Denver's Outdoor Adventures
The Mile High City and the nearby Rocky Mountains are filled with outdoor recreation thrills for the whole family. Here are just a few of your options.
Kayaking in Confluence Park
Ride the man-made kayak chutes in Confluence Park, just minutes from Downtown. Confluence Kayaks, Denver's ultimate paddling shop, offers kayaking adventures on the whitewater chutes, including lessons, rentals, retail sales, pro outfitting and more.
Denver Bike Paths
With 85 miles of bike trails and 300 days of sunshine, Denver is a cycling paradise. Explore the city using Denver B-cycle, the city's pioneering bike-sharing program. For a small membership fee, you can pick up a shiny red bike at one of more than 80 conveniently located stations throughout the city, go for a spin, and then drop it off at any station when you're done.
The Trails at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is known the world over for its summer concert series, but during the day, it's a gorgeous hiking and biking destination. The Trading Post Trail is 1.4 miles long and winds through spectacular rock formations, valleys and a natural meadow. Some of the terrain is rough, so hiking boots/shoes are recommended. Also, hikers should be prepared for adverse weather conditions, as the weather can change very quickly. If mountain biking is your pleasure, the Red Rocks Trail, which starts at the Lower North Lot, is just the ticket. The trail splits, with one segment going north to connect to Jefferson County's Matthews/Winters Park and the other heading east to connect to the Dakota Ridge Trail.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary
Lions and tigers and bears — oh my! Visit The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720-acre rescue and educational facility, located just 30 miles outside of Denver, where more than 300 large carnivores roam free. It's one of the only places in America where you can see lions, wolves and other large carnivores living in natural habitats.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Just 10 minutes from Downtown Denver, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a massive revegetation effort to restore the land to native shortgrass prairie habitat. More than 330 species of wildlife, including bison, deer, burrowing owls and endangered black-footed ferrets, live here seasonally or year-round. Outdoor activities include birdwatching (majestic bald eagles are regular visitors), fishing, hiking and viewing the amazing bison herd.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
You've never really seen the Rocky Mountains until you've seen them from a hot air balloon. Enjoy spectacular views of the majestic Rockies as you float high above the the Front Range. There are several options, including Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights & Rides in Boulder and Adventures Out West in Colorado Springs.
Denver Botanic Gardens
See what's blooming at Denver Botanic Gardens! This 24-acre oasis in the middle of the city has 45 different gardens (some 33,000 plants), as well as one of the nation's top 10 conservatories. Relax in the Japanese Garden, climb through the Rock Alpine Garden and explore the Mordecai Children's Garden. And don't miss the Gardens' Chatfield location, a picturesque nature preserve among the grasslands, ponds and cottonwood banks of Deer Creek. Facilities include nature trails, a wildlife observation area, a historic farm, a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse, working beehives and picnic areas. The Deer Creek Discovery children's play area includes a whimsical tree house and a water feature.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Located 71 miles (114 km) northwest of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park features 400 square miles (1,036 sq km) of scenic beauty, including Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the world, which crosses the Continental Divide at over two miles above sea level. The park has two information centers, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, tranquil lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and horseback riding. Estes Park is a resort town on the edge of the park with restaurants and shops and the historic (and possibly haunted!) Stanley Hotel.
Mount Evans and Echo Lake
Mount Evans has the highest paved auto road in North America, snaking its way to the 14,260-foot (4,346 m) summit. The road ($10 for a three-day pass) is open only from the Friday before Memorial Day through the first weekend in October, and frequently has snow on it, even in August. (The road closes at Summit Lake after Labor Day, preventing you from reaching the top.) The view from the top takes in the entire Front Range. The summit is 60 miles (97 km) from Downtown Denver. On your way up the mountain, be sure to stop at M. Walter Pesman Trail (maintained by Denver Botanic Gardens) for a wildflower hike; you won't see anything like the rare flowers and 1,500-year-old bristlecone pine trees anywhere else in the world. The trail winds through subalpine and alpine areas where wildflowers and animals of the fragile tundra live. Volunteer guides from Denver Botanic Gardens offer interpretive hikes that follow the trail throughout the summer (call 720-865-3539 for information).
Whitewater Rafting Just 30 Minutes from Denver
Brave the rapids! Clear Creek Rafting Co. and Raft Masters offer rafting along beautiful Clear Creek in Idaho Springs (just 30 minutes from Denver) and the Arkansas River at the Royal Gorge (near Colorado Springs). Colorado Adventure Center also offers whitewater rafting trips on Clear Creek and the Colorado River for all experience levels all summer long. It's the adventure of a lifetime for a great price.
Zip Line Tours
Something of a playground-on-steroids, Castle Rock Zip Line Tours has tons of thrilling ways to soar along on 1.5 miles of zip line at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, climb a 42-foot climbing wall and return via "adrenaline jumping stations" or a "kamikaze zip" straight to the ground, or take obstacle-course activities to new heights with the EPIC Sky Trek challenge course. Or Zoom above Clear Creek in Idaho Springs on a canopy zip-line tour with Colorado Adventure Center. You'll reach heights of up to 65 feet and get stunning views of the canyon as you fly along nearly a mile of zip line. This is the definition of high adventure!