There’s something truly special about going for a hike in Southern Colorado. Making your way through the wilderness, breathing in the fresh mountain air as you ascend into the clouds, it’s as if you become one with nature. The wildlife and the breathtaking scenery coalesce and free you from whatever stresses lay behind you in society. And when you’re lodging in Westcliffe, they’ll all be waiting for you in your backyard.
There are over 30 hiking trails in a close vicinity, and countless more not too far away. The lengths and difficulties vary so no matter if you’re on a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a solo trip for some outdoor adventures, you’re guaranteed to find a hike that suits you.
So in between exploring the nearby Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, howling with the wolves at Mission: Wolf, and witnessing the vastness of the cosmos at Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, you’re going to want to strap your hiking boots on and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Southern Colorado wilderness.
As your online Colorado travel guide, we’d like to give you a few pointers on where to go while you’re staying here during your mountain getaway. From the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness to the San Isabel National Forest and beyond, you’re going to have to take more than one trip to visit us if you want to explore all of the trails. You have the option, of course, to go off on your own and look for a path of your own, but in this post, we’ll provide you with a few of the most beautiful hiking trails near Westcliffe. After marking these down in your vacation itinerary notebook, book your room at the Lamp Post Lodge or the nearby Hillside Colorado Cottages or motel-style Dark Sky Suites in Westcliffe, to enjoy the ideal location with a comfortable and cozy room to kick your feet up after your day of unforgettable mountain adventures.
Venable and Comanche Trail Loops
The Venable- Comanche Trail not only offers stunning scenery but a wide range of activities to partake in as well. Whether you’d like to cast a line and catch some fish, go on a horseback riding adventure, do a little bird watching, or simply just want to enjoy a hike, this is the place for you. The trail is a 12.3-mile loop that becomes more beautiful the higher you hike up. You have the option to do the entire hike in one go, or to break it up into chunks. Make sure to bring some food for a picnic amongst the trees, and plenty of water. The trail is considered moderate, but for those not accustomed to high altitude hiking it might be a slight challenge, so just be sure to pace yourself and enjoy the views!
To get to the Venable and Comanche Trail from Westcliffe, you’re going to want to head south on S 6th St (CO-69) and once you hit Schoolfield Road (CR 140) take a right. Follow this for a little under seven miles until you reach Alvarado Campground. From there you’ll find signs that will guide you to the Comanche-Venable trailhead.
The Rainbow Trail
Found within the San Isabel National Forest, the Rainbow Trail is another favorite of visitors and locals alike, and for good reason. Accessible year round (so if you’re reading this during the winter, make sure to pack some snowshoes), the trail is 29 miles from point to point. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to do the entire trail! This hike offers incredible views, gorgeous wildflowers during the spring and summer, and if your dog has come along on your mountain retreat, they can join too (on a leash).
Also found within the Alvarado Campground, you’re going to want to take the same directions as the Venable and Comanche Trail above. The signs are clearly marked at the campgrounds so you’ll have no trouble finding your way to the Rainbow Trail.
Lakes of the Clouds
If you’re interested in the Rainbow Trail, go ahead and add this one to your hiking itinerary. The Lakes of the Clouds Trail is a 10.6 mile “out and back trail” that offers hikers an unforgettable journey through the mountains. There’s nothing quite like seeing the snow-capped mountains reflected on the pristine, crystal clear waters of an alpine lake. And this hike rewards you with three! There are actually two trails that you can follow that lead you to the lakes (Swift Creek and Lakes of the Clouds Trail), and both are well shaded and full of spectacular views, wildlife, wildflowers, and more! The elevation gain is 2,578 feet, so if your home is of lower elevation, just make sure to pace yourself.
Take Hermit Road out of Westcliffe to the west here you’ll find a “jeep road” that meets the Rainbow Trail. Keep your eyes out because the sign is a little bit difficult to see, it will be to your right on the north side following the trees. Parking is available alongside the road.
Crestone Needle Trail
For the seasoned hiker or climber, the Crestone Needle Trail will certainly peak your interest. Also found in the San Isabel National Forest, this hike is 11.2 miles in distance, with an elevation gain of 4,320 feet. The hike is arduous (definitely not for the kids or for those unaccustomed to the area or climbing) but the journey is worth it. You’ll see rivers, wildflowers, a lake (available for fishing), and witness the Crestone Needle, which is a metamorphic rock that experienced climbers love to take on. You’ll also be able to brag to your friends back home that you accomplished a 14er (a mountain peak with an elevation surpassing 14,000 feet)! This is another trail that is open year-round, however, is even more difficult and dangerous during the winter. Dogs are not allowed on this hike.
*REMINDER – This is an EXTREMELY difficult hike that is only meant for experts and those that know the area or have a guide. Due to weather, extreme slope, jagged rocks, and a trail that isn’t easy to keep track of, this is considered one of the most difficult 14ers in Colorado.
Especially if you’re not from a place of high elevation, you’re going to want to take extra precautions to ensure your safety. Make sure to bring plenty of water and food, and if you begin to feel light-headed, do not push yourself! Altitude sickness is a real thing and you may find yourself extremely disoriented, even if you’re in great shape. If you don’t know the area (even if you do) it is not recommended to hike alone!
So there you have it, four great hikes for you to take on while staying in Westcliffe. Yet, that only scratches the surface. There are SO many trails in the area, that we’re going to have to provide you with some more options, including ideal hikes for the family, in later posts. So continue to follow our blog for not only more hiking trails, but more activities, places to eat, and things to see while you’re vacationing in Southern Colorado. Book your room now at the Lamp Post Lodge or Hillside Colorado Cottages, and start getting the family, loved one, or yourself, ready for a mountain vacation of a lifetime in Westcliffe, Colorado!