In Colorado, there’s often an assumption that hikes must go up, up, up. But we’re going to challenge that notion and suggest that simply getting out and about, whether you’re walking, strolling, running, or rolling, counts as hiking miles this year (and—let’s be bold—every year).

So we asked Denver By Foot’s Chris Englert, who wrote the book (literally) on urban hiking in Denver, to help us plan some excursions. She’s also written a book about city parks and has travelled through all of Denver’s 78 neighborhoods. “It was a really interesting way to see Denver from a pedestrian point of view,” Englert says of the project. Now, she’s produced the Denver by Foot Challenge, a collection of 30 curated routes in the metro to explore (the pdf download is $29). We asked her to pick a few favorite treks—perfect for different times of the day.

For Early Risers…

Star K Ranch
In Aurora, you can glimpse wildlife at Star K Ranch, where mule deer, hawks, and turtles play. The Morrison Nature Center is currently closed, but the looping trails are accessible and offer plenty of chances of a nature-inspired game of “I Spy.”

Grant Frontier Park
If you’re running out of homeschool history lessons, head to Grant Frontier Park. The renovated green space is located along the South Platte River and has plenty of trails. It also just happens to be the spot where Montana City, which dates back to 1858, was established. If you want to clock in additional miles, head north to the Johnson-Habitat Park, about 2.3 miles away.

Paco Sanchez Park
This park is named in memory of Paco Sanchez, a Hispanic activist and radio station owner. Learn more about his legacy—the playground includes music-inspired play structures—before heading to the Lakewood Gulch, which helps drain water to the South Platte River, to stretch your journey out just a bit more.

For Cooler Hours…

City Park
This park is a classic choice—for good reasons, including being the home of favorite destinations like the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. There are also plenty of soft or paved paths that weave through the park and beneath the area’s massive old trees. Go for views of the city and mountains but stay to play (or nap) in the grass.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal
With lots of wildlife, from bison to birds to fish, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal has an off-the-beaten-path vibe while still only being about 10 miles away from downtown Denver. Check out the Bluestem Loop Trail (1.3 miles) for views to the west of the Front Range (bring bug spray!).

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.