Greeley, a city of 100,000 about 60 miles north of Denver, spreads across a plain at the junction of the South Platte and Cache la Poudre Rivers. The laid-back city, home to the University of Northern Colorado, lies between the Great Plains to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west, giving it the best of both worlds.
There’s plenty to do in Greeley. Over 30 parks scatter around the city, with plenty of space picnics, playgrounds, ball sports, and walking paths. Glenmere Park is a great natural area and wildlife sanctuary. The Poudre Learning Center is perfect for kids, with nature programs, trails, and a pond. Other good parks are Sanborn Park for fishing and pelicans; Homestead Park with a trail and playground; and Josephine Jones Park, a wonderful natural area for walking and wildlife.
The Poudre River Trail squiggles alongside the Cache la Poudre River 21 miles from Greeley to Windsor. The paved trail is popular with hikers, runners, rollerbladers, skateboarders, and bicyclists. Interpretative signs along the way highlight historic sites and natural areas. Start the trail at Island Grove Park on Greeley’s east side. Interesting sites along the trail include: Poudre Ponds Recreation Fishery, several ponds for boating and fishing, three-acre Rover Run Dog Park, and 86-acre Signature Bluffs Natural Area with lots of wildlife.
Stand-up paddleboarding is popular on lakes around Greeley in summer. Windsor Lake to the west is calm and small, giving great conditions for beginners. Other good places for paddleboarding include Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake, and Boyd Lake State Park. Jackson Lake State Park east of Greeley also offers paddleboarding as well as lots of other watery recreation, including fishing, one of northern Colorado’s best beaches, hiking, camping, and wildlife.
Greeley is 30 miles east of the mountains, making it an ideal center to retreat to the Rockies for hiking, camping, fishing, and mountaineering. Head west, and in an hour you’ll be in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Pawnee National Grassland northeast of Greeley has more out-of-town adventures. It’s fun to drive the maze of backroads at the grassland, discovering prairie ghost towns, old cemeteries, eroded bluffs, and pronghorn antelope. The Pawnee Buttes, reached by Pawnee Buttes Trail, is the best place for hiking, picnicking, and nature study.