Denver Hikes for New Visitors

Denver Hikes for Visitors

*note: A version of this article first appeared as a Guest Post at www.ottsworld.com.

New to Denver or just visiting?

Does hiking in 10,000 feet of elevation worry you? What about just 5280 feet, like Denver's Mile High?

A little freaked out about the altitude and all of the suggestions to go up in the mountains to hike? Want to get outside on a local hike first that’s a bit more practical for first-time visitors to Denver?

We get it. Adjusting to the Denver altitude is no joke, especially if you're visiting from Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago or New York. Sea level may be fun for water sports and beach breaks, but when coming to the mile-high city from sea level, it can be a bit of a challenge.

Be like locals. Carry water. Everywhere.

You’ll want to take it easy for the first few days. Drink lots of water and gets lots of sleep. Be sure to carry a water bottle with you and guzzle it as often as you can stand. As for hiking, you’ll need to follow similar advice.

Acclimating to Denver Hiking

The best way to enjoy higher altitude hiking up in Conifer, Vail or Rocky Mountain National Park is to start acclimating in Denver first. Locals will tell you there are some great hikes right here in Denver to get you started.

We give you three.

One in a park, one on a trail, and one in a neighborhood.

You pick the adventure you want, or all three! Walking these three urban hikes will help you adjust to altitude at 5280 feet and get you ready for the higher stuff up in the front range (which includes Golden, Boulder, Breckenridge and beyond.

Hiking in Denver’s City Park

If you've warmed up your legs in Union Station Neighborhood in LoDo (in the hike below), head on over to Denver's largest park, City Park. This giant park, filled with a zoo and a nature & science museum, enjoys a lake for paddle boating, fishing, and SUP'ing, tennis courts, rose gardens, historic monuments, and outdoor sculpture.

But its best feature is the flat 5280 trail that meanders on soft and hard surfaces through the park for a good 5K, or 3.1 miles. You can hop on the path and make a giant loop through the park, enjoying the oaks, pines, elms, and maples while watching kids play, locals fish, and teens talk.  Some of Denver’s best monuments are in the park; be sure to take a pensive moment at the Martin Luther King, Jr monument and then giggle some at the Six Legs statue. After you’ve enjoyed the loop, rent a paddle boat to peddle out to the pelican rookery or drop into the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The 5280 trail is easy to find. Park at the Martin Luther King Jr statue in City Park. The trail circles the west side of the monument. Catch it going south around Ferril Lake and stay on the marked trail throughout the park.

Hiking Denver’s Historic Trails

Had your fill of people and buildings and just want to get on a trail? The city of Denver is loaded with them. Four main trails circle the city, including the Platte River Trail, the Sand Creek Greenway, the Cherry Creek Trail and the granddaddy of them all, High Line Canal Trail (a whopping 71-miler!) We love all of our trails for so many reasons from having wilderness in the city to an urban meander through the treasures of metro Denver. And what’s great? You can hike them year round.

If you walked the Union Station Neighborhood adventure below, you've stepped on to the Platte River Trail and the Cherry Creek Trail already. If you're really ambitious, you can loop all the trails together and do the 42-mile, 9 Creeks Loop.

But if you've only got an afternoon, we recommend several segments of the High Line Canal in the Fall. You'll like segments 6, 7, 8. These flat segments on soft surface range from 6-8 miles and will bring you through towering cottonwoods, along historic preserves, and next to amazing front range views. Yes, these hikes are one-way, but feel free to do them as round-trips, doubling your mileage, or call a Lyft and meet a local to get back to your trailhead.

Hiking Denver’s Union Station Neighborhood

One of Denver's most fun neighborhoods to walk through which will keep you distracted from your higher-altitude symptoms like thirst, shortness of breath and fatigue is right in the center of town. If you took the A Train from Denver International Airport to downtown, you've already been there.

We're talking Union Station Neighborhood! This fun area that the locals sometimes refer to as "LoDo" (lower Denver) will have you walking on sidewalks and paved trails through history, by art, and along the river. What could be more fun? Plus, if you get tired, there are plenty of places to grab a drink or a bite as you settle into your higher-altitude rhythms (see Sherry Ott’s review of Tupelo Honey for one of these great places to eat in Denver.) See below for the exact turn-by-turn directions you'll follow to walk Union Station Neighborhood.

