Story by Chris Englert. Hiking in shade in Denver can be a bit of a challenge. Most folks will head up into the Front Range to find a shady hike in the mountains? But who has time? On my website, DenverByFoot.com, I provide hundreds of suggestions for where to hike in Denver.
Rather than having to drive an hour each way to the trail head, wouldn’t it be nice to find a worthy walk within twenty minutes of your Denver home? Below are five great walks here in Denver that are easy to get to and provide some shade for a great hike during a hot Denver day.
The best place to find shady places to walk in Denver would be the parks (Cheesman, City Park, Wash Park and Civic Park are great ones), but if you actually want to get some distance and feel like you’re hiking in Denver in the shade, you’ll need to be a bit creative.
1. Cheesman Park to Washington Park (3 miles)
This is a fantastic walk through two landmark parks in Denver, Cheesman and Wash Parks. Start in Cheesman and explore the Cheesman Memorial and the bronze outline of our Front Range.
Then walk south out of the park through the lush and rich Country Club Park. You’ll pass by giant homes of the Who’s Who in Denver. Due to the Country Club Golf Course’s limited access, you’ll have to route around it via University.
Grin and bear it for a 1/4 mile, then you’ll be back into the Country Club/North Wash Park neighborhoods as you approach Wash Park. Once you get to Wash Park, you can enjoy a 6-mile loop, stopping by its gardens, lakes, art, and sculpture. I share this walk with visiting family during Thanksgiving.
Turn-by-turn directions. To get in 6 miles, walk back to Cheesman or if you want to keep the walk shorter at 3 miles, take a Lyft. I recommend starting in Cheesman, exit the park via its southern end onto Williams St. Continue through Country Club to E. 3rd Ave. Take a right to S. Downing St. to a left on W. Bayoud St. Take a right S. Lafayette St to Wash Park.
2. Lakewood/Dry Gulch Lollipop Loop (2 to 3.5 miles)
This hike is a fabulous hike through linear parks and along gulches. You’ll be on paved trail most of the way except for a few streets at the end to complete the loop. Shady, with big cottonwood trees, there are plenty of places to just chill along the creek as well.
For a 2-mile loop, take the W light rail to the Knox St Station and follow the loop instructions below.
For a 3.5-mile loop, take the W light rail (or park) at the Federal/Decatur Station. Walk west to the Platte River, then turn around back to the station and follow the loop instructions below.
Turn-by-turn directions. If you’ve started at Federal and walked to the Platte, turn around and walk west. Or, if you have started at Knox station, walk west. (If you have some extra energy, be sure to stop at the mic structure in Paco Park (see video) for some good play time.
Walk west along the Lakewood Dry Gulch Trail. You’ll come to a fork in the trail, head left (southerly) on the Lakewood Gulch Trail through Joseph P Martinez Park (see video). The trail will end at Tennyson Street.
Walk north up Tennyson Street for two blocks, crossing W. 10th Ave. Keep going, and you’ll reenter the green space.
Continue north to the Lakewood Dry Gulch Trail, turn right (east). Stay on the concrete path until you arrive back to the Knox Station or the Federal Station.
3. The Bible Park Loop (3.5 miles)
This 3.5-mile loop takes advantage of a great loop around James A Bible Park. The High Line Canal Trail makes a wonderful horseshoe turn around Denver’s gem, providing a ring of cottonwood trees. Look for owl and hawk nests in the canopy.
A special treat here is that even though there may not be water from Denver Water running through the canal, you’ll often find water in it due to other sources. The Goldsmith Gulch runs through the park as well, providing nooks and crannies to relax in the shade or to hunt for tadpoles!
Turn-by-turn directions. Park in Bible Park (see video). From the parking lot, head east to the perimeter in the park and jump on the High Line Canal Trail. Walk in a southerly direction.
The trail will make a sharp horseshoe turn, leading you to the north. Cross E Yale and then Monaco Pkwy. Continue Northwesterly to Iliff Ave.
At Iliff, leave the High Line and take the sidewalk to the east (right) until you cross Monaco Pkwy again. Iliff will T with S. Oneida St. Continue straight onto the small neighborhood bike path back to the High Line Canal trail.
Take a right on the High Line Trail, taking it south over E. Yale Ave again, back to where you parked in Bible Park.
4. First Creek at DEN Trail (4 miles)
I can’t write about this unknown trail enough (see video of First Creek at DEN). It is new; it opened just a couple of years ago, and it’s such a treasure. If you’re on the way to/from the airport, it’s a perfect way to unwind any anxious thoughts about traveling.
Although the first 1/3 mile is on the abandoned Old Buckley Road next to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, the down-n-back along a concrete path next to the First Creek is a refreshing, shady oasis under a cottonwood canopy.
The best time to do this hike is sunrise or sunset. You’ll catch many birds of prey, the alpen glow in the morning, or a Rockies sunset in the evening. I absolutely love this trail.
Turn-by-turn directions. Park at the intersection of 56th Ave and Pena Blvd. Walk north on the abandoned Old Buckley Road about 1/3 mile to the trailhead on the right (if you go a bit more, you’ll find another trailhead on the left into the Wildlife Refuge. But this isn’t shady.)
Go to the right on the concrete path. Walk 2 miles. The trail ends just past the underpass for the A Train. Turn around and retrace your steps. Be sure to bring water and snacks!
5. The Platte River Downtown Loop (3 to 4 miles)
Another hike I can never get enough of is what I call the Platte River Loop. With plenty of activity to keep you entertained along the way, if you stay on the east side of the River, there is generally a good amount of shade to protect you on hot days.
Combined with enjoying the fun Union Station and Confluence (see video) areas of downtown, I take visitors on this hike often. Afterward, we will grab a bit or at least an ice cream in Union Station.
Turn-by-turn directions. Start at Union Station by taking transit into town. Exit Union Station on Wynkoop heading toward 16th St. Stay on Wynkoop until you get to the Cherry Creek Trail, which you’ll access with the ramp.
On Cherry Creek, turn right (west) toward the confluence with the Platte River. Walk the bend around the confluence, connecting with the Platte River Trail. Pay attention to bikes and stay to the right of the trail.
You’ll pass through Commons Park (see video). Stay on the Platte River as long as you’d like. I like to go at least to Denver Skate Park (see video).
At the Skate Park, exit the trail, then make your way back toward downtown within Commons Park on the concrete path. Enjoy the many pieces of public sculpture and historic interpretation.
You’ll eventually reach the 16th Street pedestrian bridge, a large, white, suspension bridge. Take the stairs up and over the railroad tracks, dropping you down onto Wewatta Street. Take a left and return back to the Union Station transit area.
I admit, finding shaded hikes in Denver isn’t easy. But here are five. What would you recommend? Got any secret, shady spots for a good hike in the City and County of Denver? Fess up. Tag them on social media #denverbyfoot so I can see. Thanks!
Guest Contributor Chris Englert has walked all 78 neighborhoods in Denver, visited over 300 of Denver’s parks, hiked most of Denver’s regional trails, and leads walking vacations around the world. Among the books she has authored are “Best Urban Hikes: Denver” and “Walking Denver’s Neighborhoods: From Athmar Park to Windsor.” Both can be purchased here on Denver By Foot.