Many of Colorado's most significant landscapes are within the Denver Mountain Parks system which includes 46 properties, some of which are conservation areas not open to the public.
These iconic landscapes draw more than two million visitors to Denver and the region each year, who often travel thousands of miles to enjoy our Mountain Parks attractions.
At 25 acres, Bergen Park is one of the smaller mountain parks, but its open grasslands and mature ponderosa pine forest offer an exquisite wooded setting. Located at the base of the road to Squaw Pass at the crossroads of Highways 74 and 68, Bergen Park has served as a key resting spot and popular picnic ground since 1917. Built on land donated by Mr. Oscar N. Johnson in 1915, Bergen Park is a consistently popular mountain park.
A striking stone shelter was built in 1917 in the center of the park. Built of white quartz and timber, the shelter is thought to have been designed by J.J.B. Benedict. A well house built of the same materials is located just south of the shelter. Bergen Parkway divides the park into two sections. A small monument commemorating the early settler Thomas C. Bergen is centered in the east section and an historic stone restroom, no longer in use, lies just to the south of the monument.
The northern boundary of the park is an RTD Park-n-Ride. The regional Jefferson County Pioneer
Trail runs along the western edge of the park. Buchanan Park owned and in the process of being developed by the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, abuts Bergen Park to the south.
On warm days, Bergen Park is filled with families and groups of friends enjoying picnics in its ponderosa pine forest, especially near the shelter and well house. According to the 2006 survey, Bergen Park is one of the better known and used Denver Mountain Parks.
Corwina Park is 298 acres in size and provides a unique cross-section of the various plant communities in Bear Creek Canyon. The land for Corwina Park was acquired in 1916 and its stone shelter was built in 1918. Corwina Park is a wonderfully wooded, small picnic park with an intimate scale. The park straddles Bear Creek and Highway 74, with small developed picnic areas on each side—Lower Corwina is the downstream park on the north side of Bear Creek Canyon road, and Upper Corwina is just upstream on the south.
Most of the park is dominated by slopes of dense Ponderosa Pine and Douglas fir. The Bear Creek corridor includes a narrow strip of riparian communities along the stream banks. The south-facing hillside to the north of Bear Creek is dominated by mixed shrub communities. Corwina Park is a key component in the complex of protected open space in Bear Creek Canyon that also includes Little Park, O’Fallon Park, Pence Park, and Jefferson County Open Space’s Lair o’ the Bear Park.
There are three parking areas on State Highway 74 that provide access to the parks. The first lower Corwina parking area is located on the north side of the highway and provides picnicking opportunities, a restroom, and a short nature trail experience. The second parking area directly across the road provides fishing access and a short walk to a historic rock picnic shelter. The upper Corwina parking area serves as a trailhead for the Panorama Point Trail. This pedestrian only trail provides a steep 1.5 mile hike to the expansive views of Panorama Point. This trailhead also provides hiker access to the Bear Creek Trail. The junction with the Bear Creek Trail is located .7 miles from the trailhead parking area. The Panorama Point Trail is a pedestrian/hiker only trail which is closed to mountain bikes and motorized vehicles. The Bear Creek Trail is open to hiking and mountain bikes.
Daniels Park is 1000 acres in size and the only Denver Mountain Park in Douglas County. The park is characterized by its unique sandstone ridge setting, historic ranch, bison herd, and spectacular view of the Front Range. A trip along Daniels Park Road offers a 100-mile view extending from Pike’s Peak to the Mummy Range near the Wyoming border. A herd of bison roams the majority of Daniels Park’s upper elevations of mixed prairie grasslands and shrubby Gambel’s oak. Daniels Park Road traverses the top of the park’s high sandstone mesa along an elevation of approximately 6500 feet, connecting the park’s diverse features. Its alignment follows the original path of one of the first Colorado Territorial Roads, an 1850s wagon and stage road. A prominently placed stone shelter near the southern entrance was designed by J.J.B. Benedict. It overlooks the mesa landscape and is the one feature that easily identifies Daniels Park as a Denver Mountain Park. . The Tall Bull Memorial in the north section of the park is reserved for Native Americans who use the site for ceremonies and activities. The Kit Carson Memorial marks the site of Carson’s last campfire in 1868. Daniels Park is an important landscape within a larger regional open space system of 11,000 acres that protects the unique rimrock landscape that stretches from Sedalia to C470 in Highlands Ranch. The other open space parcels are private and public lands that include the Sanctuary Golf Course, immediately adjacent to Daniels Park on the south. To the west is ‘The Backcountry,’ a private open space managed by Highlands Ranch. South of the park’s undeveloped lands is the Cherokee Ranch, a historic ranch of 3,000 acres protected by a conservation easement that will preserve its open lands in perpetuity.
