Wowzers! Egads! Wheeeeee! You’re not going to believe these jaw-dropping man-made marvels and natural wonders in and around the Mile High City! From impossibly stunning feats of engineering to awe-inspiring ancient geological spectacles, these incredible places around Denver will fill your camera’s memory card in a matter of minutes. Whether you’re after wildlife and waterfalls or roadways and rail lines, these magical attractions will become a Mile High memory you’ll never forget!
1. Peak to Peak Highway
Established in 1918, the
Peak to Peak Highway
is Colorado's oldest scenic byway and travels a 55-mile route from Estes Park to I-70. You'll encounter old mining sites where you can pan for gold, intersecting gravel roads that lead to the ghost towns of Hesse and Apex, and of course stunning mountain scenery as you pass through Rocky Mountain National Park, Golden Gate Canyon, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
One sure stop along the way should be Camp St. Malo (or Chapel on the Rock as it's affectionately called) near Allenspark between Estes Park and Nederland. In 2011, much of the spiritual retreat center was damaged in a fire, but the chapel still stands and plans for a new visitor and heritage center are in the works. For more information or to donate to the cause, visit
Camp St. Malo
2. Denver Millennium Bridge
The construction of this $9-million magnificent marvel of modern engineering was no small feat. It began in 1999 and was completed in 2002, becoming the world's first "cable-stayed bridge using post-tensioned structural construction."
The one-of-a-kind 130-foot pedestrian bridge allows easy access between downtown Denver, the Central Platte Valley, and the Highlands.
The stunningly impressive 200-foot white steel mast looms high above the skyline and affords many incredible photo ops.
3. Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad
Another of man's monumental acts of engineering was the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which was the first and highest narrow gauge rail line in the United States. Its roughly 1,280 miles of tracks linked the transcontinental railroads that passed north and south of Colorado, connecting the state with the nation at large. (Pictured is a steam engine pulling out of the Castle Rock Depot circa 1900.)
The first D&RGW voyage traveled from Denver to Colorado Springs on October 26, 1871, and a very complicated and controversial
would follow. (Pictured is Engine 478 approaching the ledge near Rockwood on June 15, 1966.)
The motto of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad was "Through the Rockies, Not Around Them" and later "Main Line Through the Rockies." Not only did the railway travel over Tennessee Pass at an impressive 10,240', but it also chugged through the notorious
through the Continental Divide and the
near Cañon City (seen here).
Today the Union Pacific owns all of the main lines of the former Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, but you can still travel the narrow gauge tracks of the old days in many locations, such as the route from
Durango to Silverton
4. Roxborough State Park
This ancient and spectacular geological wonder about 20 miles southwest of Denver is the only state park designed as a National Natural Landmark. Travel on foot through the almost 4,000-acre park and stand in awe at the dramatic red rock formations that have been dubbed Denver's Garden of the Gods.
There are trails ranging from a mere .5-mile jaunt to the 6.4-mile trek to the top of Carpenter Peak at 7,160'. If you travel the Fountain Valley Trail, you'll get the added bonus of exploring turn-of-the-century structures built by Henry S. Persse, and wildlife abounds, so keep your eyes peeled for red foxes, mule deer, black beers, mountain lions, and the dreaded rattlesnakes! (Note: To preserve the park, NO camping, mountain bikes, pets, or horses are permitted.)
5. Mother Cabrini Shrine
Mother Cabrini Shrine
in Golden pays homage to the wonderful spiritual work that the holy mother and her sisters accomplished there at their summer camp for orphans in the early 1900s.
There are many well-maintained historic structures on site, including a replica of a French grotto that was built in 1929, over the sacred spring discovered by Mother Cabrini and her sisters in 1912. Also notable are the Stone House, Heart of Stones, Convent, and the Stairway of Prayer, all of which draw spiritual pilgrims and tourists alike who long for a glimpse of Mother Cabrini's life and work.
In 1912, on her last visit to Colorado, Mother Cabrini dedicated the highest hill to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, naming it the “Mount of the Sacred Heart,” and in 1954 the prominent 22-foot statue lovingly carved by an Italian artist was erected to commemorate the sacred spot. Today you can climb the same 373-step stairway to the top like so many pilgrims before you and send out prayers and meditations along the way.
6. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Mount Evans Scenic Byway
near Idaho Springs is the highest paved road in North America and was constructed from 1917-1927. The wild, winding road runs 28 miles, gains over 7,000' of elevation, (is not for the faint of heart), and culminates at an altitude of 14,130' at the summit of Mt. Evans.
Atop the peak, is the Mount Evans Crest House, which was completed in 1941 and originally served as a restaurant, gift shop, and tourist attraction. It was also the highest business structure in the United States until it was partially destroyed in a fire in 1979.
Along with a lot of other travelers, you can expect to see a plethora of mountain goats and magnificent vistas which offer views of Pikes Peak, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Collegiate Range, Mt. Bierstadt, and much, much more!
7. Daniels and Fisher Clocktower
Denver's first skyscraper was built in 1911, and at 393 feet, it was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River.
The top five floors of the historic 20-story structure in the heart of Denver, have recently been renovated and are used to host
Clock Tower Events
such as parties, weddings, and art exhibits with unmatched views of downtown and beyond.
Guided History Tours
are also available, where you can get a first-hand look at the heritage of this treasured Mile Hile landmark, from the intricately painted ceiling in the lobby all the way to the 20th floor Observation Deck and the two-story spiral staircase in the belfry. Don't miss out on all the tales of tower...book your tour today!
8. Elk Falls
If you want to see the highest waterfall near the Mile High, take the trip to Elk Falls in Staunton State Park, just about 45 minutes outside the city.
The out-and-back hike to the awe-inspiring Elk Falls Overlook and the majestic multi-tiered Elk Falls is 10.8 miles roundtrip, with about 900 feet of elevation gain, and takes the average hiker around 5 hours. But, believe me, it's well worth the effort to see one of the highest (and only) waterfalls near Denver!
9. Denver Art Museum
One of our city's most magnificent man-made wonders are the architecturally bold buildings of the
Denver Art Museum
. The 146,000-square-foot Hamilton Building (seen here) was "inspired by the light and the geology of the Rockies" and is covered in 9,000 titanium panels that reflect our 300 days of Mile High sunshine.
Set aside plenty of time to explore DAM, both inside and out, as every nook and cranny is visually stunning!
The North Building, which opened in 1971, was DAM's original revolutionary architectural triumph. It stands at a whopping seven stories tall, is 210,000 square feet, and boasts more than a million reflective glass tiles on its exterior. Truly magnificent!
10. Trail Ridge Road
The heavenly and awe-inspiring
Trail Ridge Road
, which travels the 48 miles between Estes Park and Grand Lake, is the highest continuous motorway in the United States.
The "highway to the sky" opened in July 1932, allowing millions to see the beauty of the Rocky Mountains like never before, including hundreds of species of native plants and wildlife.
The road travels through many alpine ecosystems, and images of the lush mountain meadows, valleys, peaks, and forests will forever remain burned into your brain.
A portion of the Trail Ridge Road travels about treeline, with its highest elevation at 12,183', and if you choose to take this scenic drive on a clear night, it is said that you can see the majestic Milky Way hovering ever so delicately over the peaks, unpolluted by city lights.
So stop whatEVER you’re doing and go experience ALL of these magnificent treasures, then hit up the
Most Incredible Natural Wonders Hiding Around Denver. So many miracles and marvels just waiting to be discovered!