Best Outdoor Activities in Denver

Must-Do Outdoor Activities in Denver for Every Interest and Ability

Denver has no lack of possibilities for experiencing, enjoying and benefitting from the great outdoors. The city's expansive park system is a great place to start. Park rec centers offer organized classes, sports and activities for all ages and for families, but you may prefer to explore on your own, taking to the extensive system of trails and paths that wind through the city and beyond in every direction. One of the more unusual options is touring Denver on a Vespa rented from ScooTours, either on your own or with a guide who will fill you in on Denver history, architecture, street art and characters who once populated the city. You might book a full-day combo experience of rafting and zip lining with AVA, adventures that are within a mere 40-minute drive of Denver. Anyone who appreciates yoga should experience it in a way that cannot be duplicated anywhere else--at sunrise surrounded by the inspirational beauty of Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. Another option is yoga in Denver Botanic Gardens, where nature and yoga become one. You won't burn many calories but an outing to Coors Field for a summer baseball game also offers plenty of outdoor fun, as does Elitch Gardens, the city's historic theme and water park in the middle of downtown Denver. 


Built in 1995, Coors Field helped transform Denver's LoDo neighborhood into the lively restaurant, bar, shopping and entertainment district it is today. Like Union Station a few blocks away, Coors Field is a neighborhood focal point. The stadium seats more than 50,000 fans and occupies 76 acres in LoDo. Public and private tours can be arranged when the Colorado Rockies aren't in the building, and there are sophisticated facilities to book within the stadium for groups looking to create a memorable event for clients or employees. Concerts here feature big-name headliners each summer. For most locals and visitors, however, it's baseball that really matters. As a sports (or trivia) fan, check out row 20 of the upper deck and its line of purple seats that stand out from the rest. They indicate you're exactly one mile, or 5,280 feet, above sea level in the Mile High City.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Coors Field goes beyond a typical baseball environment offering up cool bars like the Rooftop at Coors Field where craft beers are on tap.

Christine's expert tip: Check out a summer evening's game from the right field bleachers and watch the sun set in the west over 14,265 ft. Mount Evans. It's also not unusual to see rainbows.

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Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park

Elitch Gardens first opened in 1890 and turned 130 in 2020. The park has a rich history and though it boasts many firsts, including being home to Denver's first symphony, Colorado's first children's museum and the site of Denver's first movie theater, it has always evolved as new technology came along and trends changed. Today, its heart-stopping thrills include Brain Drain, Boomerang and XLR8R, while the newest family ride is a "thrill ride for the mind," an immersive journey through art landscapes based on Meow Wolf Denver. There are thrill rides (feel free to scare yourself silly on any of them), family rides and kids' rides, not to mention entertainment including dive-in movies in Elitch's water park. Elitch Gardens is a Denver summer tradition. Last year it opened for a special winter holiday extravaganza as well. Check the website for info on fireworks shows and concerts.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Elitch Gardens, open for well over a century, is one of Denver's most recognized attractions with rides to meet everyone's adrenaline (or not) needs.

Christine's expert tip: Pay attention to height requirements for the various rides as they're strictly enforced.

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It Burn's Joe Fitness
Photo courtesy of Joe Hendricks

Maybe the term "you get what you pay for" applies to other purchases, but It Burns Joe Fitness is completely free and what you get is a stellar workout, better health, new friends and just maybe a new, fit body. Sessions typically run for two hours and many are held at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre but check Joe's Twitter feed to be sure. Ditto checking on the weather. While every extreme fitness session is free, donations are appreciated. These workouts are definitely intense, combining cardio, stair and bleacher climbing/running, ab and core strengthening, plyometrics, military exercises and yoga. But don't be intimidated. First-timers of all levels are welcome and you can go at your own pace as modifications are offered during the workouts. Be sure to bring a gallon of water (yes, a gallon), gloves, sunscreen and a snack to every session.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: It Burns Joe Fitness offers anyone and everyone an incredible workout with Colorado's dramatic scenery as backdrop and doesn't cost a penny.

Christine's expert tip: Participants are expected to be on time so plan accordingly.

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Confluence Kayak & Ski
Photo courtesy of Confluence Kayaks

Confluence Kayaks is Denver's Paddling Headquarters. Founded in 1995 on the banks of the South Platte River in Downtown Denver, this is the best source for paddling lessons, rentals and equipment. Local paddlers have made this the go to shop for kayak and stand-up paddle equipment. The company also rents bikes, tubes and inflatable kayaks as well as electric skateboards. The Half day inflatable kayak tour is the perfect introduction to river kayaking. Inflatable kayaks are stable and easy to use for novices and allow you to experience the thrill of maneuvering your own boat through class II and III whitewater. Join a small group of fellow adventurers on an exciting tour of the urban S. Platte River and get a taste of paddlesports in the Mile High City. All equipment is provided and no experience is necessary.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Confluence Kayaks has made sure Denver has a strong kayaking scene, which is no easy task in a land locked state.

Christine's expert tip: Check out an inflatable kayak tour for an adventure you won't find in most cities.

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Just 10 minutes from downtown, Denver Botanic Gardens is a 24-acre oasis in the middle of the city with consistently spectacular exhibits. It's the place to learn about native plants and flowers as well as sustainable practices for your own yard, but there are flowers and plants from across the world, too. It's rewarding just to meander along the paths on your own and be surprised at what you discover, but there are formal activities and exhibitions as well. Consider signing up for yoga on a weekday morning or perhaps Vinyasa, Violins & Vino for yoga with live music and a picnic on an early summer evening. The Gardens also offer Wildflower hikes in the foothills in summer, music performances and holiday events. Costs for scheduled activities vary, but yoga is extremely reasonable and the setting gorgeous.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Denver Botanic Gardens cultivates community with events like outdoor yoga, but simply strolling among the plants and flowers is worth the visit.

