Great Runs in Denver

Great Runs in Denver

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Denver is a wonderful city for running. At the foothills of the Rockies, the ?Mile-High City? is graced by 300 sunny days a year. Easily accessible from a continually improving downtown is an excellent variety of paths, waterways, and parks. Highlights include the Cherry Creek path and Platte River trails, City Park, Cheesman Park, and some lovely residential areas. Nearby, there are also some great opportunities for trail and hill running, before things get really serious in the mountains. With the combined elevation and sun, be extra cautions about hydrating.

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Denver?s weather is generally dry, windy, and sunny. There are greater extremes between day and night than many other cities. Summers are hot but not oppressive, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. In winter, it?s very cold at night but warms up during the day. It can snow but it doesn?t usually stick around that long. It can be quite windy downtown. The city itself is fairly flat but gets hilly to the west.

The Iconic Routes

  1. Cherry Creek Path
  2. South Platte River Trail – Mile High Loop
  3. Highline Canal Trail
  4. City Park and Cheesman Park
  5. A trail run near Denver

The Routes

Cherry Creek

8 miles RT from Confluence Park to Cherry Creek Mall. Numerous access points. MAP

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This paved 24-mile path is the centerpiece of running in downtown Denver. It generally follows a north-south direction, paralleling Speer Blvd. The best section starts at Confluence Park, appropriately named for the confluence with the South Platte River Trail, and heading 4 miles southeast toward the Cherry Creek Mall, going by several parks and landmark including the Convention Center, University of Colorado, 16 St. Pedestrian Mall, and three of Denver?s notable performing arts spaces. The two-mile section between Speer/Colfax and Lower Downtown (LoDo) has separate trails for pedestrians and cyclists on each side of the creek. At Speer & 14th, just south of Rt. 40, it?s a nice 1 mile side trip to the State Capitol. Past Cherry Creek Shopping Center, it?s another 1.5 miles one way through a nice linear park to the intersection with S. Colorado Blvd. For an even longer run, continue another ~7 miles south to Cherry Creek State Park in suburban Englewood, where you?ll find a paved 9-mile reservoir loop and 10 miles of bridle trails through cattail bogs, open meadows and woods, and past a beaver pond.

Platte River Trail – Mile High Loop

4.5 miles RT. Start: Confluence Park – Speer & Water St. MAP

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This is a 17.8 mile paved greenway following a the Platte River, south toward Englewood and north toward Thornton. It is a little more industrial and less polished than the Cherry Creek Trail. There are tons of options for runs in either directions. Here, I?ve mapped out a 4.5 mile loop, starting at Confluence Park (where the Platte River meets Cherry Creek), heading south for a mile, past the Children?s Museum, Dowtown Aquarium, doing a ?loop? around Mile High stadium (where the Broncos play), and coming back on the eastern side, through Commons Park, passing the Museum of Contemporary Art and Coors Field (baseball), to Cuervahaca Park, parellelling the ?LoDo? District. It is possible to continue for miles in either direction, and connect to many other trails. It gets more industrial and a little rougher to the north past Cuervahaca Park. See here for more detail.

Denver Half Marathon Route

Here is the course map for the Rock ?N Roll Denver half-marathon, held in October. Start at the Denver Art Museum. Great tour of downtown, major parks and sites. MAP

City Park

3.5 mile perimeter path. Mostly paved. Start: York & 18th. MAPIt?s ~2 miles from downtown/LoDo/convention center to the park

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City Park is the largest and most notable park in Denver. At 330 acres, the park contains a zoo, Museum of Nature and Science, and two lakes. The park was founded in 1858 and was worked on by several notable landscape designers. The Shakespeare Elm is at 17th & Colorado. The perimeter path around the park is a bit over 3 miles. It?s 3/4 mile from north to south and 1 mile from east to west. Our route is of the park?s perimeter trails, including the 1/2 mile loop around Ferril Lake. Add to the run by enjoying the park?s interior trails. Approaching City Park from downtown, we recommend running along 20th or 21st Ave. The Colfax Ave. area around the neighborhood, has lots of fun shops & restaurants, including a location of the Tattered Cover bookstore and Twist & Shout record store. 17th 7 18th Ave. are also fun. Avoid running on Colfax.

Cheesman Park

4.5 miles. Start from downtown. MAP

Cheesman Park is another pleasant urban park in Denver, in the city?s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The Denver Botanical Gardens are at the western edge of the park. A nice run is to start downtown, run along the state Capitol, and then do the ~1.6 dirt outer loop path around Cheesman Park. The run incorporates some of Denver?s lovely homes, the Denver Art Museum, Colorado History Center, & the St. John?s Cathedral.