Acclimate in Denver First

No matter where you hike around Denver, starting inside the Denver city limits is a great way to start acclimating to Denver’s 5280 feet of altitude. Once you feel like you’re not losing your breath every time you move, you might be ready to tackle higher hikes like Three Sisters, Carpenter’s Peak, or even North Table Mountain. For more hikes in and around Denver that will help you adjust, check out these great books about hiking in Denver,  Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Walking Denver’s Neighborhoods . Have fun, enjoy, and breathe!

Turn-by-turn Directions for Union Station Neighborhood (and map!)

Turn-by-turn Directions: Start inside Union Station at 1701 Wynkoop St. Tour the station, making sure you go upstairs to the lounge and look east up 17th St. Admire the chandeliers from the second floor, go to the basement and see the old bathrooms, and generally just explore the station.

When you’re ready, exit the rear of the station, go to the right, and take the left up the stairs over the train tracks. Exit the stairs onto 18th St, heading westerly and crossing Wewatta and Chestnut.

Take the second set of stairs over the freight rail tracks, exiting onto 18th and crossing Bassett. At Little Raven, take a left.

Walk through the park toward the south, following the trails and enjoying the Platte River. Work your way back toward Little Raven to use the pedestrian bridge, also known as Millennial Bridge. Play in the large red reed sculpture at the foot of the steps, then go up the steps, crossing back over the tracks and down to 16th Street.

Take a right on  Chestnut Pl and then a right on Delgany. Cross 15th St and pass the Museum of Contemporary Art and its Toxic Schizophrenia piece. Right before Cherry Creek take a left, walking easterly above the Creek.

Continue along the Creek, taking the ramp down to the Creek. At Larimer, take the ramp back up to 15th Street, and continue on Larimer toward 16th St.

Walk through historic Larimer Square. There are various plaques on the buildings telling historical moments that you may enjoy. Continue on Larimer to 16th St, take a left.

Walk along 16th St to Blake St and take a right. Take a left on 17th, enjoying the views of Union Station. You’ll pass the Oxford Hotel. If you’re in the mood, visit the lobby of the Oxford to enjoy their fabulous western art collection, and peek into the Cruise room to see their Art Deco wall sconces.

Leave the Oxford, walking down the alley between Wynkoop and Wazee toward 20th. At 20th, approach the entry to the Ballfield to find the Evolution of the Ball sculpture (this area is temporarily under construction and the sculpture may not be accessible.). Once you’ve enjoyed the artwork, turn toward Wynkoop.

Walk along Wynkoop, passing the original Union Station on the right and Wynkoop Brewery, founded by Governor Hickenlooper before he was Governor, on your left. Return back to Union Station where you started. Get a delicious Beet Burger at Next Door!

~See you on the trail,

Chris

 

Chris Englert, the Walking Traveler and Denver's Urban Hiker, believes walking is the platform for life. Volunteered into wanderlusting at age 5, she's since traveled all 50 US states and 52 countries. Chris shares her love of walking while traveling via blogs, books, and presentations. A natural storyteller, she invites you along as she explores the world, one walk at a time. Follow Chris' urban hikes in Denver at @DenverByFoot at her blog at www.DenverByFoot.com. Follow Chris' world travel and her 50 Hikes 50 States Project at @EatWalkLearn, at her blog at www.EatWalkLearn.com. Watch Chris on YouTube.

Find more hiking recommendations in Chris' books, Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Walking Denver's Neighborhoods on Amazon. And take her Denver By Foot Challenge! 30 Challenges to discover or rediscover Denver. Click here for more details.


5 Shady Walks IN Denver

5 Shady Walks in Denver

*note: You can now download an interactive version of this walk at https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/denver-568.html

Hi everyone. I want to first start out by saying that this article is about Denver. Not Boulder. Not Colorado Springs. Not the Front Range.

I'm a bit of a stickler for Denver. When I mean IN Denver, I mean IN Denver.

The City and County of Denver (including the Denver Mountain Parks.) So when I search and find other people's recommendations for hikes in Denver and they take me to Three Sisters, I get a bit annoyed.

Sorry for the rant.

Hiking in Denver

I will also admit that "hiking in Denver" is more like walking or urban hiking. Since Denver is flat and most of the trails are concrete, people might argue that there is no hiking in Denver.

Tomato. ToMAto.
Point taken.

