South Platte Park, Littleton

Wander in search of bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and great blue herons. The more adventurous can brave obstacles while kayaking or fish in one of five lakes along a restored floodplain previously mined for gravel.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Colorado Springs

Besides 80-plus climbing routes, history buffs can see the quarry where blocks of 250-million-year-old sandstone—remnants of an ancient dune field—were cut to erect buildings like the Molly Brown House.

William frederick Hayden Park on Green Mountain, Lakewood

As you search for wildflowers or pedal the challenging trails with summit views, keep an eye out for chips of petrified wood on the ground; they were once fashioned into arrowheads by hunting groups from the numerous American Indian tribes who roamed the area.

Triceratops Trail, Golden

Take a trip back to the dinosaur age on the site of a former clay mine where the world’s first horned-dinosaur tracks (likely from a Triceratops) were discovered. Look for casted duckbilled dinosaur and beetle tracks, palm fronds, sycamore leaves, and the enduring impressions of raindrops that fell in a muggy swamp 67 million years ago.


*What is open space?

Undeveloped land that is protected or conserved by a variety of agencies (city, county, state, and federal) and available for public use.

_____ Exclusive: More open spaces to explore.

Gustav Swanson Natural Area, Fort Collins

Cast a line, paddle the Poudre River, or just sit quietly and wait for golden eagles, deer, and foxes to visit this peaceful riverside pocket—home to 180 species of plants—which has been public ground since 1887.

Settlers’ Park, Boulder

Hike the steep, pine-laden slopes amongst vertical fins of red rock at the site thought to be the area’s first permanent gold miner’s camp, just half a mile from today’s bustling Pearl Street Mall.

Daniels Park, Sedalia

Spread out a picnic, soak up the panoramic mountain views, and watch bison in their natural high-plains habitat on this historic ranch where Kit Carson lit his last campfire.

This article was originally published in 5280 Traveler 2013.
Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at