"What’s not to love?" – this 177-mile hiking trail is Colorado's newest adventure

A trail in Colorado
The Denver Orbital Trail encircles the state capital and is almost entirely off-road (Image credit: Patrick Lienin)

If Colorado is good at one thing, it's constructing and maintaining amazing hiking trails and the Centennial State just announced a brand new one that's all-but guaranteed to thrill those of us who love to explore in our hiking boots and trail running shoes.

The Denver Orbital Trail is a 177-mile route that encircles the entire city of Denver. While most Denverites and visitors to the city expect a minimum of an hour's drive in I-70 traffic to get onto the trails, the DOT has sections that are as little as a 15 minute drive from downtown, and much of it is accessible by public transport.

If that all sounds a little too urban for your wilderness sensibilities, hold your horses. Mike Tormey of the National Parks Service has been hiking the trail, and showcasing it on the Denver Orbital Trail's X account, and the views are breathtaking. In one post, which you can view below, he reveals shots from segment 5, which takes you through Jefferson County Open Space west of Denver, delivering broad valleys, mountain vistas and sparkling lakes.

The DOT is entirely made up of existing trails, parks and greenways in four counties and crosses more than a dozen cities and towns. It is divided into 28 segments which make it accessible for day hikes as well as section hiking and thru-hiking for those of you who want to trek with your tent. Much of it is bikeable and there are sections where you can hike with your dog. Of course, it can also make an adventurous trail running circuit too.

Though mountain hiking in Colorado tends to involve high elevation and lots of steep slopes, an AllTrails map of the route, which you can view below, reveals that the total elevation gain is 12,093 feet (that's just 68 feet per mile). The highest point is in beautiful Red Rocks Park at 7,509 feet, which means those who tend to struggle with the thin mountain air should be able to hike more comfortably, while some sections are completely flat.

Hiking in Colorado

Even though the DOT is at a lower elevation and less demanding than a lot of Colorado hiking trails, it still entails high altitude hiking and you should give yourself a few days to acclimatize in Denver before setting off. 

Though Colorado is known for its sunny skies, afternoon thunderstorms are a common feature of summer hiking, so check the weather forecast before you set off and always dress in hiking layers. Hiking shoes are usually adequate for Colorado's trails, but outside of summer you should carry traction devices in case you encounter snow or ice.

It's important to fill your hydration bladder before you set off and sip frequently to avoid dehydration, and practice good sun protection since the UV rays more intense at altitude.

Finally, Colorado is home to lots of amazing wildlife, so make sure you read up on our guides for what to do if you encounter a bear, mountain lion or wolf on the trail.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.