And, I will also admit that finding SHADE in Denver (without being in a park) is also a big challenge. We are, by the way, in the high prairie, and forests don't come naturally here in the high plains. Thus, the best place to find shady places to walk in Denver would be the parks (Cheesman ((see video)), City Park, Wash Park and Civic Park are great ones), but if you actually want to get some distance and feel like you're hiking in Denver in the shade, you'll need to be a bit creative.

So with apologies to people who might to be as much as a stickler for IN Denver as I am, here are my 5 recommendations for where to hike in Denver in the shade.

5 Shady Denver Hikes

1. Hike from Cheesman Park to Washington Park (3 miles).

This is a fantastic walk through two landmark parks in Denver, Cheesman and Wash Parks. Start in Cheesman and explore the Cheesman Memorial and the bronze outline of our Front Range. Then walk south out of the park through the lush and rich Country Club Park. You'll pass by giant homes of the Who's Who in Denver. Due to the Country Club Golf Course's limited access, you'll have to route around it via University. Grin and bear it for a 1/4 mile, then you'll be back into the Country Club/North Wash Park neighborhoods as you approach Wash Park. Once you get to Wash Park, you can enjoy a 6-mile loop, stopping by its gardens, lakes, art, and sculpture. I share this walk with visiting family during Thanksgiving.

Turn-by-turn directions. To get in six miles, walk back to Cheesman or if you want to keep the walk shorter at 3 miles, take a Lyft (get $10 towards your first ride). I recommend starting in Cheeseman, exit the park via its southern end onto Williams St. Continue through Country Club to E 3rd Ave. Take a right to S Downing St. to a left on W Bayoud St. Take a right S Lafayette St to Wash Park. (click for interactive map)

What to Wear: A Skirt Sport Skort, my favorite skort to walk in.

2. Lakewood/Dry Gulch Lollipop Loop. (2-3.5 miles)

This hike is a fabulous hike through linear parks and along gulches. You'll be on paved trail most of the way except for a few streets at the end to complete the loop. Shady, with big cottonwood trees, there are plenty of places to just chill along the creek as well. For a 2-mile loop, take the W light rail to the Knox St Station and follow the loop instructions below. For a 3.5-mile loop, take the W light rail (or park) at the Federal/Decatur Station. Walk west to the Platte River, then turn around back to the station and follow the loop instructions below.

Turn-by-turn directions. If you've started at Federal and walked to the Platte, turn around and walk west. Or, if you have started at Knox station, walk west. (If you have some extra energy, be sure to stop at the mic structure in Paco Park (see video) for some good play time.) Walk west along the Lakewood Dry Gulch Trail. You'll come to a fork in the trail, head left (southerly) on the Lakewood Gulch Trail through Joseph P Martinez Park (see video). The trail will end at Tennyson Street.

Walk north up Tennyson Street for two blocks, crossing W 10th Ave. Keep going, and you'll reenter the green space. Continue north to the Lakewood Dry Gulch Trail, turn right (east). Stay on the concrete path until you arrive back to the Knox Station or the Federal Station.

What Shoes to Wear: A Pair of Closed-toe Chacos, my favorite summer shoe.

3. The Bible Park Loop (3.5 miles)

This 3.5-mile loop takes advantage of a great loop around James A Bible Park. The High Line Canal Trail makes a wonderful horseshoe turn around Denver's gem, providing a ring of cottonwood trees. Look for owl and hawk nests in the canopy. A special treat here is that even though there may not be water from Denver Water running through the canal, you'll often find water in it due to other sources. The Goldsmith Gulch runs through the park as well, providing nooks and crannies to relax in the shade or to hunt for tadpoles!

Turn-by-turn directions. Park in Bible Park (see video.) From the parking lot, head east to the perimeter in the park and jump on the High Line Canal Trail. Walk in a southerly direction. The trail will make a sharp horseshoe turn, leading you to the north. Cross E Yale and then Monaco Pkwy. Continue Northwesterly to Iliff Ave. At Iliff, leave the High Line and take the sidewalk to the east (right) until you cross Monaco Pkwy again. Iliff will T with S Oneida St. Continue straight onto the small neighborhood bike path back to the High Line Canal trail. Take a right on the High Line Trail, taking it south over E Yale Ave again, back to where you parked in Bible Park.

What Hat to Wear: A Wallaroo, my favorite pony-tail hat!

