15 Outdoor Activities in Denver, Because You Can’t Let Those 300 Days of Sunshine Go to Waste

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Did you know Denver is one of the sunniest cities in America? Despite its reputation amongst the coastal crowds, it’s not all snowstorms and skiing. (You gotta head ever so slightly west for that.) In fact, the Mile High City is known for its abundance of outdoor activities, and believe us when we say there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re athletic, a thrill seeker, simply looking to enjoy nature or breathe a little fresh air from the comfort of a concrete patio with a beer or a breakfast burrito in hand (a staple of Denver culture), check out our top outdoor activities in Denver below for 15 ways to spend a gorgeous day in and around Colorado’s capital.

But first, check out Denver’s top rentals.

The 15 Most Beautiful Places in Colorado

1. Take An Unofficial Walking Tour Of The Breweries In Rino

The neighborhood of RiNo (short for River North) is an arts district teeming with graffiti murals, restaurants and, you guessed it, breweries. Head to Larimer Street to kick off the fun, which is home to First Draft Tap Room & Kitchen, Our Mutual Friend Brewing and Ratio Beerworks, all of which are in quick walking distance to one another and have outdoor patios. If you’ve got it in you, Epic Brewing, Odell Brewing Five Points Brewhouse, Stem Ciders and 10 Barrell Brewing Company are also in extremely close proximity. And don’t even get us started on all the restaurants.

outdoor activities in denver sloans lake park

2. Scoot Around Sloan’s Lake Park

Mountain views to the west and views of the downtown high rises to the east make this lake and park a shining example of Denver’s outdoorsy-city duality. The 2-plus-mile paved pathway surrounding the edge of the lake is bookended by green lawns, tennis courts, trees and more dogs on leashes than you’ve ever seen in your life. Electric scooters are abundant and, arguably, made for joy rides around the lake.

3. Visit The Wild Animal Sanctuary In Keenesburg

Located just 45 minutes northeast of Denver, this wildlife refuge is dedicated to educating people about the Captive Wildlife Crisis. Walk the Mile Into the Wild Walkway, which offers a safe, open-air, bird’s eye view into the large acreage of animal habitats below. But just know: It is not a zoo. It’s a refuge for tigers, bears, lions, wolves and other animals rescued from illegal and abusive situations to roam freely after rehabilitation (including 39 of the tigers and three of the bears rescued from The Tiger King Joe Exotic’s roadside zoo). So, the animals are never forced into view. The setting is serene, the animals are breathtaking and the experience is rewarding. Oh, and if you go in the summer, the sun is strong, so wear plenty of sunscreen and bring lots of water.

outdoor activities in denver denver botanic gardens
Kathryn Scott/Getty Images

4. Explore The Botanic Gardens

Bonsais, glass sculptures, butterflies—the Denver Botanic Gardens is so much more than just flowers (though their flowering plants are top-notch, too). It’s an American Alliance of Museums (AAM) accredited museum with seven living collections, two natural history collections, an arthropods collection, art collections and a library. Check out the exhibitions and special events to plan your trip. Tickets cost 15 dollars for adults, 11 dollars for children ages 3 to 15 and students, and children under 2 years old enter free.

outdoor activites in denver red rocks ampitheater
Getty Images/Layland Masuda

5. Hike Red Rocks Amphitheater

Yes, you should absolutely experience a show there. But don’t underestimate Red Rocks on a day off. Not only are there plenty of other events that take place in the amphitheater (like Yoga on the Rocks and Film on the Rocks), but the fascinating geology and unearthly landscape make it an impressive spot to visit all on its own.

outdoor activities in denver rock climbing in golden
Daniel Milchev

6. Go Rock Climbing In Golden

Mere minutes west of Denver off I-70 lies the town of Golden, CO, which is home to prime rock-climbing spots such as Clear Creek Canyon and Lookout Mountain. Book an adventure with Denver Climbing Co. to safely enjoy a top rope experience in the Colorado Foothills.

outdoor activities in denver biking
Getty Images/DanielBendjy

7. Bike Denver’s Trail System

More than 80 miles of off-street, multi-use trails can be found within the Denver city limits, and while you’ll see people walking, running and rollerblading, it’s really all about the bikes. There are several rental shops throughout the city—find one near you to get in on the fun.

