What is Urban Hiking?

What Is Urban Hiking?

“Urban Hiking” keeps popping up as the fastest growing trend in hiking. But what, exactly, is an urban hike? When you want to get outside, or you may not have personal transportation, or you don’t want to drive all the way to the trailhead, maybe it’s time for an urban hike. Rather than mountains and forest, you can find natural beauty and fun obstacles right outside your urban door.

5280 loop 5280loop urbanhikingden

How’s Urban Hiking Differ from Hiking or Walking?

It’s not hiking.

It’s not walking.

So What Is Urban Hiking?

Urban Hiking is a walk in the city that includes a sense of adventure. It embraces the urban environment by  adventuring through parks, climbing stairwells, crossing intersections, and meandering through the city’s obstacles of life.

You can do urban hikes with your friends or by yourself. When urban hiking, you can be anonymous in a sea of people. Sidewalks, speed bumps, and curbs become your obstacles in your hiking trail to balance, cross, and giggle across.

No Trailheads, No Maps, Per Se

Usually while urban hiking, there are no particular trailheads or maps. There’s no designated trail. You might use urban trails like Denver’s 5280 Trail, the Freedom Trail in Boston, or the Schuylkill River Trail in Philly. But you’re more likely to blaze your own path.

Rather than a walk, which might also involve a neighborhood, a park, and a street, urban hiking involves putting on a pair of shoes that like concrete (the KEEN Gypsum), perhaps packing water and a snack, using public restrooms, and darting between cars, across crosswalks and over creeks. It’s often more strenuous than a walk, can include a local or regional trail, and it might even require your balance across an unbridged creek. The built environment becomes your playground.

Elevators, Stairs and Tree Stumps Make Up Urban Hikes

Elevators  become your climb, stairs are your downhill trek. The focus is on the discovery of an adventure, not on the amount of steps, miles, or laps you’ve completed. You might find a hidden stream, a forgotten pocket park, or an unexplored alley.

It’s an Attitude

5280 loop 5280loop urbanhikingden

Urban hiking is also an attitude. You’re ready for an urban hike when you’ve decided another walk around the neighborhood is un-thrilling, and you’re excited to discover other areas of your world. You may want to go alone, grab a friend, or join a group. Regardless, you’re eager to discover and break out of the routine, and you don’t/can’t/won’t get to a traditional trailhead at a hike in the woods, the mountains, or the parks.

It’s Not an Adrenaline Rush

Even though you’re ready to break the routine with an urban hike, it’s not about an adrenaline rush. You don’t need special ice picks, climbing cleats, or tents. Although you may know wilderness first aid, you probably won’t use it. 911 calls work on urban hikes. Granted you probably aren’t in fear of a bear on an urban hike, but you might be in fear of a delivery truck running you over.

So Get Out There

Grab your hat, your gear, your sunscreen, and your phone. Go discover urban hiking.

Where Should You Urban Hike First?

For your first urban hike, jump on the local transit, take it to a destination, and do your first urban hike back to your house. Maybe you’ll be on a trail, a street, a road or an alley. Maybe you’ll wade a creek, climb a bank, or cross the commuter bridge. Have fun. Find an adventure.

Favorite Urban Hikes in Denver?

If you would like some good urban hiking suggestions in Denver, be sure to get my book, Best Urban Hikes: Denver, available on Amazon and good bookstores everywhere.

Here are a few urban hikes in Denver that you can do right now: Five Points, Highland, Athmar Park. You can also use the filter on the Hikes page to find hikes by length, location, family friendly, and so on. Have fun!

Post your picture below!

See you on the trail..


Where to Walk around a Lake in Denver

Where to Walk Around a Lake in Denver

When people think of Denver, they think of the Rocky Mountains. But the truth is, Denver is flat. And dry. Super dry. It's the high plains, after all. Although Denver is the west's water tower, it's tough to find water. Just ask the engineers who built the High Line Canal and the series of ditches around Denver. Water is scarce. But there are several neighborhoods with great lakes that invite wonderful walks, ranging from one mile around to over six.

Here are five great places to take a walk around a lake (and ALL are dog friendly.)

