Denver is a unique city because it truly has it all-a bustling and vibrant downtown along with more natural beauty than you can shake a stick at. More than anything, Denver locals like to MOVE, and the 300+ days of annual sunshine lend themselves to a cornucopia of outdoor activities. It can be tough making a decision on which activity to choose since the city truly has something for everyone. Regardless of whether you are spending a day, a week, or a lifetime in the Mile High City, read on for more about the best outdoor activities in Denver.
1. Visit a park
If you are looking for a cheap or free outdoor adventure, you can’t get much better than the free parks that Denver has to offer. Locals and tourists alike flock to the city’s outdoor parks in both the winter and the summer. There are many to choose from, but the perennial favorites are easily Washington (Wash) Park, City Park, and Cheesman Park. Each of these hot spots has its own trail system that lends itself to a leisurely stroll or a more aerobic jog. But, if lounging in the sunshine is more your thing, grab a net and a picnic basket and set up for a day of volleyball with your friends. Trust us-the geese at Wash Park won’t mind the company! For more information on the parks:
2. A workout at Red Rocks Amphitheater
You will be hard-pressed to find a more scenic place to run some stairs! Red Rocks Amphitheater is known around the world for its natural acoustics that make for amazingly beautiful concerts. But, if you are hoping for an outdoor activity that is more adventurous (and free!), consider taking your fitness routine to Red Rocks. Weekends find dozens of locals concocting creative workouts using the amphitheater’s long series of stairs. Some opt to run them, row by row, while others are more creative in using the tiered steps for everything from makeshift box jumps to decline push-ups. If you want to really push your limits, consider swinging by one of the infamous It Burns Joe Workouts. Designed and led by former pro BMX biker Joe Hendricks, these three-hour fitness sessions are no joke and will leave you incredibly sore — and eager for your next go-‘round.
3. Denver B-Cycle
This family-fun activity is great for adults and kids alike. Denver’s B-Cycle is a city-wide bike sharing program that offers bike rentals for a small fee. Bike locations are scattered throughout the city, making it easy for you to hop on at one location and drop the bike off in another. Even better? Denver’s trail system extends throughout the city, making bikes a perfect way to explore the sights on your own schedule. Use the rentals to explore the parks or sit on a patio with a cold drink. Regardless of where you go or what you do, there is always another B-Cycle bike just around the corner.
4. Take a walk through the gardens
If you are looking for a nice way to spend some time outdoors without the added sweat equity, consider visiting Denver’s Botanic Gardens. Located off York Street near Cheesman Park, the Botanic Gardens are lovely regardless of the season. Summer months bring gardens filled with colorful blooms and uniquely textures plants, while winter moves indoors with warm greenhouses full of tropical foliage. During the holidays, the Botanic Gardens become even more festive. The Chatfield location hosts a corn maze and pumpkin patch during the fall months. In December, the York Street gardens always launch their spectacular Blossom of Lights, a holiday light extravaganza that turns the outdoor gardens into a beautiful sea of twinkly lights.
5. Go for a hike
Sure, the trails aren’t located in Denver proper, but just a short 30-minute drive will drop you at a number of trails located in the nearby cities of Golden or Boulder. Choosing a trail may be the hard part, since there are so many options! If you are looking for some lung-busting climbing, consider White Ranch Park in Golden. From the east trailhead, the trail climbs and climbs, making for a solid workout almost immediately from the parking lot. For a more mellow mix of options, check out Chautauqua Park in Boulder. This park is certainly not a secret and you are sure to find crowds any day of the week. But the iconic FlatIrons more than make up for the lack of solitude.
6. Strap on some skis
What is more Colorado than shredding some thigh-deep powder at a ski resort? If you’re looking for a prime winter adventure that is fun for adults and toddlers alike, grab a car and head to the mountains. A mere two-hour drive will open up a menu of world-class skiing at resorts like Copper Mountain, Winter Park Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone Ski Resort, and Vail Mountain Resort. Back bowls and mogul chutes will entertain the advanced riders in your group, while Ski School and adult lessons can help out the beginners. To be sure, day lift tickets aren’t cheap, but hitting the hills for a day of shredding is an outdoor adventure that shouldn’t be missed.
7. Lions, tigers, and bears
The Denver Zoo is pretty cool, but if you are looking for something even more unique, head 45 minutes north to Keenesburg and the Wild Animal Sanctuary. This 720-acre facility is dedicated to rescuing large animals, and houses more than 450 carnivorous lions, tigers, bears and wolves. The famous “Mile into the Wild” elevated walkway spans across acres of the facility, allowing visitors viewing access to these beautiful creatures. To be clear, the Wild Animal Sanctuary is not a zoo, nor do they want to be. To that end, the fee structure is pricier and more detailed than what you’ll find at the Denver Zoo. The Sanctuary opts for this in order to encourage the “right” type of visitor who aims to support the rescued animals.