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—Photograph by Jeff Nelson

Your Guide to Denver’s Parks

Our favorite spots to picnic, exercise, wear out the kids, hike, and more in Denver’s 272 public green spaces.

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What do families on picnic blankets, two herds of bison, and volleyball-playing millennials have in common? On any given day, you can spot them all in Denver’s impressive portfolio of city and mountain parks, seeking—and finding—respite from the view-blocking skyscrapers and traffic soundtrack that come with life in a world-class city. Ready to join them? With 20,000 lush acres to explore, it can be difficult to know where to start. But don’t worry: We’re here to entice you with streamside hikes, little-known lawn games, places to wear out the kids, and a host of other ways to enjoy one of the country’s best public park systems.


Law & Order: A few park rules to remember.

Plan your summer excursions with our map below. 

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Hike

Denver’s unique collection of mountain parks means trails galore on 14,000 undeveloped acres that have been protected over the past century.

Echo Lake
Mountain Majesty, the short, scenic hike around Echo Lake is ideal for kids or visitors. Photo by Jeff Nelson

When you think about going to the park, you probably don’t picture cruising down a black diamond run. Or pitching your tent at 7,700 feet. Or rocking out at a Blues Traveler show on the Fourth of July. But thanks to Denver Parks and Recreation’s Mountain Parks system—24 conservation areas and 22 parks, which include Winter Park Resort, Genesee Park’s Chief Hosa Campground, and Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre—you can do all those things while you’re still technically in the Mile High City. That’s because Denver began purchasing land west of town after taxpayers approved a mill levy in 1912 (nearly 50 years before the state park system was established). The endeavor wasn’t just an effort to lure tourists; as the Mountain Parks Committee wrote in 1911, the land “should be a summer home for the people of Denver.” Take advantage of this gift on one of these three “Denver” hikes—and, since you’ve had to make the drive, be sure you refuel nearby before journeying back to the big city.

Echo Lake Park

Drive Time: 60 minutes

The Hike: “Hike” might be a strong word for this 1.5-mile (round trip) lakeside jaunt, about 13 miles up Squaw Pass Road on the way to the summit of Mt. Evans (take Exit 240 off I-70 at Idaho Springs). Perfect for children or out-of-town visitors, Echo Lake Park’s wide, flat path starts from the first signed parking lot (on the right); follow it counterclockwise around the sparkling body of water, which reflects the pines and high peaks beyond. The trail enters subalpine forest on its way to Echo Lake Lodge, a log building constructed in 1927 that today comprises a gift shop and restaurant.

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The Reward: Pop into Echo Lake Lodge for a mid-hike slice of pie—from divine cream varieties such as chocolate peanut butter to classic fruit flavors—before heading back the way you came.

Genesee Park

Drive Time: 25 minutes

The Hike: Take I-70’s Genesee Park exit (254), cross over the highway, and then go right to follow South Genesee Mountain Road up about a mile to a parking lot on your right, from which you’ll embark on an approximately two-mile loop. Start by going counterclockwise on Genesee Mountain Trail for about 0.2 miles; then take a left on year-old American Bison Trail. The route follows the fence line of Genesee Park’s bison enclosure, and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the shaggy beasts. At the end of the American Bison Trail, it’s worth a quick detour to head up the short-but-steep Genesee Summit Trail, on your left. Snap a selfie, then come back down and go left to continue on the Genesee Mountain Trail to your car.

The Reward: Beyond Hideaway Kitchen & Bar’s strip-mall front, you’ll find a cozy covered patio. Happy hour runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and includes sizable portions of upscale bar food, $3 pints of the aptly named (but New York–made) Genesee Cream Ale, and rotating $5 Colorado drafts.

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Corwina Park

Drive Time: 35 minutes

The Hike: You’ll find the trailhead for two-mile (round trip) Panorama Point Trail at the second Corwina Park parking lot you come to after leaving Morrison on CO 74. After about half a mile on a narrow, underdeveloped path that follows a seasonal stream, you’ll reach a T intersection with a multiuse trail. Go left, watching for mountain bikers zipping around the corner; soon, you’ll see where the hikers-only portion picks back up to your right. Another 0.5 miles—with lots of elevation gain and a false summit—will deliver you to the trail’s namesake, where you’ll take in expansive views of the Front Range and Mt. Evans from an outcropping of boulders.

