52 Denver Urban Hikes--A Week-by-Week Challenge

52 Denver Urban Hikes--A Week-by-Week Challenge

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Want to get to know Denver, get your steps in, and work on your own get-outside goals? Here are 52 urban hikes in Denver listed by the week. Each hike ranges from 3-5 miles and is a loop unless otherwise designated. We hope you'll have a blast getting to know Denver by foot. Please post your pics and tag the with #denverbyfoot so we can see them.

Acclimating to Denver's Altitude

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!

Looking for more hikes or fewer hikes? Try the Denver By Foot Challenge. For visitors, locals, and transplants alike, these 30 challenges take you to different landmarks, off-the-beaten path treasures, and obscure neighborhoods to learn more about Denver.

52 Hikes 52 Weeks. The Denver By Foot Urban Hiking Calendar

Start the Year with These Winter Urban Hikes

January 1. Start the New Year off where Denver started and higher ed came into vogue. Do the Auraria/Denver loop. Or, kick off the New Year by making new friends and joining a walking group at Walk2Connect's annual New Year's walk. It's free and everyone is invited. Details at www.walk2connect.com.

January 8. Don't have transportation or weather not cooperating? Head down to Confluence Park. You can get there by walking from Union Station or start from REI. Head out and walk this loop.

January 15. New to Denver? Continue getting the lay of the land by walking the Union Station neighborhood. Start at Union Station, then head out on this route.

January 22. Music is a big part of Denver's history. Some think Denver's music scene is at Red Rocks, but it actually has roots in the neighborhood of Whittier. Here, 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. Beat it to this loop for an intro to some of the best music of Denver.

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

January 29. Put on your gear and get out on Segment 8 of the 9 Creeks Loop. It's along the Cherry Creek Trail to the Platte River, and the city does a great job on keeping the trail clear of snow and ice. It's a great walk in the winter. This is a one-way hike; or hike it as an out-n-back for as far was you want to walk.

Ready for a challenge? Although this calendar gives you a week-by-week plan, you should really try the Denver By Foot Challenge. 30 Challenges. Do them with friends or by yourself. For locals, natives, and visitors alike. Filled with history, off-the-beaten path treasures, and secret neighborhoods, you'll really know Denver when you're done. Click here and use code "challenge" for 10% off.

February 7. Before the season gets started out at Red Rocks, go enjoy it at the best time of the year. The winter! Do the Red Rocks Trail Loop and then stop in the Trading Post to see the Colorado Music Hall of Fame and at the Red Rocks Visitor Center. Is Red Rocks in Denver? Well, it's technically in Morrison, but it is a Denver Mountain Park and the City of Denver owns the park.

February 14. Grab your lover, best friend, mom or cousin and share the love. Do Denver's most romantic spots. Get your downloadable map here.

February 21. In a deep chill? Warm up on West Colfax and stop in Lake Steam Baths. You'll also learn a little bit about Paco Sanchez on this 3-mile urban hike.

February 28. Leap day is tomorrow. Take a hike from Frog Hollow Park. Start at the trailhead at 2350 W 8th Ave, Denver, and walk up or down the Platte River from Frog Hollow. A small linear park with a great name, you may not find any frogs here. Or maybe you will? It is a great place to take a break from your ride along the Platte or just to sit and enjoy a sandwich. Once a dumping ground for the highway maintenance teams of the past, it was the original home to Lake Archer which supplied a small amount of drinking water for Denver. Perhaps that’s where the frogs were!

March 7. Ditch your car for the day and head to Sloan's Lake (or drive if you'd like.) Bus 28 is your ticket to ride. 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.

March 14. Denver has one of the largest St Patrick's Day parades in the U.S. Let's see where parts of it go by walking in the Capitol Hill (CapHill) neighborhood. Have fun on this loop in CapHill.

March 21. Spring is coming. Maybe not soon enough, but let's see if any of the tulips and early bloomers are up and out yet in Washington Park's neighborhood. Walk through WashPark and its fabulous gardens, then go check out the rest of the neighborhood.

March 28. 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 music and art lovers, 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 entertainment history of Denver. Have a blast on this loop and stop in Curtis Park Deli for lunch.

Spring Comes in for These Denver Urban Hikes

April 4. If the flowers weren't blooming yet for Wash Park back in March, try again at Inspiration Park. The best time to do this short hike is at sunset. Park at the entrance to the park at 4901 N. Sheridan Blvd., Denver, and enjoy the tulip bed on the east side, then walk through the park to its western edge to watch the amazing sunset over the Clear Creek Valley. On a clear day, you can see Pikes, Longs, and Evans Peaks.

Thanks for doing the weekly urban hikes, would you like to help underwrite it? Although this calendar gives you a week-by-week plan, please buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. 30 Challenges. Do them with friends or by yourself. For locals, natives, and visitors alike. Filled with history, off-the-beaten path treasures, and secret neighborhoods, you'll really know Denver when you're done. Click here and use code "challenge" for 10% off.

