The Walk Your Kid to School 1-mile Radius Challenge

The Walk Your Kid to School 1-mile Radius Challenge

With school starting and the temperatures in Denver pleasant, why not do two things to start the school year as we all head back to school? And with National Walk to School Day just around the corner, it's the perfect time to give a walk to school a try! Your kids are ready! Are you?

First, walk your kids or grandkids to school. Imagine the conversations you could have if you had a few minutes with your kids that were uninterrupted by cell phones, video games, toys, or other distractions. What might your kid say to you that can't be said at the dinner table or from the back seat of your car?

Second, take the 1-mile radius challenge. You'll get the chance to see your neighborhood from your kids' point of view. Maybe you'll discover a new favorite place, or perhaps your kid will share her secret go-to place that she thinks she only knows about?

Wake Up and Walk

Wouldn't it feel great to get a few steps in with your kid before school started? It doesn't take that long to walk. There are many research studies that show that walking your kid to school is not only quicker than driving, but it improves your relationship, reduces pollution around the school, and creates a better sense of community.

Set that alarm just a few minutes earlier, and you can probably find the time you need to walk your kid to school. Shoot, it might even be faster than driving to the kiss n go lane, waiting in line to drop, dropping, and driving away. Plus, your kids will start to learn the ritual of a morning walk. It's the morning quiet among the chaos that just might settle them into a better day with better attention.

Or, if you can't afford the extra few minutes to walk your kid, how about at least parking a few blocks away and walking with your child the last few blocks rather than idling in the kiss n go lane? Even a few blocks are worthwhile. Plus, you'll be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Need some evidence that walking your kid to school is good for you and your kid?

Read 5 Reasons to Walk Your Kid to School. The first reason is reason enough!

Wondering if your kid is old enough to walk alone?

Read Walking and Biking to School. You'll be surprised at how ready they are and at how young!

How should your kid walk to school?

Get a buddy and read Should Your Child Walk to School? Maybe you will find your own buddy as your kid finds hers!

Is the route safe to school?

Read Safe Routes to School. Sadly, not all routes are safe, but there are great resources available to make your school route safer.

Got anxious kids?

Read Anxious Kids? Let Them Walk to School. Oh, the science!

Take the 1-mile Radius Challenge

Walking to school benefits you, your family, and your community. It reduces pollution around schools, opens up the neighborhood, and increases overall happiness for everyone. Granted, you may have to put on an extra layer of clothes, find a lost glove, or tie a different shoelace, but wouldn't you have to do that anyway sometime in the day?

So once you've tackled the challenge of walking to school, try doing it on Mondays and Fridays. Then add in Wednesday. And soon enough, you'll be walking to school five days a week. Perhaps you'll even find the time to start walking your kids home from school, too. Could you actually achieve the impossible? Walk to and fro every day of the week?

Finally, if you've gotten the itch to walk to school, there are other locations within a mile or two of your house where you can also walk. Expand your walking world beyond the few blocks to school and take the 1-mile radius walking challenge (click for instructions.)

In the 1-mile walking challenge, you turn your neighborhood into your own urban hiking jungle. Within that jungle, you might find steps, bridges, streams, highways, streets, and sidewalks. Along the way is your mailbox. Next to that might be a post office.

Or a grocery store. Dentist. Doctor. Friend. Family. Vet.

Perhaps you might even find a new favorite spot on top of a hill or next to a creek where you can take a deep breath and relax from your day? Would having just five minutes of me time change your attitude for your next meeting or business call?

Crazier yet, perhaps you take on the 1-mile challenge on the walk to get your kids from school? Or maybe you get them and together, you take the challenge with them. Is the ice cream store within a mile? the tutor? the after-school activity?

So, for this fall, as the weather turns and we all get back into our regular schedules, how about we all take the time to change one habit or one behavior? Let's pick walking more as the one change that benefits everyone. You'll get some exercise, your kids will get some quality time with you, the community will open up and you'll see and hear things you miss in the car, and traffic and pollution will reduce near your kids' school. After all, isn't that how we're all trying to improve the world in our own little ways? One person, one hug, one wave at a time?

I hope you'll discover your neighborhood by foot, and perhaps you'll post some great shots of you walking with your kids to or/and from school. Or perhaps you'll post a few shots of you enjoying the 1-mile challenge, in a zen pose, in your favorite secret hide-a-way in your neighborhood. If you do, please be sure to tag #denverbyfoot so I can see them!

Discover your neighborhood by foot.

Let me know how it goes!

