- Highest US city by altitude: 10,200 feet (3109 m)
- Second largest city in Colorado (during peak) with 30,000 residents (today’s population is 2,600)
- Named after the lead ore found in the area
- Located 101 miles West of Denver (1 hr 45 min drive)
In the Centennial State of Colorado, there are a myriad of things to do and places to travel. If we were to choose one location to explore in a 3-day weekend, we’d recommend traveling to the four corners near the New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado border to see all the beauty this state has to offer. But, if you’re hanging out near Denver and want to take a day trip hike into the rockies, one hidden gem town (not your typical resort town) we recommend to travel to is Leadville.
What makes Leadville a hidden gem is the 1 million acres of national forest that surrounds the town. Founded in 1907, the San Isabel National Forest consists of snow-capped peaks, sparkling lakes, rich meadows, and raging rivers. Today, the forest has over 800 miles of hiking trails, several ski areas, 19 fourteeners, several scenic byways, and dozens of campgrounds.
During the last week of July, we decided to check out one of the hiking trails called the Native Lake Trail within the Mount Massive Wilderness. It's a great hike with beautiful wildflowers, a good balance of open space and trees, and a decent sized lake at the end of the trail. We only saw about 5 different parties of people on the whole excursion. Started the hike around 9AM and took our time getting to the lake, arrived around 11:30AM. We ate lunch by the lake where there are TONS of mosquitos, but we did have bug spray with us and left almost unscathed. When we hiked up out of the valley where the lake is located we got back to the massive open space where the 14ers surround you from almost all sides. The second we stepped foot in that high meadow we heard rumbles of thunder. Needless to say we knew we had to leave quickly and get to the other side of the trail ASAP. It was a little scary as the thunder got louder and louder. It rained a bit, but not a heavy amount, on our descent to the parking lot.
Total distance of the hike is 8.2 miles. Total elevation gain was 1,716 feet. The total time from start to finish was 3 hours 9 minutes.
On our way back, we crossed through a high meadow with dark clouds in the distance around noon. The clouds were making their way towards our trail and wind gusts around 30 mph quickly approached us. On top of this, we began to get poured on as the clouds finally reached our trail bringing the sound of thunder with it. Thankfully we prepared for possible rain and we put on our rain jackets to stay dry. We eventually made it to a safer location where our trail met a dense forest. This is definitely a hike we'll never forget.
This is a very safe trail and you don’t need to be in great shape. If you are visiting Colorado, the elevation shouldn’t affect you as much. Just make sure to take breaks when needed. Overall, it’s a very enjoyable hike that gives you a taste of the Colorado Rockies without overextending yourself.
- See AllTrails trail map for more information on weather, trail map, and how to get there.
- Wear comfortable tennis shoes, trail runners, or even hiking boots.
- Bring snacks, sunblock, bug spray, and plenty of water.
- Bring a light rain jacket for possible rain.
- Definitely start your hike earlier than you think, especially in Summer.
- Bring bug spray for mosquitos.