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Fantastic Fall Walks for Families

Slow down and connect with nature on one of these four walks near Denver.

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Taking walks as a family can be an adventure. You can discuss the area’s history or point out natural features while getting some exercise, and no one needs a screen. Here are four walks from my book, Walking Denver: 32 Tours of the Mile High City’s Best Urban Trails, Historic Architecture, and Cultural Highlights (Wilderness Press, 2018) to try this fall. Each one comes with a “Kid Tip” contributed by my daughter Sophie that highlights a family-friendly element of the walk. Originally written with visitors to the Mile High City in mind, the tours also give Denver families a chance to imagine they are tourists in their own hometown.

1. Dinosaur Ridge

16831 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison

Cooler fall weather provides a pleasant backdrop to this rocky walk. Start at the visitor center and end at the Dinosaur Bone Quarry site, exploring a collection of fossils along the way. There are dinosaur footprints you can touch (and maybe even try a rubbing), mysteries to ponder, views to take in, and a gift shop with dinosaur-themed toys such as puzzles and figurines. Be sure to check out the rocks that show where the sea plants made imprints. Imagine this place as it once was: a prehistoric swamp habitat.

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Kid Tip: At the crest of the hill, there is something in the rock that appears to be an unhatched egg. Was it an egg, or is it just a perfect rocky formation? No one knows! It’s a geologic mystery!

Distance:
2.25 miles
Difficulty:
Moderate
Parking:
Free at the visitor center or in the gravel parking lot
Restrooms:
In the visitor center

2. Downtown Golden

1500 Illinois St., Golden

The Colorado School of Mines campus, where this walk begins, has plenty of trees and grassy areas for running—not just walking—around. From here, head down to the Golden History Park where you’ll find historic homes, a garden, and a schoolhouse. As you cross Clear Creek, you’re likely to see kayakers in the rapids. Once you turn onto Washington Avenue, you can stop for lunch or ice cream and see bronze sculptures that highlight the history of this area.

Kid Tip: You might see a flock of chickens at the Golden History Park by Clear Creek. Peek in the windows of the old cabins and schoolhouse and imagine what life was like in such small quarters.

Distance:
1 mile
Difficulty:
Easy
Parking:
Two-hour free parking on most streets; note campus parking permit areas
Restrooms:
At the Golden Visitor Center and other places along the way

3. Mile High Loop

1700 N. York St., Denver

Denver’s City Park holds many treasures—a zoo, a museum of natural history, a boating and fishing lake, playgrounds, tennis courts, and a walking loop that marks points at exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. The park is also an arboretum (fancy word for tree garden) which means there will be a canopy of leaves changing color in the fall. At the beginning of the walk, you are close to the back of the Denver Zoo (you might hear some of the animals); just follow the walking loop to explore the park.

Kid Tip: You have your pick of two playgrounds here—one for younger kids and one for bigger kids with tunnels and bridges.

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Distance:
3.1 miles
Difficulty:
Easy
Parking:
Free along roads and in parking lots in the park
Restrooms:
No public restrooms; portable toilets might be found around the park depending on the season

4. Washington Park

S. Downing St. and E. Louisiana St., Denver

Washington Park is full of families year-round, and the fall is no exception. Not only can you walk around and see gorgeous flowers, watch people fishing or playing volleyball or soccer, but you can also climb trees, scramble around on a sculpture (about a famous children’s poem), and enjoy two playgrounds. Pack a picnic to extend your day, or walk to lunch in the surrounding neighborhood.

Kid Tip: You might see wildlife in this city park. I’ve seen baby ducks following their mom by one of the lakes.

Distance:
3 miles
Difficulty:
Easy
Parking:
Free along streets around the park
Restrooms:
Portable toilets can be found in different locations

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