The Reward: At the tiny mountain town of Kittredge’s laid-back Switchback Smokehouse, you and Fido can rest your legs on the Bear Creek–adjacent patio while you enjoy the Cubano-style Bay of Pigs sandwich and a mason jar full of Lone Tree Brewing Company’s Peach Pale Ale.


Exercise

Regardless of which park you’re at, you’re guaranteed to spot some spandex-clad exercise fanatic getting her heart rate up—this is Colorado, after all. But fitness freaks can do so much better than simply jogging City Park’s 5K loop.

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Group Body-Weight Sessions: Washington Park

With its original location just a half-mile from 157-acre Wash Park, Pearl Street Fitness has been busting butts in the beloved Denver green space since 2012. To pump up your running route—and your biceps, glutes, and abs—plan your sweat sesh to coincide with the gym’s free 20-minute, body-weight-only workouts at 11:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (Follow the Strong Confident Living group on Facebook to get the meetup location.) Can’t make it to Wash Park on your lunch break? Use your phone or tablet to follow along via Facebook Live; more than 2,000 people worldwide joined the first few sessions this year.

(Bonus: Break a sweat with this interval training from Pearl Street Fitness co-owner Scott St John)

Circuit Training at the Cultivate Health Fitness Zone: 51st Avenue and Zuni Street Park

If you like using machines but are reluctant to commit to a pricey gym membership, the Trust for Public Land’s Fitness Zones are your ticket to toning up—for free. Since 2013, eight of these outdoor training stations, which feature durable equipment such as elliptical machines and captain’s chairs, have been installed in Denver parks, primarily in lower-income areas. For the grand opening of a Fitness Zone this past April in the unnamed park at 51st Avenue and Zuni Street, physical-therapy students created circuits (find them online) as part of Regis University’s Cultivate Health initiative to help Chaffee Park neighborhood residents boost their wellness. Translation: You’re out of excuses.

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Acroyoga: Cheesman Park

In acroyoga—a mesmerizing hybrid of acrobatics and yoga done in pairs—one person is the flier and the other is the base. Jen Cameron, a slender 31-year-old yoga instructor and founder of Denver acroyoga group Flight Club, looks the part of a graceful flier, and often, she is. However, she once flew her 200-pound father—proof of both the strength-building potential of this rapidly growing practice and the incredible power of the physics behind it. You’ll want professional instruction for more complex moves (Flight Club offers $15 intro classes at RiNo’s Kompound Training Center on Wednesday nights, no partner required), but any twosome can try out basic poses such as front plank (see Cameron’s step-by-step instructions at right). Head to the northwest corner of Cheesman Park on warm Sundays from roughly noon to 4 p.m. to watch Flight Club’s acroyogis practice and to pick up free pointers.


Learn to Fly

Grab a friend to try this basic acroyoga pose.

—Illustration by Peter James Field

Front Plank (aka bird pose)

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– The base lies on her back and lifts her feet up to meet you, the flier. Place the base’s feet on the front of your hips; the base’s feet should be parallel, with the balls of her feet on your hipbones.

– Lean in with a straight body while the base bends her knees to receive you and take your hands. The base extends her arms and legs to make straight lines from your hips to hers and from your shoulders to hers.*

– Once you find balance, the base can slightly angle her feet up until your hands feel light. You can then arch your back and remove your hands to fly in bird pose. To exit, rejoin hands before the base slowly bends her knees to place your feet on the ground.

Ask a spotter to hold her arms underneath you, between you and the base, in case you slip.


Picnic

Three places to dine al fresco, plus locally sourced eats. —Callie Sumlin

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—Inspiration Point Park. Photo by Sarah Boyum

For A Large Gathering

Reserving one of the three shelters at James Q. Newton Park in Conifer will cost you ($123 Monday to Thursday; $311 to $397 on weekends and holidays)—but the deal includes a ballfield, a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, hiking trails, restrooms, electrical outlets, and a fire pit. Pick up meats and sides from Cabin Creek Smokehouse Barbecue, just six minutes up U.S. 285.

