Best Short + Easy Day Hikes Near Winter Park, Colorado
Disclaimer: You should only be hiking trails that aren’t overcrowded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and keep at least a six-foot distance from others. Before taking on any outdoor activity, be sure to follow all CDC guidelines, state-by-state regulations, and to stay up-to-date on changing circumstances.
Hi guys, I wanted to share some of my favorite easy-to-moderate day hikes around Winter Park, Colorado. These trails are fit to be hiked by people of any age and skill level, and are accessible any time of year. Although these trails have not been crowded lately, they do tend to get a lot of traffic during the height of tourist season. Keep that in mind if you’re heading out with social distancing recommendations still in place.
1) Fraser River Trail
Distance: 13.6 miles
This is an out and back trail, and the difficulty depends on how far you are willing to hike. The trail is mostly flat as well as smooth, and it only gains around 660 feet of elevation across its entire span. This is a great hike if you are wanting to explore the town of Fraser OR Winter Park by foot or on a bike.
This is a friendly walk for doggies, kiddos, and the elderly. For about 0.40 miles, the trail actually follows the sidewalk through the main part Winter Park before crossing back into the forest. Although I guarantee that you will never become “lost” in an unsafe way while hiking this trail, I would recommend pulling up a map. The trail is very windy and signage isn’t great once you get to the town of Winter Park. After you cross through the main strip of town, the Fraser River Trail picks back up at Hideaway Park. This is a great spot for street parking, but there are may possible places to park for this hike. I would recommend parking in Old Town Winter Park, and then heading north through Idlewild Campground, toward Fraser.
This trail is optimal to be used during all seasons. I would recommend having snowshoes or cross country skis if you are choosing to hike it during the snowy months. You could potentially ride a bike down it in the snow if you have fat tires.
2) St. Louis Creek Loop
Distance: 6.9 miles
This is one of my favorite “out of town” hikes. It is located in the Fraser Experimental Forest and has incredible views of the Continental Divide as well as Byers Peak. I would say that this loop is friendly for all dogs and humans of any age or skill level. The entirety of this trail only gains 515 feet of elevation across its entire span of 6.9 miles.
This trail is best hiked (or biked) during any time of year, but once again, I would highly recommend snowshoes or cross country skis if snow is present. Be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled because it is a hot spot for moose, and ya’ll DO NOT want to encounter one of those beautifully giant, but aggressive creatures.
The path can be mildly rocky, but is mostly flat and decently smooth. It is located in a giant valley, which is why the terrain stays level. Once again, I would recommend using AllTrails to keep you on track GPS wise; this trail crosses and encounters other offshoots as well as smaller loops.
This area can be crowded all times of year. If you are hiking during the COVID-19 pandemic, please be sure to practice safe social distancing techniques. There are plenty of parking areas available, but I would park at the trailhead. Enjoy this magical space; it is one of my favorite easy hikes in the area.
3) Jim Creek Trail
Distance: 6.9 miles out-and-back
Jim Creek is a wonderful trail that can be hiked during any season. You are surrounded by dense pine and aspen forest the entire hike so take in those incredible views any chance you can get.
I would rate this trail easy at the beginning, but it is definitely more moderate and steep than the other trails in this post. With an elevation gain, of 1,148 feet, this trail is definitely not an easy “stroll” once it begins climbing. Take this elevation gain in account when assessing who you are going to be bringing on this hike. Dogs are welcome, but this tends to be a crowed area so please keep your pooches on leash. Once again, please practice safe social distancing if you are hiking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This trail is meant only for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. Please do not attempt it on a bike. The path is rocky, and you should definitely be watching out for any loose brush on the trail. My nickname is “Pele” (referencing the soccer star), because I am always kicking rocks and tripping over debris. Since Jim Creek Trail is located in the national forest, please keep an ear out for people who may be shooting guns. People engaging in this activity are mostly very careful, but it’s good to take extra precautions.
This is definitely the hardest of the three hikes listed, but it is a great way to spend an afternoon. The trail is in a great location to be able to easily get to the town of Winter Park and is also a great spot to explore if you’re staying near the ski area. Parking is located in the Arapaho National Forest at “G-lot,” also known as Bonfils Stanton Outdoor Area. The photo above is from a camp spot directly off the Jim Creek Trail.
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