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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.
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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.
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.
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 Front Range. There are several options, including Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights & Rides in Boulder and Adventures Out West in Colorado Springs.
Located 71 miles (114 km) northwest of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park features 415 square miles (1,075 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 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 (email firstname.lastname@example.org for registration).