Always pack your exercise clothes and sneakers when coming to The Mile High City! Denver's lovely jogging paths allow you to tour beautiful sites AND burn calories. Here's an overview of a few of the best options.
CHERRY CREEK PATH
The prettiest and easiest jogging paths follow Cherry Creek and the Platte River. You can go as far as you want at whatever pace you choose. Both trails are basically flat. So you don't have to worry about taxing your heart going uphill in The Mile High City.
You can reach the Cherry Creek path from several entry points along Speer Boulevard between downtown and the Cherry Creek neighborhood.
This means you could actually add a shopping trip at the chic retail venues of Cherry Creek Shopping District to your multi-tasking, provided you don't mind letting them see you sweat. The distance between Downtown and the Cherry Creek district is about four miles. So the break is perfect.
On the other hand, if you are like me and have an embarrassing perspiration problem or if, like me, you find anything more than four miles of jogging as appealing as root canal sans anesthetic, you can cut your run anywhere along the trail. If you start in Lower Downtown - known as LoDo to residents - and head southeast, you hit two miles right around 8th Avenue. The names of the streets are marked on the overpasses.
Or you can take a quick out-and-back two-mile jog along Cherry Creek between LoDo and Colfax. This is especially nice because one side of the creek is dedicated to runners and walkers and the other side to bicyclists.
My favorite route starts at the trail access at Speer and Colfax and heads north toward LoDo. The Colfax access is an easy, safe walk from convention center-area hotels and puts you on the Cherry Creek Trail where it splits into designated bike and pedestrian paths. Run a little more than a mile and you reach Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek meets the Platte River.
If you find yourself short of breath from jogging at altitude, this is the perfect break point because the Platte forms rapids that attract kayakers and, in summer, rafters. Year-round, it's just an interesting rush of water to watch while you acclimatize. At Confluence Park, I always have to choose what I'm in the mood for - institutional or residential architecture. For the former, I cross over the pedestrian bridge and head left on to the Platte River trial that winds past the Children's Museum of Denver, the Downtown Aquarium and Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, where the Denver Broncos play. You could run an entire marathon if you stayed on this trail. I usually cross the pedestrian bridge and turn back opposite the stadium.
If, instead, I have a hankering to look at residential urban renewal, I skip the pedestrian bridge at Confluence and turn right along the Platte River trail on the southeast side of the river. I get to look at the gentrifying Highlands neighborhood across the river and the new condo developments adjacent to Commons Park, where I'm jogging.
In addition to people watching, it's always fun to check out the baggy-pants athletes grabbing air at the Denver Skatepark.
I don't usually run much past the skateboard park. But as you can in the opposite direction, this northbound trail continues, although some work cuts it short before you get to Riverside Cemetery, which is as interesting as skatepark, but decidedly more quiet. Of course, if you're not in major good distance-running shape, you'd be better off biking to the cemetery. But that's another story.
High Line Canal Trail
The High Line Canal Trail is one of the longest urban trails in America. It’s a meandering path that travels 71 miles through suburban Denver, from Waterton Canyon to the plains south of Denver International Airport. It has been designated a National Landmark Trail and covers a peaceful, relatively flat landscape along an irrigation canal owned by Denver Water. There are plenty of benches and parks along the way for breaks, and a canopy of cottonwood trees makes for shady cover. A great scenic section for jogging is from Platte Canyon Reservoir to the northeast side of Chatfield State Park.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Off the beaten paths of Cherry Creek and Platte River, many other jogging routes wind their way out of Downtown. For the hearty, there is a five-miler that my pals and I call "the blue sign run." Start at Broadway and 16th Ave.. Head east on 16th until you reach the incredible architectural edifice of East High School at City Park Esplanade. Turn left and jog into City Park. Continue along 17th Avenue until you reach - you guessed it - a big blue sign just west of the intersection of Colorado and 17th. Turn and retrace your steps. You'll see the beautifully renovated City Park lake and fountain, as well as some inner-city neighborhoods.
The mega-hearty may extend this route by another couple of miles around City Park. Jog past the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on Colorado. Turn left on 23rd Street to jog past the Denver Zoo. Turn left again at York Street and follow the park's edge back to City Park Esplanade.
But remember, this visit to Denver is your vacation or a business trip, so you may want to skip the forced march to fitness. A pleasant four-mile route starts at 16th Avenue and Broadway and heads east up 16th to Park Ave., where you turn right, then cross Colfax Ave. on to Franklin St. and into Cheesman Park. Run around the park's perimeter and head back the way you came after viewing one of Denver's most interesting public spaces and some mansions.
Whether you use the Cherry Creek Trail, the Platte River Trail, the blue sign run or Cheesman Park to get your exercise, all of these jogging treks offer easy access from most downtown hotels. They can be adapted to be as long or as short as you like. So if you're staying in downtown Denver and you have as little as half-an-hour of free time, you have no excuse. If you strapped on the feed bag the night before, you can always strap on the jogging shoes the next day and quickly battle the bulge.
Jim Spencer is a former Denver Post columnist and current online columnist at Spencerspeaks. Mostly, he's a vain man battling middle-aged spread and binge-eating tendencies.