Denver’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains makes it possible to spend a day skiing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, hiking, river running, sailing, fishing, hunting, mountain climbing, or rockhounding and return to the city by nightfall. Within the city limits and nearby, visitors will find more than 200 miles of jogging and bicycle paths, more than 100 free tennis courts, and several dozen public golf courses.
The city has an excellent system of Mountain Parks (tel. 303/697-4545), covering more than 14,000 acres.
Campsites are easy to reach from Denver, as are suitable sites for hang gliding and hot-air ballooning. Sailing is popular within the city at Sloan’s Lake (a Denver City Park), and the Platte River is clear for many miles of river running in rafts, kayaks, and canoes.
The Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau can supply detailed information about activities in the city. Information on nearby outdoor activities is available from Colorado State Parks, 1313 Sherman St., Suite 618, Denver, CO 80203 (tel. 303/866-3437; www.parks.state.co.us); the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, 740 Simms St., Golden, CO 80401 (tel. 303/275-5350; www.fs.fed.us); the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, 2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood, CO 80215 (tel. 303/239-3600; www.co.blm.gov); and the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region headquarters, 12795 W. Alameda Pkwy., Lakewood, CO 80228 (tel. 303/969-2000; www.nps.gov).
Visitors who don’t bring the necessary equipment should hit the REI Flagship store, 1416 Platte St. (tel. 303/756-3100); its rental department is stocked with tents, backpacks, stoves, mountaineering equipment, kayaks, and other gear.
You can’t beat a hot-air balloon ride for viewing the magnificent Rocky Mountain scenery. Rocky Mountain Hot Air (tel. 303/936-0292; www.rockymountainhotair.com) offers sunrise flights daily, launching from Chatfield State park south of town. The cost is usually $195 to $225 per person.
Bicycling & Skateboarding
The paved bicycle paths that crisscross Denver include a 12-mile scenic stretch along the bank of the South Platte River and along Cherry Creek beside Speer Boulevard. All told, the city has more than 85 miles of off-road trails for bikers and runners. Bike paths link the city’s 205 parks, and many streets have bike lanes. In all, the city has more than 130 miles of designated bike paths and lanes. Mountain bikers will take delight in the foothills; one option is Waterton Canyon, where single track connects metro Denver and Deckers. For more information, contact Bike Denver (www.bikedenver.org) or Bicycle Colorado (tel. 303/417-1544; www.bicyclecolo.org). Bike tours are available from several companies and clubs (see “Organized Tours,”). The Cherry Creek Bike Rack, 171 Detroit St. (tel. 303/388-1630; www.cherrycreekbikerack.com), offers rentals ($27–$35 a day), service, and free parking for bikes. The city also has installed numerous B-Cycle kiosks (http://denver.b-cycle.com), with short-term rental bikes avail for a $5 daily fee plus fees for how long you use a the bike before returning it to another kiosk.
Denver also has the largest free skateboarding park (3 acres) in the country, the Denver Skatepark, 19th and Little Raven sts. (tel. 720/913-1311; www.denverskatepark.com). It is quite popular and open from 5am to 11pm.
A quiet way to view some of downtown Denver is from a punt on scenic Cherry Creek. Venice on the Creek (tel. 303/893-0750; www.veniceonthecreek.com) operates from June to August, Thursday to Sunday from 5 to 10pm. On weekdays it accommodates only groups of 12 or more; smaller groups are taken on weekends. Guides describe the history of the city while pointing out landmarks. Tickets are available at the kiosk at Creekfront Plaza, at the intersection of Speer Boulevard and Larimer Street. A 30- to 40-minute trip costs $50 to $75 for a private boat. Also downtown, you can rent a kayak ($25–$50 a day) and take kayaking classes ($49 per session) at Confluence Kayaks, 2373 15th St., unit B (tel. 303/433-3676; www.confluencekayaks.com).
In the outlying areas, you’ll find powerboat marinas at Cherry Creek State Park, 4201 S. Parker Rd., Aurora (tel. 303/690-1166), 11 miles from downtown off I-225; and Chatfield State Park, 11500 N. Roxborough Park Rd., Littleton (tel. 303/791-7275), 16 miles south of downtown Denver. Jet-skiing and sailboarding are also permitted at both parks. Sailboarding, canoeing, and other wakeless boating are popular at Barr Lake State Park, 13401 Picadilly Rd., Brighton (tel. 303/659-6005), 21 miles northeast of downtown on I-76. For more information on these parks, see the “Parks and Reserves,” section, or visit http://parks.state.co.us.
