Denver has one of the biggest biking, hiking and jogging trail systems in the nation, a massive network of more than 85 miles of paved, off-road trails that crisscross throughout the seven county metro area.
The paved bike trails connect to hundreds of additional miles of dirt trails, many of which head up into the mountains and offer mountain biking adventures and scenic views.
Bike rentals are available throughout the city, most notably in Confluence Kayaks (http://www.confluencekayaks.com/) at 1615 Platte Street, near the South Platte River bike trail; and in Cherry Creek Bike Rack (http://www.cherrycreekbikerack.com/) at 171 Detroit in Cherry Creek North.
You can also explore the city on a Denver B-cycle. It's easy, cheap and fun. Just check out a bike from one of 83 stations located throughout the city and return it at any other station when you're done. Get all the info at www.DenverBcycle.com.
In addition, Denver has the largest, outdoor free skate park in the nation. The $1.1 million park covers two acres and offers a mogul-inspired washboard, a 10-foot deep "dog bowl" and a half-pipe.
Here are some of Denver's favorite bike trails:
The Greenway Trail along the South Platte River
This paved bike trail follows the South Platte River for almost 30 miles, connecting a necklace of riverside parks. Since much of Denver's early history occurred along this river, the Colorado Historical Society has erected more than 20 large historic signs that use photos and illustrations to tell the story of the area. There are markers alongside the trail describing the Native Americans who once lived here, as well plaques dealing with wildlife and birds. There are historic plaques for dinosaurs and the geologic history of the area, as well as ones dealing with the railroads, trolleys, explorers, mountain men, soldiers and farmers that at one time or another traveled beside the South Platte River.
Riverside Cemetery: Many of Denver's famous pioneers are buried in this historic cemetery.
Confluence Park: Denver was founded at this site; today there kayaks can be seen in the man-made rapids of the park. Nearby is My Brother's Bar, the only bar still operating that was once frequented by Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy and others from the Beat Generation. Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, the Downtown Aquarium, the Children's Museum of Denver and Sports Authority Field at Mile High are all located along the bike path.
REI Flagship Store: 100,000 square feet of recreational equipment, including a 45-foot high rock climbing wall and everything you need for biking, kayaking and mountain climbing.
Hudson Gardens: Beautiful private gardens are located along the bike path and features an exciting outdoor garden railway and gorgeous garden walks. The Gardens operates a riverside café for bikers and hikers with coffees, drinks and deserts.
Chatfield State Recreation Area: The bike trail ends at this sprawling park, which offers horseback riding, sailing, swimming and a gigantic balloon festival in August. From here, you can bike south through the park to Waterton Canyon and the beginning of the Colorado Trail. The unpaved Colorado Trail runs for 400 miles to Durango Colorado, however parts of it are closed to biking. The first six miles offers a fairly easy, graded surface for biking along the South Platte River through rock outcroppings and gorgeous scenery, where big horn sheep can frequently be spotted.
Cherry Creek Bike Path
This paved trail begins where Denver was first founded and runs along the creek for more than 40 miles to Franktown. It is one of the most popular bike/hike/jogging trails in Denver and one of the prettiest. Parts of it comprise the Front Range Trail, an off-road bike path that will eventually stretch the entire north-south length of Colorado, from the Wyoming border to New Mexico.
Cherry Creek Shopping District: There are nearly 500 department stores, shops, boutiques, galleries and outdoor cafes in the area, divided between the upscale Cherry Creek Shopping Center and the treelined streets of the quiet neighborhood Cherry Creek North. The bike path goes directly behind the shopping center.
Four Mile House & Historic Park: This old stagecoach stop (four miles from downtown Denver) is the oldest structure in the metro area. The 12-acre park is an oasis along the bike path and offers a museum and historic buildings that tells the story of Denver's early pioneers.
Cherry Creek State Recreation Area: One of metro Denver's largest lakes has boating, camping, swimming and horseback riding. The bike path continues south through the park to Franktown.
Castlewood Canyon State Park: From the southern end of the Cherry Creek bike path, it's just a few miles on a quiet dirt road to this beautiful state park, which features walks through the canyon and historic exhibits on the dam that was once located here.
Clear Creek Bike Path
This 20-mile long paved bike path follows fast rushing Clear Creek from the South Platte River to the town of Golden. The path goes through residential neighborhoods and countryside, but is always near the creek. As it nears Golden, it offers outstanding views of the high buttes that surround the town.
Golden: The delightful, Western town of Golden was Colorado's first capital city. Today, it offers a mix of outdoor cafes, Western stores and museums with a quaint main street that in places still has covered walkways, false-front buildings and plankboard sidewalks. An award-winning kayak course runs through the center of the town and there are outdoor cafes where you can enjoy a drink while kayaks float by. The Coors Brewery, the largest single brewing site in the world, is nearby.
Colorado Railroad Museum: A mile from Golden and just off the bike path, this is the largest railroad museum in the state with more than 50 locomotives and cars, all capturing the romantic era of narrow gauge railroading in the Rocky Mountains.
North Table Mountain, South Table Mountain, Green Mountain: This three buttes and hills all have dirt mountain biking trails, both along the sides of the buttes and up on top, where they offer spectacular sweeping views of the metro area. The hills can be steep and rocky and are for intermediate mountain bike riders only.
Bear Creek Bike Trail
This 20-mile trail follows Bear Creek from the South Platte River to the tiny mountain town of Morrison - gateway to the Red Rocks Ampitheatre and Park. From here, there are paved bike trail links along C-470 that connect to Chatfield State Recreation in the south or Golden in the north, making it possible to make 40-60 mile loops from downtown Denver.
Morrison: The cute little town has cafes, coffee shops, ice cream stores, galleries and fine restaurants, all at the base of unusual geologic rock outcroppings. Bear Creek flows through the edge of the town.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre: Bear Creek Bike Path connects to Red Rocks, offering an opportunity to bike around 70 million year old red rock outcropping, some rising 300 feet high. Bikers share the road with cars in the park and it is a steep incline from Morrison to the amphitheatre, but the views are incredible.