5 Summer Hikes Worth the Drive

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5 Summer Hikes (Totally) Worth the Drive

It’s time to dust off your hiking shoes—the summer hiking season is here. From gentle prairie walks to summiting your next 14er, southern Colorado offers something for everyone. Here are five hikes across the region that are worth the drive. 

Vindicator Valley Trail
Photo courtesy via Creative Commons Flowercat

For a scenic hike with some mining history along the way, check out the 2-mile Vindicator Valley Trail outside of Victor. This relatively easy kid-friendly hike loops around several old closed gold mines with interpretive signage along the way. While mostly unshaded and with little elevation change, this trail boasts wide-open mountain views. Leashed dogs are allowed. 

Vogel Canyon Trail Group
Photo courtesy via Creative Commons jb10okie

Stretch your legs in the canyonlands near the Purgatoire River within this trail system located 25 minutes outside of La Junta. The Canyon, Mesa, Overlook, and Prairie trails are interconnected, offering miles of trail you can explore. Hike in the spring to see the wildflowers bloom and keep an eye out for the petroglyphs located along this trail network that is part of the Santa Fe Trail Historic and Scenic Byway in the Comanche National Grassland area. Hike early in the day and bring plenty of water, as this area can get hot in a hurry. There is a picnic area at the trailhead for a great lunch spot when you’re finished. Leashed dogs are allowed, but keep a watchful eye for rattlesnakes. 

Newlin Creek Trail
Courtesy of Florence Chamber of Commerce

Located only a few miles south of Florence, this trail clocks in at a little over five miles roundtrip and includes a few water crossings. If you time it right, you can enjoy wildflowers galore on this partially shaded trail. With over 1,300 feet of elevation change, this one is sure to get your blood pumping as you make your way up to the old abandoned Herrick Sawmill. Leashed dogs are allowed.  

San Carlos Trail
Courtesy Raisa Nastukova

This roughly 4.3-mile roundtrip shaded trail near Beulah Valley boasts scenic views of nearby Greenhorn Mountain with great opportunities for wildlife viewing. While there are two trailheads for this hike (one at either end), the more easily accessible one is off CO-78. You’ll enjoy some water features on this moderate hike, including the beginnings of the Saint Charles River. Leashed dogs are allowed. 

Challenge Trail at Fishers Peak

One of Colorado’s newest state parks is still working on its trails system and infrastructure, but Colorado Parks & Wildlife has opened up a couple of short trails to give you a taste of what’s to come for this park just south of Trinidad. While only 1.5 miles, the Challenge Trail is an old ranch road that contains stretches that exceed 30% grade. The burn is worth it as you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Fishers Peak and the valley below. State Park pass required at entry, no pets allowed.