At 71 miles, the High Line Canal Trail is one of the country’s longest urban paths—and maybe the most complicated. It links 11 boroughs between Waterton Canyon and Aurora and is maintained by seven agencies. To make the trail more accessible, the nonprofit High Line Canal Conservancy released a guidebook last month that contains mile-by-mile tips, facts, and history. No time to study all 238 pages? Relax: We gave it a read to learn what you need to know before you stroll (or run or bike).
After witnessing the Sand Creek Massacre, Cavalry Private Amos C. Miksch testified to the attack’s brutality. The Miksch-Helmer Cabin, which he later built on 160 acres of land, still stands close to mile three near Chatfield State Park.
Fall is the best time to eat plums from the once-farmed, now-wild fruit trees that line the canal from mile 14 to 34. (The downside to this section? Goat head thorns. Keep a patch kit handy in case one punctures your bike tire.)
Around mile 29, spot the colorful cluster of ceramic birds placed in a cottonwood tree by an unknown artist.
The conservancy’s strategy to preserve the trail includes updating the mile markers, a project that will be completed in 2020. (Mileages on this page reflect current mile markers.) Plus, all future improvements must meet ADA guidelines when possible. For example, a planned underpass will make crossing Hampden Avenue easier, and a portion of the trail will be repaved with concrete by 2022.
Completed in 1883, the High Line Canal was first used for irrigation. Unfortunately, water never flowed well through the poorly designed, leaky trench. Next year, Denver Water will begin using the High Line for storm-water management. That means Coloradans walking by Mamie D. Eisenhower Park, the first area to undergo the change, will hopefully notice a richer ecosystem thanks to more H20 in the canal. The conservancy also predicts the switch could reduce mosquitoes: Better flow discourages egg laying.
See one of Colorado’s last round barns—a remnant from 1902—at the Delaney Farm Historic District near mile 55. Denver Urban Gardens runs a community garden on three acres of the land and partners with Denver nonprofit Project Worthmore to employ refugees.
If you plan to traverse the entire trail, you’ll have to wait till 2022. Miles 69 through 71 will be closed for the next three years while Aurora Parks, Recreation, and Open Space builds a new park. Visit highlinecanal.org for closure updates and detour suggestions.