Denver's Parks and Recreation facilities include over 100 miles of trails and parks covering more than 20,000 acres of space. But what exactly does that mean for you? Basically, that finding somewhere to exercise in the Mile High is as simple as walking outside your door. Which may explain why this city is one of the fittest in the nation. Before you shell out cash to join a putrid, humid, over-crowded gym, check out these totally free spots to workout at (and get that summer bod on point).
Civic Center MOVES
Civic Center Park
Yoga, cardio, strength training... whatever kind of workout you’re looking for, you can probably find a class offered by Civic Center MOVES, a fitness series that runs April 25th through October 6th, 2016. With morning, lunchtime, and evening options, there are no excuses for missing out on these free sessions. Each class is open to anyone of any fitness level. All you need to do is show up ready to meet some new people and break a sweat.
Denver Public Libraries
All over Denver
Did you know that you can find fitness classes there for free here? From yoga to Zumba, you never know what you'll find on the schedule, so check it frequently. Most classes don't even require registration or advanced notice, so all you need to do it throw on your sneakers and head out for a healthy dose of heart-pumping.
Cherry Creek Reservoir
Aurora/Denver Tech Center
Yes, it costs money to get into Colorado’s state parks, but we love Cherry Creek State Park because of its close proximity to residential areas. This means you can easily park and avoid the entrance fee by entering on foot (or bike, or roller skates... or whatever you’re into). Once you’re in, you’ve got access to a 4,200 acres natural oasis which also includes Cherry Creek Reservoir. In the winter, trails can also be used for cross-country skiing, and in the summer, you can swim in Cherry Creek Reservoir (but plan your swimming session for the early morning to avoid the crowds of kids).
You probably know that Red Rocks is the epitome of amazing concert venues, but for anyone who's lucky enough to live nearby, it's also a mecca for free fitness. At 6,400ft above sea level, it's more than a mile high above sea level making an already tough workout even more challenging. Whether you hike the trails that surround the amphitheater itself or opt to hit the 380 steps in front of the main stage, you're in for one of the most breathtaking (literally and figuratively) workouts of your life.
From pre-dawn to late night -- no matter the weather -- you will always find people jogging at Wash Park. Sure, some are biking too... or shooting hoops... or meeting up for a weekly volleyball game, BUT runners in particular flock here, and you should be joining them. Why? The main trail around the park is about three miles, a respectable but not-crazy-intense loop, there are plenty of non-porta-potty bathrooms, and the people-watching opportunities alone will keep you entertained mile after gross, sweaty mile.
Cherry Creek Trail
Confluence Park to Franktown
A trip down the entire stretch of this 40 mile-long trail will take you from the heart of downtown straight through the southern suburbs to Franktown, a small community south of Parker that many Denverites have never ventured to. The route is heavily used to get around the central part of town, but as you move toward the Cherry Creek Reservoir, expect to find a bit more solitude along with some wildlife as animals like coyote and deer make regular appearances. Whether you bike, jog or walk, this trail gives you a glimpse of Denver's diverse landscapes.
Denver's Running Clubs
All right, so this is less about where you're exercising than who you're exercising with. Maybe you're more of a lone wolf-type, and that's totally fine... because then there's more food and beer for the rest of us (yeah, that's right, food and beer). Denver's got tons of running clubs that are totally free to join, but our favorites come with extra incentives like the Denver Beer Company Run Club which meets for a 5K every Tuesday before a free pasta dinner and DBC brews, or the Wednesday night Highland Tap Run Club where everyone enjoys free pasta and a salad plus discounted beer afterwards.
While you have to pay to access the nearby Chatfield State Park, Waterton Canyon offers a free alternative for anyone looking to break a sweat. The popular six-and-a-half mile dirt trail to Strontia Springs Dam was closed in early 2016 due to flooding the previous year, but repairs have been made, and it's back to being open everyday. Biking and hiking are the most common activities here, but the bonus is the riverside views and frequent sightings of bighorn sheep and mule deer along the way. And as the Denver endpoint of the 486 mile-long Colorado Trail, you could theoretically journey all the way to Durango... if some sort of weird, wild wanderlust overtakes you.
With Downtown views that can't be beat, this is urban exercising at its best. The 330-acre park is also home to the Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature and Science, but you can visit those after you take a ride (or run, or walk) on the 3.1-mile trail that loops around the park and its two lakes. Or maybe after you hit up the baseball, football, or soccer fields. Or how about a game of tennis, or a yoga session in the shade under the trees? Just don’t be surprised if you also run into a festival, outdoor market, or wedding along the way since this is also a popular spot for summer events of all kinds.
Though it's not in Denver, this workout is more than worth the drive. Here's the challenge: a one-mile incline that gains almost 2,000ft in elevation. There's no vehicle access at this former cable car track turned fitness destination, so be sure you're in the right physical shape to tackle this before heading up. It can take as little as 30 minutes or as much as an hour plus to make it to the top, but either way a spectacular view awaits. This demanding route will be closed later this year (August 22nd through December 2nd, 2016) for repairs, so if you're planning on tackling the climb, do it soon.
South Platte River Trail
Englewood to Thornton
With 17.8 miles of paved pathway that traverses some of Denver's most urban areas, this trail is ideal for city-dwellers looking to get some fresh air without venturing too far. Though the trail takes you through some industrial zones, the path steers clear of streets so you don't have to deal with traffic while riding, running, or walking. If you like stopping along the way, this trail also passes by plenty of Denver's urban parks including Skateland Park, the area's largest skateboarding complex.
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