Denver, Colorado’s capital and largest city, sprawls across the South Platte River valley where the sweeping Great Plains smash against the Rocky Mountains. The Mile High City, with a population of almost half million and a metro area of 2.8 million people, is a magnet for outdoor and sports enthusiasts.
It’s easy to get outside in Denver with its 4,000 acres of parks, including 2,500 unspoiled acres, and another 14,000 acres in the Denver Mountain Parks west of the city. About 85% of Denver residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Denver offers 80 miles of multi-use trails for hikers, bikers, and joggers. The most popular loop walks are at Washington Park, Cheesman Park, City Park, and Sloan’s Lake Park.
The crown jewel hike and bike is the South Platte River Trail, an 18-mile paved pathway that traces the river through Denver. Plenty of trailheads scatter along it along with links to other regional trails. Highlights and points of interest along the trail include Elitch Gardens, Coors Field, downtown Denver, Larimer Square, and Confluence Park.
The best hiking is farther afield in the Denver Mountain Parks above the city in the Front Range. The unique Mountain Parks system includes 22 parks and 24 conservation areas that the City began buying in 1912 as a “summer home for the people of Denver.” The holdings include Lookout Mountain and Buffalo Bill’s grave, Genesee Park and its buffalo herd, Winter Park Ski Resort, and a scattering of parks like Corwina, Pence, and Daniels Park. For cool summer hiking, nothing beats follow the Echo Lake Trail in Echo Lake Mountain Park; exploring the edge of 12,830-foot Summit Lake in the highest city park in the nation; or trekking to the top of Panorama Point in Corwina Mountain Park.
If you’re a golfer, you’ll find plenty of fairways to knock your ball down. Almost 20 golf courses are found in Denver itself, along with another 100 or so in the metro area. The best area courses include Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, Fossil Trace Golf Club, scenic Arrowhead Golf Club, The Ridge at Castle Pines, and Riverdale Dunes Golf Course. The best local course for downtown views is the classic layout at City Park Golf Course.
Additionally, here are some of our favorite Denver adventures: bring your board to Denver Skatepark and shred on 60,000 square feet of concrete terrain or bring or rent a kayak and learn to paddle in the South Platte’s man-made rapids at Confluence Park. Go stand-up paddling at Berkeley Lake Park, or rent a pedal boat and cruise around Ferril Lake at City Park with its amazing views of the Denver skyline and the Rockies. Go fly fishing in the South Platte River, watch wildlife like bison, elk, mule deer, bald eagles, cormorants, and Canada geese at Denver city parklands, or sun and swim at 29 swimming pools managed by Denver Parks. Lastly, celebrate the city’s 5,280-foot elevation by walking, biking, or running the five-kilometer Mile High Loop Trail, which follows a 3.1-mile route along the mile-high contour line in City Park.