Add to the run by heading into Congress Park (1/2 mile), or enjoy the historic neighborhoods to the west of the park between Colfax to the north and 8th Ave. to the south. Also, City Park is about 1 mile to the north, and can be incorporated into a longer run.

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Washington Park

2.6 mile outer loop (dirt); 2.3 mile inner loop (paved). Start: any spot along S. Downing St. Washington Park 5k race course MAP

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Washington Park is one of the three major parks of Denver, including City Park and Cheesman Park. The park is about 3 miles south of downtown, and can also be reached by running 3 miles along the Cherry Creek Trail from the central business district. There are 150 acres of pleasant grounds including two lakes, two flower gardens, one of which is a replica of George Washington?s gardens at Mount Vernon. The 2.6 mile outer loop (dirt) has more views of the area?s beautiful homes, and the 2.3 mile inner loop (paved) is free of cars and is more park-like. This is also one of Denver?s nicest neighborhoods for running, with beautiful residential streets are to the north in the Country Club and Cherry Creek historic neighborhoods. Fun shopping and boutiques to the west of the park on Broadway north of Alameda, and Old South Gaylord Street to the east of the park.

Three Park Run

13.5 miles. Start: City Park at 23rd & York. MAP

This is a great option for a long run or even a half marathon! We?ve put together a 13.5 mile run incorporating City Park, Cheesman Park, and Washington Park. More info about the parks is in the above routes. The jaunt down to and around Washington Park adds 5 miles RT. The run can be shortened by doing a little less in the parks, or by not including Washington Park or the full loop within that park. Between Cheesman and Wahington parks, we use the local roads of the Country Club neighborhood, and on then return, the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Sloane Lake

Long loop (3/4 way around lake): 6.3 miles. Start: Denver Aquarium. MAPOut and Back (around full lake): 5.7 miles. Start: Denver Aquarium. MAP

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Located in the Highlands region of Denver 2.5 miles east of downtown, Sloan?s Lake is a great spot for a run, featuring a 2.5 mile loop around the perimeter. There are good views of the Denver skyline to the east and the mountains to the west.

We did two routes here: the 5.7 mile out and back, starting from the Denver Aquarium, and a 6.3 mile run which starts at the same point, includes 3/4 way around the lake, returning via the Lakewood Gulch/S. Platte River trail.

Further Afield

HighLine Canal, Denver

The Highline Canal Trail is a national landmark trail originally completed to deliver irrigation water to Denver. The mostly gravel trail runs 66 miles (!) from Waterton Canyon south of Denver, traveling east northeast through many of Denver?s southern suburbs, through Aurora and terminating at Green Valley Ranch, about 10 miles from the airport. The trail connects many of Denver?s parks and has some lovely sections shaded by cottonwood trees. There are markings every 1/2 mile. The most scenic stretch is the 6 miles between Three Pond Park (parking) and Orchard Road that takes in the Blackmer Commons Wetland Wildlife Preserve. Another good connection point is Ruby Hill Park, recently renovated, with great views and featuring a snowboard and terrain park. More info and detailed map here.

Englewood – Cherry Creek State Park

Various Trail options here. MAP

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Englewood is one of Denver?s major southern suburbs and home to lots of businesses. A great option for running here is Cherry Creek State Park, which is the southeastern terminus of the Cherry Creek Trail that starts in Denver. One can head toward Denver on the trail, or enjoy the paved 9-mile reservoir loop and 10 miles of bridle trails that take you through cattail bogs, open meadows and woods, and past a beaver pond.

Stuck At Airport

DIA is a ridiculous 30 miles from downtown Denver. Some infrastructure has developed around the airport in the 20 years since it opened. There is a cluster of hotels just south and west of the airport, at the intersection of Pena Blvd. and I-70. Best options for running here are the High Line Canal trail, which can be reached about 2 miles from the hotel cluster.

Aurora – Sand Creek Park and Greenway

Another good option, not far from the airport and near the I-70/I-225 hotel cluster is Sand Creek Park. Nice park, and 14-mile Sand Creek Greenway. Connects with South Platte River Greenway.

Matthews/Winters Park

5.9 miles, 1100 foot elev. gain. Start: Parking lot. MAP

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This is one of the best trail running opportunities near Denver. 18 miles from downtown and easy access from I-70. A favorite loop is the Dakota Ridge/Red Rocks trail. Nearly 6 miles and 1,100 foot elevation gain. Once in this area, be sure to explore Red Rock Park. Note: the parking lot at Matthews/Winters can fill quickly.