What’s In Your Basket: Pulled pork and Memphis-style pork spareribs; cowboy beans and old-timey potato salad

For A Family Outing

The oldest park in Denver, Five Points’ Mestizo-Curtis Park (est. 1868), boasts one of the city’s newest playgrounds. The $300,000 project, with features such as a compass-inspired merry-go-round, debuted last summer. Snag one of the six picnic tables near the playground after swinging by the Preservery, a three-month-old community marketplace and fine-casual eatery in nearby RiNo.

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What’s In Your Basket: For the kids: PB&Js with salted nut butter; For you: the New Orleans–style muffaletta sandwich

For A Date Night

From the entrance to Inspiration Point Park on busy Sheridan Boulevard, you’d never suspect what awaits at the green space’s west end: From a U-shaped concrete retaining wall perched at the top of the hill, a swoon-worthy panorama, from Pikes Peak to the Flatirons to Longs Peak, unfolds. Follow the northernmost arm of the U back toward Sheridan to find some grass where you can throw down your blanket. Then watch the sun set over the Rockies while sharing sweets from Tennyson Street’s eight-month-old Allegro Coffee Roasters.

What’s In Your Basket: House-made hazelnut butter chocolate-chip cookies; iced jade lemonade, a blend of lemon, fresh ginger, and matcha green tea.

Cook Out(side)

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How to master cooking over charcoal in park grills. —CS

Prep: Before you start, remove any leftover coals, refill with dry charcoal, and brush off the grates. “Use more charcoal than you’d think you’d need, and get a really big fire going,” says Nate Singer, head butcher for three-month-old Blackbelly Butcher in Boulder. “Then let it burn down to coals before you begin cooking.” This 20- to 25-minute process will distribute the heat and sanitize the grates.

Cook: Once you’ve got hot coals, make sure they’re spread evenly across the bottom of the grill. Lay your meat on the grates and cook on each side. “Make sure not to cook over too direct heat,” Singer says. “Unlike gas grills, you’re at the mercy of the coals.”

Clean up: The pack-it-in, pack-it-out principle applies here. When you’re done grilling, let the coals cool for as long as possible. Then sweep the ashes and any remaining coals into a large metal can and douse with water; repeat until they’re completely cold before disposing of them in your trash at home.


RECIPE

“My favorite meats to put on a grill are flap meats (flank, skirt, bavette),” says Nate Singer. “The flap meats take on a marinade really well and are easy for a large group.” Prep your meat with the following recipe before trying out one of the park system’s more than 100 charcoal grills.

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Blackbelly Market’s Banh Mi Marinade

Combine:

4 tablespoons sesame oil
1 cup grated fresh ginger and chopped fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, and parsley
8 tablespoons fish sauce; 3 tablespoons molasses; 4 tablespoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon mace
12 minced garlic cloves
12 minced shallots

Add 10 to 15 pounds of meat and marinate in a sealed, refrigerated container for 1 to 4 days (less time for thinner cuts, more for larger pieces).


Wear Out The Kids

Many Denver parks offer child-friendly alternatives to postage-stamp yards and traffic-filled boulevards—even if your kid is your dog.

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Splash Town

La Alma Recreation Center—Just five years old, the $3.7 million splash pad and pool—including a 20-foot tunnel slide—at this rec center in Lincoln Park are the next best things to Water World.

Fat Tire Fun

Barnum North Park—The dirt hills at Trestle Bike Skills Park are open to mountain, downhill, and BMX bikers. (Psst: A new course is due to open in Ruby Hill Park this month.)

Snow Day

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Ruby Hill Park—From January until the course melts, kids can master mute grabs at the beginner-friendly Ruby Hill Rail Yard terrain park. Take younger siblings down the park’s 250-foot hill.

Playground Perfection

Photo by Jessica LaRusso

Central Park—Stapleton’s 80-acre green space hosts one of the city’s coolest playgrounds, with realistic-looking boulders and Seussian play structures.

Fore!

Aqua Golf—We thought Aqua Golf’s mini course ($5 to $8 for 18 holes) was the most (affordable) fun a family could have. Then we paid $10 to drive 100 balls as far as we could into Overland Lake.

