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Top Five Denver Parks For Views, Activities

Posted at 08/28/2017 04:50 PM by Pat O'Connor

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Denver is truly blessed to have such a vast network of parks and open space. Dating back to the late 1880s, the city fathers have been diligent about curating the park system and keeping the city “green.”

The Mile High City now features more than 242 (almost 6,000 acres) conventional parks and parkways. Additionally, there are rivers and trails that encompass another 300 acres, and Denver Mountain Parks has amassed 14,000 acres west of the city. Three years ago, Denver Parks christened its latest addition -- Cuatro Vientos “Four Winds” Park, located at Alameda and Newton. It was the first new park in the city in 30 years.

The 2017 report from the Trust for Public Lands charts Denver with having 5.7 parks/10,000 residents. The mid-sized city of Madison, Wis. (population 244,000) tops all cities with a whopping 282 parks, 11.6 parks per 10,000 residents.

Approximately 86 percent of Denver residents have walkable access to parks, ranking them 18th just behind its neighbor to the east, Aurora. Denver spends a little more than $77 million annually on operating and capital improvements ($116 per resident) compared to the heavy hitters of St. Louis ($152 million), Raleigh, N.C. ($114 million) and Seattle ($168 million).

“Denver Parks and Recreation facilities are unrivaled in the Rocky Mountain West,” according to Cindy Karvaski of Denver Parks and Recreation, Marketing and Media Relations. “The DPR system spans over a 148-year history, from the first park created in 1868 to nearly 20,000 acres of urban parks and mountain parkland today.  Denver has an extensive parks system, which includes more than 14,000 acres of mountain parks, 24 lakes and 240 miles of trails and walkways.”

What Denver lacks in budget and numbers, it makes up for in amenities, views and overall enjoyment. As evidenced by this “best of” list, Denver parks combine beauty and accessibility with activities, the social element and entertainment.

Washington Park

In case you might be confused, this is Wash Park. Does anyone really call this queen of parks Washington Park anymore? This 165 acre beauty has been dazzling its residents for over 100 years. It is everything a park should be -- popular, beautiful, well maintained and revered. Furthermore, it has the features all parks should exhibit: water, trails, trees, flower gardens and activities. Before the sun comes up, especially in the summer, people can be found getting in their workout whether it be running, walking their dog or cycling. People who own homes near the park enjoy lofty property values and high resale return. Wash Park is one of the best people watching spots in Denver and there is always something going on here whether it’s a volleyball game, 5k running event or croquet.

Ruby Hill

Having recently completed a major renovation, Ruby Hill is expected to become a “go to” destination in years to come. Now home to the Levitt Pavilion, residents and visitors alike now enjoy mostly free (some pay) concerts through the end of September. Ruby Hill is a popular spot in the winter featuring a heart-stopping hill for sledding and snowboarding. The Ruby Hill Rail Yard was established in 2007 and became the country's first free urban terrain park based in a city. The experimental program attracted approximately 3,000 youth and adults, and instantly became a  model for numerous cities and ski resort collaborations. The facility is blessed to have on-site snowmaking to assure constant two to three feet of snow depth on the ground in mid-January. There is also a popular bike park, complete with jumps, and slope style and skills courses.

City Park

Home of the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science/IMAX, City Park is Denver’s largest park featuring 330 acres, two lakes and a number of notable historical features and statues. The planning stage of the park began in 1882 and construction began in 1886. There are tremendous views of the Denver skyline and Rocky Mountains from different vantage points in the park but by far the most impressive is on the east side of Ferril Lake. Visitors can enjoy the sanctuary of the water as well as the incredible western vistas. The City Park Pavilion is situated on the west side of the lake, next to the picturesque Sopris garden. This elegant Spanish-style landmark features towers and arches, and is a popular venue for weddings and other celebrations. At the center of Ferril Lake is the Prismatic Fountain accented at night by LED lights which cycle through different formations, each cycle spanning an hour.

Inspiration Point Park

If you ever need a location to escape, chill and appreciate where you live, this is the place. Completed in 1910, Inspiration Point Park sits atop a bluff overlooking Clear Creek and offers drop dead gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains. In addition, there are lush trees including linden, hackberry, honey locust and silver maples. A sidewalk framed by ponderosa pines invites park visitors to the picnic areas and the western edge where the incredible vista awaits you.

Sloan’s Lake

Who doesn’t like a park that surrounds a lake? Even if you don’t own a boat, you can enjoy the view of the water from Sloan’s Lake Park. Completely enveloping the water, this park is Denver’s second largest with 290 (the lake comprises 177 of the 290). The lake occurred by accident when Thomas Sloan, hoping to irrigate his newly purchased acreage, tapped into a aquifer and flooded the property. “Sloan’s leak” later turned into “Sloan’s Lake,” and became a public park in 1923. A wonderful 2.5 mile trail encircles the water, offering spectacular views of the city and foothills. Mature trees create a majestic urban canopy in the park, offering great shade and places to relax. There are football and soccer fields, a baseball/softball diamond, and tennis and basketball courts. Enjoy boating, waterskiing and fishing at this gem in the heart of Denver.

Posted by Pat O'Connor

Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys hanging out with her three kids and assortment of family pets, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. As a mother to two (at one time three) competitive swimmers, her favorite fragrance is eau de chlorine. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs on Saturdays and screaming when the Packers score on Sundays. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.

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Topics: Things to Do in Denver