An Urban Hike with Trains! Trails! Tales! at Union Station Denver
Union Station neighborhood, which is basically what the locals call “LoDo,” is a small and very dense neighborhood around Union Station. If you’ve ever taken the train into Union Station, you’ve ridden right through the neighborhood.
The boundaries of the Union Station Neighborhood are the Platte River, 14th St, 20th St and Larimer St. When walking this neighborhood, arrive at Union Station via the train or public transit and save yourself the headaches of trying to park. Taking an urban hike around Union Station, you’ll learn about some of Denver’s very beginnings, see amazing artwork, transport yourself to the glory days of railroad, and possibly grab a great bite to eat.
Where Denver Began
The Union Station neighborhood is loaded with Denver’s most fun restaurants, the fabulous Union Station, awe-inspiring new apartment and condo buildings, good parks, great pedestrian bridges, the 16th St Mall, and views all around. But before you even head out of the station, if you did in fact arrive by train, be sure to spend some time in the train station itself.
Visit The Trains and Their Station First
Union Station out survived all the other train stations that competed to get the train traffic in Denver. An original train station built in 1881 burned in 1894 to be replaced in two stages by the current Romanesque Revival, which was updated, restored, and reopened in 2014. At one point, over 150 trains ran through the station. Now with the new RTD station, the commuter trains and light rail are back, competing with Amtrak and freight trains.
As you tour around Union Station (this is also a great walk to do at night), be sure to not only go to the second floor and look out the Cooper Bar windows up 17th Street, marvel at the restored chandeliers, gobble good eats from any of the restaurants, and maker sure to buy a copy of my book, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver, from the Tattered Cover inside Union Station! You’ll want to escape to the basement and find the old bathrooms. It’s kinda fun down there. You might even stop at the info stand and quiz the volunteer, or if you’re feeling ritzy, check into the new Crawford Hotel, built by Dana Crawford, who also restored Larimer Square.
An Urban Hike through Union Station Neighborhood
On this particular urban hike, you’ll walk through Larimer Square, to Coors Field, and across several pedestrian bridges. The route is only about two miles, but there are a few things you’ll want to spend time enjoying.
Don’t Miss the Masquerade Ball…
(Note: currently, the Evolution of the Ball is being protected in storage while Coors Field undergoes renovation. It should be back up to the public in summer 2020. Instead, spend time finding Red Velvet.)
Be sure not to miss the darling and often overlooked Evolution of the Ball sculpture at the entry into the Coors Field ballpark, which happens to be in the Five Points neighborhood but its entry is officially in Union Station’s neighborhood. See if you can find The Masquerade Ball! It’s a two-column piece of art made with ceramic tiles that have different baseballs embedded in them. Be sure to read the name of the balls and correlate them to the chart denoting why the balls are named as they are.
Larimer Square Awaits You
On the route, you’ll walk through Larimer Square. Originally home to some of Denver’s original buildings, and lovingly restored by Dana Crawford, you’ll want to take time admiring a few things. On the east side of the street you’ll see a courtyard about mid-block. Enter it to enjoy some artwork on the ceilings and get exposed to the Larimer Square walking tour. On the west side of the street, stop in The Market for the best desserts in this part of town, then make your way to the alley behind the west side of the buildings for an alley cat surprise.
Trains Run through It
As you cross the three pedestrian bridges on this route, be sure to eye the north/south views along the train tracks and the east/west views up the Streets and to the Rockies. This walk arguably has the best views in Denver, seconded only by Green Valley Ranch’s! At one time, the employee responsible for raising and lowering the arm for pedestrian traffic at Union Station did it every 7 seconds due to the amount of trains coming through Denver.
Start inside Union Station at 1701 Wynkoop St. Tour the station, making sure you go upstairs to the lounge and look east up 17th St. Admire the chandeliers from the second floor, go to the basement and see the old bathrooms, and generally just explore the station.
When you’re ready, exit the rear of the station, go to the right, and take the left up the stairs over the train tracks. Exit the stairs onto 18th St, heading westerly and crossing Wewatta and Chestnut.
Take the second set of stairs over the freight rail tracks, exiting onto 18th and crossing Bassett. At Little Raven, take a left.
Walk through the park toward the south, following the trails and enjoying the Platte River. Work your way back toward Little Raven to use the pedestrian bridge, also known as Millennial Bridge. Play in the large red reed sculpture at the foot of the steps, then go up the steps, crossing back over the tracks and down to 16th Street.
Take a right on Chestnut Pl and then a right on Delgany. Cross 15th St and pass the Museum of Contemporary Art and its Toxic Schizophrenia piece. Right before Cherry Creek take a left, walking easterly above the Creek.
Continue along the Creek, taking the ramp down to the Creek. At Larimer, take the ramp back up to 15th Street, and continue on Larimer toward 16th St.
Walk through historic Larimer Square. There are various plaques on the buildings telling historical moments that you may enjoy. Continue on Larimer to 16th St, take a left.
Walk along 16th St to Blake St and take a right. Take a left on 17th, enjoying the views of Union Station. You’ll pass the Oxford Hotel. If you’re in the mood, visit the lobby of the Oxford to enjoy their fabulous western art collection, and peek into the Cruise room to see their Art Deco wall sconces.
Leave the Oxford, walking down the alley between Wynkoop and Wazee toward 20th. At 20th, approach the entry to the Ballfield to find the Evolution of the Ball sculpture (in storage until summer 2020). Once you’ve enjoyed the artwork, turn toward Wynkoop.
Walk along Wynkoop, passing the original Union Station on the right and Wynkoop Brewery, founded by Governor Hickenlooper before he was Governor, on your left. Return back to Union Station where you started.
Walking LoDo Union Station 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.