inside mad creek barn

Eight Great Hikes in Steamboat Springs

Having been to Steamboat Springs a handful of times over the last several years, I have accumulated a list of hikes from easy to moderate that are great for most visitors.  The hikes range from 0.5 miles to 8+ miles and the majority are easily accessible.

The trails are listed below:

Fish Creek Falls (Easy)

Fish Creek Falls is one of Steamboat’s iconic landmarks.  It is a must see for tourists.  There is an easy overlook trail which is paved and takes visitors to a wonderful view of the falls.  The whole hike is only about half a mile, and it is great for those who would like to experience some beauty without much effort.

Fish Creek Falls

Don’t mix this trail up with the other trail to Fish Creek Falls which is a difficult 4.7-mile roundtrip hike to the falls on a dirt trail with a steep incline.  It is a fee area, so be sure to bring $5 cash to insert into the self-pay station.

Uranium Mine Trail (Moderate)

Another trailhead located at the above listed fee area is the Uranium Mine Trail.  The 3.1-mile out-and-back track is just down the road from the upper parking area.  The rocky path climbs to nice views of the valley and distant views of the falls before it eventually reaches a stand of aspen which provide some welcome shade. 

view from uranium mine trail

Thereafter, the path continues to an abandoned Uranium mine and down to a creek. This trail is a good option for something short and close to town while acclimating to the altitude.

Thunderhead Trail (Moderate)

Thunderhead Trail is located on the Steamboat Springs ski mountain.  The path is a 3.3-mile point-to-point hike from the summit down to the base.  It zig-zags down the ski mountain through lovely stands of aspen and across the ski runs dotted with a variety of wildflowers.

hiking thunderhead trail

Getting to the summit requires a $30 Gondola ride, so be sure to pick a nice day and enjoy your time on the peak.  For those who want a much harder hike, ascend the trail, and take a free Gondola ride down to the base.

Emerald Mountain (Moderate)

The 3.8-mile round trip hike to Emerald Mountain ascends a dirt road called Blackmere Drive.  The heavily trafficked path is completely exposed to the sun. As a result, in the summer go early. Personally, I’d recommend this hike as a winter snowshoe for a nicer experience and beautiful view at the top. 

steamboat springs

One benefit this trail offers is that it is located just five minutes from downtown Steamboat. Consequently, it is a good choice for those trying to get in a morning walk or jog for some scenic exercise.

Mad Creek Trail (Moderate)

Mad Creek Trail is the longest of the trails on this list at 8.8 miles, but there is no need to complete the whole thing.  The path climbs steadily for the first mile before it levels off for the next 2.5 miles.  Hikers are rewarded with lovely wildflowers and a cool, historic barn.

mad creek barn

There is a split on the trail near a bridge.  The Mad Creek Trail goes through the fence straight ahead rather than across the creek.  For easier guidance, use All Trails.  At about mile 3.5, there is a nice place for a snack by the creek before hikers face a sharp incline.  This is a good point to turn around if a 20% grade seems daunting.

This trail is also close to town and does not require a fee which makes for a nice option.

Gold Creek Lake (Moderate)

This trailhead and the following two take much longer to reach, but as a result, they are more rewarding.  The path to Gold Creek Lake is located down a bumpy, dirt road.  It is accessible by car but will take approximately an hour to reach from Steamboat Springs.

The trail parallels a creek which does require some crossings (and not over a bridge).  The path which steadily climbs for 3.25 miles one way is lush with wildflowers in the summer and leads to a lovely lake for lunch! 

hikes in steamboat springs

Dinosaur Lake (Easy)

Getting to Dinosaur Lake requires driving along a rocky, dirt road to Buffalo Pass.  While I did see one sedan eking its way up, it is best to have a high clearance vehicle.  Also note, that getting to and from this hike will likely take longer than the hike itself.  Additionally, the road is generally not passable until July due to winter snow.

That said, the drive provides some lovely views on the way to the lightly trafficked 1.2 mile trail to Dinosaur Lake.  The easy walk which only gains 227 feet passes through a lovely meadow of wildflowers and ultimately ends at a tranquil lake tucked in the trees.

hikes in steamboat springs

Lake Katherine (Moderate)

Of all the hikes I’ve completed in Steamboat, this one might be my favorite.  It is 1.5 hours away, and is in the middle of nowhere, so be sure to download a map as cell reception is limited at best.  The lake, located in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, and is closest to the Town of Walden and not far from the Wyoming border.

The round trip hike to Lake Katherine is 4.8 miles.  Most of it passes through a forest decimated by beetle kill.  As a result, I can’t give the trail five stars, but the waterfall and the lake at the end are absolutely spectacular!  Their beauty along with the wildflowers eclipse the adverse conditions on the trail such as mud and fallen trees.

hikes in steamboat springs

In all these are reasonable hikes in Steamboat Springs for visitors to enjoy.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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