Hiking with Bison
Way before Denver appeared, millions of bison roamed the great prairie. And then died. Without going into the history of the bison massacre, let’s focus on how the bison are coming back. These 1400-pound beauties have found small niches throughout the Denver area to roam, and there’s even one place to hike with them. More hikes are coming in 2016. Here’s where to go hiking with bison near Denver, Colorado.
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Still within the city limits and sandwiched between the Stapleton (now called Central Park) neighborhood and the new Denver airport roams 80 head of bison on the Wildlife Refuge. Currently, the Refuge has the only actual trail you can hike to see the bison. If you’re lucky, the bison will be in the eastern side of the Refuge and you’ll be able to see them from the short, loop Discovery Trail that leaves from the Visitor Center. If you don’t see them by hiking the 1/3 mile, sand/pebble loop, or the 1 mile trail toMary Lake, you’ll have to drive the Refuge or catch the Refuge tour shuttle. Note: In the summer of 2020, the Stapleton residents renamed their neighborhood Central Park.
- Genesee Park. The city of Denver proudly owns a bison herd which anyone can see from the I-70 exit #256. Park on the south side and look toward the south where the herd generally hangs out in the winter time. On December 1, the park closes Genesee Road, enabling you to walk at your own risk. Eventually the park plans to turn the road into a trail. Look for the upgrades in the summer of 2016. On the north side of the interstate, you’ll also be able to park and overlook the bison. Here, too, there are plans to connect the trail from Denver to Glenwood Springs, possibly giving views of the bison as well. Look for these changes in 2016 as well.
- Daniel’s Park. Like Genesee, there are no real trails designed to get to the bison. Sadly, it’s a drive and see adventure, or you can risk your safety by walking along the side of the road. The good news is that trails are coming as well in 2016, so keep your ears open for future announcements.
- Finally, Fort Collins just got its first herd in November at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. Again, you can only see them from the road, but trails are also planned. Look for those trails, also, in 2016.
Bison roamed here, and it’s great to see conservation efforts growing throughout the Plains states and especially in and around Denver. For a great walk that covers the history of the bison, the rise of the Stapleton airport and neighborhood, the cleaning up of the Superfund site that turned into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge and the return of the bison, join me on my Bisons, Bombs, and BiPlanes walk, which I do quarterly. Check the calendar for the next walk.