Sometimes, driving on I-70 or 285 for an hour or more through traffic and snow can quell the gumption to go for a hike near Denver. Why put yourself through that hassle when you can go for a hike right here in metro Denver much more quickly, giving you extra time to watch your favorite team, do some meal prep, or volunteer.

With Take a Hike Day upon us, rather than driving up into the mountains for a hike, here are three easy urban hikes in Denver. Great for kids, visiting family, and everyone else who loves to hike, these three easy hikes near Denver invite everyone out for a great time. These hikes help tourists and visiting friends adjust and acclimate to our Denver altitude, too! Be sure to click the hike title for an interactive map.

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The Norfolk Glen Loop (click for interactive map)

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Norfolk Glen Loop. The Norfolk Glen Loop in Aurora combines the best of the outdoors with the ease of two great trails, the Sand Creek Greenway and the High Line Canal Trail. At five miles, which you can shorten to just over three, this hike starts at the Star K Ranch Morrison Nature Center off Smith Road (16002 E. Smith Road, Aurora 80011).

You walk through a wonderful open space filled with deer, elk, coyotes, and prairie dogs. Hawks and eagles soar overhead. You’ll cross the Sand Creek onto the High Line Canal Trail and walk for a couple of miles with the Canal on your right and open space full of hawks and eagles on your left. After navigating the Triple Creek Trailhead (see video), you’ll head back along the Sand Creek and its Greenway on a soft surface trail. When you arrive back at the Nature Center, be sure to go inside to use the restrooms and enjoy the interpretive history of Mr Stark. The original landowner, Stark, had some interesting ideas about how to get together with his friends and what to do on the weekends. The kids can touch some animal fur, too!

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For our out-of-town friends, this lower-altitude hike might be the perfect thing they need. They’ll get outside, see our beautiful prairie heritage, and also get great glimpses of the mountains. Doing one of these Star K hikes will be helpful to acclimate if you want to take them up to the higher elevation hikes later.

Central Park Loop (click for interactive map)

The Central Park Loop. At three miles, all housed within Central Park, you can follow the map, or just enjoy meandering the trails between Central Park and Westerly Creek Park. Within the loop, you’ll find a fantastic playground for all ages, including rock climbing and bouldering. Don’t miss the beautiful Alzheimer’s Remembrance Garden, and be sure to walk out onto the overlook. This “bridge to nowhere” is actually a piece of artwork designed to emotionally connect the old airport with the new. It diagonally points from the old air tower just to the west to the new air tower to the northeast. Regardless of which way you walk this loop, the views are plenty.

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You can see remnants of the old Stapleton runway along the Sand Creek. If you are standing on the bridge over Sand Creek and look northwesterly, you can see where the old runways crossed the creek. The existing path down by the creek is where the maintenance trucks would travel to get between planes.

Confluence Park Clover Loop (click for interactive map)

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The Confluence Loop. A great hike for locals wanting to show off Denver, this hike starts at REI at Confluence Park. You’ll walk along the Platte River toward Mile High Stadium, cross the million-dollar bridge, then enjoy the swoosh of Elitch’s roller coasters. Pass the City of Denver’s Centennial Garden, then you’ll take a right and amble along Cherry Creek.

You can see where Denver and Auraria were founded along Cherry Creek while enjoying some great urban art. The walk continues along the Platte River to Denver’s Skatepark, which is continually ranked as one of the world’s top 10 free skate parks. If you’re ambitious, you can extend this three-mile walk over the Millennial Bridge and drop into Union Station for lunch.

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Urban Hiking in Denver

Some folks will say that urban hiking in Denver isn’t nearly as thrilling as a hike up in Conifer or Idaho Springs through the Ponderosa pines up to a high point. That may be true, but those are different hikes and different ways to get outside. They’re enjoyable. But so are the urban hikes within Denver. When urban hiking, it’s good to adopt an attitude of discovery. What will you see while walking that you haven’t seen the hundreds of times you’ve driven by the same places? Who will you see out walking the city with you?

Yes, urban hiking is different. It’s a whole new experience that takes attitude, joy, and patience.

Have you walked any of these loops? Which was your favorite? These three hikes are also in my best-selling book, Best Urban Hikes: Denver, which as 27 other urban hiking treats here in Denver for you to get out and discover. Grab a visiting friend and show them the best of what Denver has to offer.

Urban Hiking Denver and Supporting Denver By Foot

If you’ve enjoyed this information, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week. Purchase access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot, where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family.

Thank you so much, and see you on the trail!