Cherry Creek State Park, Chatfield’s sister park in metro Denver, was Colorado’s first state park. The 880-acre lake, like Chatfield, was formed by a dam built to control flooding on Cherry Creek. The 3,346-acre park offers over 30 activities for visitors, but fishing is number one. The lake has more fish stocked and caught than any other Colorado lake. Boating, sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing, and paddleboarding are all popular sports, with designated areas for different activities to avoid conflicts. Cherry Creek also offers camping, picnicking, hiking and biking on 35 miles of multi-use trails, a family shooting range, horseback riding, wildlife observation, and a model airplane field.
- The state park often reaches capacity on busy weekends in the summer, restricting access to preserve a quality experience. Plan your trip for off-peak times, including weekdays, morning or evening, spring and fall months, and winter, which is always quiet.
- Your pup is welcome at Cherry Creek. Dogs can romp and play without leashes on over 100 acres at the 12 Mile area on the southwest side of the park, or go for a swim in shallow water. Remember to keep them under control at all times. Dogs are also welcome at the park campground and if they’re leashed on some trails. Don’t forget plastic bags to pick up after them.
- Lots of aerial fun happens at Suhaka Field, the Model Airplane Field, on the west side of the park. Planes take off and land on two paved runways. A separate field is for rotorcraft. Beginner pilots are welcome, and instructors are often available to offer flight training. The field is operated by the Denver R/C Eagles Flying Club. Anyone can fly their model plane, but they must abide by club rules.
- Cherry Creek Lake became an honorary part of the Mississippi River in 2016 when the Princess Laura, a genuine, double-decker, paddle-wheel riverboat, docked at the Cherry Creek Marina. The 63-foot-long boat now calls the state park home, and offers tours and private parties to aspiring Huckleberry Finns.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green