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Gone To The Dogs

—iStock

Berkeley Lake Park—This pooch park (one of nine in Denver) has two fenced-in areas: one for high-energy pups, and one for mellower dogs. The two sandy acres also contain benches and shaded spots for humans.


Compete

This summer, try your hand (or paddle) at something different.

—Volleyball nets fill Wash Park on sunny summer weekends. Photo by Jeff Nelson

If you like…playing volleyball in Wash Park, try beach volleyball at Fred Thomas Park’s three sand courts in Stapleton.

If you like…throwing the football at Observatory Park, try organized flag football, through Denver Parks and Recreation’s CityWide Sports, at Lowry Sports Complex and Barnum Turf ($75 per person, per season; men’s and women’s five-on-five leagues).

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If you like…playing tennis at Berkeley Lake Park’s eight lighted courts, try pickleball, a fast-paced cross between tennis and pingpong, at Congress Park’s outdoor courts (bring your own pickleball paddle).

If you like…golfing at City Park Golf Course ($27 for 18 holes on weekdays, $39 on weekends), try glow-in-the-dark night golf at Harvard Gulch Golf Course ($25, includes LED golf balls).

If you like…tossing the Frisbee at Cheesman Park, try disc golf at Lakewood/Dry Gulch Park’s 21-hole course, which was improved and reopened with the launch of RTD’s W Line in 2013.

If you like…playing bocce ball at Crestmoor Park with the Denver Bocce League (managed by Play Mile High), try pétanque (see “French Lessons” at right) at Centennial Gardens on summer Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m.

Trend Alert: Pétanque

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—Photo by Jeff Nelson

Bocce may be better known in the States, but a relative of the game is on the rise around the nation—and in downtown’s Centennial Gardens.

Although he’s OK with people comparing pétanque (pronounced “pay-TONK”)—a boule sport that originated in France in the early 1900s—to bocce, David Keil bristles when onlookers call the game “baby bocce” due to the throwing boules’ smaller size. “That’s like calling baseball ‘baby softball,’ ” says Keil, president and co-founder of the Mile High Pétanque Club.

The 45-year-old French teacher learned the game from his French in-laws in 1997 and gathered other local enthusiasts to play in the backyard of his Lakewood home before launching the official club in 2013. The 28-member group now meets in Centennial Gardens, which, appropriately, features native flora arranged to mimic formal French gardens. In exchange for a locker, restroom access, and reserved parking, the club picks up trash and pulls weeds.

After cleanup duty, players (one-on-one or in teams of two or three) take to the park’s crushed gravel terrain. Like bocce, the game centers on trying to get your boules closest to a target ball, but pétanque boules are thrown, not rolled. Other differences: The boules are made of metal and must be thrown from within a designated circle without the thrower leaving his feet. The latter element is key to pétanque’s wide appeal, as it means nearly anyone—including those who use wheelchairs or have other limitations that prevent them from stepping into a roll or heave—can be competitive.

“It’s a game that’s still growing and popularizing in the United States,” Keil says. Denverites can head to Centennial Gardens on Sunday afternoons for an introduction (the club keeps loaner boules on-site). Get good enough and you might find yourself on an Olympic podium: The sport is angling for a spot in the 2024 Summer Games, which could be held in—wait for it—Paris.

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Meditate

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of city life can cause you to lose perspective. Luckily, Denver has a plethora of parks where you can get it back.

—Many of historic Alamo Placita Park’s flowers are grown in City Park’s 16 greenhouses. Photo by Sarah Boyum

Alamo Placita Park

Designed in the late 1920s by prolific Denver landscape architect Saco Resnik DeBoer (he also worked on the Denver Botanic Gardens), this charming park along Speer Boulevard bursts to life each spring with stunning flower displays arranged in DeBoer’s original designs.

Meditate on: The fact that 16 greenhouses in City Park propagate 250,000-some annuals, perennials, and shrubs—including the geraniums and salvia you’ll see in Alamo Placita Park—each year to fill more than seven acres’ worth of flower beds. The horticulture division has also increased milkweed planting to help the Mile High City’s pollinators, which are essential to local food production.

