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.
LOOK FOR BALD EAGLES AT A 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.
TAKE A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
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.
CROSS THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE AT 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.
DRIVE UP 14,000-FOOT MOUNT EVANS AND VISIT 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).