4. First Creek at DEN Trail (4 miles)

I can't write about this unknown trail enough (see video of First Creek at DEN.) It is new; it opened just a couple of years ago, and it's such a treasure. If you're on the way to/from the airport, it's a perfect way to unwind any anxious thoughts about traveling. Although the first 1/3 mile is on the abandoned Old Buckley Road next to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, the down-n-back along a concrete path next to the First Creek is a refreshing, shady oasis under a cottonwood canopy. The best time to do this hike is sunrise or sunset. You'll catch many birds of prey, the alpen glow in the morning, or a Rockies sunset in the evening. I absolutely love this trail.

Turn-by-turn directions. Park at the intersection of 56th Ave and Pena Blvd. Walk north on the abandoned Old Buckley Road about 1/3 mile to the trailhead on the right (if you go a bit more, you'll find another trailhead on the left into the Wildlife Refuge. But this isn't shady.) Go to the right on the concrete path. Walk 2 miles. The trail ends just past the underpass for the A Train. Turn around and retrace your steps. Be sure to bring water and snacks!

How to Carry Water: In my favorite water bottle holder for short hikes.

 

 

5. The Platte River Downtown Loop. (3-4 Miles)

Another hike I can never get enough of is what I call the Platte River Loop. With plenty of activity to keep you entertained along the way, if you stay on the east side of the River, there is generally a good amount of shade to protect you on hot days. Combined with enjoying the fun Union Station and Confluence (see video) areas of downtown, I take visitors on this hike often. Afterward, we will grab a bit or at least an ice cream in Union Station.

Turn-by-turn directions. Start at Union Station by taking transit into town. Exit Union Station on Wynkoop heading toward 16th St. Stay on Wynkoop until you get to the Cherry Creek Trail, which you'll access with the ramp. On Cherry Creek, turn right (west) toward the confluence with the Platte River. Walk the bend around the confluence, connecting with the Platte River Trail.  Pay attention to bikes and stay to the right of the trail. You'll pass through Commons Park (see video.) Stay on the Platte River as long as you'd like. I like to go at least to Denver Skate Park (see video.)

At the Skate Park, exit the trail, then make your way back toward downtown within Commons Park on the concrete path. Enjoy the many pieces of public sculpture and historic interpretation. You'll eventually reach the 16th Street pedestrian bridge, a large, white, suspension bridge. Take the stairs up and over the railroad tracks, dropping you down onto Wewatta Street. Take a left and return back to the Union Station transit area.

Finding Shaded Hikes in Denver

I admit. Finding shaded hikes IN Denver isn't easy. But here are five. What would you recommend? Got any secret, shady spots for a good hike IN the City and County of Denver? Fess up. Tag them #denverbyfoot so I can see. I'll share and repost! Thanks!

See you on the trail,

~Chris



3 Great Denver Hikes for Music Lovers

Three Great Denver Walks for Music Lovers

Denver draws some of the best musicians in the industry. It's been happening for almost a hundred years. From the first performance of Ave Maria at Red Rocks to the giant Garth Brooks show at Mile High Stadium, Denver attracts musicians and music lovers alike.

Yet even though Denver brings musicians here, it has also provided the background for great musicians to rise out of its neighborhoods and onto the stage.

Take the neighborhoods of Whittier, Five Points and Baker. Home to music halls and dance beats, these neighborhoods have held musical court long before Mile High Stadium and the Pepsi Center played tunes. There's even a great park honoring some of the jazz roots that the African American community brought to Denver. No, it's not Red Rocks. It's Morrison Park in Whittier (see video).

If you love music, if you're a musician, or even if you can't tuna fish...here are three great urban hikes in Denver that musicians and music lovers will like.

Whittier Neighborhood

In the Whittier neighborhood, you'll find the George C Morrison Park. It's a linear park along Martin Luther King, Jr, Blvd which connects you to other wonderful parks that feature portions of Denver's African-American history. Along with a chain of three other parks dedicated to African-American history in Denver, you'll find a sweet retreat into the music scene.

Violinist and musician, George Morison, Sr, impacted the jazz scene in Five Points while living in Whittier. He grew up in Boulder, graduated from the Columbia Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and performed with  Cuthbert Byrd, Desdamona and Leo Davis, Hattie McDaniel, Eugene Montgomery, Theodore Morris, Jimmy Lunceford, and Andy Kirk.