Christine's expert tip: Check the online schedule for unique programming and be aware that advanced online ticketing is required for entry and activities.

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AVA's Colorado Rafting - Arkansas Valley Adventures

AVA is all about adventure. There's whitewater rafting, ziplining and Via Ferrata to experience just a 40-minute drive from Denver. Clear Creek, the closest thrill-a-minute whitewater rafting to the city, has three options. The Gold Rush section beckons families with kids as young as six for Class II and III fun, while the Lower Canyon is a thrill seeker's paradise of Class IV and V rapids for ages 15 and older only. In between, a middle section provides slightly tamer rapids but is still for those 15 and older. If you want to raft farther afield, AVA has trips on the Blue River near Breckenridge, the Colorado River and the excellent Arkansas River farther south. Make it a full day of adrenalin thrills by pairing adventures, such as rafting with zip lining on AVA's Idaho Springs course or scramble up and down cliffs on AVA's stellar Via Ferrata course.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: AVA offers the ultimate full-day adventure with both rafting and ziplining just a short drive from downtown.

Christine's expert tip: Package a zipline and whitewater rafting tour together for a full day of adventure.

Read more about AVA's Colorado Rafting - Arkansas Valley Adventures →

Photo courtesy of Carri Wilbanks

Locally and woman owned, ScooTours is a super cool way to explore Denver. You can rent one of the 50cc mopeds on your own (they'll suggest loops to explore) or book a guided tour with a local expert who will take you to some of Denver's interesting sites such as Confluence Park, Coors Field, Union Station, the Molly Brown House and City Park, among others. Along the way, you'll learn about Denver's architecture, history and intriguing early characters. Most tours start at the big blue bear overlooking the convention center downtown, just one of the public art pieces you'll see. You must be at least 18 with a valid drivers license, and the company takes plenty of time to provide instruction and safety info. Why choose a scooter for exploring Denver? Well, according to the company, you're cuter on a scooter. That alone makes the choice easy, right?

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: ScooTours is a fun and unusual way to see and learn about Denver whether you're a local or visitor.

Christine's expert tip: You must be at least 18 and have a valid driver's license to rent or ride with ScooTours.

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You can practice yoga in studios across the world, but there's only one place in the world to experience yoga this way and that's on the steps of Denver's magnificent outdoor music venue, Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The amphitheater is the centerpiece of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, part of Denver's Mountain Parks system. Flanked by towering rock formations, the steps rise up the hillside toward Colorado's typically cloudless summer morning skies. A selection of the area's top yoga instructors is tapped each summer to lead the early-morning sessions in a venue that brings inspiration and Colorado's extraordinary natural beauty to the practice. These sessions are popular. Reservations are required. Sessions begin at 7 a.m. but plan to arrive early as there are usually lines to get into the amphitheatre. Bring your yoga mat, a water bottle and don't forget sunscreen.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Early morning Yoga on the Rocks is an inspired way to experience the dramatic beauty of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre.

Christine's expert tip: There are no drop-in sales at the entrance; all tickets must be purchased in advance.

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Denver has miles of trails for cycling, walking and running. One of the most prominent in the city proper is Cherry Creek Trail, which winds through the heart of the city and on to areas south. The majority of the 40-mile trail is paved, with a few gravel stretches. It starts downtown at Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek meets the South Platte River and where gold was discovered in 1858, leading to the founding of Denver. This is also where the Cherry Creek and South Platte River trails meet, giving cyclers and pedestrians access to 75-plus miles of trail. Through downtown the trail runs below Speer Blvd., following Cherry Creek as it makes its way to the Cherry Creek neighborhood notable for excellent shopping and restaurants. There are other interesting sites, too, as you head all the way to Cherry Creek State Park and Franktown, where the train ends.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: As urban biking and walking trails go, the Cherry Creek Trail is not only well maintained but also very scenic.

Christine's expert tip: Pay attention to designations at access ramps. Through much of downtown, the trail on one side of the creek is for pedestrians, while the other side is for those on wheels–"bikes, scooters, etc.

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Denver's massive park system includes dozens of city parks and 14,000 acres of parks and conservation areas in the mountains. Park activities include biking, walking, skating, swimming, tennis, pickleball and basketball, among others, and some 30 rec centers provide extensive indoor and outdoor programming for children, adults and seniors. Five lakes allow hand-launched boating, including Smith Lake in Washington Park and Ferril Lake in City Park. Want to learn or see something new? Sign up for Tai Chi, croquet, stand-up paddleboarding, mountain biking or kayaking. There are birding, geology and nature walks, and bison hikes provide views of the city's photogenic bison herds. Denver rec centers also offer adaptive recreation for those with disabilities. There's no cost to take advantage of park trails, walkways and other facilities, but it's worth joining the very reasonably priced rec centers for their extensive classes and programs for all ages and abilities.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Denver's park system encompasses thousands of acres of city and mountain trails and walkways, plus rec centers with extensive activities for all ages and abilities.

Christine's expert tip: Some rec center membership costs are under $10 per month, allowing access to hundreds of programs, activities and classes.

Read more about Denver Parks & Recreation →


Meet Christine Loomis

Christine has written about every aspect of travel, from romance and adventure to family and wellness. She is also lucky to have had three major home states through the years: New York,...  More About Christine