Denver's Great Outdoors – 6 Unmissable Experiences
Denver is rightly celebrated as one of the most vibrant cities in the U.S. From beautiful city and national parks to accessible peaks and slopes, the Mile High City does the great outdoors on an epic scale. To get you started, here are six unmissable options.
1. Washington Park
Located just three miles southeast of downtown Denver, the 155-acre Washington Park was designed to feel like a classic English city park and is frequently billed as the city’s most popular green space.
Recently acknowledged as one of the "Great Public Spaces in America" by the American Planning Association, "Wash Park" was lauded for capturing "the spirit of the Mile High City" by combining the historical with the contemporary, and majesty with practicality. The APA calls it “a jewel among Denver’s 200-plus urban parks.”
2. City Park
The city’s largest green space, City Park stretches out across 330-acres. It bears more than a passing resemblance to New York's Central Park — think lakes and gardens, fountains and monuments, baseball and soccer fields, picnic sites, playgrounds, and miles of trails.
One such trail circles the park 5,280 feet above sea level — hence the name Mile High Loop.
If you're not interested in trails, many come to City Park to visit the Denver Zoo or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
3. Confluence Park
Lower downtown Denver holds the location of the city’s birth. Head here today to find a mecca for the city’s sunshine-lovers and its action men and women. The more leisurely settle for a picnic in the park. The more adventurous hit up the kayak chute.
To see the city from a different angle, hop on the Platte River Trolley, an open air historic streetcar that starts in the park and runs along the river.
4. Mount Evans (via Echo Lake)
The state of Colorado is blessed with 58 peaks that climb to 14,000 feet and above — known locally as Fourteeners.
Once such peak can be found at Mount Evans, 60 miles west of downtown Denver. Summiting a Fourteener is considered a true Colorado experience, so start your adventure at Echo Lake, a beautiful 24-acre subalpine expanse. Here you'll find the 14-mile Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America. Drive to the top and your car will be higher than any other automobile on the continent.
From there, Mount Evans’ summit is just a short hike. Reach the top for unrivaled views and a warm sense of achievement.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park
You can expect crowds at Colorado’s most popular tourist location — with its meadows, canyons, lakes and waterfalls, more than three million visitors are drawn to the wild, untamed Rockies annually.
You can also explore the park’s 415 square miles of great outdoors, with more than 359 miles of hiking trails, 150 lakes, 60 mountains higher than 12,000 feet and an abundance of wildlife.
Other national parks are available within reach of Denver, but none is quite as essential as this.
6. Winter Park Resort
It’s hardly a secret to reveal that Colorado is home to some of the best ski and snowboard opportunities in the world.
The state as a whole boasts almost 30,000 skiable acres blessed with some of the finest and most plentiful powder each year. Several of the resorts are within quick and easy reach of the city, making a single-day ski trip possible.
Visit Front Range’s Winter Park Resort not just for world-class ski opportunities, but because the park has been reconnected to the historic Amtrak Winter Park Express. After a seven-year hiatus, the line will once again run from downtown Union Square and reach the slopes in just two hours.
Other resorts are closer — the excellent Echo Mountain is just an hour away — but the Amtrak journey is part of the experience and can guarantee that after a day of skiing, you’ll be back in downtown Denver in time for dinner.
When To Go
Denver’s busiest period runs June through August, when the weather is warm and crowds are thickest. For that reason, visiting during the shoulder seasons of April through May and September through October are a good alternative — the latter sees the parks and mountains at their prettiest.
Surprisingly, despite its proximity to the Rocky Mountain ski options, tourism drops off during the winter months of December to March, making it a great time to pay the Mile-High City a visit.
Starwood has 11 hotels spread across various locations in Denver, with a 12th — Le Méridien Denver Downtown — opening August 2017. For full details see www.spg.com.
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