3 Easy Urban Hikes in Denver
Sometimes, driving on I-70 or 285 for an hour or more through traffic and snow can keep 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 the Broncos, 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 into 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)
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 wonderful open space filled with deer, elk, coyotes and prairie dogs. Hawks and eagles soar over head. 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 soft surface trail. When you arrive back to the Nature Center, be sure to go inside to use the restrooms and enjoy the interpretive history about 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. For the kids, they can touch some animal furs, 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 get great glimpses of the mountains, too. Doing one of these Star K hikes will help them acclimate if you want to take them up to the higher elevation hikes later.
Central Park Loop (click for interactive map)
The Stapleton Central Park Loop. At three miles, all housed within Stapleton’s (Now Called Central Park) Central Park, you can follow the map, or just get lost meandering the trails between Central Park and Westerly Creek Park. Within the loop, you’ll find a fantastic playground for all ages that includes 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 Stapleton 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.
Note: In the summer of 2020, the Stapleton residents renamed their neighborhood Central Park.
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Along the Sand Creek, you can see remnants of the old Stapleton runway. 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)
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.
Along Cherry Creek, you can see where Denver and Auraria were founded while enjoying some great urban art. The walk continues along the Platte River to Denver’s Skatepark, which is continually ranked in the top 10 free skate parks in the world. If you’re ambitious, you can extend this three miles 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, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy 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.
See you on the trail!