Be sure to click the links for maps and more details about the parks.

Berkeley Lake

In the Berkeley neighborhood, which originally watered the alfalfa of John Walker's farm, you'll find Berkeley Lake in Berkeley Park. It's also got a great dog park next to it. Although leashes are required around the lake, your pup can run free in the dog park. A lap around the lake clocks about a mile. You'll be joined by other dog walkers and baby strollers as you make your way around the lake, catching great Rocky Mountain views to the west. See a video about the park.

Be sure to stop in on the hip Tennyson neighborhood for a quick bite and cold craft. The Tennyson neighborhood in Berkeley has cute little shops and boutiques, a fabulous bookstore, and yummy eats to treat yourself. I love the delicious sunflower risotto at VitalRoot. You can't go wrong!

Find Berkeley Lake at 5031 W 46th Ave, Denver, CO. There's plenty of parking in the lot.

Rocky Mountain Park Lake

Next door to Berkeley is Rocky Mountain Park, which is loaded with cedar, oak, pine, birch and cottonwood trees. Not to be confused with Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain Park and its small lake offer up great views of the front range. Also a mile around and dog friendly (on leashes), you can finish your walk with a game of tennis! See a video about the park.

Rocky Mountain Lake, just a mile from Berkeley Lake, can combine to make a wonderful 4'ish mile loop for a double lake loop. And the entire time, you're enjoying Rocky Mountain views. Would could be better?

If you need another suggestion for good eats nearby, grab a Wojapi and Fry Bread at Tocabe.

Find Rocky Mountain Lake Park at 3301 W 46th Ave, Denver, CO. There's plenty of parking in the lot.

Sloan's Lake

Always bustling with skaters, riders, walkers, joggers, and strollers, the 3-mile lap around Sloan's Lake offers picturesque views of the front range as well. You'll often find different boating activities happening on this historic lake, including dragon boat races and sail boat regattas. From the historic Manhattan Beach, which housed circles acts, ostrich-drawn Cinderella sleds, elephants, and even flying human cannons, to pleasure boats that cruised the lake yet ultimately sank, Sloan’s Lake has invited Denverites to its shores for over a century. Now the banks have sail boats, paddle boats, and if it ever gets cold enough again for the lake to freeze for consecutive days, ice skating. Plenty of benches and playgrounds encircle the lake and in the spring and summer, you can seek out budding rose gardens. See a video about the lake.

You can't enjoy Sloan's without stopping at the Joyride Brewery for a foamy Bear Paw Oatmeal Milk Stout.

Find Sloan's Lake Park at 1700 Sheridan Blvd, Denver CO. There's plenty of parking in the lots.

City Park

Not only will you find lots to do in City Park, including playing in the water fountains, meandering through the rose gardens, and playing tag in the open fields, but you can do the mile-walk around Ferril Lake, named after Denver's Poet Laureate. In the summer, rent paddle boats or kayaks and float your way to the aviary in the center of the lake to watch geese and cormorant thrive. Be sure to find the Six Legs statue! See a video about the park.

Great treats surround City Park. I love the fact that they have not one, but two, choices in a vegetarian burger at The Goods.

Find City Park at 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO. There's plenty of parking in the lots.

Wash Park

With several choices of lakes to circle, including Smith's Pond, Grasmere Lake and Lily Pond, you can walk over 6 miles around Wash Park if you round all the choices. In addition you'll find formal and informal gardens, fireplaces, a new playground, and even summer volleyball tournaments. Thriving with activity year round, be sure to stay in the proper lane when traveling throughout the park, as there are well-designated lanes for walkers, runners, and bikers.

Wash Park is always jumping as is the areas around it to eat as well. If I need a nice hot tea to grab before a walk, I'll go to Wash Perk. But if I've got an appetite for some yummy chow, I'll stop in at Vert Kitchen to preview their seasonal menu.

Find Wash Park at 701 S Franklin St, Denver, CO. There's plenty of parking in the lots.

