Trading Post Trail Reading Time: 14 minutes
If you’re looking for a fantastic hike near the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, you can find that with the Trading Post Trail. In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know about hiking this fairly easy loop around the famous concert venue. This is not to be confused with the Red Rocks Spur Loop in Boulder Colorado.
If you’re a new hiker, check out my blog post about the best hiking gear for beginners.
The Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado is most well-known for being the absolute best outdoor music venue in the entire country. You can sway along to your favorite bands underneath the stars (and sometimes rain) inside a naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater, all summer long (and spring and fall). If music isn’t really your thing, you can also see a cult classic film at Film on the Rocks, or do some downward-facing dogs at Yoga on the Rocks.
Red Rocks Hiking Trail: Trading Post Trail
The Trading Post Trail is a 1.4-mile loop around the Red Rocks Amphitheater and is walkable all year round. It’s just 30 minutes away and is one of the best places to hike from Denver. It allows you to view several giant, natural red rock formations in an area known for finding dinosaur fossils. Bring your dog along (on a leash) and get hiking!
The Red Rocks Trails open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset. The entrance is free. The Red Rocks Amphitheater will close to the public around 2 pm on the day of a concert, so be sure to plan your day around that.
Must Hike Score:
This is a great hike (and pretty easy) to do in the Denver area. It may not take you deep into the Rocky Mountains but it does provide fantastic views of the red rocks. A point off for lack of shady spots.
Where is the Trading Post Trail?
The Trading Post Trail is a hike that goes around the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. It’s just a 30-minute drive from Denver and 55 minutes from Boulder. The entrance to the park is just off Hog Back Road, a couple of minutes after exiting I-70. Put “Red Rocks Trading Post” into your GPS to lead you to the start of the trail.
The closest airport to Morrison, Colorado is the Denver Internation Airport (code: DEN). It takes about one hour to drive directly from the airport to the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Trading Post Trail Elevation
The Trading Post Trail is mostly flat and doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain, 400 feet max. If you’re not from the area, however, keep in mind that Denver is a mile high (5280 feet), and Red Rocks sits at 6400 feet.. So if you’re not used to moving your body at such a high altitude, give yourself a little grace if you’re moving slower than normal. Stay hydrated!
Trading Post Trail Trailhead
Where to Start Hiking at the Trading Post Trail
Because the Trading Post Trail is a loop, you can technically head in either direction to begin the hike. However, I suggest going around the trail counter-clockwise so you can end the loop by going up to the amphitheater as a final treat. The trailhead is very easy to find. Go to the Red Rocks Trading Post (pictured above), which you should check out if you have a chance. Inside you can see the history of Red Rocks as well as purchase merchandise.
If you’re staring at the front of the Trading Post building, go to the left just after the small courtyard. There you will see the sign marking the start of the trail. It will be very obvious once you’re there.
Where to Park at the Trading Post Trail
If you get there early enough, you can probably find a parking spot just next to the Trading Post building, where the Trading Post trail begins. However, there are not a ton of spots in the lot and it does fill up fast.
You can also find parking spots along the Trading Post Road which leads from the entrance of the park to the Trading Post building. Along Trading Post Road, you will also see the Half Moon Lot which has a number of parking spots available. It will take about 8-10 minutes to walk from the Half Moon Lot down to the Trading Post trailhead. Parking is free.
There are several Red Rocks parking lots around the area. If you continue along the Trading Post Road past the Red Rocks Trading Post building, you’ll run into the Lower South Lot 1 on your right. However, the official Red Rocks parking lots are not open to the public until 2 hours before a concert. So it is possible you may not be able to park here.
What it’s Like to Hike the Trading Post Trail
The Red Rocks Trading Post Trail is pretty easy. There is not a ton of elevation gain and you’ll never need to use your hands for scrambling. You’ll still get some good exercise, but it’s unlikely you’ll be short of breath (unless you’re not used to the elevation).
If you start at the trailhead next to the Red Rocks Trading Post, the trail will start with a small decline down some stairs. You’ll then continue to follow the path downward for a few minutes. It will flatten itself out and you’ll walk parallel to the red rocks across the meadow.
The path has some rocks and pebbles along the way, but I never felt unsteady on my feet. You’ll walk down into a valley, cross a small bridge, and then begin an easy incline that takes you to the other side of the rock formations. Once you reach the top of the hill, the path narrows a bit, taking you closer to the red rocks. You’ll get to the point where you can even touch them if you want as you wind through the path lined with trees and plants.
Suddenly you’ll find yourself on the concrete road once more. To go back to the Trading Post building and parking lot, you’ll just need to turn right and go down the small hill for about 1 minute. But if you prefer to go up to see the amphitheater, cross the road and follow the pavement uphill for about 5 minutes. Then you’ll reach the stage right. Definitely make sure to climb the stairs to the very top so you can look down on the stage and see the city of Denver off into the distance. The top of the amphitheater is where you’ll get the best photo opps!
How Long Does the Trading Post Trail Hike Take?
The Trading Post Trail is a 1.4-mile loop. Therefore the hike can be done fairly quickly, depending on your fitness level, if you have kids with you, and how often you stop to take photos. If you walk without stopping, the loop will take about 30-50 minutes.
If you choose to go up to the amphitheater, give yourself another 30-60 minutes. You’ll definitely want to roam around a bit and see the space where musical geniuses have performed.
What is the Difficulty Level of this hike?