April 11. Paid your taxes yet? Go to People's Park, also known as Civic Center Park, and enjoy the right to assemble. Take a hike through the Central Business District neighborhood (now called Upper Downtown or UpDo) on this 3-mile loop.

April 18. Spring has sprung. Do you have your puffer and flip flops on? Before they take down the Boneyard at Ruby Hill where you can go snowboarding for free, take a walk through the Ruby Hill neighborhood on this 3-mile loop along the Sanderson Gulch.

April 25. How about a good book? Wander through the Stapleton Northfield neighborhood on their Little Free Library Trail. It's a 3-5 mile loop, depending on how many libraries you want to peruse.

Thank you for getting to know Denver by foot. Please support us by clicking on our advertisements, buying the Denver By Foot Challenge, and visiting Amazon for our books.

May 2. For another car-free day, do a one-way, five-mile hike along the Sand Creek Greenway.

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.

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 Eudora St and 56t St Station.

May 9. Got your bottle of water with you? Did you know that water probably comes from Denver's Marston Lake, which is fed from the Platte River. Go walk the Marston neighborhood and take a gander at Marston Lake.

May 16. Now is the perfect time to get out to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. Filled with bison, deer, ferrets, prairie dogs, hawks, eagles, and over 100 other species, you can spend the day here on the old Army grounds. Stop in the Visitors Center first, then walk this 3-5 mile loop around its lakes.

May 23. Let's give thanks to our Veterans on the upcoming Memorial Day. Take a walk in the Fort Logan Neighborhood and visit Fort Logan National Cemetery on this 3.5-mile loop. Bring a flag with you to decorate a grave.

May 30. School's out for the summer! Let's review some history and understand how Denver was the center of mandatory school busing. The lawsuits started here. Have a walk through Park Hill and get a feel for how segregation played out in Denver Public Schools on this 3-mile loop.

June 6. Jefferson Park neighborhood sits in the shadow of the more popular Highlands. But it's a fun place to discover on this 3-mile urban hike past old homes and great downtown views.

June 13. It's the anniversary of Denver's 1965 flood that took out most the bridges over the Platte River in downtown Denver. Let's remember it by walking the Athmar Park neighborhood to see the flood line on the church and the historic mosaic picnic tables that recall the flood in art form on this 3-mile loop.

Ready for a challenge? Although this calendar gives you a week-by-week plan, you should really try the Denver By Foot Challenge. 30 Challenges. Do them with friends or by yourself. For locals, natives, and visitors alike. Filled with history, off-the-beaten path treasures, and secret neighborhoods, you'll really know Denver when you're done. Click here and use code "challenge" for 10% off.

June 20. The summer solstice is coming. Here's your best summer solstice hike.

June 27. Got kids in our life? 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

It's Not too Hot for These Summer Urban Hikes in Denver

July 4. It's the 4th. Get to City Park and celebrate. Hike the lakes at City Park.

July 11. Hot? Hike from Cheesman Park to Wash Park in the shade.

July 18. Still hot? Do the Dry Gulch Lollipop loop.

Thank you for getting to know Denver by foot. Please support us by clicking on our advertisements, buying the Denver By Foot Challenge, and visiting Amazon for our books.

July 25. It's not getting any cooler, but this urban walk will help. Enjoy Bible Park.

August 1. In a few weeks, it will be cooler. But probably not today. Cool off on First Creek at DEN trail.

August 8. The Platte River will help you keep cool on this urban hike downtown that starts and finishes with ice cream in Union Station.

August 15. In the Berkeley neighborhood, which originally watered the alfalfa of John Walker’s farm, you’ll find Berkeley Lake in Berkeley Park. Walk around the lake or the neighborhood.

August 22. School starts soon. In the spirit of walking kids to school, let's take on the 1-mile challenge today. You can do it in your neighborhood or a friend's. What will you discover?

August 29. With the kids back in school, do some adulting in Highland. This area, known collectively as Highlands, has great old homes, delicious ice cream, and great places to stop and eat, drink or shop along this 4-mile loop.

September 5. Let's give a shout out to the Unions for the contributions they've made to fair labor laws. Lincoln Park, home to the Laborers International Union, Santa Fe Art District, The Buckhorn, and the Iron Workers Union, has a fascinating history that is told by walking through the Lincoln Park/La Alma Neighborhood on this 3.5-mile loop.

September 12. PT Barnum never lived in Denver. But don't tell the neighors in Barnum! Take this meander though the Barnum neighborhood for some good circus-y fun.

September 19. The old Stapleton airport's runways still exist. See them on this loop through Stapleton's Central Park. You'll find the trail just like you did on May 2, but this time, when you get to the trailhead under Smith Road, you'll go to the left (away from the train tracks.)

September 26. The High Line Canal, Denver's 71-mile urban trail, runs from just south of DIA to Waterton Canyon. Major Denver portions are in Green Valley Ranch, behind Windsor Gardens and through Cherry Creek. In Aurora on the DeLaney Urban Farm portion, you will see prairie dogs, hawks, and maybe a deer or two. Head further south to Windsor Gardens, and you can reflect on the famous Denverites buried in Fairmount Cemetery. If you want a complete cottonwood tunnel, you’ll find it between Centennial and Cherry Hills.

