Hike at Kenosha Pass

    8 miles 1200 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

    Added by Amy Kesic

    Kenosha Pass is an easy hike that can accommodate all levels of hikers. This trail offers stunning fall foliage, spectacular long-range views, and a chance to experience part of the famed Colorado Trail.

    The Colorado Trail (http://www.coloradotrail.org) is 500 miles long and stretches from Denver to Durango. Perhaps the most-traveled portion of the Colorado Trail is at Kenosha Pass. Kenosha Pass is well-known for its thick, colorful stands of aspen in the fall. During peak leaf season (late September-early October), the trailhead at Kenosha pass is packed with leaf-peepers. The vast majority of these people park their cars, jump out to take a few pictures, and drive off again. All the better for hikers and mountain bikers! The best views—and photographs—are along the hiking trail.

    Because the trail is unending, you can hike as little or as much as you want. The trail continues on both sides of Hwy 285, but this article is about the segment east of the highway. About 3 miles out is about as far as a typical day-hiker goes; at that point, the views open up to a spectacular 270-degree view of the aspen-covered mountains. This segment is a fast-moving trail because it’s so easy. Over three miles you get about 400 feet elevation gain. And since the surface is not very technical, it’s easy on the feet as well. Because it begins at about 10,000 feet, altitude could be an issue for some.

    If you’ve only ever driven through Kenosha Pass, I recommend that you park your car and stay awhile. If you drive down the dirt road on the east side of the highway, you’ll come to another parking lot with bathrooms. Three roads branch off for camping and hunting access; you’ll also see the singletrack that is Colorado Trail. Immediately you’re immersed in a thick stand of tall aspen trees. This is a great place for taking pictures, but don’t stop here. If you continue on, you will pass through several stunning stands of golden leaves. Between these stands, you’ll catch glimpses of Mount Evans and many other mountains to the north. The photos tell you what words can’t.

    This trail is also a great snowshoe/xc ski route in the winter. The white on white of aspen bark on snow is magical in its own way. With the leaves gone you can see for miles, and the evergreens are emphasized.


    I recently hiked the portion of the Colorado Trail west of Hwy. 285. I went about 4 miles out and back, for a total of 8 miles. Sadly, I was too late to see the fall foliage this year, and judging by all the bare stands of aspens, I really missed out! This is definitely on my “must go back” list for next fall.

    After a gentle climb for about a mile through aspen and pine forest, the views begin to open up. By the second mile, the views over South Park are wide open, and … wow. The valley floor is ringed by millions of aspen trees, and those trees are against a backdrop of 13ers. The effect is just jaw-dropping. I cannot wait to go back and photograph this!

    The trail gently drops to the valley floor and weaves through an aspen-forested section of South Park. You’ll cross a creek and a couple of dirt roads at about the three-mile mark, and the fourth mile is relatively flat. Once you hit mile four, you’ll start to climb again as the trail aims towards Jefferson Hill and the mountains behind it. If you’re out for a day hike, this is a good place to turn around. Because this section of the trail is so easy, you can go a little further than you normally would—and with such endless beauty around you, why not?

    This four-mile section of the trail has a minimum altitude of 9846, maximum altitude of 10,452 (trailhead is at 10,040’), with a total ascent of about 1200 feet. Most of the altitude gain is on the return trip.

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    Mountain Biking
    Dog Friendly
    Easy Parking
    Family Friendly

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    Rate this Adventure

    Gorgeous and Easy

    We just came back and hit the trail (9/26). The leaves were bright with yellows and oranges. It felt a little late as most of the leaves were on the ground but it was still beautiful. We actually did both West and East. East at the time I went, was more full and beautiful, but was more packed and hard to get any type of seclusion. The west side was more secluded, you would occasional bump into a few mountain bikers coming down the trail. It was actually nice to watch them. You eventually went to an amazing overlook that you could see a view of mountains and fields for miles. Worth it. If there was anything even bad to say about this hike is that it is a popular hike and if you like to hike alone or be one with nature, this trail will be better to do on a weekday or very very early in the morning. Regardless, its a must if you are in this area during this time of year.


    about 5 years ago

    Fun and easy hike for anyone!

    Great Hike & close to Denver! Only took a little over an hr to get to, and I drove up later in the afternoon so the crowds weren't as bad and fewer people on the trails. Easy elevation gain & my pup had no trouble keeping up!

    Happy First Day of Fall!

    Great suggestion for a fall colors spot! Hiked the end of September and aspens are showing off their gold! Hike was pretty easy, a nice Saturday. Hoping to get some backpacking in this area in the future. On the way home (to Denver) took a left at Grant to connect with Guanella Pass/Georgetown for a loop of a drive.

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    Stay Nearby

    Colorado Trail

    Kenosha Pass Campground

    Jefferson, Colorado

    Timberline Campground

    Breckenridge, Colorado

    Aspen (Co)

    Blue River, Colorado

    Lodgepole (Co)

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