Walking around a Lake in Denver

Walking around a lake in Denver isn't easy. Certainly you can walk around a stream or river such as the Platte or the Cherry, but lakes are few and far between down here in the prairie. I can think of a few more, like those out at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, can you? Regardless, when you go, always using the best practices of hiking. Wear a hat, bring a jacket, carry water, grab a snack, and pick up after your puppy. It's what all good Denverites do.

What is your favorite lake to walk around in Denver? Post your pictures and tag them with #denverbyfoot so I can see them!

See you on the trail,

PS If you'd like to see more videos about the parks, subscribe to my YouTube video channel where I review over 150 parks!

5 Great Denver Hikes without a Car

Five Great Denver Hikes without a Car

You might see bison on the First Creek at DEN trail!

The mountains are calling; but you can't get there. No worries. Great hikes within Denver just wait for you to jump on them and enjoy the mountains from afar. Here are 5 super hikes in Denver you can access via transit with directions to getting to the trail heads. (You can also get there by car!)

1. First Creek at DEN Open Space

first creek eatwalklearn
The First Creek is a refreshing sight!

This amazing trail at the corner of 56th Ave and Peña goes two directions. When you approach the trailhead, you can go east on a concrete path for two miles and then return for a total of 4 miles. You'll meander along First Creek, under the A Train, and out to the edge of Aurora. Watch for owls, coyotes, and prairie dogs. Or, if you go west, you'll go into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. The dirt trail starts along the First Creek and then veers north to the bison overlook. Watch for bison, deer, hawks and eagles for 4 miles roundtrip. If you do both sides, both ways, you'll hike 8 miles. For a trail report, see this article.

Get there: Bus 45 is your ticket to ride. You can pick it up for the Central Park Station. Take it to 53rd and Kittredge stop. From there, you'll have about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead. Head east on E 53rd toward Kittredge. Turn left on Memphis St. Turn right on E 56th Ave. Turn left on Buckley Rd. into the parking lot where you'll see signs telling you the story off the prairie dogs. Continue north on Buckley Rd for 1/3 mile to get to the trailhead to go east or just a bit further to get to the trailhead that goes west. Be sure to bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are no facilities here.

2. The Norfolk Glen Loop

The Norfolk Glen Loop in Aurora combines the best of the outdoors with the ease of two great trails, the Sand Creek Greenway and the High Line Canal Trail. At five miles, which you can shorten to just over three, this hike starts at the Star K Ranch Morrison Nature Center off Smith Road (16002 E. Smith Road, Aurora 80011). You walk through wonderful open space filled with deer, elk, coyotes and prairie dogs. You'll cross the Sand Creek onto the High Line Canal Trail, and walk for a couple of miles with the Canal on your right and open space full of hawks and eagles on your left. After navigating the Triple Creek Trailhead, you'll head back along the Sand Creek and its Greenway on soft surface trail. When you arrive back to the Nature Center, be sure to go inside to use the restrooms and enjoy the interpretive history about Mr Stark. For the kids, they can touch some animal furs, too! See a map of the walk here: Norfolk Glen Loop. This walk is also in The Best Urban Hikes: Denver.

Get there: Bus 37 is your ticket to ride. You can pick it up from the Peoria A Train Station. Take it to the 32nd Ave and Chambers stop. From there, you have about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead within Star K Ranch. Head west on 32nd Ave to Chambers. Turn left on Chambers Rd. Turn left on E Smith Rd. Turn right on Laredo St. Follow the signs to the Morrison Nature Center. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are restroom facilities here. If you have time, be sure to enter the Morrison Nature Center and check out the animal and natural history displays.

3. The Confluence Loop

5280 loop 5280loop urbanhikingden
Connecting with the Platte is a rich opportunity.

A great hike for locals wanting to show off Denver, this hike starts at REI at Confluence Park. You'll walk along the Platte River toward Mile High Stadium, cross the million-dollar bridge, then enjoy the swoosh of Elitch's roller coasters. Pass the City of Denver's Centennial Garden, then you'll take a right and amble along Cherry Creek. Here, you can see where Denver and Auraria were founded while enjoying some great urban art. The walk continues along the Platte River to Denver's Skatepark, which is continually ranked in the top 10 free skate parks in the world. When you're finished, walk the Millennial Bridge back to Union Station for lunch. For a map of the walk, click The Confluence Loop.