Denver's portions are segments 10 and 14. If you want to enjoy a smorgasbord of delicious wild fruits on the High Line Canal Trail, get yourself hiking especially between mile markers 16-25 (from Fly n B Ranch to Julia deKoevend Park, segments 5, 6, 7.) You’ll also find a plethora of wild apples and plums. Bon appetite!

We're grateful you're enjoying these 52 urban hikes. Support us by also doing the Denver By Foot Challenge. 30 Challenges. Do them with friends or by yourself. For locals, natives, and visitors alike. Filled with history, off-the-beaten path treasures, and secret neighborhoods, you'll really know Denver when you're done. Click here and use code "challenge" for 10% off.

Fall Might Be the Best Time for These Denver Urban Hikes

October 3. Fall is the perfect time to put lots of steps in along the Platte River, where you'll see some great fall color. This one-way hike is about 5 miles, or do it as an out-n-back for as long as you want. Here, on the banks of the Platte, you'll find a flush of cottonwood brilliance. If you make it all the way to Carpio Sanguinette Park (previously Northside Park) you’ll be treated to wonderful sayings of optimism embedded in the concrete paths within the park. Head out on the 9 Creeks Loop on Segment 1.

October 10. To get another flush of grassy fall color, you don’t have to travel far. Check out this urban hike in Lowry for some great fall color via the grassy plains. It’s a great place to hear smaller song birds, too. A great time to do this hike is at dusk. The sun will be setting, birds will be fluttering, and you can get a high vantage point at low altitude via the Kelly Dam. You'll do a 3.5-mile loop.

October 17. Wondering what's going on with the I-70 expansion? It's impacting the neighborhoods below it, which are some of the most fascinating in Denver. Learn about Elyria and Swansea and meander on this 2.5-mile loop through the neighborhood, getting a first-hand experience of the interstate's impact. (Please note that due to construction, you may need to veer from this route.)

October 24. Let's tromp through Regis neighborhood's college campus,  on this loop that includes Regis University.

October 31. Happy Halloween. Rumor has it that one of the best houses to see decorated is the Montclair Mansion in Montclair neighborhood. Go check it out while enjoying this east neighborhood full of fabulous turn-of-the-century homes.

November 7. The Lowry neighborhood used to be an old Air Force base, teaching aerial photography. Its aviation history remains. Do this loop in Lowry to learn a bit about President Eisenhower's stay and to see what might be the world's largest sundial.

November 14. Last week, you said hi to Dwight Eisenhower. This week, meet his Denver-based wife, Mamie. Walk the University Hills/Wellshire neighborhood and visit Mamie D Eisenhower Park on this 3.75-mile loop.

November 21. Thanksgiving is upon us. Do you have family coming in town? Help them acclimate to the altitude, then go show off Denver. Arrive at Union Station. Walk out its front door and up 17th Street to the Brown Palace, then walk back down the 16th Street Mall back to Union Station. Add in a bit extra by walking over to the Capitol from Brown Palace and show off our 5280' markers on the Capitol steps.

Buy Experiences, not Gifts. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday upon us, please support Denver By Foot and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. 30 Challenges. Do them with friends or by yourself. For locals, natives, and visitors alike. Filled with history, off-the-beaten path treasures, and secret neighborhoods, you'll really know Denver when you're done. Click here and use code "challenge" for 10% off.

November 28. Hilltop tops Denve as its highest neighborhood and has a great Jewish history. Visit this plush neighborhood and its fun Cranmar Park with its historic sun dial and mountain range diorama on this 3.5-mile loop.

Belcaro urban hiking eatwalklearn

December 5. The Country Club Neighborhood has a giant mansion and custom homes. They decorate their homes for show. Take a 3-mile loop hike through the 'hood, get into the holiday mood and learn why there's no 2nd Avenue through Country Club.

December 12. The Belcaro Neighborhood also technically includes Bonnie Brae, according to the City of Denver. Whether you agree or not, you will admit that there's some gorgeously decorated houses here, including another castle. Take a 3-mile loop hike through these two icons and get in the holiday mood.

December 19. Feeling a little stressed about the holidays? Escape onto segment 7 of the 9 Creeks Loop. You'll pass a bevy of Sister City Parks and enjoy some quiet time on the Cherry Creek. This is a one-way, 5-mile hike. Feel free to turn it into an out-n-back or grab a Lyft at the end to get back to your start.

December 26. Congratulations. You've walked 52 urban hikes in Denver, counting today. To finish up this adventure, enjoy the Hale neighborhood on this 3-mile loop through a quickly changing area of central Denver.

Thank you for getting to know Denver by foot. Please support us by clicking on our advertisements, buying the Denver By Foot Challenge, and visiting Amazon for our books.

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 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,


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,

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

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


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