of the Tenmile, Mosquito and Gore ranges make this run well worth the effort, however.

Photo credit: Climbbetty.com

Distance: 11 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,843 feet (north to south)

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trailhead Info: Take exit 195 off I-70 and head south on Highway 91 towards Leadville. Turn left at the gas station and follow this road to the parking lot.

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