If you live in Colorado, you pretty much HAVE to be active. Since moving out here, I’ve fallen in love with hiking. Colorado has some of the most incredible hikes in the US, but it also has some of the most difficult. If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing easy trails. Last weekend, we found a GREAT beginner hike in Colorado around a beautiful lake. The hike was Sundance Trail around Carter Lake Reservoir near Berthoud, Colorado. It was just the right amount of challenging and relaxing for beginner hikers.
Getting to Sundance Trail
Sundance Trail is located at Carter Lake Reservoir near Berthoud. The easiest way to navigate to Sundance Trail is by navigating to Carter Lake Marina. You will have to pay a $7 fee to park your car in the park, but it’s valid all day (and is a super cheap date if you ask me!) If you’re coming from downtown Denver, it will probably take you around 1 hour 15 minutes depending on traffic. If you’re coming from Loveland, it’s only around a 20 minute drive.
What to Expect on the Sundance Trail -A Beginner Hike in Colorado
Sundance trail is 3 miles each way (a total of 6 miles) and is a trail that you turn around once you get to the other side. There are two places you can start out on Sundance Trail. There’s an entrance on the North side of the lake or one on the South side of the lake. We started on the North side of the lake near the marina. Before we started on our hike, we sat by the lake for a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful views and the refreshing breeze coming off the lake. The trailhead is on the opposite side of the parking lot as the marina. You’ll see this beautiful sign that will guide you on your way.
If you’re not used to rocky terrain, this trail will be a fun surprise. You definitely have to pay attention when you’re walking to make sure you don’t twist your ankle or trip (I tripped a few times looking around. Oops). Most of the time, it’s a well beaten track. We accidentally followed a deer trail a few steps twice, but quickly realized it wasn’t the right way.
Most of the trail is flat, but there are around 5 times that you go down close to inlets of water and back up the other side. It’s totally worth it for the beautiful views, and it adds a bit more of a challenging aspect to the trail. It also takes you up higher so you have better views of the water, so that’s a plus. Long story short, the incline is worth it!
My personal favorite part of the trail was how close you were to the water throughout the hike. You could see the lake peeking through the trees almost the entire time. That gave me a little extra pep in my step to see and hear the water throughout the whole hike. It also provided a nice cool breeze off the lake, which was really refreshing!
We did this hike during March on a 70 degree day. YES! You heard that right! Welcome to Colorado! You’ll see some snow in the pictures, so that’s not typical in the summer months. I REALLY wished the water was warmer though because it looked so beautiful and inviting. It took everything in me to not want to jump in during our hike!
Most of the hike is in the shade, but you will go into the sun in a few spots. Make sure you bring lots of water with you. We brought 1 Liter of water each, thinking it would be enough and it definitely wasn’t. Six miles doesn’t sound like much, but it’s longer than you think! Come prepared. I also recommend bringing some food with you. We’re always hungry so we actually had a snack AND lunch on our hike, but I couldn’t imagine making it through the hike without them to be quite honest. On the South side of the hike, right before you hit the other side, there is a handicap accessible picnic table to have lunch at. The first 1/4 mile coming from the South side is handicap accessible so you can walk around the lake and have a picnic by it. I really loved that!
This trail can take a while if you want to approach it at a leisurely pace. I stopped to take pictures every 10 minutes or so and we walked slowly along just enjoying the weather for the first 3 miles. It took us 2 hours to do the first 3 miles and unfortunately, we didn’t start the hike until 1:30. Once you factor our snack break, water breaks, and lunch, it was almost 4 until we started heading back. If you’re actually hiking and not stopping often to take pictures, you can do the 3 miles in less than 1 hour. We learned that from booking it back to our truck to beat the setting sun. Keep that in mind when you’re planning what time you want to start your hike.
Another great thing about hiking in this area is all of the wildlife! Maybe we were lucky because the trails weren’t very busy when we went, but we saw squirrels, birds, rabbits, deer, and much more! One of my favorite parts about hiking is fully immersing yourself in nature. It was so relaxing to hear the birds singing and see animals bounding through the forest.
If you’re looking for a fun adventure, this beginner hike in Colorado on Sundance Trail should be next on your list. It was a bit challenging while still fun and exciting. We weren’t really sore the next day, which was a pleasant surprise after walking 6 miles. This hike is a nice day trip and is super cheap, costing you only $7 and whatever sandwiches and water cost you. It’s even a dog friendly trail so you don’t have to leave your furry friend behind.
We found this hike by using All Trails. They have a website and an app, that allows you to search for hikes near you. You can filter them by distance from where you live, length of the hike, how challenging the hike is, etc. They also have reviews and pictures uploaded by people who have done the hike, which I REALLY liked!
Things to Do in and Around the Sundance Trail
Hiking Sundance Trail isn’t the only thing you can do while you’re at Carter Lake Reservoir! You can ride bikes or horses on this hiking trail. You’re also able to bring boats or kayaks to use on the lake. We saw some kayakers taking advantage of the warm March day when we were there. Keep in mind that the fee is slightly higher for boats ($14 if I’m correct) but I’m not sure if that’s for kayaks too or just if you have a trailer with a boat on it. There are also a bunch of fishing holes along the trail that we saw fisherman using. We wished we had brought our fishing gear along too! You can also bring a tent to set up camp at the park. It’s a lovely place to relax and enjoy everything Colorado has to offer. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see some animals during your visit, too.
Easy hiking trails in Colorado can be hard to find, but this one is great! We were so happy All Trails found us a beginner hike in Colorado that combined our love for scenic views with a comfortable skill level. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, give this hike a try, but don’t forget your fishing pole or kayak to have some more fun after the hike. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed! Check us out on Facebook to see some more hikes and hidden gems in Colorado.