outdoor activites in dener little man ice cream
Getty Images/Matthew Stockman

8. Get Ice Cream At Little Man

Nestled in the LoHi (Lower Highlands) neighborhood, you’ll find a giant milk can with a white and red awning. This unusual yet charming place is Little Man Ice Cream, and we promise it’s worth the time spent waiting in line. The iconic Denver ice cream shop has another factory location on Colfax Ave., but the one on 26th street is the original. Grab a scoop and sit outside or wander the sidewalked streets for a peek into one of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods.

outdoor activities in denver washington park
Getty Images/Hyoung Chang

9. Have A Leisurely Time At Washington Park

Wash Park,” if you’re local. Complete with two lakes, flower gardens, expansive green lawns and tree-lined paths, it’s a favorite destination for picnics, BYO yard games, dog-walking and straight-up lounging. Our advice: Grab a breakfast burrito (preferably from a Santiago’s drive through) and head to the park to sit, eat and people watch. Don’t be surprised to find live music and some seriously scenic nature views.

outdoor activities in denver cherry creek state park
Getty Images/RJ Sangosti

10.Spend The Day At Cherry Creek State Park

This state park seriously has it all. First, there’s the reservoir, where you can swim, boat, jet ski, row, paddleboard and fish (check out rental options here). Then there’s the 35 miles of trails, where you can even go horseback riding. There are 135 campsites and a 107-acre fenced off-leash area for dogs complete with a shallow river for pups who love to splash. And honestly, this is all just the big stuff. See here for even more park activities.

outdoor activities in denver el five
Facebook/El Five Denver

11. Eat Mediterranean Food On The El Five Patio…

This fifth-floor restaurant with an open-air patio offers gorgeous, unobstructed city views of the downtown Denver skyline. Make a reservation—it gets busy. And once you’re there, enjoy mezze platters, tapas, paella and a specialty cocktail.

outdoor activities in denver improper city
Facebook/Improper City

12. …or Hit Up The Food Trucks At Improper City

If you’re looking for something a little more, shall we say, kid friendly—but something that doesn’t sacrifice good food and adult drinks—try Improper City’s backyard. It’s a taproom and coffee bar with an expansive indoor area as well as a large dog-friendly patio where you’ll find food trucks and outdoor games, WiFi, and often, live music.

outdoor activities in dener coors field
Getty Images/Justin Edmonds

13. Catch A Game At Coors Field

Whether you’re a Colorado Rockies fan or not, the stadium atmosphere is an undoubtedly fun way to spend a beautiful day. Head straight up to the bi-level rooftop plaza overlooking the field—it has multiple bars, food vendors, cabanas and TVs. Or, go the traditional route and snag a stadium seat. Either way, you’re looking at an iconic day of family fun outside.

outdoor activities in denver elitch gardens
Getty Images/Andy Cross

14. Ride Rollercoasters At Elitch Gardens

The Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park has a long history in Denver, first opening its doors in 1890 in northwest Denver. Then, in 1995, it re-opened at its new location in central Downtown, smack dab in the middle of the city. It was the first amusement park built in an urban area in the United States and is one of the longest-standing parks at a cool 130 years old. Fast forward through decades of renovations, additions and initiatives, and you have what Elitch Gardens is today—an action-packed destination (quite literally around the corner) that the whole family will enjoy.

outdoor activities in denver rocky mountain national park
Getty Images/NurPhoto

15. Hike Rocky Mountain National Park

Or, if you’re exhausted from all of the other outdoor activities in Denver you’ve done, roll your windows down and drive to the scenic views. While technically a couple of hours north of Denver, it’s a must-do activity for locals and visitors alike. Rocky Mountain National Park has some of the highest mountains in the continental United States and is home to a host of various landscapes and wildlife. Stop by the visitors center for information about the park and trails (and to find out about any relevant closures), but you can also think ahead with their online trip planning information. Take a scenic drive or hike one of the many trails (here’s their list of suggestions), and make sure you understand the reservations and timed-entry system before your arrival. FYI: The elevation can be tough even on Denverites, so bring a lot of water, take your time, and know the signs of altitude sickness.

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