The best Colorado hike is one of these 16 — help us choose it!

Editor’s note: Andy has gotten pretty fired up about all of this.
6 min. read

Honestly, I wasn't sure whether this hike bracket would work.

Sure, I figured, it would be fun to compile a super helpful guide to 32 of the best hikes in the Front Range. But would Coloradans really care enough about hiking trails to vote in a merciless March Madness-style bracket?

Yes, as it turns out -- and we even saw an upset in the first round of the Mile High Hiking Quest, presented by Hike to End Hunger. You can review our guide to the hikes, help us choose our Elevated Eight by voting in the next round and -- below the ballot -- get more details on the results of the first round.

Update: We're on Round 3 of voting now.

Lake Haiyaha. (Debra Miller/NPS)
The Alpine Lakes Conference:

? UPSET ALERT ?: Herman Lake beats Sky Pond

The underdog Herman Lake eliminated top-seeded Sky Pond, dealing a shocking upset for fans of Rocky Mountain National Park. I thought that Sky Pond's beautiful name and serrated rock walls would carry it to the final round -- but Herman Lake called some incredible plays with its spectacular wildflowers, alpine tundra and ease of access from Denver.

Final score:

  • Herman Gulch to Herman Lake, 55.7% of votes
  • Sky Pond, 44.3%

Rocky Mountain lakes loop beats Gibraltar Lakes:

No worries, for RMNP, though: Its super-squad of Bear, Nymph, Dream, Emerald and Haiyaha lakes were able to drain the upstart Gibraltar Lakes and St. Vrain Glaciers. I thought that hidden-away Gibraltar Lakes and their snowy crater walls might have a chance, but the Rocky Mountain lakes were simply overpowering.

  • Bear, Nymph, Dream, Emerald, Haiyaha lakes: 73.8%
  • Gibraltar Lakes and St. Vrain Glaciers: 26.2%

Chicago Lakes beats Fancy Lake:

Do you fancy another upset? Too bad. The incredible (and convenient) alpine jewels known as Chicago Lakes simply dominated this matchup. Fancy Lake made an early run with its lovable name and its loop arrangement, but, unfortunately, it's over now.

  • Chicago Lakes: 82.1%
  • Fancy Lake: 17.9%

Blue Lake beats Lake Dorothy:

The b̶a̶s̶k̶e̶t̶b̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶g̶o̶d̶s̶  hiking spirits created a cruel choice for the fans here, matching up two classic hikes on opposite sides of North Arapaho Peak. Blue Lake iced the competition, possibly because its heavily developed Brainard Lake Trailhead is more accessible than the Fourth of July entrance to Lake Dorothy.

  • Blue Lake: 67.9%
  • Lake Dorothy: 32.1%
The Alpine Summits Conference:

Longs Peak beats Bison Peak:

Denverite readers showed themselves to be an intense bunch, pushing the scary Keyhole Route to victory over the mild and surreal landscape of Bison Peak.

  • Longs Peak via the Keyhole: 68.4%
  • Bison Peak: 31.6%

Mt. Elbert beats Pawnee Peak:

I thought that the underdog might have an advantage here. Maybe, I figured, our readers would prefer the less trafficked and less intense option near Brainard Lake. But, no, this is Colorado, and the very highest 14er in the state ascended to the next round.

  • Mt. Elbert: 81.7%
  • Pawnee Peak: 18.3%

Grays and Torreys beat James Peak:

Underdog James Peak put up a strong fight in this round, showing the strength of the I-70 crowd. (James is only 15 miles from Herman Lake, which is the UMBC of this tournament.) The James-ians stuck in the contest until the end, but simply couldn't beat the convenience and beauty of the twin 14ers, Grays and Torreys.

  • Grays and Torreys: 55.1%
  • James Peak via St. Mary's Glacier: 44.9%

Mt. Bierstadt beats Mount of the Holy Cross:

Mount of the Holy Cross couldn't be moved by the holy spirit. Instead, crowd-favorite Bierstadt moved onto the second round with authority. We'll see how it fares in the next round against the terrible twins, Grays + Torreys.

  • Mt. Bierstadt: 65.1%
  • Mount of the Holy Cross: 34.9%
The Long & Tough Foothills Conference:

Mantiou Incline beats White Ranch Outside Loop:

White Ranch, the hometown Jefferson County favorite, kept pace for miles with Manitou Incline, the iconic out-of-town ascent. Good show, chaps.

  • Manitou Incline: 57.3%
  • White Ranch Outside Loop: 42.7%

Royal Arch Trail beats Centennial Cone:

Local bookies thought that Centennial Cone could make a Cinderella run, especially because it's visible from Denver and has an interesting mix of flora and fauna. No luck. Boulder's thoroughbred Royal Arch Trail steamed ahead to the second round. Everyone loves arches, apparently.

  • Royal Arch Trail: 72.1%
  • Centennial Cone: 27.9%

South Boulder Peak Trail beats North and South Table mountains:

Honestly, I tried to stack the deck on this one by combining the two Table mountains, which overlook metro Denver. No luck. Boulder's beastly peak pulled it down easily.

  • South Boulder Peak Trail: 60%
  • North and South Table: 40%

Green Mountain Loop beats Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park:

The striated red rocks of Roxborough almost pulled off the victory in this tight matchup, but the W went to Green Mountain's ease of access to Boulder and its beastly 2,800 feet incline.

  • Green Mountain Loop: 57.3%
  • Carpenter Peak: 42.7%
Accessible & Easier Foothills Conference:

El Meadow beats Waterton Canyon:

The super-accessibility and bountiful wildlife of Waterton Canyon made it a strong contender, but the first-round win went to the strolling Jeffco terrain of Elk Meadow.

  • Elk Meadow: 61%
  • Waterton Canyon: 39%

Bear Canyon Loop beats Meadow & Forest Loop:

The Meadow & Forest Loop outside Golden may be convenient and kid-friendly, but the people have spoken: They prefer to walk along wide-open expanses near the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

  • Bear Canyon Loop: 70.3%
  • Meadow & Forest: 29.7%

Castlewood Canyon beats Wilderness on Wheels:

Wilderness on Wheels may not have won this round, but it's well worth visiting and supporting: Sitting near Kenosha Pass, its boardwalk opens up access to a beautiful, forested ascent to people with varying mobility. Castlewood Canyon continues to the next round with its unusual geology and excellent loop trails.

  • Castlewood Canyon: 86.1%
  • Wilderness on Wheels: 13.9%

Bear Creek Trail beats Mt. Galbraith:

Both hikes in this matchup offer moderate challenges, but one had to win. It was Bear Creek, which capitalized on its shade and rushing creek.

  • Bear Creek Trail at Lair o' the Bear: 60.5%
  • Mt. Galbraith: 39.5%

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