The Getaway
5 Day Denver Itinerary for Summer Outdoor Junkies

Denver is a gateway to seemingly endless adventures in nature. Escape the hustle and bustle and make for the great outdoors. There are so many different activities to choose from, you're bound to find something you like. Or you can lean into the pursuits that always put a smile on your face. The Mile High city's huge park system means that you can get out and about without a long drive, but the day trips are spectacular. You can easily craft an action-packed 5-day itinerary tailored to your interests.


01 Urban adventure and river kayaking

 A woman goes for a walk along the creek at Confluence Park, between the Highland and River North Page Light Studios /

The Denver metro is jam-packed with hiking trails, so you can enjoy nature without venturing far. Popular Confluence Park in downtown Denver has multi-use paths, rentable scooters, and river rapids for tubing and kayaking. Paddling novices can have a blast too. Elitch Gardens is a must-do during summer if you're in the mood for an adrenaline rush without having to exert your body in any way. This theme park and water park goes back to 1890, and is a rip-roaring adventure for all ages.


02 Biking and botanical wonders

Yoga fans can head for Denver Botanic Gardens, where affordable Vinyasa classes occur in the prettiest environment. Walks here are calming, and you can bring snacks along for a leisurely picnic after you admire the bonsais and tropical conservatory. If this sounds too sedate for you, then work your legs on 196 miles of on-street bike lanes or in the extensive park system. Cherry Creek Trail is a favorite for being below street level, passing through a shopping district, and connecting Four Mile Historic Park, Castlewood Canyon State Park, and Cherry Creek State Park. There are many other attractive trails to choose from.

03 Red rocks and wildlife

Grazing bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, suburban Denver

Check out Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge if the local wildlife holds significant appeal. Remember to carry a pair of binoculars for optimal viewing of the resident animals. You can see bison, mule deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, bald eagles, and migrating birds. The hiking trails here are flat and user-friendly. Consider the Red Rocks Trail at Red Rocks Park for a morning hike. It's a 6-mile roundtrip that crosses into Matthews/Winters Park, but the Trading Post Trail is shorter and closer to the rocks. Expect little shade.


04 High altitude thrills

There's boating, and then there's floating. Between May and November, you can check off a bucket list activity and go hot-air ballooning over the Rockies and Colorado Plains. Service providers like Fair Winds Flights offer complimentary drinks, group discounts, hotel pickups, and post-flight keepsakes. Alternatively, you can hit up an operator like Mile High Gliding to get bird's eye views on a glider ride over the Front Range. The Flatirons, the Continental Divide, and Bear Peak are some highlights, and you'll see lakes, mining towns, and ski resorts. Watch as your pilot shows off some moves, and you may even be able to take the controls.

05 Mountain escapades

Mountain Goat in the clouds at Mount Blue Sky

Mount Blue Sky, formerly known as Mount Evans, is home to the highest paved road on the continent and is one of 54 "fourteeners" in the Centennial State. Fourteeners are peaks that climb to over 14,000 feet. The recent name change is significant, as Governor Evans played a part in the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of Native Americans. Drive the scenic byway in the lands of the Blue Sky/Arapahoe people. You'll come across wildflowers, bighorn sheep, funny little marmots, gnarly Bristlecone pines that are among the oldest living things on the planet, and various bodies of water.


06 Zip through the rockies

Looking for an exciting activity for the whole family? How about ziplining with Denver Adventures? Everyone from the kids to grandma can whizz along above the trees. There's a short uphill hike after the first zip line that might leave you out of breath, but it's worth it in the end, and you'll appreciate the fresh mountain air even more. The Denver Adventures crew crack dad jokes and are so friendly that you just might end up going on other tours with them. They offer hikes, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting to name a few.

07 Mountain biking mania

When it comes to cycling in the region, there are options for newbies and advanced riders alike. You can set off alone, or go with guides familiar with the area. If you opt for Denver Adventures, you'll get all the equipment you need, a snack and drink, and permits. Tours last for 3 hours or go longer and extend to six hours. The Colorado Trail is epic, and other single-track Front Range trails will wow you too.

08 Rafting the rapids

White Water Rafting in Clear Creek River Phillip Rubino /

Whitewater rafting is one of those refreshing, heart-pounding activities you should leave your comfort zone for. Clear Creek is half an hour from downtown Denver and frequented by folks of all ages who want to breathlessly navigate the rapids. Paddle your way through Class II-V whitewater, depending on your skill level.


09 Rock climbing challenges

Outdoor rock and ice climbing don't get more aesthetically pleasing than in Colorado. The state offers arguably the best climbing vacation in the country. If you're just starting out, the East Face of the Third Flatiron, is known for being beginner-friendly. More advanced climbers can ascend the sandstone walls of Eldorado State Park. Locals love Brown Cloud Rocks.

10 Hiking the high country

High-country hiking is so satisfying in these parts. If you're willing to make a day trip out of it, you'll be blown away by the idyllic scenery. Evergreen Mountain Trail in Three Sisters Park is shaded and has a pleasant climb. Chicago Lakes and Summit Lake Trail rewards those willing to hike 11 miles with stunning lake views. If you're looking for less mileage, go to Lake Isabelle via the Pawnee Pass trail.

11 Snowshoeing exploits

Hiking in snowshoes at Dream Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Denver's also a great place to strap on some snowshoes and explore the trails when they're quieter in winter. Golden Gate State Park is a good place to start. The Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadow is ideal for beginners. You could also snowshoe on an abandoned ski slope at Berthoud Pass. Always check weather conditions before you make plans, and go with experienced groups if you're new to an adventure or place.


12 Axe throwing fun

Three axe sticks in the wood bull's eye

There's no shortage of axe-throwing establishments in Denver. Sessions usually last an hour or longer, and participants have to meet minimum age requirements. Usually, kids under 11 can't take part. A guide will take you through the basics and you may get to throw other weapons, learn trick shots, and play games. It's a hoot!


13 Team building adventures

Contemplating ideas for a team-building activity in the area? The Wild Animal Sanctuary has a lot going for it. It rescues and rehabilitates carnivores and other animals, and is pretty inspiring. The elevated footbridge here has won a Guinness World Record for its length, and gives visitors a good view of the animals below. Around sunset, the sound of the big cats roaring will give you goosebumps and leave you with a lasting impression.

14 Daredevil delights

Safe skydiving opportunities abound in the Mile High city. Whether it's your first time taking on the ultimate thrill-seeking activity or you've been around cloud nine before, you're covered. You can go tandem sky diving or solo free falling, confident that you're in experienced hands. Paragliding or hang gliding from the top of a mountain is well worth the expense too.

15 Concluding the adventure

Sunset over Denver cityscape, aerial view from the city park

Denver clearly has a lot to offer outdoorsy people jonesing for time in natural surroundings. The region has some pristine wilderness and caters to an array of hobbies and would-be obsessions. Try something you've never done before, or do a favorite activity in a completely new location. It's not the destination that matters, but the journey and the journey is always gratifying in Colorado.


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