Note: This post was updated in 8/2019.
When you’re the first group to do the first hike on the First Creek Trail at DEN Open Space, you’ll also be the first to discover its many surprises.
And many showed themselves.
Opened in 2016, this 192-acre trail which is owned by the Denver International Airport (thus, the reason for DEN in its title) and manage by the Denver Park and Rec, greeted us to a wonderful 4-mile total down-and-back walk. We met in the trail head at the northwest corner of Peña Blvd and 56th Ave in Denver.
Update: Since 2016, the trail has also opened to go 2-miles west (one way) into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. While the east trail is on concrete, the west trail is on dirt. You might see bison! The trail takes you to the bison overlook. From the overlook, you can turn around and come back whence you came or take the shortcut trail back to Buckley Road and walk Buckley all the way back to the trailhead.
After a bit of prairie dog interpretation highlighting the large prairie dog colony at the trail head, we headed north on the old abandoned Buckley Road. A short distance later, we took a hard right to jump onto the trail. With a 8-ft wide concrete path ribboning the First Creek, we ambled along under Peña Blvd.
Our first surprise literally jumped out at us–a fledgling barn owl. Photos and a quick call to Colorado’s wildlife line to confirm we should leave it alone, we continued along.
Next up, who knew a horse barn and corrals would dot our view to the south while the Creek flowed on our north? The trail opened up to a wide prairie view and the Creek flowed wider while we crossed over it. Shortly, we passed under 56th Ave, marveled at the mud swallow nests, and then continued.
Just as we were hitting our stride, we walked through the double-arched bridge of Airport Road, and surprise, the end of the Trail! Sadly the Trail abruptly ends, but to our joy, there’s a nice water feature of flat rocks which invites walkers to have a seat and enjoy the respite. Mallard ducks greeted us as we took a small break before heading back to the trail head.
Update 8/2019! The trail now extends under Tower Road to the fabulous new First Creek Park. Head into First Creek and enjoy some raspberries (in season), some natural play, and some wonderful interpretation of the flora and fauna of the area you just walked!
On our way back to the trail head, the A Train passed over us and the barn owl still held its perch. Kingfishers, Killdeer, and Golden Finches flew by. Although a short 2 mile to the end and 2 miles back to the trail head for a total of 4 miles, the First Creek Trail at DEN Open Space offered up a quality walk. It will eventually extend to the High Line Canal Trail. Can’t wait!