Finding time to exercise with kids in tow is sometimes a nominal feat. You splurged for the jogging stroller and have hit all the local bike paths and sidewalks around your house—now it’s time to venture a little farther. All throughout the Denver metro area and in the Foothills, you can find dirt and gravel trails suitable for jogging strollers. An added bonus for trading pavement for soil: Studies show that children who are exposed to nature and the outdoors are more likely to have an appreciation for it when they are older. This means you may have a new trail running partner in a few years. Check out the following local trails, which are open year-round.
Coal Creek Regional Trail
Running a total of 14.2 miles through the towns of Louisville, Superior, Lafayette and Erie, the Coal Creek Regional Trail offers the shade of cottonwood trees and open views of the Flatirons. Park at the Aquarius Trailhead in Louisville off Empire Road where you will have access to bathrooms and a great map identifying the peaks in view. Some areas of the trail are paved in places where heavy erosion occurs.
If you are looking for a more challenging quad busting run (8 percent grade for quick stretches) with panoramic views of the Denver skyline and the Front Range, the Bluffs Loop in Lone Tree is a great pick. This 2.7-mile loop trail can be lengthened to 3.5 miles if you add on the overlooks and feeder trails. Don’t wait until the heat of the day to run this trail; there’s no shade. There’s a bathroom at the parking lot off of RidgeGate Parkway and Lincoln Avenue, but no access to water.
Big Dry Creek Trail
Starting at the trailhead off Owen Street and 100th Avenue, follow the gravel trail east as it runs along a creek, past Loon Lake and continues to the Wadsworth Parkway underpass. It is two miles to the underpass where the trail becomes concrete. There is no access to water or restrooms at the trailhead and very little shade on the trail. The full trail is a mix of gravel and concrete extending 12 miles from Standley Lake Regional Park to I-25.
East Lake #3
The 1.4-mile gravel trail around East Lake meanders through a natural forest preserve. Expect to see abundant wildlife from many species of birds to possibly coyotes. The parking lot is off the north side of 128th Avenue. There are no services at this trail.
East Trail/Teller Farms
The East Trail at Teller Farms has two parking lots from which you can start. There is one off Valmont between 75th and 95th and another off Arapahoe Road between 75th and 95th (this one has a pit toilet). Whatever trailhead you start from, skip the connector East Trail closer to Teller Lake as it is overgrown and not maintained in the summer. Horse, cattle and dogs may greet you on your run. Keep an eye out for bald eagles as you enjoy expansive views of the Flatirons. This out-and-back run is a little more than four miles total. The East Boulder Trail continues across Valmont into the White Rocks Conservation Area, but this section isn’t ideal for jogging strollers since it grows wild.
If you are looking for more of an adventurous run, try the Fairmount Trail running from Golden to Arvada. The dirt-and-gravel trail is relatively flat and narrow in parts with views of North Table Mountain. Park at the Tony Grampsas Memorial Sports Complex in Golden and follow the trail 3.7 miles to the Ralston Creek Trail in Arvada.
Fountain Valley Trail Roxborough State Park
With the addition of the overlook, the 2.7-mile Fountain Valley Trail allows runners to escape into mountain-like scenery without driving to the mountains. Deer, birds and other wildlife can be seen amongst the red rock slabs. Park at the visitor center and take the Fountain Valley Overlook to the trail. There are restrooms and access to water at the visitor center. A state parks pass or $7 daily entry fee is required.
The Orchard Trailhead just west of Colorado Boulevard is a good starting point for this trail right before mile marker four. This wide gravel trail passes by horse farms and large homes. There is a pit toilet at the parking lot. Trees line your run and are especially beautiful in the fall. This trail runs for 71 total miles from Roxborough State Park to Aurora and is paved in both Denver and Aurora.
Cathy Johnson Trail
Start this 2.1-mile run (4.2 miles out and back) from the trailhead off either South Valley Road or Deer Creek Canyon Road in Ken Caryl. Views of the Dakota and Lyons Hogbacks and a variety of wildflowers in the spring and summer can be seen from the trail. Rattlesnakes are known to frequent the area trails. This trail also serves as a service road for the Rangers, so be on the lookout for vehicles. There are no services at either trailhead.
Waterton Canyon Trail
Off Waterton Road, this 12.4-mile out-and-back run features a wide gravel path for vehicles with a gradual grade up and back down. The soft trickle of the river makes this a peaceful run where you might also have the chance to see bighorn sheep in the wild. There are restrooms at the trailhead.
Wonderland Lake Loop Trail
Nestled at the foot of the Flatirons, the Wonderland Lake Loop Trail can be accessed via the parking lot at the Foothills Nature Center (4201 N. Broadway). Taking you around the lake for 1.5 miles, you can lengthen your run another mile by taking the Foothills Trail to the Lee Hill Road trailhead. The Foothills Trail extends to the other side of the road but becomes rocky and steep. Don’t be surprised to see paragliders overhead or a crowded trail especially on weekends. There are no facilities at the Nature Center or Lee Hill Road trailhead.
Whichever direction you head with your jogging stroller, remember that trail conditions will vary based on weather. Pack water and sunscreen along with baby’s necessities, and don’t forget to encourage other stroller runners you see along the trails.
Courtney Johnson is a Colorado-based freelance writer, sports photographer and mom to a young daughter.