Get there: A great place to start this hike is from the REI Flagship store where you can gear up and snack up. To get to REI, Union Station is your ticket to ride. From there, you have about a 15-minute walk. Out of Union Station, go southwest on Wynkoop St toward 16th St Mall. Turn right on 15th St. After crossing the Platte River, spy a sidewalk to take a left to the Platte River Trail. You'll walk along the river next to the rear of REI. The trailhead starts at the Starbucks at REI.

4. The Sand Creek Greenway

9Creeks Loop Sand Creek

For a little bit different adventure, walk the Sand Creek Greenway between the Central Park Station and the Dahlia Street Trailhead. You'll wander along the Sand Creek, under two major interstates, past a waterfall, and along a quiet greenway where you won't ever hear or see I270 right next to you. It's a good contemplative walk or even a place to catch some invertebrates in the water. Be sure to bring binoculars to spy the bird life in the reeds and along the creek bank for this 4-mile wilderness hike in the city.

Get there: The A Train is your ticket to ride. Take it to the Central Park Station. From there you have about a 5-minute walk to the trailhead. Walk east along the sidewalk that parallels the train tracks. You'll cross the old Smith Road bridge that is closed to car traffic. At the east end of the bridge, follow the footpath down the bank. When you reach the concrete tail at the bottom of the footpath, you'll be on the Sand Creek Greenway. The trailhead starts here and immediately goes north, then west, under the train tracks. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are no facilities here. There is a restroom about halfway at the Commerce City Wetland Park. At the Dahlia St. trailhead, you can catch bus 40 which is a 4-minute walk to the Eurdora St and 56t St Station.

5. Sloan's Lake Loop

If you're needing a bit of a water view with a mountain backdrop, do a 3-mile lap around Sloan's Lake. This active trail filled with skaters, striders, walkers, and families provides plenty off places to rest in the shade on benches. Gardens and art dot the loop. You might even catch an outdoor exercise class or a dragon boat race!

Get there: Bus 28 is your ticket to ride. From the station, you'll have about a 6-minute walk. Take the bus to the W 26th Ave and Vrain St station. Head west on W 26th toward Winona Ct. Turn left onto W Byron Pl. and follow to the lake. Walk in either direction around the lake to make a loop. Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. There are plenty of restrooms around the lake. You may also want to venture into the neighborhood and enjoy this walk.

For more hikes in Denver you can do without a car, check out over 20 of them in my book The Best Urban Hikes: Denver. You'll find complete maps and directions for enjoying these urban treasures. Or, if you'd like to get an intensive city experience and enjoy wildlife of the human kind, get my book Walking Denver's Neighborhoods, where you'll find 78 3-mile loops within Denver's neighborhoods.

Train to Hike 14er in Denver

Train to Hike 14er in Denver

You can hike in Denver to get ready for a 14er in the Rocky Mountains.

As summer approaches, you might be thinking you'll climb a 14er this year along Denver's front range and beautiful Rocky Mountains. Most folks wait until the weather warms and the snow melts before heading into the high country to climb a mountain taller than 14,000 feet. But you don't need to wait until July to start your training. You can start training for your 14ers right in the middle of Denver.

Train in Denver to Hike a 14er

Here's how to train to hike a 14er, starting in Denver and working your way up the mountains. This is the plan I did to hike my first 14er. It started in Denver's neighborhoods walking flat, short walks and eventually I worked my way up to high altitude hiking. It didn't happen overnight and it did begin with my acknowledgment that I had to get fit and train with friends in order to top my first 14er. And, it wasn't just these hikes. They were the goals I maintained and accomplished while also continuing to hike and walk in Denver throughout the weekdays and weekends.

Distance, Elevation Gain and Altitude

Sometimes you'll get really close, but can't finish due to weather!

Climbing 14ers takes many skills and much training. 14ers aren't easy despite the fact that many people do them every year. This post is about getting you ready for

  • the distance,
  • the elevation gain, and
  • the altitude.