City of Nairobi Park

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The Clayton neighborhood’s City of Nairobi Park (one of 10 in the Denver Sister Cities International program) features a recently rehabilitated playground complete with play sculptures, such as a 10-foot-tall giraffe, that will make your kids feel like they’re on safari.

Meditate on: The idea that thousands of miles away in Nairobi, Kenya, someone could be sitting in the City of Denver Park…meditating on the idea of you sitting in the City of Nairobi Park.

Bible (James A.) Park

The calm, quiet dirt path that follows the High Line Canal to form this southeast Denver park’s southern border is shaded by mature trees and makes for a lovely place to get lost in your own thoughts while still checking something off your to-do list: getting Fido a nice, long walk.

Meditate on: The opportunities presented by the century-old, 71-mile-long High Line Canal, a greenway carved into the urban environment that is rarely used for its original purpose of water delivery. Local governments and the nonprofit High Line Canal Conservancy are working to improve adjacent trails for recreational appeal.

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First Person: Upon Reflection

Babi Yar Park provides a place of quiet contemplation for all. —Daliah Singer

—Courtesy of Scott Dressel-Martin/Mundus Bishop

A light spring breeze kicks up as I approach the two large, irregularly shaped slabs of black granite that mark the southern entrance to Babi Yar Park’s 27 acres. A speaking stone welcomes me to this unexpected site: a living memorial to 200,000 victims of Nazi persecution in the early 1940s at a ravine called Babi Yar in Kiev, Ukraine. “This Babi Yar,” the stone emits, “is a reminder of that Babi Yar…a place to pray for an end to all inhuman acts of our time.”

Babi Yar Park opened in 1983 to both honor those who died at Babi Yar and call attention to injustices that Jews in the Soviet Union were facing at the time. Even if I weren’t Jewish, growing up hearing stories about my family’s experiences during the Holocaust, it would be difficult to miss the symbolism permeating this parcel of land. As I stroll the gravel paths, my blue Converses trace the six corners of the Star of David. At the northwest junction, I come across a black wooden bridge the width of a single person; walking its length is a claustrophobic, haunting experience meant to recall the way Jews and others were forced into cattle cars that took them to the death camps. Moving east, relishing the openness, I look toward the Forest That Remembers, a grove of 100 green ash trees planted to represent the lives lost in Kiev.

Amid this history and allegory, it feels natural to reflect on my own life and on the continuing persecution of peoples around the world. Babi Yar Park is a place that calls for a person to sit down and think big thoughts—under a tree or on a grassy hill or atop one of the gray stones placed throughout the site. It’s a place where I can take a moment for myself, and for all those who are no longer here.

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Play in the Water

In landlocked Colorado, opportunities to swim, fish, and boat may be harder to come by than on the coasts—but don’t book a flight just yet.

City Park’s Ferril, Photo by Jeff Nelson

If you want to: Stand-up paddleboard

Try: Berkeley Lake Park

Because: This green space’s namesake is a large, calm, lightly used body of water with lovely mountain views. Launch your board from the dock on the lake’s southeast side. (Annual boating permits are required in Denver parks: $49 for hand-powered crafts, $126 for sailboats, and $245 for motorized boats.)

If you want to: Sunbathe (with sunscreen, please!)

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Try: Ruby Hill Park’s outdoor pool

Because: It’s situated in full sun on top of a hill. Bonus: This swim spot is often less crowded than other pools in the city.

If you want to: Pedal boat

Try: Ferril Lake in City Park

Because: If you rent a craft ($25 an hour from on-site Wheel Fun Rentals) with your SO and pedal over to the eastern edge, you can take in one of the Mile High City’s most quintessential (and romantic) panoramas: the City Park Pavilion, the Denver skyline, and the Rockies.

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If you want to: Water-ski

Try: Sloan’s Lake Park

Because: Sloan’s is the only lake in the Denver city park system that allows motorized boating. Note: It’s BYOB—bring your own boat.

If you want to: Kayak

Try: Smith Lake in Washington Park

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Because: This relatively small lake is a great place for kids to learn how to use a paddle, and Wheel Fun Rentals’ offerings (on the south side of the lake) are affordable at just $12 (for a single) or $20 (double) an hour.

