mount morrison trail colorado

Mount Morrison South Ridge Trail: Best Hard Hike Near Denver

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The hike to Mount Morrison in Colorado’s front range is a good training hike for Denver locals or if you are visiting and looking to get out for a quick but strenuous hike. The Mount Morrison South Ridge Trail is short but steep, gaining almost 2,000 ft of elevation in 1.7 miles, and it is located in the Denver area just behind Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. 

HIKE TO: Mount Morrison 7,877 ft
TRAIL: Mount Morrison South Ridge Trail
DISTANCE: 3.4 miles out and back
TIME: 2-3 hours 
DATE I WENT: 3/26/24
DIFFICULTY: strenuous
ELEVATION: 7,877 ft
LOCATION: Morrison (near Denver) Colorado

From the top of Mt. Morrison, you get a nice panorama view of the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater and downtown Denver on a clear day. If you are lucky, you may even catch some sounds of a concert once the sun sets later in the day. However, the trail does close an hour after sunset.

Since this hike is located in Red Rocks Park, it’s only about 20 minutes away from Denver. It took us closer to 3 hours to hike this trail when snow, ice, and mud were present, but when the trail is dry, it should take a lot shorter.

Mount Morrison Trailhead and Parking

This trail starts at the Mount Morrison South Ridge Trailhead off CO-74 and should not be confused with the Morrison Trailhead off the CO-8.

There is a free dirt parking lot by the trailhead but it is only open from an hour before sunrise until an hour after sunrise. 

Mt Morrison South Ridge Trail Report

I went two days after the last snow storm and while the mountain was covered in snow, the trail was in great condition — at least the first half at sunrise. It was 18º just after sunrise and really cold hiking along the ridge at the top. 

If you visit this hike during winter (and possibly early spring) when snow is present on the trail, bring a pair of microspikes as it can get very icy up higher.

Because the temps were freezing, the mud was frozen which made conditions easy to hike up, although coming down was a different story. If you come when there has not been any recent rain or snow though, you don’t need to worry about ice or mud.

The dirt trail starts going uphill right away. The first 0.75 miles of the trail ascends 914 ft. 

Once you get up to Morrison Point (the top of the steep section before the trail trends right and flattens a bit), you continue along the ridge for another 0.75 miles which is a lot flatter gaining only 594 ft of elevation. This ridge trail is fairly wide and the views open up on both sides.

The trail is relatively flat with some ups and downs but overall, it’s a walk in the park compared to that first section.

Down to your right is the Red Rock Amphiteather.

The last 0.2 miles after the ridge is typically a steep scramble up to the summit where you will have to use both your hands and feet. Given the time of year I went, the trail got very icy on this last section of the hike. The usual scramble section was a lot spicier with black ice covering much of it but if you take your time and know what you are doing, it’ll be fine.

If you are not comfortable with the scramble section, the first mile of the trail alone is worth doing it for the views and a booty-blasting workout! You get views of Denver metropolitan area and the Red Rocks Amphitheater the entire time, as well as directions south and east.

From the summit of Mount Morrison, you can see 360º views of Colorado’s Front Range.

Once you are done taking in the views, head back down the way you came. 

There is no shade along this trail (as you usually don’t get much coverage on a ridge) so be mindful of the heat when hiking in the warmer months. Sunset on this trail is also a beautiful time to go, just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to leave in time.

Mount Morrison Map

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