For a different watersports experience, try riverboarding with RipBoard (tel. 866/311-2627 or 303/904-8367; www.ripboard.com), which entails going down Clear Creek face-first with flippers on your feet and a helmet on your head. It’s exciting and exhausting, but can be a lot of fun in the right water. Lessons (including equipment) are $135 for 4 hours (including a credit toward a RipBoard purchase); rentals and sales are also available.
For information on other boating opportunities, contact Colorado State Parks, the National Park Service, or the U.S. Forest Service .
A couple of good bets in the metropolitan area are Chatfield State Park, with trout, bass, and panfish, and Cherry Creek State Park, which boasts trout, walleye pike, bass, and crappie (see “Boating,” above). In all, there are more than 7,100 miles of streams and 2,000 reservoirs and lakes in Colorado. For information, contact Colorado State Parks, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (tel. 303/297-1192), or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (tel. 303/236-7920). Within Denver city limits, the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (tel. 720/913-1311) stocks a number of lakes with fish.
A number of sporting-goods stores can provide more detailed information. The skilled and experienced staff at Anglers All, 5211 S. Santa Fe Dr. (tel. 303/794-1104; www.anglersall.com), can help with equipment choices and recommendations for where to go. Anglers All also offers lessons, seminars, clinics, and guided wade trips ($350 a day for two people).
Throughout the Front Range, it’s often said that you can play golf at least 320 days a year, because the sun always seems to be shining, and even when it snows, the little snow that sticks melts quickly. There are more than 50 courses in the Denver area, including seven municipal golf courses, with nonresident greens fees from $22 to $35 for 18 holes and $8 to $18 for 9. City courses are City Park Golf Course, East 25th Avenue and York Street (tel. 303/295-2096); Evergreen Golf Course, 29614 Upper Bear Creek Rd., Evergreen (tel. 303/674-6351); the par-3 Harvard Gulch Golf Course, East Iliff Avenue and South Clarkson Street (tel. 303/698-4078); Kennedy Golf Course, 10500 E. Hampden Ave. (tel. 303/751-0311); Overland Park Golf Course, South Santa Fe Drive and West Jewell Avenue (tel. 303/777-7331); Wellshire Golf Course, 3333 S. Colorado Blvd. (tel. 303/692-5636); and Willis Case Golf Course, 4999 Vrain St. near West 50th Avenue (tel. 303/458-4877). Wellshire is the best overall course, but I prefer Willis Case for its spectacular mountain views.
You can make same-day reservations by calling the starter (tel. 303/458-4877) or visiting www.denvergov.org/golf; otherwise, nonresident golfers can purchase a $10 card at City Park, Wellshire, or Willis Case, and then make reservations through the automated phone system (tel. 303/784-4000) or the website. Non-cardholders can only make reservations 3 days in advance, while cardholders can make them up to 5 days in advance. The exception to this policy is Evergreen Golf Course, where you can call the starter for reservations 3 days in advance. For information on any course, you can also call the Denver golf office (tel. 303/370-1554).
An 18-hole Frisbee golf course is located at Lakewood Gulch, near Federal Boulevard and 12th Street. Call the Department of Parks and Recreation (tel. 720/913-1311) for more information.
Hiking & Backpacking
The Colorado Trail is a hiking, horse, and mountain-biking route stretching 500 miles from Denver to Durango. The trail is also open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and llama-pack hiking. Opened in 1988, the trail is still being fine-tuned. It took 15 years to establish, using volunteer labor, and crosses eight mountain ranges and five river systems, winding from rugged terrain to pristine meadows. For information, contact the Colorado Trail Foundation, 710 10th St., Room 210, Golden, CO 80401-1022 (tel. 303/384-3729; www.coloradotrail.org). Beyond being a source of information, the foundation maintains and improves the trail, publishes relevant guidebooks, and offers supported treks (see “Bicycling & Multisport Tours,” above) and accredited courses.
For hikes in the Denver area, contact the city Department of Parks and Recreation (tel. 720/913-1311) for information on Denver’s park system. Or contact any of the following agencies: Colorado State Parks, Colorado Division of Wildlife, National Park Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, or U.S. Forest Service (see the introduction to this section and “Fishing,” above). A good source for the many published area maps and hiking guides is REI, 1416 Platte St., Denver (tel. 303/756-3100).
Above Red Rocks Park, 4,000-acre Mount Falcon Park (tel. 303/271-5925) offers excellent trails that are easy to moderate in difficulty, making this a good place for families with children. There are also picnic areas, shelters, and ruins of an old castlelike home of late local entrepreneur John Brisben Walker, the visionary behind Red Rocks Amphitheatre. From Denver, go west on U.S. 285, north on Parmalee Gulch Road, and follow the signs; the park is open daily from dawn to dusk, and admission is free. Mountain bikes and horseback riding are permitted, as are leashed dogs.