Daniels Park’s 1,000 acres is split into two parcels by Daniels Park Road on the mesa rim. Most of the park is closed to public use due to the presence of the Bison. Limited visitor access is provided along the road at the shelter and two other viewing areas. Below the mesa rim is a dramatic landscape of canyons, low mesas, and hills covered with dense Gambel’s oak, ponderosa pine, and an understory of grasses and forbs. On the mesa top is rolling mixed prairie grassland that is characteristic of the Colorado Front Range lowlands. Prairie grasses are interspersed with clusters of Gambel’s oak along the east-facing drainages, and an extensive prairie dog colony is evident. The park provides wildlife habitat that attracts many birds, including redtailed hawks and songbirds.
The 2006 Daniels Park Master Plan recommended the realignment and paving of Daniels Park Road to discourage unnecessary vehicular traffic through the park and to reduce erosion, dust, and sediment. The plan recommends improving park facilities including scenic viewing areas and the construction of a new Douglas County regional trail on the east side of the road. Work began in 2008 on the new road alignment and trails. A new trailhead facility serving the regional trail should be completed in 2014.
Daniels Mountain Park Map (link to map)
In 1919, when Evergreen was already a favorite summer retreat, the City County of Denver acquired the ranchlands of Dedisse Ranch as a site for Evergreen Lake. These lands included the Bear Creek valley and spectacular views to the west towards Elephant Butte, Hicks Mountain, and Bergen Peak. These three peaks are protected as Denver Mountain Park Conservation/Wilderness areas. The completion of the Bear Creek road in 1915 preceded the acquisition and laid the foundation for building park facilities.
By 1925, Denver had transformed the western valley of Dedisse Ranch into the 18-hole Evergreen Golf Course, complete with its Keys on the Greens clubhouse. By 1928, the eastern valley was flooded and the construction of the dam, the 65-acre Evergreen Lake, and the road along the lake were completed. The beauty of the lake with its perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains was touted as enriching quaint downtown Evergreen.
Dedisse Park’s 420 acres are bisected by Upper Bear Creek road. Most of the acreage consists of forested ridges and open meadows in the foothills vegetation and habitat zone. The park is rich in ecological diversity and is dominated by mixed ponderosa pine forests with open grassy clearings and shrublands on south-facing slopes. During the 1930s, the area north of Upper Bear Creek Road was developed into a park by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Picnicking sites and a stone and timber shelter were created. The sensitive siting of roads, structures, and overlooks was in keeping with the National Park Service’s rustic naturalistic design ethic. The CCC stone shelter and overlook dominates the Park’s most interesting and breathtaking setting. The log and stone shelter is beautifully integrated into the hillside overlooking Evergreen Lake. Today, the shelter site is regularly used by groups through Denver’s reservation system.
Evergreen Lake and Dedisse Park offer a broad mix of outdoor activities suited to all types of weather. Evergreen Park and Recreation (EPRD) built and manages the Lake House. The Evergreen Nature Center is a recent nonprofit effort providing programs and displays during the summer in the historic Warming House. Warmth and skates are still available during the winter. The park road is closed to motor vehicle after picnic shelter; the old road surface provides a quiet walk through the park with wonderful views of the Evergreen Lake and mountains beyond. The City of Denver manages the 18-hole golf course below Dedisse Park. Jefferson County Open Space’s (paved) Pioneer Trail extends through the park connecting to the Evergreen community and looping around Evergreen Lake. The Dedisse Trail weaves through the western and northern portions of the Park, connecting to multiple use trails in Jefferson County’s Alderfer-Three Sisters Park.
