Top 5 Hidden Gems in Colorado: Secret Spots for Hikers and Campers

Oct 12, 2021
Top 5 Hidden Gems in Colorado: Secret Spots for Hikers and Campers

Colorado is filled with hidden gems.

There are so many hidden gems in fact, that previous “hidden gems” have gone mainstream.

Everyone in Colorado has heard of places like Hanging Lake and Maroon Bells. They’ve been on every “Colorado hidden gem” list for a decade.

The true hidden gems of Colorado will never be published online. As soon as a spot gets published, it’s no longer a hidden gem.

Until then, however, here are the top five hidden gems in Colorado, including our favorite secret spots for hikers and campers.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Steamboat Springs doesn’t have the ritzy reputation of other Colorado ski resort towns. However, it has its own unique charm – and its own unique hot springs experience.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs is around three hours from Denver. Accessible only by a 4-wheel drive vehicle during the winter months, the meadow holds multiple pools with different

temperatures, all surrounded by forests and nature. You might even see a moose on the drive up the hill!

If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, then you can book a round-trip shuttle in the winter to get to the hot springs from downtown Steamboat Springs.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs has a hidden gem within its hidden gem status: the hot springs become clothing-optional after dark, and there’s an adults-only policy. It becomes a whole different type of hot springs!

If you’re looking for a unique experience in Colorado, then Strawberry Park Hot Springs is one popular option. Entry is $20 cash per person, and guests can stay for two hours. Alternatively, you can book a night at

unique cabins throughout the mountain resort, then get complementary all-day access to the hot springs area.

The Ghost Town of Independence, Colorado

Independence Pass doesn’t get the same recognition as other mountain passes in Colorado. However, the 12,095 foot pass sits on the Continental Divide in the Sawatch Range between Aspen and Twin Lakes, and you can find plenty of high alpine trails off the top of the pass.

One of the more unique ‘hikes’ in the area is the walk to the ghost town of Independence. Back in the day, this town was home to 40 businesses, three post offices, and 1,500 people. Today, it’s home to nobody but you and your hiking companions.

You can hike to the ghost town of Independence via a 0.4 mile loop trail. Some buildings have been restored to give you an idea of what the town looked like during the Gold Rush days of Colorado.

Square Top Mountain

Looking for a more difficult hike? The Square Top Mountain hike near Georgetown may be what you need. The 7-mile hike was rated as “strenuous” by the Denver Post.

You start by driving up Guanella Pass Scenic Byway to the Square Top Mountain trailhead. The spectacular views on the way up give you an idea of what to expect the rest of the day.

Park on the west side of the byway, across from the more crowded Mount Bierstadt parking area. Once you start the trail, you’ll find yourself winding up and down along a ridge. Eventually, you’ll come to Square Top Lakes.

Most hikers stop at Square Top Lakes, then hike back while enjoying the fantastic mountain views. Alternatively, you can continue walking to the summit (which sits at 13,794 feet). Beware of loose gravel along the way, and make sure you’re prepared for a serious hike.

Rattlesnake Arches

Grand Junction has exploded in popularity in recent years, yet many hikes in the Grand Junction area remain under-appreciated. Rattlesnake Arches is one of them.

One thing that makes Rattlesnake Arches a hidden gem is its distance: the 13.5 mile out and back trail takes you through hot desert during the summer months, which weeds out some of the less prepared hikers.

Rated as moderate to strenuous, Rattlesnake Arches has a higher concentration of red sandstone arches than any area outside of Arches National Park. Expect to walk through, under, and around plenty of beautiful arches along the way. You can also spot cacti, piñon pines, spires, and wildlife.

Although it’s not as under-appreciated as it used to be, Rattlesnake Arches and the Rattlesnake Canyon deserve more appreciation, and they’re worth a visit if you’re in the Grand Junction area.

North Rim Campground at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is well-known within Colorado, but it’s under-appreciated outside of the state. Most visitors stick to the South Rim, which has an easy and paved driving trail. The North Rim, however, is more remote and home to some of the best camping in Colorado.

If you want to feel like you’re camping in the middle of nowhere without actually hiking with gear 20 miles to the middle of nowhere, then the North Rim at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is worth visiting.

After a short trek to the North Rim campground, you’ll discover why this place remains a popular hidden gem in Colorado: the campsites are set on the edge of the canyon. You can look down into the canyon’s 2000-foot depths just feet from your campsite. Be careful if you sleepwalk!

North Rim campground does not take reservations. It’s a first come, first served campground. However, it remains one of the best options in Colorado for those looking for hidden gem camping spots. You can even drive an RV or trailer to the campground (as long as you keep it under 22 feet).