My family will be staying closer to home this summer, but we don’t plan on sacrificing wildlife viewing, exercise, or outdoor adventures. Luckily, metro Denver has lots of great neighborhood hikes. Suddenly, staying local is looking pretty good.
- Convenient Adventure
- Drive time:
- Consistent with Safer-at-Home guidelines, these hikes are within the metro area.
- Begin your hike before 10 a.m. In addition to facilitating social distancing, you’ll up your odds of spotting wildlife if you head out early.
Commerce City claims one of the nation’s largest urban wildlife refuges. Your kids are pretty much guaranteed to spot wildlife on the peaceful stroll from the Visitor Center to Lake Mary, a 3.4-mile route passing a black-footed ferret exhibit, buffalo enclosure, and thriving prairie dog community. Catch-and-release fishing is permitted on the lake with a license.
Despite its proximity to a hospital mega-complex, the 2.7-mile natural surface trail circumventing Bluffs Regional Park feels surprisingly secluded as it winds around a grassland ecosystem, opening to pleasing views of the Front Range mountains and Denver metro skyline. The trail is a lollipop, so go either way at the fork that’s just past the trailhead.
At 71 miles, the High Line Canal is one of the country’s longest continuous urban trails. For a pretty, 4-mile hike, access the High Line at its Dahlia Trailhead (there’s parking past Arapahoe Tennis Club), and turn left onto the trail. At mile 33, use the underpass to cross East Belleview Avenue then follow the dirt path to a secluded nature preserve with two idyllic ponds.
This urban oasis is so convenient to access that summers are usually action-packed. Avoid the crowds at the marina by driving to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead, and taking Pipeline Trail to the Wetland Loop, a 0.8-mile hiker-only trail passing through a protected aquatic ecosystem on the water’s south shore.
Start your adventure at this 15-mile trail network from the West Trailhead. The first segment of the hike is a glute-burning, half-mile climb up a wide dirt and asphalt road. From here, ambitious families can complete a 7-mile route by following North Table Loop. Shorten the adventure by taking North Table Loop to Lichen Peak; then retrace your steps to the trailhead. Whatever your preference, you’ll pass two noteworthy landmarks: an old rock quarry and Lichen Peak.
The Mary Carter Greenway Trail is popular among bikers, but hikers can also enjoy stunning views of the South Platte River from this paved trail. Park in the large lot at Carson Nature Center, and make a left onto the Mary Carter Greenway. After passing two fishing piers, you’ll come to a long bridge. To escape the bike traffic, bear left onto the dirt trail preceding the bridge, and walk downhill toward a series of river access points. This out-and-back route is as long, or as short, as you make it.