Most visitors to Denver will find the temptation to head to the Rocky Mountains irresistible. But for locals wanting to avoid traffic and crowds or out-of-towners with limited time, there are a plenitude of green spaces within the city limits that provide fun and relaxation in the outdoors. Whether it’s serious exercise you seek or just a reprieve from the chaos of urban life, Denver has a park to meet your needs. Here’s a list of 10 great parks in the Denver area.
1. Washington Park
S Downing St & E Louisiana Ave
Washington Park is the quintessential urban park and yuppie paradise. Just south of Downtown in a dense residential area, the park is bustling with young, athletic Denverites if your own the prowl for a workout partner and perhaps a dinner date afterwards. A paved 2-mile loop encircles the park with separate lanes for foot and wheeled traffic, so grab your bike or dust off those rollerblades and join the fun! Grasmere Lake appears to have been drained for construction work, but Smith Lake is still in good shape if you’d rather sit by the water and watch people go by.
2. Cheesman Park
Williams St & E 8th Ave
Cheesman Park is a subdued and tranquil nirvana. The wide lawns provide plenty of room for sunbathers and small groups to spread out and enjoy a peaceful afternoon. You needn’t worry about interruptions in this quiet haven, save for a chance errant frisbee or toy Schnauzer that wanders too far off leash, making it ideal for private conversation or romantic frolicking. The white-columned memorial fountain atop the hill makes a nice backdrop for a Hellenistic photo-op with out of town guests, or you can head down Williams Street into Denver’s historic district where large turn-of-the-century mansions recall the city’s boom town legacy.
3. Commons Park
15th St & Little Raven St
Commons Park represents a modern side of Denver with its new urbanist design, blending the industrial with the residential along the South Platte River. The small park is nestled between several loft-style brick and glass high-rise apartment buildings that overlook the trendy LoDo area creating a walkable layout for late-night club-goers and neighborhood dogwalkers.
The Denver Skate Park is at the north end where teens perform high-flying acrobatics off jumps, half-pipes, bowls, and rails. Kayakers can be seen battling whitewater currents down the South Platte River near its junction with Cherry Creek, known as Confluence Park. This point is marked not only by the merging waters, but also by the flagship REI store that draws outdoor enthusiasts to its shores.
4. Cherry Creek State Park
S Parker Rd & E Quincy Ave
Cherry Creek State Park lies southeast of Downtown Denver in posh suburban sprawl flanked by golf courses and McMansions on nearly all sides, yet the park retains the rustic look of a natural open space. There are 35 miles of multi-use hiking and biking trails, but what sets the park apart is the reservoir used for recreational boating and a popular R/C airfield where model planes buzz overhead. You can also ride horses on some of the trails or fire off a few rounds at the shooting range if the mood strikes.
The park fills up on weekends with cyclists doing laps on the main road, seasoned pilots tuning up their aircraft, and families picnicking. There is a nominal fee ($6-$7, depending on time of year) to access the park for the day unless you already have an Annual Parks Pass. Additional fees apply for overnight camping or use of boat slips at the marina.
5. Red Rocks Park
I-70, exit 259
Whether you’re into rock music or not, this fabled concert venue is a sight to behold. Towering sandstone rock formations form an ampitheater right on the face of the Morrison foothills with stadium seating overlooking the entire valley below. Tour the Red Rocks Hall of Fame to see pictures of some of the great musicians who have graced the stage and grab a bite to eat at the Grille. There’s a short hiking trail around the park, but unfortunately you’ll have to suppress that urge for rock climbing as it is prohibited. Instead, many locals opt for a stairclimbing workout by running up and down the steep steps on either side of the grandstand.
6. Genesee Mountain Park
I-70, exit 254
Genesee, the oldest and largest of Denver’s Mountain Parks, lies 20 miles west along I-70 and might not be much to look at if it weren’t for the amazing elk and bison herds that roam within large enclosures. The elk are tucked away inside the confines of the park, but the bison can often be seen right along the highway. Take the opportunity to see these beasts in their (pseudo-)natural habitat without the risk of stampede. Chief Hosa Lodge at the west end of the park also hosts events if you want a picturesque mountain view to accompany a company picnic or family reunion.
7. City Park
Colorado Blvd & E 23rd Ave
City Park is a giant oasis on the east side of town that is home to a golf course, the Museum of Nature & Science, and the Denver Zoo. For such a large and well-maintained green space, it sees relatively few visitors except for those attending the Museum or Zoo, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a run or bike through the park. Paddle boat rentals are available on the lake, and during the summer, the park plays host to several concerts and the Black Arts Festival.
8. Civic Center Park
Broadway St & Colfax Ave
Beneath the Capitol at the heart of Downtown Denver lies Civic Center Park. At the crossroads of government and city culture, you can witness the juxtaposition of a busy professional environment with the gritty realities of life on the street for many of Denver’s homeless. The park is beautifully landscaped and has classical architecture at opposing ends forming a pleasant promenade, but don’t be surprised if a stranger interrupts your stroll to ask for change.
Still, there is plenty to see with lots of nearby museums including the newly expanded Denver Art Museum and the Colorado History Museum. If you’d rather not be on foot at night, try a nostalgic horse carriage ride past the State Capitol.
9. Babi-Yar Park
Havana St & Parker Rd
Located along a busy commute corridor, Babi-Yar is less notable for its scenery than its historical significance. It is a tribute to the Jews who died in the Ukraine during WWII, with three monuments situated at the corners of connecting paths forming the Star of David. The sunken grass ampitheater, tree-lined Grove of Remembrance, and Box Car Bridge all memorialize the atrocities that befell the Jews during the Nazi reign, but also serve as a point of reflection for any passerby curious enough to visit.
10. Rosamond Park
S Tamarac Dr & E Quincy Ave
Rosamond is a fairly typical large neighborhood park with the added charm of a meandering creek along its eastern edge. The facility has plenty of open field space whether you’re sitting on the sidelines for a kids soccer match or organizing friends for an impromptu softball game. For a mellower afternoon, relax in the shade by the creek beneath the trees or use the outdoor pavilion for some barbecuing.
Best of the Rest:
Chautauqua Park (South Boulder)
- great hiking and climbing at the Flatirons.
Inspiration Point Park (West Denver)
- spectacular view of the Continental Divide.