When Denver began building the Squaw Pass Road in 1918, they envisioned a ‘skyline drive to the summit of Mount Evans.’ The City also acquired Echo and Summit Lakes in the hope that this ‘scenic wonderland without peer’ would become the gateway to a new national park that the City was proposing to Congress. The ‘Denver National Park’ was never designated, but the move forged a long-term relationship between Denver and the United States Forest Service to build the highway to the peak.
The 616-acre Echo Lake Mountain Park has a natural lake at 10,600 feet in the valley at the base of Goliath Peak surrounded by a thick spruce-fir forest. A steep portion of the park lies across Highway 103. Echo Lake is the only Mountain Park within the subalpine zone. It’s eastern edges are characterized by a large complex of subalpine wetland and shrub riparian vegetation. Portions of this wetland may be a 10,000-year-old fen—a sensitive and irreplaceable resource (that is closed to public use). The lake is part of the Echo Lake Potential Conservation Area and has high biodiversity significance for its rare and globally vulnerable subalpine plants, including reflected moonwort, Mingan’s moonwort, and western moonwort.
The Echo Lake Lodge, a log building completed in 1927, sits majestically on the eastern shore of the lake overlooking a spectacular subalpine setting. Echo Lake Lodge was designed for visiting overnight guests, complete with sleeping rooms, a fireplace lounge, and dining room. Today, the lodge serves as a seasonal gift shop and restaurant with lodging only for the concessionaire and employees.
Echo Lake Park, at 10,600 ft (3,230 m), represents the subalpine ecosystem, with surrounding forests of Englemann Spruce, Subalpine Fir, and Limber Pine. The 24-acre (10 ha) lake is popular for fishing and reflects wonderful views of Mt. Evans. The fen (wetland) at the east end of the lake provides important wildlife habitat; visitors are requested to stay on nearby trails.
Trails from Echo Lake Park connect to the Chicago Lakes and Bear Track Lakes trails, accessing the Mount Evans Wilderness Area and the summit of Mt. Evans.
Located immediately adjacent to Highway 74 on the way to Squaw Pass and Evergreen, the 107-acre Fillius Park was one of the early resting spots along the scenic drives in the Denver foothills. The park was acquired by Denver in 1914 and named for a member of the Denver Park Board, Jacob Fillius.A prominently placed and distinctive stone shelter designed by J.J.B. Benedict was built in 1918. The shelter openings are on its north façade, as it is oriented toward views of the Continental Divide. The refined detailing of the shelter makes it one of the most important structures in the Mountain Parks system. In 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps built two looping park roads for picnicking. Portions followed the original Bergen Park Road and the Beaver Creek Wagon Trail. These old roads are now closed to motorized vehicles and provide short walks through the eastern and western portions of the park.
The park is divided by the Soda Creek Road, with the stone well-house, shelter, and picnic area to the southeast, set among ponderosa pines with little shrub or herbaceous understory. The steeper west portion has meadows, with dense Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir woods. The park provides community open space for the Bergen Park community including elk and mule deer habitat and winter range.
The formal opening of the Mountain Parks by the Denver Park Commission on August 27, 1913, included a visit to ‘Genesee Mountain Park,’ where “an unobstructed view of mountain and plain” was had by all after a ¾ hour hike to the top of Genesee Mountain. This outing and the inclusion of Genesee Park in the ceremony was a sweet moment, because it had been the campaign to ‘save Genesee Mountain’ that catalyzed the first acquisitions for the Mountain Park system. Denver began efforts to purchase most of the current Genesee Park as its first Mountain Park in 1912, in collaboration with a group of Denver businessmen, saving the pine forest from becoming a lumber source for a sawmill.
At 2,413 acres, Genesee Park is the largest Mountain Park, offering the greatest diversity of experiences in the system. Families can hold a reunion and picnic at the large Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) historic shelter and picnic area near the summit of Genesee Mountain. Visitors can RV- or tent-camp overnight at Chief Hosa Campground. Kids can camp overnight for the first time or explore an exciting ropes course through Denver Outdoor Recreation Programs. Hikers can forget the city is nearby on the rugged, historic Beaver Brook Trail. At Chief Hosa Lodge, visitors can experience a major life event such as a wedding or bar mitzvah. Travelers can stop and see the bison herd along I-70, or venture to the top of Genesee Mountain where the panoramic view connecting mountain and plains is spectacular.