Morrison also gave back to the community through free music lessons to the kids at Whittier Elementary, Cole Junior High, and Manual High Schools. When walking in the neighborhood, you might want to pass by where he lived at 2558 Gilpin Street.  This home became a gathering spot for many famous musicians, including Count Bassie, Jelly Roll Morton, Nat King Cole and other celebrated musicians.

If you've worked up an appetite walking through Whittier, stop in at the Whittier Cafe and get a Denver Egg Burger. Who know Denver had a Denver Egg Burger?

Whittier Walking Map (click for interaction)

From Whittier, head over to Five Points.

Five Points

five points urban hiking denver eatwalklearn

Five Points is a giant neighborhood that includes Curtis Park, Ballpark and RiNo, which aren't "technically" neighborhoods according to the City of Denver. But for a music lover, the center of Five Points is the place to uncover. You'll find all kinds of music history here, along with fabulous art that pays tribute to the musical history of Denver.

At the Five Points intersection, where you can catch the light rail going downtown, the beat of the neighborhood is itching to drum again. The Rossonian, once the heartbeat of Five Points and filled with be-bopping jazz and energetic sounds that attracted some of the best jazz musicians of the '20-60's, sits across from a wonderful mural telling Five Points' story and the musical impact the "Harlem of the West" made on the industry.

The City of Denver has had love-hate relationship with Five Points, that, over time, has morphed it into an interesting eclectic set of homes filled with the rich and the poor living right next to each other. On one street you'll find Neal Cassady's father's barber shop across the street from what was once the Snowden, his boyhood home, that has been replaced by million-dollar town homes. Across from it you'll find a refuge for homeless women which is diagonal from an actors' studio. You can also read many excerpts about the music scene and the area from Denver lover, Jack Kerouac's, On the Road, or native son, Neal Cassady's, First Third.

Sandwiched on blocks full of residences, you'll find fabulous places to eat. The Curtis Park Deli has the best smoked trout sandwich I've ever eaten, and around the corner is the restored Curtis Park Creamery, a long-standing, dine-out only, Mexican cafe serving up the neighborhood's best tamales. I loved the green chile.

Five Points Walking Map (click for interaction)

After Five Points, head to Red Rocks.

Red Rocks

Set between the famous Ship Rock and Creation Rock, the Red Rocks Amphitheater has welcomed stair-climbing, live-performance music lovers to its 6,450 feet of elevation since 1941. Infamous performances include the Beatles, U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, the Eagles, Santana, Willie Nelson, Journey, Grateful Dead, Tears for Fears, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Sting, Stevie Nicks, B. B. King, Nora Jones, Duran Duran, and DeVotchKa, among others.

Of course, you can climb the amphitheater or hike the 1.5-mile loop through the seven rock formations, and you can visit two stop-worthy music showcases in the park. The first is the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in the Trading Post, which tells musical performance history with an emphasis on John Denver. Or, you can climb to the top of the amphitheater and enjoy the Red Rocks Visitor Center which houses great artifacts and stories of the famous performances of this infamous outdoor theater.

To enjoy your day fully, begin your day with the Trading Post Trail, stop in at the Trading Post to grab a snack and see the Hall of Fame, then climb the amphitheater to the Visitors Center. Return to your car and head to Morrison; grab a bite at The Cow Eatery and get the Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese.

Red Rocks Walking Map (click for interaction)

Denver's musical history perhaps started in Five Points and then grew to Red Rocks. It's now growing through the Levitt Pavilion at Denver's other site for red rocks, Ruby Hill. No matter where you live in the metro Denver area, you can find great Denver history via walking and hiking its parks, trails and neighborhoods.

Do you have a walk to add to the best places for musicians to walk in Denver? Post about it and tag it with #denverbyfoot so I can see! I love it when I see how you're enjoying Denver.

See you on the trail,

~Chris


High Line Canal Segment 10 eatwalklearn

How to Hike the High Line Canal Trail

How to Hike the High Line Canal Trail

Snaking through Denver and its surrounding suburbs, the High Line Canal and its Trail capture the beauty, the energy, and the expanse of Denver's Front Range. For 71 miles, this Trail moves walkers, hikers, bikers, rollers and strollers through urban, rural, agricultural and suburban views along its soft and hard surfaces. You'll see plains, mountains, creeks, lakes, deer, possum, prairie dogs, elk, coyotes, foxes, hawks, birds, asparagus, plums, apples, choke cherries, pines, elms and hundreds of cottonwoods. And maybe even a bear!

