There are so many WONDERful things about Denver, and at the top of the list is most certainly its close proximity to numerous natural wonders. Hiding just outside the city in our fabulous state and national parks are powerful rock formations, spectacular wildlife, inspiring flora, and gargantuan peaks just waiting to be bagged. Even if you’ve experienced them before, these 11 natural wonders around Denver are well worth another visit.
1. Red Rocks
It wouldn't be a list of wonders without the legendary geological phenomenon of Red Rocks, "the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world." Two awe-inspiring, 300-foot sandstone formations (Creation Rock to the north and Ship Rock to the south), rise higher than the height of Niagara Falls to form Mother Nature's most perfect open-air amphitheater. I will NEVER, NEVER tire of this truly magical and majestic place full of power and positive energy.
2. The Flatirons
The spectacularly striking foothills of Boulder known as the Flatirons are a popular destination for world-class climbing, hiking, and mountaineering. They are also home to an abundance of wildlife such as coyotes, bobcats, mule deer, bears, and golden and bald eagles. With stunning vistas and inspiring geological formations, your trip to the Flatirons sure as heck won't fall flat!
3. Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)
Established in 1915, RMNP has become one of Colorado's most popular, with over 400 square miles of terrain, 300 miles of trails, more than 150 lakes, and 60 peaks over 12,000 feet. And if you're fortunate, you can marvel at 100s of bighorn sheep, 1000s of elk, and nearly 300 species of birds. Stay alert and keep your eyes peeled!
4. Fall Foliage
You haven't seen a natural wonder until you've seen the autumn trees and forests of Colorado gobble up the sun and turn to pure heavenly gold! Drive, hike, bike, horseback ride, camp...do whatever you need to do to get deep in the woods to revel in their glorious beauty. Some notable highlights for leaf peepers outside the Mile High are RMNP, Guanella Pass, Golden Gate Canyon, the Peak to Peak Byway, and Boreas Pass near Breckenridge. Grab your camera and your binoculars and peep away!
While we're on the subject of foliage, let's talk about how the alpine valleys and meadows of Colorado are transformed in the summertime, into breathtaking fields of wildflowers. If you're a lover of flora, the varied and majestic nature of each and every flower and petal will astound you!
6. Arkansas River
Another way to experience a natural wonder and beat the summer heat is by rafting the Arkansas River. This beastly waterway is a main tributary of the mighty Mississippi that originates in Lake County, Colorado near Leadville. At 1,469 miles, it's the 6th longest river in the U.S. and 45th longest in the world. Check out outfitters in Buena Vista, grab your gear, and mark your calendars!
7. Garden of the Gods
Although Garden of the Gods is roughly 70 miles from Denver, it is well worth the day or overnight trip to see this archaeological wonder! When you stand among the powerful 300-foot rock formations and discover how impossibly red their sandstone is against the even more impossibly blue sky, you'll understand why this spot was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971. Get on down to the Garden of the Gods and get healed!
8. Seven Falls
While you're in Colorado Springs, you wouldn't want to miss Seven Falls and what's called "The Grandest Mile of Scenery" in Colorado. Shaped by the Pike's Peak watershed, the pink granite Pillars of Hercules rise 900 feet above the canyon floor, and Seven Falls lies tucked away just past them. It tumbles 181 feet in seven leaps down the glorious granite into the beautiful box canyon. You can get an up close and personal view of the rocks and cascades by climbing the 224 steps from the base of the falls to the peak. Earn it!
If you want to feel like you're on top of the world, but you're not interested in bagging 14ers, we've also got glaciers. St. Mary's in the Arapaho National Forest, Andrew's in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and Isabelle in the Roosevelt National Forest are just a few that will give you an unforgettable bird's eye view of the magnificent Rockies!
10. Alpine Lakes
And while you're up there in the alpine valleys surrounded by monumental peaks, you might as well explore and rejuvenate yourself at any of the countless alpine (and subalpine) lakes embedded deep in our national wilderness areas. Take a fishing pole, a picnic, and plenty of layers (it can get pretty breezy up there), and make a day of it. Trust me, you'll never want to leave!
There are over 50 fourteeners in the state of Colorado, many of which are easily accessible from Denver. You can climb (or drive on North America's highest paved road) to the tip top of Mt. Evans at 14,264' and also to Pikes Peak at 14,110' in Colorado Springs. But there are plenty of other nearby 14ers you can check off your list, such as Grays, Torreys, and Quandary in Summit County; Princeton, Harvard, and Yale near Buena Vista; or the popular Decalibron loop that allows you to summit four 14ers in one day! Worth each and every step (and bit of pain). Mind over muscle!
Do you know of any hidden natural wonders surrounding Denver that we don’t? What about other pieces of nature in Denver? Let us know!