Hiking Trails in Steamboat Springs
You’ll find no shortage of amazing hiking trails while you’re in Steamboat Springs. And thanks to the sheer number of trails, you shouldn’t have any problem finding one that meets your needs. From hikes that are perfect for families with small children to trails that will challenge even the fittest athlete, there’s a little something for everyone. (And, if you’ve never been hiking before, don’t forget to check out our information on Hiker Etiquette.) Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite hikes, so get your hiking boots on and get ready to see some of Steamboat’s incredible natural beauty!
Vista Nature Trail
Trail Stats: 0.86 mile roundtrip with an elevation gain of elevation gain of 57 feet.
Getting There: Buy a ticket to the Gondola for $22 (adults 13 and up) or $11 (youth 6 – 12 years) and ride it to the top. The trail starts just a bit southeast of the Gondola.
The Vista Nature Trail is one of the easiest trails in Steamboat, which makes it great for the whole family. Since the hike is rather short, you can take in some great views of the town and then go on to enjoy some of the other fun activities in the area. Vista Nature Trail starts out as a wide gravel path with picnic tables along the side for the first half and it turns into a dirt single track through the aspen groves for the rest of the hike. Once the hike is over, stop by the Oasis Sundeck for lunch or continue on to the Thunderhead Hiking Trail if you’re looking to extend your journey. A hike on the Vista Nature Trail is the perfect way to kickstart your day with some fresh air and beautiful scenery.
Easy to Moderate Hikes
Mad Creek Trail
Trail Stats: 6.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 900 feet.
Getting There: Take Highway 40 west for about 1.3 miles to Elk River Road (County Road 129), where you will turn right. Continue on for about 5 miles, The parking for the trailhead will be on east side of the road.
The Mad Creek Trail is a popular hiking trail during the summer months thanks to its gorgeous mountain scenery, heavy sun exposure, and a restored 110-year-old barn. The trail takes you along a mountain creek through aspen groves, meadows of wildflowers, an amazing number of ferns, and canyons, giving you a change of scenery the whole way through. Bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic next to (or inside!) the picturesque Mad Barn.
Fish Creek Falls/Upper Fish Creek Falls
Trail Stats: 7.6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,560 feet
Getting There: From downtown Steamboat Springs, head east on 3rd Street for one block. Take a right onto Fish Creek Falls Road and follow for 3 miles to the parking area. There is a fee of $5 per vehicle and there are two parking lots available. The trail is off the upper parking lot.
Fish Creek Falls is one of the most well-known landmarks in Steamboat. The falls stand at a whopping 280 feet and they are only a half-mile from the start of the trail. So, while you could make a short hike of it, you should definitely continue on to Upper Fish Creek Falls. The hike through the forest can be rather steep at times but it does open up at the top. If you’re hiking on a particularly warm day, you’ll love the cool spray that comes off the waterfall. Both of the waterfalls are especially impressive in mid- to late June when the snowmelt runoff is at its peak.
Trail Stats: 10.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,550 feet
Getting There: From Steamboat Springs, take Highway 40 east to Colorado Highway 131, where you will take a right and continue on to Yampa. In downtown Yampa, turn on on County Road 7 South, which will turn into Forest Service Road 900, and continue for 17 miles. The road will end in parking area on the north side of Stillwater Reservoir. Then take East Fork Trail No. 1119.
Devil’s Causeway is not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights. But it is sure to get your adrenaline pumping because the Causeway itself is narrow with steep dropoffs (of up to 1,000 feet) on both sides. Before you reach this heart-stopping summit though, the trail passes through forests and meadows and you’ll get some great views of Stillwater Reservoir. While on the Causeway, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. You can hike to the Causeway and back for a 6-mile round trip or continue on the Chinese Wall Trail and then to the Bear River Trail, which loops back to the Stillwater Reservoir. Whichever journey you decide to take, be careful! Cross the Causeway only if you feel comfortable with it.
Emerald Mountain Quarry
Trail Stats: 4 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,088 feet.
Getting There: From town, drive west on Highway 40 to 13th Street and turn left. Drive over the bridge and take another left onto Gilpin Street. From here, take the first left onto Saratoga Avenue and then turn right onto Routt Street. You will find the trail at the top of Routt Street.
This hike is great because you have the ability to take multiple trails to get to Emerald Mountain Quarry. Once you make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Steamboat. Blackmer Drive provides the most direct route up the mountain. It winds through the meadows into the forested slopes of Emerald Mountain. Beall Trail and Ridge Trail have recently been added for mountain bikers. They provide a longer loop around the backside of the mountain. No matter which trail you decide to take to the top, you won’t be disappointed with the picture-perfect scenery.
Moderate to Difficult Hikes
Coulton Creek Trail
Trail Stats: 13 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 960 feet.
Getting There: From town, take Highway 40 west to Elk River Road (County Road 129). Continue to County Road 64, where you will take a right, and drive for 4 miles until you reach NFSR 429 on your left. The trailhead is on NFSR 429, not too far from the Coulton Creek Campground.
This long loop will make for a bit more challenging adventure with beautiful views of the Elk River Valley. Hikers will be treated to wildflower meadows and aspen groves on this hike. Due to the lower elevation, Coulton Creek trail is accessible earlier in the season, which is great. However, the trail may remain wet until late June due to snow runoff. Many hikers opt to take this trail in early to mid-fall as the changing leaf colors make for a beautiful journey. Make sure you pack for a long trek as the hike can take up to 7 hours to complete.
Three Island Lake
Trail Stats: 7 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,498 feet.
Getting There: Take Highway 40 west out of Steamboat Springs about 2 miles. Turn right on Elk River Road (County Road 129). Continue about 19 miles and take a right on County Road 64. Take County Road 64 for 11 miles to NFSR 443, where you will take a right. Continue for 3 miles until you see the map board and park in the parking area.
Get prepared for a beautiful hike in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness up the Three Island Lake Trail. This journey is one you won’t soon forget. You will climb up through the aspen groves near the Elk River, which provides you with the serene sound of rushing water for much of the hike. The trail is moderately difficult for the most part, although there are some steep switchbacks that will get your heart pumping. Take some time to relax at the top and take in the beautiful scenery of Mt. Zirkel and the all the flowing streams before you turn around and hike back down. Three Island Lake Trail is one of the most stunning hikes in the area, so make sure to add this journey to your list.
Nipple Peak Loop
Trail Stats: 20.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 3,823 feet.
Getting There: From Steamboat Springs, head west out of town on Highway 40 for about 2 miles and then turn right onto Elk River Road (County Road 129). Follow this for 28.2 miles and turn left onto Hahn’s Peak Lake Road (FSR 488). Follow for 1.3 miles to get to the trails.
If you’re searching for a difficult hike, Nipple Peak is sure to provide you the challenge you’ve been craving. Make sure you come prepared with lots of water and food as this is going to be a long journey. What’s great about Nipple Peak is that you can take it either clockwise or counterclockwise for an equally enjoyable trek. You will be hiking through dirt roads, loose rock, steep inclines, pine needle-covered surfaces, muddy sections, and sandy patches, making this hike memorable, rewarding, but also, delightfully exhausting.