On a sunny day at Cherry Creek State Park, glistening waters stretch far and wide before Denver’s skyline, backdropped by snow-capped peaks. The contrast perfectly represents the Mile High City, where one has access to metro spoils and also those of nature.

For many, Cherry Creek Reservoir is the place to escape. The state park is among the busiest in Colorado, counting 1.7 million guests a year. It’s also among the biggest, boasting nearly 4,200 acres.

The jogger needing to unwind after work. The easygoing cyclist looking for fresh air and smooth tread. The angler seeking similar solitude — and the next record walleye. The birder delighted by the latest migration. The water skier craving a thrill. The family with kids wanting to splash and picnic. Cherry Creek State Park has something for everyone.

On our recent visit in early spring, we found the ice mostly broken on the 850-acre reservoir, boaters eager to embark. Snow covered much of the nearly 30-mile trail system’s dirt, but there was plenty of pavement and gravel being enjoyed.

On the 1.2-mile loop in the Wetlands Preserve, we spotted cross-country skiers striding among old cottonwoods. Here the creek runs strong, providing a symphony with birdsong.

Popularly accessed on the park’s south side, the paved Cherry Creek Trail grants people on foot and bike long mileage; it spans about 8 miles, with options along the way to loop the reservoir.

History is celebrated at Smoky Hill, where a short trail traverses the hilly prairie where pioneer wagons crossed. History also is found on the opposite, west side of the park: Butterfly Hill commemorates the World Youth Day of 1993, when some 500,000 flocked to see Pope John Paul II.

Cherry Creek State Park

Getting there: 4201 S. Parker Road, Aurora. One mile south of Interstate 225.

FYI: Vehicle day pass $11. ADA accessible trails. Dogs not allowed on all trails; 100-acre off-leash area on park’s south side.

For camping reservations, go to cpw.state.co.us or call 303-470-1144 or 800-678-2267. High use on summer weekends; rangers recommend visiting on weekdays and evenings. Go to park website for latest updates and closures.

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