~Chris


 


Best Denver Hike for Summer Solstice

Best Denver Hike for Summer Solstice

With the summer solstice coming up to denote the longest day of the year, you can't miss a great hike in Denver to celebrate. There's one place like no other that will offer up fantastic front range views, an incredible sunset, birds galore, deer and their fawn, barking prairie dogs and blooming wildflowers.

Head out to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. "The Arsenal" as Denver natives call it, or "the Wildlife Refuge" as newcomers call it, boasts all sorts of trails. From hikes around lakes to short hikes around the Visitor's Center, there are plenty of options to spend the day, an hour, or half a day in the Refuge. You can even stop by the Arsenal on the way to the airport to catch your flight (don't forget to see the bison!) But there's one trail that's exceptionally spectacular at any time of the year, but especially for the summer solstice.

The Bluestem Loop Trail

The Bluestem Loop Trail, a 1.5-mile loop, overlooks the wetlands, the mountains, and the prairie. You can have vast front range views that capture from Longs Peak to Pikes Peak. You might even spot Mt Evans. But also from here, you can enjoy the longest day of the year. All the wild flowers are in bloom. Butterflies flutter from bluestem to curly dock. The wetland captures dragonflies, while the uploads hide deer, foxes, and coyotes. Prairie dogs might shuttle from hole to hole. You can see an entire ecosystem busy taking in the bounty of summer, anticipating fall just a short time away.

And chances are, you'll only drive 20 minutes to get there (if you live in Denver.) The beauty about the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is that it's nearby. If you live in Denver, Commerce City, Aurora, or maybe even Arvada, you can get there in 20 minutes or less. On the way to Denver International Airport? It's just a quick stop north of 56th Ave, just west of Pena Blvd.

On the Trail

On the trail, you'll find various interpretative signs about Blue Goose, Sedges, Wetlands and the High Line Canal. Thigh-high grasses blow in the wind. Brilliant burgundy and violet thistles dot the prairie, you'll hear meadowlarks singing, and you'll see Swainson hawks soaring. A herd of eight white-tailed deer and their two babies keep watch. Bull snakes slither. Bison bake in the sun just to the north.

Take your time, and you'll see even more wildlife watching you. Perhaps you'll catch a burrowing owl next to a prairie dog hole? Damselflies and bubble bees dart and bumble their way across flowering pinks and purples. As the sun sets, the dazzling hour dusks upon seed heads and pine cones.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. 15,000 acres buffer Denver from the airport.

It's the perfect place to catch a sunset for the longest day of the year.

It's the perfect place to bring your kids.

It's the perfect place to find some contemplative time.

Whether you're in the Refuge to hike, fish, walk, or sit, it's a welcoming place for all folks to find free time for free. You can also take the 14-mile drive through the Refuge and see the giant herd of American bison roaming freely in the prairie. (Remember, they're wild! Don't get out of your car, and take pics from a distance!)

Directions to Trailhead

Getting to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is fairly easy. You can point your GPS to 6550 Gateway Rd, Commerce City, CO, which will take you to the Visitors Center. The Visitors Center chronicles the history of the Refuge from its homesteading years through World War II, the building of weapons, petro-bombs, and pesticides, and finally to its restoration as a wildlife refuge. It also includes a life-size bison. You can even touch real bison fur! There are restrooms, a cute little gift shop that supports the Friends of the Wildlife Refuges organization, and a hands-on interpretative room where kids can dress up in little house on the prairie clothes!

To get to the actual Bluestem Trailhead, here are the directions.

Take I70 to Central Park Blvd. Go north. Central Park Blvd turns into Prairie Parkway and goes north of Dick's Sports Park. Take a right on Gateway Blvd. Enter the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. Take a right on Wildlife Drive. Continue for about a mile. Cross Havana St. Derby Lake will be on your left. Continue about a 1/2 mile. The road turns to dirt. Take it to the end. Park. The trailhead is on the south side of the parking lot. The coordinates are 39°48'45.9"N 104°49'17.9"W. There is no address for the trailhead. But most GPS and mapping apps will allow you to type in the coordinates above just as if you were typing an address.

Directions for Hiking the Trail

The Bluestem Loop Trail loops from the trailhead. You can go left or right. If you go left, you'll reach the bench mentioned above in about 1/3 mile. Go right, and you can follow the several loops (just keep going right) until the trail loops back to the left. You'll find the bench about 1/4 mile past the High Line Canal sign as you are working your way back north. The entire loop is just about 1.5 miles if you take all the little detours. Parts of the trail to the left are on elevated boardwalk; the remainder is soft surface. We saw wheelchair tracks on the entire loop.

