Doing Denver Right

Newbie? Native? Something in between? We have fun ideas for everyone in our annual love note to the Mile High City.

The All-In Coloradan

You’ve now lived here long enough that when strangers ask where you’re from, you unhesitatingly say, ‘Denver.’ You’ve covered all the basic adventures and are looking for new ones. That’s what we’re here for.

D&F Clocktower
Photo by Gray Photography

Host a party at the D&F clocktower
Party like a true Denverite at this National Register of Historic Places site, once the pinnacle of the chic Daniels and Fisher Department Store. Built in 1911 and formerly the tallest structure west of the Mississippi, the five-floor space still affords panoramic views of the city and mountains.

Go fishing on the Grand Mesa
The largest flattopped mountain in the world (elevation: 11,332 feet) is teeming with wildlife, including fish in its 300+ lakes (and its elevation makes summer temps cooler than the frying-pan temps below). Not an angler? It’s also a great place to bike, hike, or camp—and the fall foliage drives are out of this world.

Walk in dinosaur tracks
If you’re a history buff (and in this state, it’s good to be one), Picket Wire Canyonlands near La Junta is a must-visit destination. You can see dinosaur prints (the largest track site in North America); native American paintings; the remains of the Dolores Mission, a Spanish settlement; and a since-closed cattle ranch.

Straddle the Four Corners
If you’re the type of person who likes to be in two places at once, you’re in luck: At the Four Corners Monument, you can stand in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico without moving an inch. The spot is about 40 miles southwest of Cortez— and conveniently close to Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon.

See the stars
If you want to see the sky at night the way folks did centuries ago, uncorrupted by the light from buildings and cars, visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison, designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2015. You can stargaze on your own (with more than 15,000 stars visible) or attend the local astronomy festival June 26–29 to share the awe with others.

Fire tower illustration
Illustration by Matt Wood

Stay overnight in a fire tower
The best views imaginable. That’s what you’ll find in the handful of fire towers left standing in Colorado. You can even rent a couple of them for an overnight stay: Jersey Jim in the San Juan National Forest and Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout Cabin. No lookout duty required!

Hear like you’ve never heard before
You’ve been to Ellie Caulkins. To Red Rocks. Maybe even to Carnegie Hall. But we guarantee you’ve never heard anything like the sonic quality inside The Tank Center for Sonic Arts in Rangely. The 80-year-old water treatment facility is renowned for its amazing—and amazingly unique—acoustics, and has been turned into a one-of-a-kind recording studio and performance hall.

Colorado Trail
Photo courtesy David Fanning

Become a trail hog
Even if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to do a through-hike on the 486-mile-long Colorado Trail from Waterton Canyon southwest to Durango, you can tackle the whole thing in pieces (there are 33 sections) or just do one segment. Why? Because it’s there, silly.

Hike the Vindicator Valley Trail
Any self-respecting Coloradan needs to understand the state’s mining history, and this “Trail of Gold” near the town of Victor is a great place to start. The 2.2-mile gravel loop contains interpretive signs as you pass abandoned gold mines and mining buildings.

Church of Cannabis
Courtesy International Church of Cannabis

Visit the International Church of Cannabis
Even if you don’t worship at the altar of marijuana, this technicolor chapel at 400 S. Logan St. is worth a visit. Its adherents, called elevationists, claim no divine law or unquestionable doctrine; they aim simply to create the best version of themselves through the sacred plant.