You can tackle these three challenges by starting in Denver. In this plan, you'll continue your training along the front range, working your way up in altitude from Denver's 5280 feet to 14000 feet gradually. As you get fit, you'll hike your way up to 9000, then 10000, then 11000, then 12000, then 13000 and finally topping at 14000 feet.

Start in Denver's Neighborhoods with Distance

Start building distance by hiking in Denver's neighborhoods.

Let's start with the distance first. Generally, you'll travel 6-10 miles in trail distance when climbing a 14er. Of course each one varies. You can start your distance training in Denver by starting in its neighborhoods and on its trails.

If you are fresh out, just starting to walk, you might want to start with the 1-mile Radius Walking Challenge and begin adding a bit of walking into your life everyday. When you're ready to tackle three miles at a time, pick one of Denver's 78 neighborhoods and go out for an amble. My three favorite neighborhoods to walk in Denver are Stapleton, Auraria, and Five Points. Each has interesting architecture or stories to keep you entertained; be sure to click on the links to find maps and narration for where to walk in those neighborhoods. If those three don't suit you, here are 75 more Denver neighborhoods.

From Denver's Neighborhoods to its Trails

You might see bison on the First Creek at DEN trail!

Once you feel comfortable with 3-5 miles within the neighborhoods, head out to Denver's regional trail system. Within Denver, there are at least seven trails and hundreds of great hikes that incorporate those trails. A great beginner hike to tackle is the First Creek at DEN trail. If you go east on the trail, you'll be on concrete. If you go west, you'll be on dirt trail. As you get ready for your 14er, you'll want to start doing dirt trails. Be sure to go west on First Creek at DEN Trail.

Adding in Distance in Denver

Don't let snow keep you from hiking. Denver cleans it trails quickly!

Within Denver, you can expand your distance easily on the 9 Creeks Loop, the High Line Canal Trail, or the Sand Creek Greenway. These trails are generally flat, have wide paths, and are easy to follow. You might want to try segment 3 on the 9 Creeks Loop, segment 10 on the High Line Canal, or Segment 3 on the Sand Creek Greenway.

Once you've gotten a good 6-8 miles of distance down and you're adjusted to Denver's altitude, work your way up into the front range trails. The Bear Creek trail starts to gain some altitude. You can pick it up off the South Platte River Trail, and as you go walk westerly up the trail, you'll start working into the 6000-7500 feet elevation zones.

Adding in Elevation Gain within the Denver Area

The overlook from Mt Carbon will keep you motivated!

Another slightly higher hike with some elevation gain is the Mt Carbon Loop at Bear Creek Lake in Lakewood. This 6-mile hike takes on 515 of elevation gain up Mt Carbon while you overlook downtown Denver. It's a great local hike which you can find in the award-winning book, Best Urban Hikes: Denver.

Before heading up into the higher elevations, you'll want to tackle a few more local front range hikes. North Table Mountain is always a good one as well, and you'll want to add in the Lichen Trail for a bit more elevation gain. I describe the Lichen Loop hike in my book, Best Urban Hikes: Denver. You'll start at around 5800 feet and work your way up to about 6400 by way of a very steep start; after the initial climb, the hike is relatively flat with some undulating ups and downs.

Finding Elevation Gain in Evergreen and Roxborough

Stairs are a big part of your 14er training.

Now that you've got some elevation gain and some distance under your belt, you'll want to take on Carpenters Peak in Roxborough State Park. Similar in difficulty and elevation to North Table Mountain, this 6.2-mile hike adds some steeper ups and downs. From Carpenters Peak, you can continue on to Waterton Canyon for a healthy 13 miles roundtrip (with some car logistics added in.)

Next up in your ongoing climb up in elevation, you'll want to tackle the Panorama Point Trail in Corwina Park near Evergreen. This short 2.5 trail has a steep climb up to about 7200 feet. It's a good trail for you to get your climbing lungs working in anticipation of trying longer trails at higher altitude.

