Colorado Trail Running For Beginners/Intermediates

As the last days of the coldest winter I have ever experienced draw to a close, I am getting excited to get back outside and start exploring Colorado! Even though Colorado is a winter paradise if you are a skier, it was a long, cold winter for those of us who don’t do snow sports. Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled to be sitting outside in the sunshine typing this as dreaming about coming trail runs and backpacking trips.

Before I sank in to a 4 month winter funk, we had the opportunity to explore some great trail runs just outside the Denver area. Even though we have been in Colorado for about 8 months, I still find myself huffing and puffing, especially when it comes to trails with a lot of elevation change. Plus, aren’t we all a little soft from winter?

While these trails aren’t necessarily for first time trail runners looking for a shorter distance, they are a good jumping off point if you want to push your distance a bit further without adding the extra challenge of extreme elevation change.

Stewart Trail- Castle Rock, CO

10.1 mi
889′ Elevation Gain

This is probably my favorite run we have done in Colorado. The trail feels like a perfect flow of elevation change with beautiful turns and hills that make it feel like you are riding a bike instead of running. It’s no wonder that this is a popular mountain bike trail as well!
The Stewart Trail doesn’t offer the breathtaking views that other runs do, but boy is it a ton of fun. Not to mention that the trailhead is just outside the lovely town of Castle Rock, which has some amazing options for a post-run beer. We suggest Burly Brewing or 105 West Brewing.
This was also the trail where I thought it would be nice to take a little breather and sit in the grass at the top of the incline. I ended up sitting in a bunch of cactuses and had to run 6 miles with a butt full of cactus. If I did that and can still call it my favorite trail, it must be good… right?

One word of warning: The Stewart Trail alternates weekends between being exclusively a mountain bike trail and exclusively a running trail. Make sure that you are there on the right weekend for your own safety and the safety of those around you!

Waterton Canyon- Roxborough Park, CO

13.9 mi
579′ Elevation Gain

Waterton Canyon is smooth sailing. The slight elevation gain on the way in is barely noticeable, but is glorious on the way back. This is the kind of trail where you don’t need a map or GPS, just your legs and willingness to go on a nice, easy long run. Waterton Canyon is a clean, well maintained path (honestly, I don’t know if I would technically call this one a “trail”, even though it is dirt) that follows the river up through the canyon to a huge dam. We haven’t seen the dam with water spilling over yet, but all the pictures I have seen look awesome!
Waterton Canyon is the kind of run where you can really push your pace, knowing that you aren’t going to meet any killer hills or technical terrain. This one is fast and fun, perfect for a morning trail run before starting your day!

Bluffs Regional Park Trail- Lone Tree, CO

2.6 mi
349′ Elevation Gain

Maybe I’m a little bias because this is my local neighborhood trail run, but this route is amazing. At a short and sweet 2.6 miles, this is one that I often do on my lunch break. The elevation gain over such a short distance offers a challenge without being so long that you can’t push a little harder than you would if it were a longer distance.
The peak of the Bluff’s trail offers two lookout points, both with amazing views of Denver and the Rockies. This is a little hidden treasure of a run that I would highly recommend!

Centennial Cone Loop- Idaho Springs, CO

17.2 mi
2,430′ Elevation Gain

I’ll be honest, this one is a beautiful SOB. This run definitely falls more in to the intermediate category, but makes up for it’s difficulty and distance with incredible views and a well-maintained trail. The Centennial Cone Loop traverses some beautiful farmland areas before running along the side of the hill, offering gorgeous views of the valley and mountains.
This run isn’t easy, but it is worth the work. Though you aren’t truly secluded at any point during the trail, it does go a ways off the road, so make sure you are prepared for a long day outside with potential for rapidly changing weather.

Happy Trails!

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