The Denver Mountain Parks are a subgroup of the Denver Parks and Recreation system. For over 100 years, the mountain parks have made the city’s park system among the most unique in the entire country, offering people a place to play as well as relaxing in the mountains. Each year, over two million visitors from all over the world are drawn to Denver and the region by these iconic landscapes to enjoy the natural attractions they have to offer. The following are five must-see parks in the remarkable Denver mountain park system.
1. Red Rock Mountain Park
Red Rocks Park is the Mountain Park that is closest to the city of Denver. The 350 ha park is located on the Rocky Mountain’s eastern slope and gets its name from the towering 90m sandstone rock formations. It boasts a 200-mile sweeping view of the city and the plains. On a clear day, you can even be able to see the Denver International Airport’s tent-like terminal domes located 45 miles east of Denver.
The Red Rocks Mountain Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, exercise buffs, tourists, photographers, and not forgetting concertgoers. The park is considered one of the world’s greatest outdoor music venues. It boasts a famous and iconic amphitheater that attracts visitors as well as musicians from all over the world. Near the amphitheater, you will find red rocks known as creation Rock, Stage Rock and Ship Rock (previously called Titanic) which form a unique natural amphitheater, seating and stage area.
There are also hiking trails, which allow the park’s visitors to observe its natural areas and geologic features. The park’s use is allowed by trail only because of the high use of the site as well as the geologic feature’s sensitive nature. Concertgoers and visitors are asked to stay on the trails, parking lots or on the roads. Also, rock climbing and off-trail use are strictly prohibited for public safety reasons, and violators will face prosecution. All in all, the park is definitely a must-see, particularly for concert lovers.
2. Echo Lake Mountain Park
Located on the east side of Mount Evans is this 616-acre Denver city park. The park’s centerpiece is the 24- acre Echo Lake formed by a glacial moraine. Fir forest and dense spruce surround the lake. The city of Denver acquired the park back in 1920 and visitors usually stop in the city on their way to the Mount Evans Road.
Fun activities in the park include trout fishing, hiking and also picnicking at the historic Echo Lake Picnic Shelter or at the tables adjacent to the north shore. Another must-visit feature on the park is the Echo Lake Lodge, a remarkable 1924 log building located at the start of the Mount Evans Road on the south side of the lake. On the south side of the lake, you will find an 18-site Arapaho National Forest site known as the Echo Lake Campground. The over 10,000-foot high park borders the Colorado Highway 103 which provides quick access to the lake, trails, parking areas, and restrooms.
3. Summit Lake Mountain Park
This 150-acre park is North America’s highest city park. Also, the over 12,000-foot-high Summit Lake, the centerpiece of the park, is the country’s 13th highest lake. This alpine lake lies in a glacier-carved cirque below Mount Spalding and Mount Evans with grassy slopes, rocky ridges and tall granite cliffs surrounding it.
In 1965, the area became Colorado’s first National Natural Landmark and many consider it as a United States excellent example of alpine tundra due to the alpine plants growing in plenty among the boulders. Also, the Summit Lake Flats found on the east of the lake forms one of the few permafrost areas you can find outside of Alaska.
You can access the popular park by the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, and it is usually open from Memorial Day through to Labor Day. Despite the road being often open to the lake, sometimes the major snow closes it. The park is a busy destination for visitors and tourists, especially on summer weekends and holidays. Visitors use is allowed by trails only because of the fragile nature of the tundra as well as the surrounding plant communities. Visit the area for a spectacular view of the mountains and also to observe the wildlife in the area.
4. Bergen National Park
Bergen Mountain Park is one of the smaller mountain parks in Denver at only 25 acres, but its mature Ponderosa pine forest and open grasslands give it an exquisite wooded setting that is a must-see. Since 1917, Bergen Park has served as a popular picnic ground and a key resting spot to visitors and tourists alike. The park is located at the base of the road headed to Squaw Pass at the Highways 74 and 68 crossroads. Mr. Oscar N. Johnson donated the land where the park sits back in 1915 and has consistently been a popular mountain park in the city.
The center of the park boasts a stone shelter built in 1917. Made of white quartz and timber, J.J.B. Benedict is believed to have designed the shelter. In the south of the shelter, you will find a good house built of the same materials. The Bergen Parkway divides the park into two sections. You will find a small monument centered in the east section commemorating Thomas. C. Bergen, the park’s early settler. Also, on the south of the monument is a historic stone restroom that is no longer in use. There are trails in the park for lovers of hiking. Families and friends enjoy picnics on warm days in the Ponderosa pine forest, particularly near the shelter and well house.
5. Corwina Mountain Park
Slopes of dense Ponderosa Pine and Douglas fir mostly dominate this 298-acre park. It offers a unique cross-section of Bear Creek Canyon’s various plant communities. The park is part of Bear Creek Canyon’s complex of protected open space that also includes O’Fallon Park’ Little Park, Pence Park and also the Lair o’ the Bear Park, a Jefferson County Open Space. Built in 1918, the park is wonderfully wooded offering unique picnic areas with an intimate scale. You can access the park from Colorado 74 on the northeastern side of the Evergreen. The highway passes through canyon bisecting the northern part of the park.
The wilder southern section of the park is a pine-forested ridge topped by the Panorama Point. State Highway 74 has three parking areas that provide access to the park. Located on the north side of the highway is the lower Corwina parking area that provides picnicking opportunities, a short nature trail experience and also a restroom. The 2nd parking area located directly across the road offers a short walk to a historic picnic shelter as well as providing fishing access. Lastly, the upper Corwina parking area serves as the Panorama Point Trail’s trailhead.
The Panorama Point Trail is a pedestrian-only trail that provides a steep hike to the sweeping views of Panorama Point. The upper Corwina parking area also gives hiker’s access to the Bear Creek Trail, which, unlike the Panorama Point Trail, is open to hiking and mountain bikes.