Other relatively easy trails near Denver are in Roxborough State Park (tel. 303/973-3959), 10 miles south of Littleton--the 1-mile Willow Creek Trail and the 2.3-mile Fountain Valley Trail. There are several more strenuous trails at Roxborough, which are worth the effort if you enjoy beautiful red rocks and the chance to see wildlife. To get to Roxborough Park, exit Colo. 470 south onto U.S. 85, turn west onto Titan Road, and then go south again at Roxborough Park Road to the main entrance. Admission is $6 per passenger vehicle. The park is open daily from 8am to 8pm in summer, with shorter hours the rest of the year. Dogs, bikes, and horseback riding are not permitted.
Equestrians can find a mount year-round at Stockton’s Plum Creek Stables, 7479 W. Titan Rd., Littleton (tel. 303/791-1966; www.stocktonsplumcreek.com), near Chatfield State Park, 15 miles south of downtown. Stockton’s offers hayrides and barbecue picnics, as well as lessons. Paint Horse Stables, 4201 S. Parker Rd., Aurora (tel. 303/690-8235; www.painthorsestables.net), at Cherry Creek State Park, also rents horses, boards horses, and provides riding lessons, trail rides, hayrides, and pony rides for kids.
The Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (tel. 720/913-1311) operates about 30 recreation centers around the city, several of which have facilities oriented to seniors. Daily guest passes for all facilities, including swimming pools, cost $5.50 for adults, $2.75 for children 17 and under. Facilities vary but may include basketball courts, indoor or outdoor pools, gyms, and weight rooms. The centers offer fitness classes and other recreation programs, including programs for those with special needs. Call tel. 720/913-0693 for current program information.
Among the city’s recreation centers are the following: Scheitler Recreation Center, 5031 W. 46th Ave. (tel. 720/865-0640), which has an indoor pool and a weight room; Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Center, 3880 Newport St. (tel. 720/865-0530), which is the nearest full-service center to Denver International Airport and has an indoor pool, a large gym, and a racquetball court; 20th Street Recreation Center, downtown at 1011 20th St., between Arapahoe and Curtis streets (tel. 720/865-0520), with an indoor pool and a weight room; and Washington Park Recreation Center, 701 S. Franklin St. (tel. 303/698-4962), with an indoor pool, an advanced weight room, a large gym, and walking and jogging trails. Browse www.denvergov.org/recreation for additional information.
Several ski resorts close to the Front Range target primarily locals. They include Eldora Mountain Resort, 45 miles west (tel. 303/440-8700; www.eldora.com), which covers almost 700 acres and has 53 trails, with skiing rated 20% beginner, 50% intermediate, and 30% advanced. I ski Loveland Basin and Valley, 56 miles west of Denver on I-70, exit 216 (tel. 800/736-3754 or 303/569-3203; www.skiloveland.com), covering 1,570 acres and with 93 trails, rated 13% beginner, 41% intermediate, and 46% advanced. Winter Park Resort, 67 miles west of Denver on I-70 and U.S. 40 (tel. 970/726-5514 or 303/316-1564; www.winterparkresort.com), boasts 3,060 ski-able acres with 143 trails, rated 8% beginner, 17% intermediate, and 75% advanced. Adult lift tickets (2009–10 prices) ran $65 at Eldora, $44 to $59 at Loveland, and $92 at Winter Park; kids were $39, $21 to $25, and $49 respectively. Eldora and Winter Park offer Nordic as well as alpine terrain.
Full information on statewide skiing is available from Colorado Ski Country USA (tel. 303/837-0793; www.coloradoski.com) and the Colorado Cross Country Ski Association (www.colorado-xc.org).
Some useful Denver telephone numbers for skiers include ski-area information and snow report (tel. 303/825-7669), weather report (tel. 303/337-2500), and road conditions (tel. 303/639-1111).
The Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (tel. 720/913-1311) operates 16 outdoor swimming pools (open daily mid-June to mid-Aug) and 12 indoor pools (open Mon–Sat year-round). Nonresident fees are $3.50 for adults and $2.25 for children. See “Recreation Centers,” above.
The Denver Department of Parks and Recreation (tel. 720/913-1311) manages or owns close to 150 tennis courts, more than one-third of them lit for night play. Among the most popular courts are those in City Park (York St. and E. 17th Ave.), Berkeley Park (Tennyson St. and W. 17th Ave.), Green Valley East Ranch Park (Jebel St. and E. 45th Ave.), Washington Park (S. Downing St. and E. Louisiana Ave.), and Sloan’s Lake Park (Sheridan Blvd. and W. 17th Ave.). The public courts are free. For more information, contact the Colorado Tennis Association (tel. 303/695-4116; www.coloradotennis.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.