Colorado is known for its Rocky Mountain fourteeners, national parks, and natural hot springs. Even closer to Denver though is the adventurous Front Range. Within eyesight of downtown lies canyons filled with trails, rivers, cliffs and more waiting to be explored by hikers of all experience levels.
Trails for Running, Hiking, Mountain Biking
From leisure dog walking and stroller friendly excursions such as trails in Lair O’ the Bear Park to the 940 feet elevation gain of Devil’s Head Trail where a 143 step climb to Fire Tower Lookout awaits, the Front Range boasts numerous routes.
Some are moderate 14-mile trails following streams and are partially shaded such as Bear Creek and Bruin Bluff Trail. Others are more open two-mile routes with views of the city, a lookout tower and castle ruins such as the Mount Falcon Castle and Tower Hike. Still, others bring you to a tucked-in waterfall like Maxwell Falls with varying lengths of trails.
Quite a few paths in the Front Range within an hours drive of Denver allow dogs on leashes, mountain bikes, horseback riding, and more. With the many paved accessible paths to rough elevated terrains, day hikes to overnight backpacking excursions, there are numerous trails to explore.
Rock Cliffs for Climbing, Slacklining, Cliff Jumping
For those looking for a challenge, Denver’s Front Range canyons rise to the occasion. Blue Lake in the Brainard Lake Recreational Area, not only offers amazing views, but also a cliff-jumping area near a waterfall. The windy 5-plus mile round trip trail features boulders, ponds, and the occasional moose and elk before reaching the windy lake.
While there are numerous areas to rock climb and slackline, North Table Mountain with its basalt cliff bands provides hundreds of beginner to expert routes. Part of this area along Rim Rock Trail is closed annually from February 1st to July 31st while the regional raptors fledge. Many other animals can be seen atop the mesa and as you climb.
For a lighter climb, Castlewood Canyon’s Cliff and Climber’s Trail combine areas for rock climbing, caves, clefts, picnic areas, a waterfall, and even homestead ruins. This geological area of trails and climbing are on the easier side for the beginner.
Rivers for Fishing, Whitewater Kayaking, Paddling
It’s not uncommon to drive up into the canyons and see the beautiful, whitewater rivers providing varying degrees of adventure. While fishing along many rivers can provide a good catch, places such as the Barr Lake area are teaming with many species including catfish, rainbow trout, walleye, bluegill and more. Like most lakes in Colorado, Barr Lake also provides a great spot for boaters, kayakers, and canoeists with a chance to get on the calm waters.
Whitewater rafters, kayakers, and paddlers can take it up a notch on the Clear Creek River while experiencing varying levels of difficulty depending on the time of year and route. Mountain spring run-offs provide those looking for a great challenge with opportunities to test their skills against the rivers.
Formations for Touring
If a leisure walk with a theme is more your style, the Front Range offers quite a few choices. One such destination is Red Rocks Amphitheater. Not only does it provide outside seating for open-air concerts but also is the base of three trailheads. The easiest of the three, Geological Overlook Trail, is a short hike culminating in beautiful views of the area and a picnic shelter.
While still within the Red Rocks Park, Trading Post Trail features a 1.4 mile rougher terrain through valleys, rocks and a meadow. For the mountain biker and horseback rider as well as those looking for a longer 6-mile hike, Red Rocks Trail offers a loop in Matthews-Winter Park area. Whatever your hiking level, you’ll get an up-close glimpse of the magnificent rock formations this region is known for.
There’s So Much More
Skiing, sledding, zip lining, camping, and four-wheel off-roading are just a few more ways to take advantage of the Denver Front Range canyons. Given the geological features of the canyon, the elevation, and year-round weather, Denver’s outdoor adventurers can take full advantage of the fun activities the Front Range has to offer less than an hour from home.