But how do you hike all 71 miles of this mostly flat trail when there's no camping allowed, restrooms are sparse, parking is odd, and signage can be challenging?

You break it into 14 segments, averaging 5 miles a piece and ranging from 4-8. That's what I did. And I have now lead over 400 people up and down the High Line Canal Trail in this way, one 5-mile(ish) segment at a time.

14 Segments Make Hiking the Trail Easier

I've done all the hard work for you by breaking the Trail into 14 segments. At about 5 miles a piece, each segment has a map and parking locations. You can either buddy up with someone and put cars at both ends, Lyft or Uber yourself to one of the ends, or walk the segment round-trip if you're wanting to do a bit more distance.

You can walk the Trail year round. The Trail runs through 11 jurisdictions and all are excellent at clearing and maintaining the Trail in all weather. Because of the different jurisdictions, you will find different levels of resources throughout, which the High Line Canal Conservancy is trying to rectify.

You can walk the High Line Canal Trail in either direction. I prefer to walk it from the northern end near the airport to the southern end in Waterton Canyon. By walking it in a southerly fashion, you'll almost always have Front Range views in front of you. The trail gets shadier and more picturesque the closer you get to Waterton Canyon. But no matter which direction you walk it, you're in for a treat and an understanding of Denver history that you can't get anywhere else.

Some folks like to walk the High Line Canal Trail from its southern end in Waterton to its northern end near the airport because they want to walk in the direction in which the Canal flows. Either way you walk it though, it's an intimate experience that allows you to enjoy Denver and its environs from a pedestrian point of view.

One step at a time.

What You Need to Hike the High Line Canal Trail

To walk the High Line Canal Trail, you just need a good pair of walking shoes or sandals. Boots aren't necessary. Sandals such as Keen would be fine, although I do encourage a closed-toe sandal to bar against pebbles and goat heads like my closed-toe Chacos. In the winter, you might want to wear ice cleats, but this is a rare requirement. In the winter, the High Line is also a great place to snow shoe if enough snow has fallen.

For water, carry at least two liters. Water is hard to find along the Trail. I prefer a bladder, but bottles are absolutely efficient. Be sure to throw in a snack or two.

On your head, make sure you've got a good hat for either sun or warmth. You will often find me in my Wallaroo hat. I love that Wallaroos are made right here in Boulder, and I get to support a local Colorado company.

In your pack, you might optionally want to throw in a pair of gloves, sunscreen, the ten essentials, and maybe even a pair of binoculars. Watch this video of what's in my urban hiking pack.

Read Before You Hike the High Line Canal Trail

Prior to walking the Canal or during your 71-mile trek, there are a few books that will enhance your experience.

The Thunder Tree by Robert Michael Pyle

The Best Urban Hikes: Denver by Chris Englert

Ditch in Time by Patricia Limerick

The High Line Canal Conservancy's Trail Guide (Coming Fall 2019)

Also, follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for images and updates about the Trail.

Complete All 71 Miles

Hiking the High Line is a special event that few Denverites have ever done. Over the last three years, we've kept track of all the "High Liners" who've completed all 71 miles. It's fewer than 200 people. Those who walk it under the High Line Canal Conservancy and Walk2Connect partnership have received a celebrated "71" token from the Conservancy. Walk2Connect leads the walk twice a year.

Links to the 14 Segments

To see the details for each segment, including trailhead, trailend, parking info and highlights, take a look at the info at High Line Canal Trail. You'll be able to find everything you need. Additionally, there are a few posts and videos you might enjoy to get yourself ready for this trek.

The High Line Canal Trail is an urban treasure that many cities wished they had. If you haven't walked it, or if you've only walked the portion in your back yard, make a plan to hike all of it or at least more of it. Soon, it will be almost 130 years old. Will you get on it today?

As you're walking the trail, be sure to post your pictures so I can see them. Use the hashtag #denverbyfoot and #71miles. I'd love to see your story of how you enjoyed the High Line Canal Trail!

See you on the trail

~Chris


Hiking Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

Hiking Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

Need a great hike that's close by, is fantastic for kids, invites world travelers, and includes world history?

And you might even see bison, deer, foxes, prairie dogs and bald eagles?

Then head over to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. It's nearby and on the way.

