Perhaps the Best Mountain Views in Denver
If you know Green Valley Ranch at all, you probably think of it as the neighborhood you pass on the way to Denver International Airport. But this large neighborhood, soon to be larger, plays home to the last segment of the High Line Canal (from mile markers 66 to 71), has amazing farm history, and plans to be Denver’s largest neighborhood. Here’s an urban hike through Green Valley Ranch, a rectangle-shaped neighborhood bounded by 56th Ave, Piccadilly, Tower, and 40th Ave.
A Ranch Becomes the Green Valley Ranch
Back in the mid-1800s, the Ebert family cobbled together acre after acre of farmland to ultimately create a 1400-acre farm. Through its middle ran the Colorado Eastern Railroad, a small-gauge track moving coal to Denver’s smelters. Time passed, the High Line Canal dried up, and the farmers barely scraped a living. Eventually, Denver annexed the land in 1973, and developers in the 1980s bartered with the school board to market the neighborhood in a diverse manner to get around mandated desegregation.
One Big Boxy House after the Next
Soon, Green Valley Ranch and its old homestead gave way to the Green Valley Ranch subdivision. The developer, in his negotiations with the last remaining farmer, built a home for the farmer and his family, and his farmhouse was demolished. Now, with about 10,000 homes, Green Valley is but 30% built out as of April of 2020. Many new subdivisions are planned in Aurora to abut Denver’s Green Valley and to squeeze in around the Gaylord Rockies Convention Center.
A planned subdivision, Green Valley Ranch has a variety of new build homes for every budget and family size. Think double-car garage with a yard, throw on a house, and you’ve got acres and acres of suburban living at its affordable best. Developers’ signs beckon from every corner. Parks dot the neighborhood, supplying nice outdoor spaces for families.
And Still No Water
With such a big community and a giant conference center anchoring its north end, irony abounds! At one time, the High Line Canal tried to flourish all the way up to this northern terminus, with plans to eventually take it all the way to Nebraska.
But the Canal petered out at 64th Ave because water could no longer get out this far north. Ironically, the Canal’s end is just a few hundred yards south of the Gaylord water park, where modern pumps and Aurora water bring gallons of liquid treasure to tourists and visitors alike. So, where water could not get to in the past, water now floods an area that never should have had water in the first place.
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Nevertheless, the High Line Canal trail will eventually reappear once the Painted Prairie subdivision is finished, and it will hopefully connect to trails heading to DIA and beyond.
A walk through Green Valley Ranch takes you on the High Line Canal Trail, through the public golf course, and past East Green Valley Ranch Park.
The Route (click for interactive map):
Park on Ireland Street just north of where it intersects with 56th Ave. Set your GPS to 19901 E 56th Ave, Denver. Go past this address, and turn north (left) on Ireland St. This street is a short block, ending at a field to the west of an off-site airport parking lot.
Walk to the north end of the street and look out into the field. You may be able to see large PVC pipes running parallel and throughout the field, which might be under construction. These pipes mark the historic High Line Canal, and eventually, you will see a trail through this area making its way north once the Painted Prairie subdivision is built. For more about the High Line Canal, you might want to visit the High Line Canal Conservancy.
Turn around and walk south on Ireland, being careful as you cross 56th Ave. Follow the sidewalk down Ireland, taking a left on Maxwell. Look to your right, and you’ll see the trailhead for the High Line Canal. It’s also at the tee box for the Green Valley Ranch Golf Course.
Follow the High Line Canal Trail. It will follow the fairway and then take a left along another tee box. You’ll see large cottonwoods on your right and a water feature (look for beaver!). Continue along the High Line Canal trail, following the High Line signs.
You’ll pass a green on your left and a weather shelter on your right. Sometimes there is a yellow igloo of water for the golfers. Continue along the High Line Canal Trail until you get to E 49th Ave. Continue along the sidewalk on 49th for one block.
At Orleans St, take a left. The High Line Canal Trail will continue to the east, but you’ll exit the trail and go north. Soon, you’ll cross the unmarked First Creek. At the next intersection, take a left on Stoll Place.
Continue northwesterly along Stoll. It will turn into Netherland St. and then walk north until you come to Maxwell Place.
Take a left on Maxwell. Walk along Maxwell until you get to Ireland. Take a right on Ireland, crossing 56th, and return to where you started to complete this 4-mile loop.
Grabbing Mountain Views and Supporting Denver By Foot
If you’ve enjoyed this walk, 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.
Finally, please support Chris by purchasing her books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!
See you on the trail,
This post was originally written by Chris Englert and has been updated by Lisa Alonge.