Best Walking, Hiking, and Running Trails in Steamboat
Whether you are looking for an easy stroll by the river, a day hike to a beautiful overlook, or a multi-day backpacking trip, the town of Steamboat Springs has something for everyone. Keep reading for a local's guide to the best walking, hiking, and running trails in Steamboat Springs.
Top Hikes for All Abilities
Looking for a fun, casual hike anyone can enjoy? These trails don't require any experience or training.
Fish Creek Falls
Hike to one of Steamboat's most well-known landmarks: Fish Creek Falls. It's only a short 1/4-mile hike to the base of the iconic 280-foot falls. Continue for 2.5 miles to the Upper Falls and reach a beautiful overlook and picnic spot.
This more difficult hike takes 3 hours round trip and gains over 1,600 feet in elevation, so make sure to bring plenty of water/snacks. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can hike an additional 3.5 miles to Long Lake near the Continental Divide for a 12-mile round trip adventure. This trail really does have something for all skill levels!
There's a lot more we can tell you about this great hiking spot, so be sure to check out our guide to hiking around Fish Creek Falls.
Parking is $5 for day use, cash or check (or take the locals' route in our guide). From Hwy 40, head north on County Road 129. After 5.5 miles, the parking lot is on the right.
For those looking to stay close to town, Steamboat has a paved trail that follows the Yampa River from the Mountain Area to Downtown. This 7.5-mile multi-use trail is a great way to get out of the car and see the town from a different perspective. You can stop to fly fish, watch tubers float the river, or enjoy the beauty at Yampa River Botanic Park.
Part of this trail includes the Rotary Park Boardwalk, which has a number of picnic spots, barbecue areas, and several interpretive signboards as it winds its way over the wetlands.
Spring Creek Trail
This well-traveled trail is popular among hikers and bikers alike. Take an easy 0.5 mile hike to Spring Creek Park overlooking two ponds. Here you will find covered picnic tables for lunch and an off-leash dog area. Those looking to venture further can hike the single track a little over 10 miles round trip through shaded aspen forests, flowery meadows, and across creeks to Dry Lake Campground at the top of Buffalo Pass. This is a more difficult journey, so make sure you are prepared for an entire day of hiking.
Parking is available at the intersection of East Maple Street and Amethyst Street.
Moderate to Difficult Trails
Looking for a challenge? Here are some of the best hiking trails for experienced hikers.
Emerald Mountain Quarry
Looking for a convenient hike in town? The hike to the quarry on Emerald is for you! This area is definitely a local favorite as it has one of the best views in town. Hike or bike up, or snowshoe in the winter!
This moderate hike takes you 4 miles round trip to a rock quarry overlooking Steamboat Springs. At the top, you will find panoramic views of Sleeping Giant clear to Mt. Werner and the South Yampa Valley. This hike is well worth the steady incline, and you can even stop into town post-hike for food or drinks at your favorite local eatery.
Emerald Mountain is a favorite of local and visiting bikers alike. boasting more than half a dozen mountain biking trails for various skill levels. If you're looking for the best biking spots and exciting biking events around Steamboat Springs, find out more at our Steamboat biking guide.
From town, head south on 13th Street, take a left onto Gilpin Street, another left on Saratoga Avenue, and a quick turn on Routt Street. The trailhead is at the top of this street.
A little bit down this trail and closer to Howelsen Hill is the Sulphur Cave, which has an absolutely wild geological history. We cannot do it justice in this guide, so check out this National Geographic article to find out more about it. It's marked by a big fence around the cave; you can't miss it!
Mad Creek Trail
Located just north of town, this hike will lead you to the more than 100-year old Mad Creek barn, where you can go explore what it was like living in Steamboat in the early 1900s.
While the beginning of the trail gets lots of sun and can be strenuous at times, it's well worth the 3-mile round trip adventure. When you reach the barn, you can dip your toes in the refreshing creek water, eat lunch, and explore the historical site—you can even climb up to the loft for a great view of the surrounding valley!
The trailhead is off of Routt County Road 129 (Elk River Road).
This trail winds up the front side of the Ski Mountain, clear to the top of the gondola. The 3.8-mile hike (one-way) can be strenuous at times but will take you through beautiful landscapes to a stunning view at the top. Make sure to stop to catch your breath and snap a few photos along the way. If you're feeling tired, you can even take the gondola back down to the bottom.
Rabbit Ears Pass Trail
Any local can tell you that seeing the Rabbit Ears Mountain Peak is a welcomed sight during the drive back home. Hiking it is equally cool.
Make sure to hit this trail during wildflower season! You will find yourself hiking through meadows of endless flowers and across streams that lead you to a breathtaking overlook and the iconic rock formations known as the "rabbit ears." This 6-mile round trip trek is among the most beautiful in the Steamboat area and is well worth the drive to the trailhead. Make sure not to climb on the "ears" as the rock is crumbly and unsafe.
If you're looking for more great wildflower hikes in Steamboat, we've got a guide to several local favorites.
The trailhead is off of the Dumont Lake Campground turnoff on Rabbit Ears Pass.
Definitely one of the most difficult and farthest away hikes on this list. This 9-mile round trip hike will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery the Yampa Valley has to offer. Situated in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, this trek leads you to Gilpin Lake—a gorgeous alpine lake surrounded by towering peaks and lush landscape. This iconic hike should absolutely be on your list if you have the time for an adventure outside of Steamboat.
The trailhead is located off of Seedhouse Road in North Routt.
Uranium Mine Trail in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness
Just 4 miles outside of town, the challenging Uranium Mine Trail offers just over 3 miles of out and back action that appeals to experienced hikers. Not only will the body get a workout, but the vistas are simply superb in the summer. The canyon walls are flecked with foliage, wildflowers, and aspen trees.
Various Steamboat Springs wildlife can often be spotted along the trail, so have a camera ready. Of course, many have a primary goal of reaching the basin where the trail ends at an old 1050s uranium mine constructed during the Cold War.
Unless guests have a national parks pass, there is a $5 entry fee.
Bonus: The Continental Divide Trail
One of the world's best thru-hikes passes right next to Steamboat Springs! Steamboat is one of just five communities in Colorado that's an official CDT Gateway Community.
Those who have hiked Fish Creek Falls all the way to Long Lake are most of the way to the Continental Divide Trail; the two trails intersect just west of Round Lake, where the Fish Creek Trail becomes the Percy Lake Trail. Thousands of visitors use the Continental Divide Trail for hiking, horseback riding, biking, and other activities each year, and it's the highest and most challenging of America's 11 National Scenic Trails. Hikers determined to tackle the whole trail travel 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada over an average of six months!
Get Ready for Adventure in Steamboat Springs
What are you waiting for? Get outside and explore the natural beauty that these mountains have to offer. Happy Trails!