From Homesteaders to Bison

The Wildlife Refuge, which now hosts a bison herd of close to 100, two types of deer, lots of foxes, coyotes, prairie dogs and ferrets, used to be the dirtiest land in the country. Seized from homesteaders after Pearl Harbor, the Army built munitions and chemical warfare, creating a toxic cocktail of mustard gas and dioxins. On top of this deadly soup, the space race created fuel for the Apollo space mission. The filthy mess was then topped with pesticide production waste.

By the time the 80s rolled around, Denver’s too-small, Stapleton airport and a disgusting dirt pile of tainted soil called out for solutions. Leaders came together, moved the airport, and got the old Army base declared a Superfund site. At the same time, bald eagles appeared in cottonwoods along Second Creek. With legislative maneuvering and citizen support, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge claimed its place.

Hike or Drive to See Bison

And now, you can view the bison on this wonderful urban resource, just a few miles off I-70 just north of the old Stapleton airport tower. The bison’s range behind fences. In a car, you can drive along a designated route within the range and get very close to the bison. Yet, you must stay in your car.

If you decide to walk, you can get close, but a fence will always be between you and the bison. The hike from the Visitors Center to the lakes brings you close to their range. But really, let's be honest, right up front.

Bison aren’t friendly. They don’t want your company. They weigh almost a ton. So, no, you won’t actually be hiking with them. You’ll more be walking near them, in view of them, or within range. If you don't see them walking the Legacy Trail from the Visitors Center, hop back in your car and drive the Wildlife Drive Trail.

Get Up Early or Go Late

The best time to view the bison is early in the morning or later in the afternoon. But it’s really a guessing game at best. The bison roam the Refuge throughout the day, and there are many days you can’t see them from the trails or the public viewing areas. None the less, here’s how you can walk right next to them if they're out.

The Trail Route

Park at the Refuge’s Visitor Center. Inside, you can see a life-sized bison and learn the history of the Refuge. When you’re ready, head out on the Legacy Trail, which leaves from the back side  of the Visitors Center. At the head of the trail is a ferret exhibit that you won’t want to pass up. Then head northeasterly along the trail to Lake Mary.

The trail is mostly pebble rock. Rollers and strollers can enjoy it on dry days. You’ll walk through medium-high prairie grass along rolling knolls. About halfway to Mary Lake, which is about a ½ mile, you’ll encounter some swales on both sides of the trail where lovely cottonwood and oak trees grow. Keep your eyes peeled, as you’ll have a high chance to see mule deer and maybe even some white-tailed deer. Prairie dogs will scatter and bark your arrival.

Shortly after you pass the swales and before you cross Havana, look to the north. If you’re going to see any bison by foot, here’s your best chance. Often, small parts of the herd will hang out just north of the swales and west of the road. You’ll be close enough to take pictures where they look like bison and less where they look like little brown dots out in a field of grass.

While you’re near Mary Lake, cross over Havana and enjoy a walk around Mary or go a bit further to Lake Ladora. There’s a great loop trail of about 2 miles to take you around the lakes. When you’re ready, head back west along the Legacy trail to the Visitor Center,completing a four-mile out-and-back walk.

By the way, Colorado natives and long-time locals call the area the "Arsenal" while new-comers tend to call it the "Refuge."

Traveling to Denver International Airport?

If you have 2-3 extra hours before checking in for you flight, stopping by the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is a great last stop on the way to the airport. If you're driving from downtown Denver to the airport, take I70 to the Central Park Blvd. Go north about a mile when the street turns into Prairie Parkway. Take a right on Gateway Road into the park. When you finish your visit, leave the park, turn left on Prairie Parkway to Central Park Blvd. Turn left on 56th Ave to Peña Blvd. Turn left on Peña to the airport.

Or, if you are taking public transit, purchase a ticket on the A train for the airport. Take A train to Central Park Station. From there, you can take Bus 62. The bus will let you off on Prairie Parkway, and then you'll have about a 1/2 mile walk. It might be better to Lyft to the Visitor's Center from Central Park Station. When you're finished, either Bus 62 back to Central Park Station or Lyft to the 61st and Peña A Train station. Take the train to the airport. You will not need to purchase another ticket. Your airport ticket is good all day and for multiple rides. It's good on the bus, too, if you decide to take that route.

If you go to the Refuge, post your pictures and tag them with #DenverByFoot. I'd love to see them!

~See you on the trail

Chris

PS If you'd like more great hiking suggestions nearby in Denver, get my book Best Urban Hikes: Denver.