I would classify the Trading Post Trail hike as super easy to easy. It’s relatively flat and the path is very defined, as you can see in the photo above. Children and dogs should not have a problem on this trail. There are a couple of moments where you’ll need to walk up or down a few rock stairs, but the majority of the trail is what is pictured above.
What to Wear when Hiking the Trading Post Trail
The Trading Post Trail does not have a lot of tree covering, which leaves you pretty exposed to the elements. You should be prepared for that in both summer and winter, so bring the appropriate gear. Because the trail is fairly easy, you don’t need to worry about wearing heavy-duty hiking boots. Just a simple athletic shoe will be fine. You could even wear hiking sandals, like Chacos. The below list is my suggestions on what to wear:
- Simple athletic shoe/Chacos
- shorts/pants – I love Kuhl hiking pants
- Athletic top that wicks away sweat
- Hat- my favorite is from Cotopaxi
What to Bring when Hiking the Trading Post Trail
Even though the trail is quite easy and short, you still need to be prepared, so don’t forget these things:
- Water bottle
- Water bottle sleeve
- Sunscreen SPF
- Hip bag (for keys and things)
- SPF Chapstick
- Step counter watch
Tips for Hiking the Trading Post Trail
- Go early in the morning as it gets very hot in the afternoon
- The Red Rocks Amphitheater closes to the public at 2 pm on concert days
- The park opens an hour before sunrise and closes an hour after sunset
- Remember to bring water and SPF
- Park in the Half Moon Lot and walk down
- Go around the Trading Post trail loop counterclockwise
- You can find bathrooms in the Trading Post building and at the amphitheater
- Many great photo opportunities around
Looking for a Longer Hike? Trading Post Trail Add-ons:
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Once you reach the end of the Trading Post loop, you have the option to go up the ramp to the Red Rocks Amphitheater to see the amazing music venue. I highly suggest this as it’s very cool to see. It will only add a few minutes of uphill walking.
Red Rocks Trail
The Red Rocks Trail is a 6-mile loop trail that is used for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Park at either Lower North Lot or Dakota Ridge Parking lot. From each lot, you can follow the trail to the Red Rocks Trail Road, and then head north towards Matthews/Winters Park. The official trailhead is at the intersection of W Alameda Parkway and the Red Rocks Trail Road.
The Red Rocks Trail in Morrison often gets confused with the Red Rocks Trail in Boulder. Make sure you’re heading to the correct location before you set out.
This trail starts at the Half Moon lot. It is a short trail that connects to the Upper North Lot. It’s quite a short, but very steep hike. It’s a great addition to add on to the Trading Post Trail.
Mt Vernon Creek Trail
The Mount Vernon Creek Trail is just one mile long and eventually meets up with the Trading Post Trail. You’ll go along the Mt. Vernon Creek for half of it before it finally turns to head towards the Trading Post Trail.
Geologic Overlook Trail
This is a very short trail in the northwest section of Red Rocks Park. You can find the trailhead by putting in “Red Rocks Park Geologic Marker & Picnic Shelter” into your GPS. You can see great views from here.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking to stay around the area for several days to check out all that Red Rocks has to offer, you might be wondering where you should sleep.
If you prefer to sleep indoors, check out these options:
Description: This is the official hotel for the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Golden. This is a fancier hotel that has a restaurant, fitness center, board rooms, streaming in each room, etc.
Price: Rooms range in price from $400 – $800 in the summer season and go down to $100 – $300 in the winter. If you come in the winter, it’s a great time to take advantage of the lower prices for high quality.
Cliff House Lodge and Hot Tub Cottages
Description: This is a bed and breakfast in Golden, which is just about 10 minutes down the road. There are various rooms and cottages with private hot tubs and jacuzzis.
Price: The prices vary depending on the seasons. A queen room with a spa bath in the summer is around $350/night. That same room in the winter can go for around $200/night.
Description: This hotel is just outside of the town of Golden, and a short drive to Red Rocks. It’s your basic hotel with breakfast included. There is also a business center and a fitness center.
Price: The prices in summer are around $200-$300 per night in the summer and are basically cut in half in the winter months, going down even as low as $113 on some nights.
Aiden by Best Western at Denver West Golden
Description: This is your standard Best Western, offering an outdoor swimming pool, free wifi, a fitness center, and breakfast included. You can reach Red Rocks in just a 10-minute drive from the Best Western.
Price: This is definitely one of the more affordable hotels in the area, with prices ranging around $125/night in the summer months, and going down to as low as $98/night in the winter months.
Mountain View Inn
Description: The Mountain View Inn is located in Lakewood, and from the outside appears to be a very modest motel. Here you can get free parking, free wifi, and an outdoor swimming pool. According to reviews, this is an absolute hidden gem.
Price: The prices range from approximately $115 – $135/night all year round.
Trading Post Trail Trail Final Thoughts
This is one of the best and easiest hikes to reach from the Denver area. While it is certainly not the most challenging or physically difficult hike I’ve ever done, it is definitely a beautiful one. The day I did this hike, I was looking for something fairly easy that allowed me to be in nature. My city-dwelling music-loving friend from Sao Paulo was visiting. He wanted to see this world-famous music venue, and I wanted to show him around the area a bit. The Trading Post Trail was a perfect fit. Not too strenuous, beautiful views, and topped off with a great view of the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
We went around 11 am on a mid-July day and it was quite hot already. Next time I would try to head out earlier in the morning, and combine this hike with a couple of the other shorter hikes in the area.
I highly recommend the Trading Post Trail.