Today, the bison herd of about 20 head is a well-known and highly appreciated landmark along Interstate 70 Genesee Park has an undulating character of rolling hillsides, mountain valleys, thick pine forests, and open grassy glades. Its topography reaches to 8,284 feet at the summit of Genesee Mountain, extends to 7,988 feet at a prominent point on the Park’s north side, and meets Clear Creek Canyon at the Park’s lowest point at 6,280 feet. Stands of old growth Ponderosa Pine that provide important habitat for wildlife and contribute to overall forest diversity are found in Genesee Park.
The 400 acres of Little Park, acquired in 1917, comprise the first mountain park encountered along the Bear Creek road west of Idledale. To the east of Little Park is Mount Falcon Park and to its west is Lair o’ the Bear Park, both owned and managed by Jefferson County Open Space. With its low meadows immediately adjacent to Bear Creek and its unique octagonal-roofed well house built in 1919, Little Park continues to offer a secluded serene spot for a day by the creek. South of Bear Creek, Little Park is characterized by steep canyons and ridges covered with Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir forests, open shrublands, and prominent rock outcrops.
This landscape is highly valued for its natural resources that continue into Mount Falcon Park to the south and east, designated as a natural area by Jefferson County Open Space. This value is also recognized by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), which designated this area as a Potential Conservation Area for ponderosa pine and scrub woodland communities, located primarily on the upper slopes of the park. To help protect this sensitive landscape, no public access is provided across Bear Creek to the steep southern portions of the park.
Little Park serves as the first trailhead on the Bear Creek Trail which connects Lair of the Bear, Corwina, O’Fallon. And Pence Parks. Bear Creek is open to hiking and mountain bikes.
Lookout Mountain Park has it all – a panoramic view stretching from the Continental Divide to downtown Denver, acres of wooded foothills, the grave and historic collection of western legend Buffalo
Bill, mountain meadows, a distinctive stone shelter, a twisting scenic mountain road, and access to the the Beaver Brook Trail. The area is divided into a picnic area to the west below the summit and the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave to the east with the Pahaska Tepee gift shop. Even before Buffalo Bill fell in love with the mountain top, Denver leaders recognized its scenic beauty and spectacular setting. In 1915, they set aside 66 acres of forested foothills and steep escarpments as a key resting spot along the Lookout Mountain Drive (later renamed the Lariat Trail). Spectacular vistas are still breathtaking along this twisting mountain boulevard, designed by Frederick L. Olmsted Jr. and built by Cement Bill Williams in 1913. Stone pillars at the base in Golden mark the entry to the Denver Mountain Park system. Since its opening in 1921, Pahaska Tepee has embodied the romantic nature of the great American West. Until the 1970s when a new museum was built, Pahaska displayed the Buffalo Bill collection organized after Buffalo Bill Cody was buried on the summit in 1917. The rustic building of native log and stone wraps partially around the gravesite, and its low profile blends compatibly with the foothills landscape while still maintaining a grand presence. It originally housed a curio shop, soda fountain, and a formal dining room.
Today a concessionaire runs a small restaurant and large gift shop year round. The Buffalo Bill Museum is a year round attraction with fine exhibits chronicling the life of one of great figures of the American west.
A striking native stone picnic shelter, designed by architects W.E and A.A. Fischer and built in 1913, sits west of the summit overlooking the Continental Divide and surrounded by mountain meadows. The foothills landscape is primarily an open Ponderosa Pine forest with an understory of native and shrubs such as mountain mahogany. Steep north-facing slopes are dominated by Douglas-fir forest. Surrounded to the north, east, and west by Jefferson County Open Space, Lookout Mountain Park plays a key role in this larger network of contiguous public lands. The park is entirely within the extensive Deadman Gulch Potential Conservation Area and has high biodiversity significance. Its grassland communities support occurrences of a rare (G2) butterfly and other diverse butterfly occurrences. Jefferson County Open Space’s Nature Center and lands abut Lookout Mountain Park.
Martin J. O’Fallon’s 1938 donation of 860 acres was one of the last major additions to the Denver Mountain Park system. This donation connected Corwina Park on the creek with Pence Park to the south. Together the three parks comprise 1,487 acres of contiguous parcels. Most of the park acreage is open space that protects and sustains the Bear Creek corridor including wetlands, riparian forest, open meadows, watershed, and evergreen forests.
