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Dating in the era of COVID-19 requires some creativity—especially in the winter months when the prospect of sitting outside with a new flame puts a chill on romantic endeavors.
Enter outdoor adventure dates, which get your heart pumping in more ways than one. Not only are there fewer restrictions on activities outside, but there are also plenty of non-COVID-related benefits, particularly for first or second meetings where making conversation isn’t always so easy. “Face-to-face dates can be so exhausting. They can feel like a game of 20 questions that never ends,” says Kara Mannix, a 37-year-old from Westminster, who has been dating throughout the pandemic. “When you’re doing something physical, you don’t have to talk the whole time.”
To help you figure out what type of outdoor date might work best for you and your prospective beau, we came up with with four adventure-inspired options to enjoy around the Denver area this winter.
For the Trailblazers: Trading Post Loop at Red Rocks Park
Hiking dates are a great option even when there isn’t a pandemic raging, says Boulder resident Alison Clowes, 36, who has been dating in recent months. “If you’re somebody who loves being outside—which is most of the state and basically the entire dating pool—it makes way more sense to do something like hiking that you enjoy together. Plus, it lets you see how people respond to beauty, which is something that’s really important to me.”
The 1.4-mile Trading Post Loop at Red Rocks gains around 500 feet of elevation, so while you will collect some extra steps, you won’t be so out of breath that you can’t whisper sweet nothings to your special someone. We recommend parking at the Red Rocks Trading Post, which is southeast of the Amphitheatre, and then tackling the trail counter-clockwise to see a lovely juxtaposition of ancient rock formations in the foreground against a back-drop of Denver’s modern high rises. Keep an eye out for deer along the trail, especially on the loop’s western side.
Bring some snacks and drinks for an outdoor happy hour either at the top of the Amphitheatre (note that crews are working on the Red Rocks stage) or over at the Red Rocks Park Geologic Marker & Picnic Shelter, which is just a bit farther north.
For the Snow Bunnies: Snowshoeing at Echo Lake
If you’re looking for something a little more rigorous than hiking and are comfortable enough with your beau to drive to a higher elevation in search of powder, consider a snowshoeing excursion. The lightly falling flakes and great scenery are a recipe for love, as evidenced by any winter-themed Hallmark movie. “There’s something magical about seeing snow-covered trees,” says Brett Plagenz, store manager at Outdoors Geek Gear Rental. “The setting is right for romance.”
We recommend the Echo Lake Loop, which is worth the hour-ish drive from Denver. Situated at 10,600 feet, the trail offers stunning views of Mt. Evans, but it’s just 1.3 miles long with a minimal 70 feet of elevation gain, so you won’t be straining too hard. Be sure to pack a thermos of hot cocoa for some après imbibing back at the car.
For the Rock Jocks: Bouldering on Flagstaff Mountain
Climbing may seem like an intense date to go on with someone early in a courtship. But Dan Delany from Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder thinks it can help you become closer with someone more quickly. “It helps you break down those initial layers of trust and social anxiety because you get to do something fun and scary and thrilling with someone,” he says. “It moves you from date one to date three or four.”
While climbing the First Flatiron would be a great option for those with the equipment to rope up, we suggest hitting one of the many bouldering problems nearby along Flagstaff Road, which just require a crash pad. Delany recommends parking at the Crown Rock Trailhead and hiking in an easy 500 feet to the Monkey Traverse, a technical V4 often done right to left. The less experienced crowd should consider the Slab Traverse, a V1 with crimpy handholds and countless variations.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, drive about a mile down the road to Panorama Point, where you can set up a romantic picnic with views overlooking the twinkling lights of Boulder.
For the Pedal-Pushers: E-biking on the Cherry Creek Trail
Colorado’s occasional 60-degree day in February is one of our state’s best-kept secrets—and those days are perfect for a two-wheeled date. “Having a motor takes all that effort out of [cycling] and makes it a lot more fun to ride,” says Steve Lavin, shop mechanic at Pedego South Denver.
Denver of course has many great bike path options, but it’s tough to beat the Cherry Creek Trail. Start at Confluence Park and ramble your way past the Cherry Creek Mall and the Denver Country Club out to the Cherry Creek Reservoir, a great turn-around and mid-ride picnicking point. Call Denver Picnic Co. ahead of time and they’ll set up a decadent spread for you, complete with gourmet charcuterie, pillows, and conversation starter cards (packages start at $259).