To put it lightly, Denver’s backyard is pretty impressive. Colorado’s state parks offer some of the greatest outdoor recreation in all of the U.S. Camping, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, water sports – it’s all here along with much more, often just a short drive from Denver. Take some time to check out at least a few of these amazing natural wonders.
CHERRY CREEK STATE PARK
4201 S. Parker Rd., Aurora
Just minutes from downtown Denver, you'll encounter this magnificent outdoor recreation paradise. Anchored around an 880-surface-acre reservoir, Cherry Creek State Park's natural prairie environment of gentle, rolling hills complements the complete outdoor recreation facilities, including camping, picnicking and facilities for group events. Close and convenient, Cherry Creek is Denver's spectacular backyard.
ACTIVITIES: Bike, hike or jog on 12 miles of paved trails - 35 total miles of multi-use trails. Boating on the lake is also a popular pastime out here. The park offers boat launches on both the east and west sides of the reservoir for park visitor use. The Cherry Creek Marina offers full concessions including boating lessons and bait. If you want to make a weekend of it, Cherry Creek Campground has 125 newly renovated sites for fun overnight stays.
CHATFIELD STATE PARK
11500 N. Roxborough Park Rd., Littleton
Float your boat in the lake, bicycle or hike on a trail that provides scenic views of the neighboring foothills and Platte River valley, camp, ride a horse and even fly a model airplane -- all at Chatfield State Park, nestled next to the foothills southwest of Denver.
ACTIVITIES: Boaters of all types - from water skiers to fishing enthusiasts to canoeists and sailors - will love Chatfield Reservoir's waters. Boat rentals, a floating restaurant and a marina are also part of the fun at Chatfield.
ELDORADO CANYON STATE PARK
9 Kneale Rd., Eldorado Springs
Tucked away just minutes from Boulder, Eldorado Canyon is a true hidden treasure. You can hike amidst the towering sandstone cliffs, picnic along scenic South Boulder Creek or climb Eldo's sheer golden walls. It's just a half-hour's drive from downtown Denver.
ACTIVITIES: Rock Climbers take note: Eldorado Canyon offers over 500 technical rock climbing routes luring climbers from around the world to challenge their skills on Eldo's golden cliffs. Hike or mountain bike the picturesque trails that vary from easy to difficult and connect with Boulder's legendary trail systems. Enjoy a picnic by scenic South Boulder Creek. In the winter, Eldorado offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
ST. VRAIN STATE PARK
3785 Weld County Rd., Firestone
Formerly named Barbour Ponds, this nature St. Vrain State Park (about 35 minutes north of Denver) offers 50 acres of land and 80 acres of water split among several ponds. It's a great place for anglers, campers, photographers, birders, walkers and anyone who loves nature.
ACTIVITIES: Birdwatching is big here. St. Vrain is home to the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in the state. In addition to these year-round residents, visitors can observe migrating waterfowl, songbirds and raptors. During the winter, St. Vrain is home to magnificent bald eagles. The fishing isn't bad, either: The ponds offer bluegill, crappie, large mouth bass, pumpkinseed, perch, catfish and rainbow trout. Trout fishing is excellent during the spring and fall. When the fish are biting, the park is the perfect spot to teach children how to fish.
CASTLEWOOD CANYON STATE PARK
2989 S. State Hwy. 83, Franktown
If you love the outdoors, you're guaranteed to love Castlewood Canyon State Park. You'll enjoy environmental diversity on several hiking trails ranging from mild to moderate. The winding Cherry Creek flowing along the canyon floor provides wonderful rest stops. The natural amphitheater and the Bridge Canyon Overlook gazebo perched on the edge of the canyon are popular and unique places for weddings or other outdoor ceremonies.
ACTIVITIES: Castlewood offers hiking trails for every skill level. Paved trails give all ages access to magnificent views of the canyon, while more difficult trails take you down to Cherry Creek and along the canyon floor. Walls up to 60 feet and canyon face climbing are available for all skill levels. A detailed climbing guide is for sale at the Visitor Center for $13.95.
STAUNTON STATE PARK
12102 S. Elk Creek Rd., Pine
Colorado's newest state park is just 40 miles southwest of Denver. During your visit to this beautiful 3,828-acre wilderness area, you'll encounter high grassy meadows, soaring granite cliffs and a wide variety of wildlife. See what's happening at Staunton State Park soon.
ACTIVITIES: Enjoy several miles of biking, hiking and horseback riding trails, along with some of the area's best rock climbing opportunities.