During the summer, it can be quiet warm on the trail, and there is little to no shade. Be sure to wear a hat, sunscreen, and perhaps even long sleeves to protect from the beating heat. There is also no water, either, on the trail. Make sure you have enough water for you and your kids if they're tagging along. And, no, your dog is not allowed in the park.

If you go and hike the Bluestem Loop Trail, post a picture and tag it with #denverbyfoot. I love seeing your pictures!

See you on the trail,
~Chris

PS For another great hike in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildife Refuge, read this article.


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,
~Chris

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


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.


Three Great Denver Hikes with Kids

Three Great Hikes to Do in Denver with Kids

Sometimes all you want to do is get outside and go for a hike. But loading up the kids, the snacks, the gear, and then the drive.

Ugh the drive.

To get to the trailhead...all of this can suck the wind out of your sails. So why drive an hour to a trailhead when there are many great hikes right here in Denver for you and the kids. Granted, these hikes might not have steep climbs and rocky trails, but they do have great outdoor spaces, trees, and nature. And you don't have to drive forever!

Here are three great hikes in Denver to do with kids.

1. Star K Ranch Loops

Fresh air and fun loops await you at Star K Ranch.

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Aurora, abutting Denver, is the delectable and fun Star K Ranch. Within it is the Morrison Nature Center. Together, this location is the perfect place for a local getaway for family outings. Start in the Nature Center and touch and feel your way through the flora and fauna of the park. Learn about the elk, deer, and foxes that live in the park and their flying friends that soar overhead. Then head out on the trails. The best way to enjoy the park is to do the loop that leaves the Nature Center, heads to Sand Creek, follows Sand Creek, and then returns to the Nature Center. You can do short little one-mile loops or make them as big as three miles. For an even bigger adventure, do the 5-mile Norfolk Glen Loop.

Trailhead: 16002 E Smith Rd, Aurora, CO
Restrooms: Yes
Bring: Water, snacks, sunscreen.
Dogs: Allowed on leashes. Please scoop poop.
Grab a bite: CoraFaye's Cafe, 16251 E Colfax Ave Ste 210, Aurora, CO (get the coconut creek cheesecake!)

2. Ruby Hill to Grant Frontier Park

Conduct an outdoor concert at Grant Frontier Park.

Ready for a bit of fun, urban hiking, and nature play? Start at Ruby Hill Park. Depending on the age of your kids, pick the right playground for them to warm up and get started practicing their outdoor voices. Then tie their shoes and urban hike by going west on Florida Ave. Cross over the train tracks and S Platte River Drive, then loop down to the Platte River Trail to go south along the river. Follow on the trail to the south for just about a mile and you'll reach the super fun Grant Frontier Village Park. Here kids can practice their gold mining, play outdoor musical theater, and hunt for crawdads in the oxbow through the park. They can even drive a wagon! When you're ready, follow your footsteps back to Ruby Hill Park for just over 2 miles of walking and thousands of steps of playing.

Trailhead: 1200 W Florida Ave, Denver, CO
Restrooms: Yes at Ruby Hill
Bring: Water, snacks, sunscreen.
Dogs: Allowed on leashes. Please scoop poop.
Grab a bite: GB Fish and Chips, 1311 S Broadway, Denver, CO (get the clam chowder!)

3. Bible Park Loop

Hike a nice 2.5 mile loop at Bible Park then catch a frog!

A large shady park in southeast Denver is a fun place to go owl spotting and geocaching. You can park in the center of the park and then work your way out to its perimeter where you can hike a horseshoe shape around the edge of the park along the High Line Canal Trail. In the middle of the park are ball fields, tennis courts, exercise gyms and playgrounds with a sandbox. Along the trail is a luscious canopy of cottonwoods where you can spot squirrels, owls, and hawks along with possum, raccoon and fox tracks, if not the animals themselves! Starting in the center of the park and hiking the horseshoe will clock about 2.5 miles.

Trailhead: 6802 E Yale Ave, Denver, CO
Restrooms: Yes
Bring: Water, snacks, sunscreen.
Dogs: Allowed on leashes. Please scoop poop.
Grab a bite: La Fagota, 5670 E Evans Ave, Denver, CO (get the taquitos de camaron and an horchata!)

Where are you hiking with your kids in Denver? Send me a note, post below, and tag your photos with #denverbyfoot so I can see your fun time!

See you on the trail,

~Chris

PS For more ideas of where to hike in Denver, get my book Best Urban Hikes: Denver.