North Sterling State Park, lying on the high plains north of Sterling and Interstate 76, makes a quick weekend getaway from Denver. The 5,700-acre park and its 2,880-acre reservoir is a watery oasis, perfect for hot summer weekends. The park offers lots of recreational opportunities and amenities, including three campgrounds with 141 sites; a 3.5-mile bike trail; fishing for bass, catfish, pike, trout, and perch; five hiking trails; picnic sites; swimming; and lots of water sports on the lake. The park’s campgrounds are clean with spacious sites, drinking water, restrooms, showers, and a dump station. The reservoir has lots of coves and bays to explore in power boats and canoes, and on jet skiers, water skiers, and paddleboards. Don’t forget a life jacket and watch for waves if the wind picks up.
- Start your adventure at the park visitor center, with exhibits and a gift shop. You can also rent free equipment, including a family activity backpack, nature field guides and a GPS unit, and life jackets for everyone. You can also buy supplies like ice, firewood, fishing gear, and food and drink.
- The reservoir, like all the prairie lakes, sits along the Central Flyway so lots of migrating birds and waterfowl stop at the park. Look for Canada geese, lots of ducks, pelicans, and great blue herons on the water. Raptors, including hawks, eagles, and falcons hunt prey on the grasslands. Come in winter to see the many bald eagles that congregate at the park. Pick up a bird list at the visitor center or call 970-522-3657 for a guided bird hike.
- North Sterling State Park has lots of quiet trails for hikers—perfect for watching a summer sunset over the shimmering lake. South Shoreline Trail runs three miles along the shore from Inlet Canal to County Road 29. Other good hikes are Balanced Rock Trail, which climbs to a unique rock formation; mile-long Dam Pedestrian Path; the short 0.2-mile Sunset Point Trail Loop; and mile-long Inlet Triangle Loop. All trails have a natural surface. Dogs are welcome to hike too, but make sure they’re on a six-foot leash.
- You’ll find lots of fun activities at the park. The archery range, open during daylight hours, has 11 stations with 18 targets and is ADA accessible. Children under 16 must be supervised and only field tips or target tips are allowed. On Saturday nights from May through September, bring the kids and a blanket and go to the evening campfire program for talks on wildlife and stars.
Recommended season(s): Year-round
—Stewart M. Green