O’Fallon is a favored spot for family picnics along bear Creek. Consequently it fills up quickly especially weekends during the summer months. O’Fallon Mountain Park has an extensive system of trails. It is possible to hike east to Corwina Park or west to Pence Park. O’Fallon also provides access to the Bear Creek Trail. All trails in O’Fallon are closed to mountain bikes and hiker only except the Bear Creek Trail which traverses the park from Corwina Park to Pence Park. There is no mountain bike access to the Bear Creek Trail from the O’Fallon Park trailheads.
Picnicking and restroom facilities are available in the central portion of the park with nearby parking.
The old Bear Road which is closed to motorized traffic provides a short hike to an iconic stone fireplace (missing its roof) visible along Bear Creek and which commemorates Mr. O’Fallon’s donation. O’Fallon is also a favorite spot for fishing along Bear Creek.
Pence Park consists of a large, northeast facing ridgeline (Independence Mountain) that provides a backdrop to Myers Gulch and Parmalee Gulch Road. This park is the southernmost component of the Corwina/O’Fallon park complex, and is the southern terminus of the popular Bear Creek trail. The central portion of the park consists of a north facing slope covered with dense forests which transition to rocky outcrops at the highest point of the park in its southwest corner.
Pence Park provides a terminal trailhead for the Bear Creek Trail. It is possible to hike or bike from Pence east through O’Fallon and Corwina Parks. Pence Mountain Park also provides a hiker only experience west on the new Independence Mountain Trail. This newly constructed trail provides a two mile loop up the flanks of Independence Mountain. A trailhead and restroom facility is located on the site.
At 868 acres (350 ha) in size, Red Rocks Park is the closest mountain park to the City of Denver. Located along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, it is named for the towering 300-foot (90 m) sandstone rock formations. The famous and iconic amphitheater attracts musicians and visitors from around the world. The red rocks near the amphitheater are called Creation Rock, Ship Rock (formerly called Titanic), and Stage Rock. These giant rocks form a unique natural amphitheater, stage and seating area. Red Rocks is considered to be one of the greatest outdoor music venues in the world.
The park boasts a 200-mile (320 km) panoramic view of Denver and the plains. On a clear day, the tent-like domes of the terminal of Denver International Airport 45 miles (72 km) east of Denver are visible. Hiking trails allow visitors to observe the geologic feature and natural areas found in the park. Due to the high use of the site and sensitive nature of the geologic feature use is allowed by trail only. Visitors and concert goers are asked to stay on roads, in parking lots or on trails. For public safety reasons, off-trail use and rock climbing are strictly prohibited and violators will be prosecuted.
Red Rocks is a popular destination for tourists, concert goers, photographers, exercise buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
At 12,840 feet (3,914 m), Summit Lake Park anchors the high-altitude end of the Mountain Parks system. The route to the top of Mt. Evans, one of America's highest auto roads, is (usually) accessible from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and provides a taste of Colorado's high peaks to thousands of Denver visitors annually. The 160-acre Summit Lake Park is surrounded by National Forest lands and the Mt. Evans Wilderness. Fees charged by the City of Denver help maintain services and facilities at Summit Lake Park.
The short growing season makes life a challenge for the many slow-growing tundra wildflowers; their entire life cycles must be completed in a few short weeks. (Visitors who stay on trails will avoid adding to that difficulty.) Look for "spring" in early July at this elevation, and fall following quickly by mid-August. By September, the road to Mt. Evans summit is closed, but access to Summit Lake is maintained until major snowstorms prohibit travel.
Summit Lake is a busy destination for tourists and visitors on summer weekends and holidays. An accessible trail provides a short hike to the Chicago Lakes Overlook with spectacular mountain views. The Summit Lake parking area also provides access to climb Mt. Evans or fish in a high alpine lake.
Summit Lake provides unique opportunities to observe wildlife both Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats.
Due to fragile nature of the tundra and surrounding plant communities, visitor use is allowed by trails only. Cross country travel on the tundra is prohibited. Visitors are asked not to feed or follow wildlife onto the tundra.