If you want to: Fly-fish

Try: The South Platte River at Johnson-Habitat Park

Because: Denverites wetting their lines here have been known to pull out 20-plus-inch rainbow trout. Yes, really.

Where to Spot Wildlife

Parks don’t just provide sanctuary for blacktop-weary urbanites; they’re also havens for a variety of critters.

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If you want to see…

…Canada geese, go to Berkeley Lake Park

…double-crested cormorants, go to City Park’s Duck Lake

…mule deer, go to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

…bighorn sheep, go to Summit Lake Park

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…elk, go to O’Fallon Mountain Park

…crawfish, go to Weir Gulch Marina Park

…bison, go to Daniels Park

…squirrels, go to, well, basically any park

…mallard ducks, go to Sloan’s Lake

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…red fox, go to Harvey Park

…bats, go to Cheesman Park

…Rocky Mountain goats, go to Summit Lake Park

…bee swarms, go to Washington Park

…coyotes, go to Rocky Mountain Lake Park

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…bald eagles, go to City Park


The Protectors

—Photo courtesy of Jacob Wells

Park ranger supervisor Jacob Wells has been wearing Denver Parks and Recreation khaki for five years—and in that time, he and his crew of 32 enforcers have seen park-goers breaking every rule in the book.

5280: Important things first—do you have to wear those khaki pants every day?
Jacob Wells: We actually do have shorts. Some people think it’s more professional to have pants, but some of us don’t want to suffer in the summer.

What’s a typical day look like for you?
We’re out in the parks to make sure people are safe and having a good time and that resources are protected. We deal with medical issues, fires, lost kids—anything that has to do with being outside and helping people, including the homeless. It’s a lot of taking calls and responding to them to make people happy.

Do people avoid you?
It depends on what they’re doing; the ones who avoid us are usually doing something they shouldn’t be, like smoking weed in the park. But for the most part people are happy to chat with us and curious to learn more about the parks.

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What rule do you catch people breaking most often?
Dogs off leash is one of the most common violations; we get a lot of complaints about it. Even a friendly dog chasing a ball can knock over and injure a little kid; there are safety issues behind a lot of the contacts we make. We try to explain those things—and not write tickets as much as possible—because we want to teach people.

Can you really tell if the beer in my Solo cup isn’t 3.2 ABW?
People are innocent until proven guilty. If someone has a water bottle that looks like it has something other than water in it, we’re not gonna go up and test the contents of that water bottle. But if we’re getting complaints—if someone’s fighting or peeing out in the meadow and standing there with a bottle—then we’ll investigate. If we see glass, that’s a big safety risk. But we assume that if people are in a park and they’re not causing problems, the drinks they’re holding are 3.2.

What do you wish people knew about park rangers?
We love talking with people. If people want to ask us questions about park history or nature or rules, or have complaints or compliments, we’re there to help them out.


In Praise Of The Pocket Park

Not all of the Mile High City’s green spaces are destination-worthy—and that’s OK. —Jessica LaRusso

—Dailey Park. Photo by Sarah Boyum

A few years ago, I scored a rental just a few blocks from 314.4-acre City Park, Denver’s largest park and home to free live jazz on summer Sundays. So when I moved to Baker, I wasn’t overly impressed by the closest common area to my new house: Dailey Park, a piddly little patch of grass with an unremarkable playground, a basketball court, and not much else. I quickly resigned myself to hopping in the car when I wanted a real break from the pavement.

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But one weekend morning a few weeks after moving in, my husband and I took a blanket to Dailey and discovered that if we sat on the east end, we could see the mountains. Soon thereafter, I found myself planning my jogging routes to pass through the little slice of uninterrupted green. We took our dog there to romp around after the first big winter storm. As the weather warmed, we began to notice our neighbors hosting everything from peewee football practices to cornhole meetups there.

At 2.7 acres, Dailey doesn’t even hit Denver’s median park size of 6.1 acres (about four and a half football fields). Still, I’ve come to treasure our tiny oasis just two blocks from the grit and bustle of South Broadway. We still take a picnic basket to City Park Jazz a couple of times a year, but when it’s 7 p.m. on a Wednesday and I just need a little dose of nature after a long day in a cubicle, I’m thankful for Dailey.