Topping Out at 9000 Feet

A good hike in the 8000-9000 feet elevation zone is in Staunton State Park. A gorgeous park that also provides wonderful ADA-compliant trails and gear, you can find excellent training hikes. One is the Mason Creek Trail in Staunton State Park. As you climb, altitude makes the hiking more difficult. Be sure you bring extra water and extra food, and take shorter hikes as you adjust to the higher elevations. This 4.5-mile trail starts at 8100 feet and climbs to 9440 feet. It's a good starter hike for higher elevations and gets your ready for Mt Bergen.

Reaching 10000 Feet

You will eventually end up above the tree line!

The next great hike you can do in late spring/early summer as you get ready for your 14er, is the Mt Bergen hike. You'll start in JeffCo's lovely Elk Meadow Park and then climb through Denver Mountain Park's Mt Bergen. This 8.8-mile hike will get you 2100 feet of elevation gain and top you out at 9700 feet.

Kenosha Pass Is Not Just for Fall Color

To avoid crowds, get there early, go on the weekday, and avoid the fall color swarm.

If you're progressing along and feel comfortable with 10000 feet, you'll want to continue your progression up in elevation and deeper into the Rocky Mountains. By this point, 8 miles in the higher elevations should be accessible for you. For your 10000-11000 feet hike, take on the amazing Kenosha Pass. Many folks visit Kenosha during the fall color viewing season, but it's a great place to visit in last spring/early summer. Check your snow reports, then head out to Kenosha and jump onto the Colorado Trail. Hike the distance you feel comfortable with; the trail goes from Waterton Canyon to Durango.

By this time, you should feel sure-footed on rocky and dirt trails. You've purchased yourself a good pair of hiking boots, you're carrying your water in a bladder, you maybe have a favorite hat, and you know what trail snacks to pack. You may have even invested in a good set of hiking poles. Next up in your training for a 14er is to take on your next elevation zone.

Hell's Hole Awaits You

Getting above tree line is an entirely new experience.

Now that you're hovering around 10000 feet, and the weather has melted much of the snow, you can move deeper into the front range and tackle some the higher hikes. For 11000 feet, definitely do one of my favorite hikes, Hell's Hole near Idaho Springs. For 4 miles, you'll steadily climb up to a bristlecone pine forest and the backside of Mt Evans. Then you'll turn around and go back for another 4 miles.

When Hiking Becomes Real

Bring plenty of gear, water and food when you climb 14ers.

My favorite hike in the 12000-13000 feet zone is Mt Audubon. By this time, you'll have gotten used to hiking above the timberline at around 11000 feet. Be sure to check the weather for wind; as you get into these taller mountains, conditions can change drastically and wind can blow greater than 50 mph. If you don't have the right gear, right food, right people, and right attitude, don't go. But if you are ready and prepared, take on Mt Audubon for your 13000 check mark.

At this point, you are probably also hiking other areas during the week or the weekend. You are comfortable with putting down 8-10 miles, you're acclimated to high altitudes, and you've got a crew and a set of gear that you trust and can rely on in bad conditions. When you feel you're ready, which is more than just hiking the recommendations here, pick a 14er. Which one?

And Now, a 14er

Along the front range, you have many choices of 14ers.

There are many posts about hiking 14ers and which ones are the easiest and best to start with first. You might try Mt Bierstadt, Grays and Torreys, Sherman, Quandary, or Massive. But please, don't let Denver's adrenaline and media tease you.

Hiking 14ers is hard.

Although "everyone does it," they shouldn't. Many rescues happen every season and people die every year because they weren't prepared either with fitness, mental aptitude, or gear. Please be sure you're ready on all of these dimensions. Also, don't rush. Sometimes you'll get so close to the top and can't finish because of conditions. I've been blown off many mountain tops and haven't reached the last few hundred feet because of wind!

But most importantly, be safe and have fun.

And as a side note: I can tell you one thing. Driving to Mt Evans and then climbing the last 1/4 mile to its 14265 feet doesn't count as topping a 14er!

Have fun, stay safe, laugh, and do a great training plan for climbing a 14er this season. Will you post some pics and tag them #denverbyfoot? Thanks!

See you on the trail!

