Look outdoors for boredom cure

You don’t have to drive far for an escape

Staff report
Posted 3/24/20

Haven’t left the house in several days? Looking to get out, hopefully, sans crowds? As communities throughout the nation ban gatherings of 10 or more and urge people to practice social distancing …

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Look outdoors for boredom cure

You don’t have to drive far for an escape

Posted

Editor's Note: Due to the statewide stay-at-home order that went into effect on March 26, be aware that the public is expected to recreate only near their own homes, and not to travel to locations like these for recreation. 

Haven’t left the house in several days? Looking to get out, hopefully, sans crowds?

As communities throughout the nation ban gatherings of 10 or more and urge people to practice social distancing because of COVID-19, Colorado’s great outdoors await.

The following are just some of the many options that don’t require you to leave the metro area.

North Table Mountain

Looming over downtown Golden, this mesa — it isn’t technically a mountain, despite the name — offers great views of both central Golden below and the downtown Denver skyline to the east. To take in the views, park at the Golden Cliffs parking lot and take the 1.8-mile round-trip trail up the mesa. This relatively short trail is rated intermediate but it has some steep and rocky sections that can be challenging.

Once at the top, continue your exploration of the mesa by taking the longer North Table Mountain loop or just take in the rewarding views before heading back down.

Roxborough State Park

The nearly 4,000-acre park southwest of Littleton is home to stunning red rock formations and abounds with natural beauty. The park’s eight trails total 14 miles and range in difficulty. Take a walk, run, cross-country ski or go on a snowshoe adventure.

The park does not allow pets, drones, camping, mountain bikes, horses, rock climbing, fires or marijuana, to preserve the natural features.

Note, amid coronavirus concerns, all planned programs and events are canceled for the month of March, although the park and visitor center will remain open for normal hours, according to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

All trails start at the visitor center. Parking is limited. Hours vary but are generally 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during winter.

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Just a jaunt from Franktown, Castlewood Canyon State Park is home to a piece of Colorado history and mild to moderate trails. From half a mile to 4-mile stretches, trails take users along Cherry Creek, to a natural amphitheater and the skeleton of the legendary Castlewood Dam, which burst and caused the great flood of 1933.

Park hours are from sunrise to sunset. Gates close one hour before park closure. Leashed pets are allowed on most trails, except for the East Canyon Preservation Area trail.

Farmers’ High Line Canal

Who knew that the very lifelines Colorado’s farmers and ranchers depended upon would provide so much recreation and car-free commuting? It’s true for large parts of Front Range communities but nowhere as much as along the Farmers’ High Line Canal, which offers athletic paths from Golden through Arvada, Westminster, Northglenn, Thornton and beyond.

The original irrigation ditch system dates to the late 1800s and connected Arvada’s Van Bibber Creek to Clear Creek, with more segments added later on.

Cities began adding athletic paths for walking, running and bicycling later on. In Westminster, a trailhead can be found at the southeast portion of Standley Lake — about 90th and Independence.

From there, the trail runs through Westminster for 10 miles, connecting to the Northglenn’s Northwest Open Space and on to E.B. Raines Park before continuing on to the northeast through Thornton and on to Erie.

But the best part of the trail is the dizzying number of connections you can make using the Farmers’ High Line Canal as the spine. Near 86th and Kipling, it connects to the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail that winds up at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Refuge in Commerce City if you go east and the Rocky Flats Refuge if you go west. It also connects to the U.S. 36 Bikeway and trips to Denver or Boulder as well as numerous neighborhood side trails, parks and open space areas.

Running, cycling in east suburbs

Something the east side of the Denver suburbs have going for them is their endless walkability. Look up a map of the metro area, and you’ll notice something: There are nearly no state highways crisscrossing Aurora and east Centennial.

The whole region is a refreshing place to go for a walk, run or bike ride, or find a park you didn’t know about with your children.

For the dedicated cyclist, a trip down the West Toll Gate Creek Trail and the Cherry Creek Trail — including some nearby trails — can take you the full north-south length of Arapahoe County, from Colfax Avenue to the south county line. Lots of trails can take you farther east, and all the way down to the Southlands mall area.

Arapahoe Road, a source of perennial frustration in traffic, can be a peaceful ride east of Parker Road. And Parker Road in itself offers a wonderful view of the Cherry Creek State Park, south of Belleview Avenue.

Here’s something you might not know: On the Cherry Creek Trail, you can go straight from downtown Denver to Cherry Creek State Park and all the way down to the Castle Rock area, parallel to Parker Road. That’s nearly 40 miles of biking, for anyone determined enough to try it.

And as confusing as central and west Centennial can be to navigate, two southeast-to-northwest paths — the Big Dry Creek and Little Dry Creek trails — offer a peaceful way to cut through the suburban sprawl.

Getting out in Parker

With gyms closed for the foreseeable future, residents can turn to Parker’s trail system to keep up their workout routines. The closures are a chance to explore new trails, like Two Ears Trail, located in the Highlands neighborhood at Pine Canyon Drive and Canterberry Parkway.

While the trail runs through neighborhoods in the area, it provides a peaceful, kid-friendly space for families to spend time together or a slight workout for runners, bikers and dog-walkers. At the eastern end of the trail, one can stop at the pavilion and find a way to relax after a workout, whether that means reading a book, playing with the dog or taking a photo of the scenery below.

High Line Canal

Winding 71 miles from the mouth of Waterton Canyon to the prairie of northeast Denver, the High Line Canal Trail is among the Denver area’s finest outdoor offerings.

The trail passes through numerous distinct segments, meandering through cottonwood groves, past wetlands and verdant meadows, many hidden from the surrounding city. Numerous trailheads dot the length of the journey, making for easy access to short segments. The portion through Cherry Hills Village is often regarded as the crown jewel.

The High Line Canal Conservancy recently published a trail guide and map, loaded with information about every mile of the trip, available by mail order at highlinecanal.org.

Mountain biking at Apex Park

Mountain cycling can be adventurous and challenging, but once you get going in full gear, there is no better feeling than cycling through the woods.

Apex Park is a beautiful place to get out into open space while practicing social distancing. If you have a mountain bike, try the Enchanted Forest trail. The trail is about 3 1/2 miles long, but it can be used for things other than mountain cycling. Take your dog on a walk there or even spend the afternoon using the trail for a hike. Be sure to check the park's rules about even and odd day directions.

Apex Park is at 121 County Highway 93, near Golden.

— Compiled by reporters Paul Albani-Burgio, Ellis Arnold, Jessica Gibbs, Casey Van Divier, David Gilbert, Scott Taylor and Joseph Rios

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