Why we love it: It's a mix of views, forest, and technical sections. Plus, Apex Park is right next to Heritage Square . After the hike, you can cajole your family and friends into posing for one of those hilarious, old-timey Western photos.
When to go: The park is open year round, and it's always busy since it intersects with a well-used bike path. Shoot for early in the morning when the sun isn't as brutal.
Apex Park in Jefferson County Open Space has almost too many hike options. I'll make it easy for you: Follow these trails for a fast workout.
Park on the far, north side of the Heritage Square parking lot, and you'll see the trail maps. Turn left, cross a bridge and pick up the Apex Trail heading west. About 1,000 feet in, go right on the Argos Trail. It's pretty narrow here, but there are already great views just a quarter mile in. After a half mile, the switchbacks start. Loose rocks coupled with a steep dropoff make good hiking or running shoes a must; you don't want to slip here.
About a mile in, take a right to continue uphill on Pick N Sledge. The climb gets steeper and the trail is a little more technical (pictured). If you bring dogs, watch out for mountain bikers. Eventually, you'll come to a clearing where the trail interesects with Grubstake Loop. It's the perfect spot to grab a snack and take in the views of Golden and, in the distance, downtown Denver. Remember this spot because it's where you'll come out later.
Continue on, through a wooded area, and a quaint little alpine meadow. The very end of Pick N Sledge runs parallel to a small horse farm. Here, you can turn around (take Sluice Box trail back down the other side of the mountain), but I recommend that you go right on Grubstake Loop. The city disappears as you enter a thick forest of ponderosa pines and numerous downhill switchbacks. Emerging from the forest, you're rewarded with more views from the ridge line, but this time to the west, toward Boulder.
Keep your eyes peeled for elk, mule deer, coyote, and rabbits along the loop. And though I've never seen a mountain lion here, they do frequent the area. When Grubstake Loop intersects with Pick N Sledge again, it's pretty much downhill from there. Follow Pick N Sledge to Argos, which leads back to the Apex trailhead.
Getting there: From Denver, take Highway 6 West to I-70 West. Take exit 259; go right at the bottom of ramp. Heritage Square will be on the left. Park on the far north side of their parking lot.
Tip: This trail has several spots where the ice is slow to melt after a storm, so it can be tricky in winter. Also, it's a great hill workout for runners.