Pitch In

How you can help solve the problems you see in our parks.

—Call 311. Your concerns (why is the dumpster always overflowing?!) will be documented and directed to the appropriate parties.

—Get a group of volunteers together for a one-time or ongoing project. Volunteers save the department upward of $1 million annually by doing things like weeding flower beds.

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—Raise money. Denver Parks and Rec has around $10 million a year for its capital replacement program—which falls about $170 million short of the system’s needs. If you’re passionate about upgrading something in your local park but it’s not at the top of the department’s list, you can fund-raise through a nonprofit, such as the Park People, a 47-year-old local advocacy organization.


Bonus: Get Outside for These Summer Events

Whether you’re watching stars of the silver screen at an outdoor movie or literal stars in the night sky, here’s where to go this month when you just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy a variety of cultural experiences in Denver’s parks.

Food Truck Fun

Any Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Take your pick from dozens of Denver food trucks and enjoy live music with your lunch at Civic Center Park’s summerlong Civic Center Eats events.

Dynamite Fireworks

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July 3, 8 p.m.: Watch Civic Center Park’s fireworks display from a less crowded perch at Barnum ParkRuby Hill Park, or Cuatro Vientos Park, all of which offer views of downtown from elevated sections of southwest Denver.

Star Search

July 9, 8:30 p.m.: Stop by Observatory Park for the Denver Astronomical Society’s monthly, self-described “lawn star party.” For $2 a person or $5 a family, you can peer at the stars through the historic Chamberlin Observatory’s telescope, and if you ask nicely, you might also catch glimpses of galaxies through DAS members’ personal equipment, which they set up throughout the park.

Jazz It Up

July 17, 6 to 8 p.m.: Pack the picnic basket for al fresco dinner and a (no cover) show at the band shell in City Park. At this Sunday’s installment of City Park Jazz, you’ll hear the smooth sounds of Selina Albright, an R&B and jazz crooner influenced by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Whitney Houston.

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Movie Time

July 23, 7:30 p.m.: Grab a blanket, ride the light rail downtown, and walk over to Skyline Park, behind the Daniels & Fisher Tower on the 16th Street Mall. There, you’ll catch a free outdoor screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, part of the park’s summer movie series.

Rock Out

July 28 to 30, 7:30 p.m.: See folk-rock favorites the Avett Brothers during their three-night stint at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre.


Fun Facts

86: Percentage of Denverites who live within a 10-minute walk of a public park.

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27: Denver Parks and Recreation rec centers. Prices vary by access level (neighborhood, local, and regional) and age, but even in the costliest bracket—25 to 64 years old—they’re relatively affordable at $171 to $332 a year. Bonus: Additional family members get 50 percent off, and kids five to 18 are free through the MY Denver Card program.

80: Miles of off-street multiuse trails, including popular biking paths such as the Cherry Creek Trail and South Platte River Trail, managed by Denver Parks and Recreation.

25: Gathering size at which Denver Parks and Recreation requires you to reserve your site, more than 24 hours in advance for urban parks ($51 for nonsheltered sites; $97 for sites with shelters) and 24 to 72 hours ahead for mountain parks (fees vary based on amenities). Public events and special occasions, such as concerts or weddings, may require additional permits.

15: Parks that are home to significant pieces of public artwork, including Burns Park’s minimalist sculptures and La Alma Recreation Center’s colorful “La Alma Murals” by Emanuel Martinez.

29: Swimming pools (16 outdoor and 13 indoor) managed by Denver Parks and Recreation

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6: Underused tennis courts in Denver parks—including Garfield Lake Park on the western edge of town between Sheridan and Federal boulevards—that have been converted to accommodate the game of futsal, a five-a-side form of soccer played on walled-in hardtop pitches that’s growing in popularity across the country, especially in Latino communities.

198: Acres in the newly opened First Creek at DEN Open Space, which is adjacent to Rocky Mountain Arsenal, to the west of Peña Boulevard. Park in the lot just off 56th Avenue at Buckley Road; from there, you can stroll along a trail that parallels Old Buckley Road to catch glimpses of hawks, foxes, deer, and more.

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