Thinking about traveling to Steamboat Springs in the summertime? Hiking in Colorado is one of the state’s favorite summer activities! Steamboat is home to an assortment of trails for all ages and abilities. The mountain views from anywhere in the Yampa Valley are truly spectacular, and a day out on the trail is the very best way to take it all in!
Whether you want to take a quick walk to the base of a waterfall, test your balance on a rocky ridge, or trek deep into the wilderness with your camping gear, you will not be at a loss for trails in and around Steamboat Springs. If you’re more interested in biking the trails, check out our list of our favorite early-season mountain biking trails.
Here are our favorite hiking trails in the area, starting with the easiest and ending with the toughest. Also, be sure to read the update on the Steamboat Resort Renovation Project, as it will impact trail access on the resort.
The Yampa Core Trail is a 7.5-mile paved byway that spans most of the town of Steamboat, and follows the beautiful Yampa River. It is almost entirely flat, making it a great option for family outings, or those who are looking to get their legs and lungs adjusted to the altitude. The trail is a great way to see the town of Steamboat, and it also provides access to attractions in and around town, like the Botanic Garden, the rodeo grounds, and various shops and restaurants.
Local’s tip: Stop on one of the bridges that cross over the Yampa River. They are a picture-perfect place to stop and take a family photo, or simply rest and watch the wildlife or fly fishers!
Spring Creek Trail is one of the most popular trails in town. It is extremely easy to access with its trailhead in the heart of downtown, and provides hikers with a well maintained, moderately graded trail that winds along a scenic creek with gorgeous views of wildflowers and local wildlife. This is a great option for those looking for a short to middle distance out-and-back with the option to turn around at any point.
Local’s tip: Bring lots of water. This trail gets warm in the middle of summer. If you are bringing Fido, note that local law enforcement is fairly strict about keeping your pooch on a leash. Not to worry, if Spot still needs a good run, there is an off-leash dog park about a mile up the trail.
The Mad Creek Trail is a wonderful option if you are looking to get out of town, but aren’t looking to drive too far. The trailhead is located just 10 minutes from downtown Steamboat Springs, and provides hikers with a well-maintained out and back option. This trail consists of deep canyons, old mining cabins, aspen groves and great views. The trail follows Mad Creek, and hosts gorgeous views of aspen groves, babbling brooks, and local wildlife. The route starts out very steep and gains over 800 vertical feet of elevation within the first 1.5 miles, so be prepared and wear sensible footwear.
Local’s tip: Go all the way to the barn! Only a 3 mile round trip, the historic Mad Creek Barn is a must see.
Emerald Mountain provides the easiest access from town to get out into the wilderness. The main trailhead is within walking distance of central downtown, and is host to a huge network of trails. It really is “choose your own adventure” here on Emerald Mountain! Whether you want to take a short stroll up a mellow green trail, or spend a full day exploring the more technical upper mountain trails, this mountain truly has it all. The views are incredible from the top as you look across the valley at the ski resort, the town, and all the surrounding hills in the Yampa Valley. Definitely keep your doggie on a leash in this area, as local law enforcement gets pretty strict.
Local’s tip: Pack a snack and a beverage and head up the Blackmere trail until you reach the quarry. This is a great spot to hang out, rest the legs, and take in the views!
Just a few miles from downtown Steamboat, the Fish Creek Falls trail provides access to see one of the most iconic attractions in the area. These falls are some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Colorado, and both tourists and locals alike frequent the area. Fish Creek Falls can provide hikers with anything from a quick stroll, to a full day excursion. Another big bonus is that the area is accessible for all levels of hikers, with wheelchair access on the Overlook Trail. This portion is entirely paved and leads to a bird’s eye view of the falls. The lower falls can also be reached by walking down a smooth gravel trail for about a quarter-mile. For those looking for a bit more adventure, keep going another 2 miles to get to the upper falls, and those looking for even more of a challenge, can take this trail 6 miles all the way to Long Lake! Keep in mind, all of these hikes are best done early in the morning, as both the trailhead parking lot (which requires a $5 day-use fee) and the trail can overflow with traffic by mid-day.
Local’s tip: Bring a camera, the views at the lower falls are stunning!
6. Buffalo Pass
The Buffalo Pass area is a trail lover’s paradise! Providing breathtaking views of the Yampa Valley, the area is a favorite among locals, and offers a few excellent options for hikers looking to get out of town and into some true wilderness. There are several hiking loops to check out on “Buff Pass” (as the locals call it), but the newly constructed Flash of Gold Trail has quickly become a town favorite.
Local’s tip: The pass can be a bumpy drive, an SUV isn’t necessarily required, but is definitely recommended!
7. Hahn’s Peak
The trailhead for Hahn’s peak is about 40 minutes from downtown Steamboat, but it is well worth the drive. Towering above Steamboat Lake, the base of the trail to the summit is only about 4 miles round trip, but it is steep! Also, it is a bit of a scramble at the top, there are some tougher spots with loose gravel, so a good pair of hiking shoes is recommended. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with 360 degree views of lush mountain landscapes and Steamboat Lake. Even with the variable conditions, this trek is truly a one-of-a-kind hiking experience.
Local’s tip: Check the weather! Conditions at the top can change quickly, so be sure to come prepared with proper gear such as a rain jacket, sunscreen, and water.
Perhaps the most recognizable landmarks in the area, Rabbit Ears sits perched on the Continental Divide, separating the watershed of the continental United States. Water that falls on one side will eventually flow east towards the Atlantic Ocean, and the water that lands on the western side will eventually flow west into the Pacific Ocean. This hike is the best in mid-July where you will be welcomed with an unbeatable display of wildflowers. The 6-mile round trip trek takes you up 1,000 vertical feet of elevation gain and rewards you at the end with sweeping panoramic views.
Local’s tip: Rabbit Ears Peak Trail is also a 4×4 trail! Bring the dune buggie or other off-road adventure mobile, and enjoy the ride!
The Devil’s Causeway is one of the most spectacular hikes in the Steamboat area. The jaw dropping views, and stark cliffside drops are incredibly special and unique. Located in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, it’s only about an hour drive to get to the trailhead. This hike is fairly strenuous, and can be done as a 6-mile out and back hike, or a 10-mile loop. At about the 3-mile mark, you will come across an incredibly unique rock feature; a land bridge only about 6 feet wide with large drop-offs on either side. It’s very thrilling to walk across, but the Causeway is not for the faint of heart! Note: For safety reasons, dogs must be under voice control or leashed for the entirety of the hike.
Local’s tip: Don’t worry about crossing the Causeway. Turn around and head back to the car if it looks too scary, self-care is always #1!