Green Mountain, Lakewood

6.5 mile Green Mountain Trail Loop. Start: Parking lot MAP3.1 mile Hayden Trail Loop

Just 20 minutes from downtown Denver is a great rolling foothill called ?William Hayden Green Mountain Park?. There are great running and hiking options in this 2,400 acre park. Note this is trail running, often single track. Best bets are the ~6.5 mile Green Mountain Trail loop that is an 800 foot climb to the summit with great views, or the 3.1-mile Hayden Trail Loop.

Some other options:

  • Mount Falcon Trail, Morrison. 27 miles from Denver. Mount Falcon Park is based around the ruins of the John Brisben Walker mansion, located near the top of Mt. Falcon. Good trail running and hiking options here. More info here.
  • Waterton Canyon. Eastern terminus of famed Colorado Trail. You can run all the way to Durango! Best option here, also popular with cyclists and walkers, is the 6-mile wide gravel trail along the South Platte River to Strontia Springs Dam. Mile markers and restrooms. Likely to see bighorn sheep! More info/map.
  • White Ranch Open Space. In Golden, 25 miles northwest of Denver. Gorgeous open park with 20+ miles of trails. Gateway to the Rockies. Possible to do a 12-mile loop. More info.

STAY

Denver is a sprawling city, particularly if one includes the vast suburbs and the ridiculous distance to the airport. But many of city?s running highlights are all within the downtown area, in the area south of I-70 and north of 1st Ave., east of I-25, and west of Colorado Blvd. There are a lot of hotel options downtown and near the convention center, with good access to the Cherry Creek and South Platte River Trails. City Park and Cheesman Park are about 2.5 miles from downtown. Sloan Lake is 3 miles west.

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Running Stores & Group Runs

Surprisingly, there?s not much in the way of running stores right downtown. There are outlets of some major chains ? REI is probably your best bet. There are clusters of running stores in the Cherry Creek Mall area and south of Cherry Creek State Park. Also in other major suburban locations: Aurora, Lakewood, etc.

DowntownREI Store. Not exactly a running store ? but, it?s REI and the location, near Confluence Park, can?t be beat.

Tribella Women?s Multisport. A women-centric store geared toward triathletes?so they have running stuff. Beautiful store. Near Cherry Creek Trail in Capitol/Art Museum area.

Runners Roost. Not really downtown, but 2.5 miles from Washington Park. Group Runs Wednesday 6pm. Other locations in Lakewood, Aurora.

Cherry Creek Mall Boulder Running Company. Good location in mall area but near Cherry Creek Trail, south of downtown. Also stores in Littleton, Greenwood Village. Comprehensive selection.

SouthJust south of Cherry Creek State Park in the Aurora area, there are Road Runner Sports, Runners? Roost, and Boulder Running Company stores. (I-25/I-470 locations)

Run Clubs/Group Runs

Rocky Mountain Road Runners. The major run club in the Denver area. Very comprehensive site with photos or running areas in Denver. Multiple events each week, track workouts, etc.

City Running Tours. Great themed group runs, meeting at locations downtown.

Events

Major running events in Denver:

Rock N Roll Half Marathon. October. Also 10k and 5k events.

Colfax Marathon. Two Days. Seven Races. Named as one of Runner?s World?s 10 Races to Run.

Runnin? of the Green Lucky 7-K (March). St. Patrick?s Day blowout pulls in 3,000 runners for a 7-K through ?LoDo,? Denver?s trendy lower downtown area.

Cherry Creek Sneak (April). Billed as ?the country?s largest 5-mile race?: 13,000 runnsers. Also a ?Sneak Shortcut 5-K.? Cool T-shirt features ambulatory cherry bombs, and the postrace party is nonpareil (cherrycreeksneak.com).

Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half-Marathon (Aug). One of Running World?s s 25 top half-marathons. 40 miles west of Denver. Good opportunity to experience hills.

Mile High City Marathon (Sept). Newer race starts at the state Capitol, winds through all three major city parks (Washington, City, and Cheesman), and finishes with a run up the 16th Street pedestrian mall; 5-K and half-marathon options.

Boulder BOULDER. December. One of the country?s largest 10k races. Famous. Boulder is an hour drive from Denver and this race (and the running in Boulder) is worth the trip.

Platte River Half Marathon. April. Also a great relay race

Comprehensive race calendar kept by Rocky Mountain Runners. CALENDAR

Another good calendar kept by the folks at Run Colorado. CALENDAR

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