3 Easy Urban Hikes in Denver

3 Easy Urban Hikes in Denver

Sometimes, driving on I-70 or 285 for an hour or more through traffic and snow can keep quell the gumption to go for a hike near Denver. Why put yourself through that hassle when you can go for a hike right here in metro Denver much more quickly, giving you extra time to watch the Broncos, do some meal prep or volunteer.

With Take a Hike Day upon us, rather than driving up into the mountains for a hike, here are three easy urban hikes in Denver. Great for kids, visiting family, and everyone else who loves to hike, these three easy hikes near Denver invite everyone out for a great time. These hikes help tourists and visiting friends adjust into and acclimate to our Denver altitude, too! Be sure to click the hike title for an interactive map.

The Norfolk Glen Loop (click for interactive map)

9creeks eatwalklearn

Norfolk Glen Loop. The Norfolk Glen Loop in Aurora combines the best of the outdoors with the ease of two great trails, the Sand Creek Greenway and the High Line Canal Trail. At five miles, which you can shorten to just over three, this hike starts at the Star K Ranch Morrison Nature Center off Smith Road (16002 E. Smith Road, Aurora 80011).

You walk through wonderful open space filled with deer, elk, coyotes and prairie dogs. Hawks and eagles soar over head.You’ll cross the Sand Creek onto the High Line Canal Trail, and walk for a couple of miles with the Canal on your right and open space full of hawks and eagles on your left. After navigating the Triple Creek Trailhead (see video), you’ll head back along the Sand Creek and its Greenway on soft surface trail. When you arrive back to the Nature Center, be sure to go inside to use the restrooms and enjoy the interpretive history about Mr Stark. The original landowner, Stark had some interesting ideas about how to get together with his friends and what to do on the weekends. For the kids, they can touch some animal furs, too!

Stapleton Central Park Loop (click for interactive map)

The Stapleton Central Park Loop. At three miles, all housed within Stapleton’s Central Park, you can follow the map, or just get lost meandering the trails between Central Park and Westerly Creek Park. Within the loop, you’ll find a fantastic playground for all ages that includes rock climbing and bouldering. Don’t miss the beautiful Alzheimer’s Remembrance Garden, and be sure to walk out onto the overlook. This “bridge to nowhere” is actually a piece of artwork designed to connect the old Stapleton airport with the new. It diagonally points from the old air tower just to the west to the new air tower to the northeast. Regardless of which way you walk this loop, the views are plenty.

Along the Sand Creek, you can seem remnants of the old Stapleton runway. If you are standing on the bridge over Sand Creek and look northwesterly, you can see where the old runways crossed the creek. The existing path down by the creek is where the maintenance trucks would travel to get between planes.

Confluence Park Clover Loop (click for interactive map)

9creeks eatwalklearn

The Confluence Loop. A great hike for locals wanting to show off Denver, this hike starts at REI at Confluence Park. You’ll walk along the Platte River toward Mile High Stadium, cross the million-dollar bridge, then enjoy the swoosh of Elitch’s roller coasters. Pass the City of Denver’s Centennial Garden, then you’ll take a right and amble along Cherry Creek.

Along Cherry Creek, you can see where Denver and Auraria were founded while enjoying some great urban art. The walk continues along the Platte River to Denver’s Skatepark, which is continually ranked in the top 10 free skate parks in the world. If you’re ambitious, you can extend this three miles walk over the Millennial Bridge and drop into Union Station for lunch.

Urban Hiking in Denver

Some folks will say that urban hiking in Denver isn’t nearly as thrilling as a hike up in Conifer or Idaho Springs through the Ponderosa pines up to a high point. That may be true, but those are different hikes and different ways to get outside. They’re enjoyable. But so are the urban hikes within Denver. When urban hiking, it’s good to adopt an attitude of discovery. What will you see while walking that you haven’t seen the hundreds of times you’ve driven by the same places? Who will you see out walking the city with you?

Yes, urban hiking is different. It’s a whole new experience that takes attitude, joy, and patience.

Have you walked any of these loops? Which was your favorite? These three hikes are also in my best-selling book, Best Urban Hikes: Denver, which as 27 other urban hiking treats here in Denver for you to get out and discover. Grab a visiting friend and show them the best of what Denver has to offer.

See you on the trail