Denver in the summer is a wonderland for anyone who likes to get out and about amongst Colorado’s impressive landscapes and natural attractions. The “Mile High City” is a centre for all kinds of adventure sports and explorations, and intrepid visitors will be pleased to find a like-minded community - as well as plenty of microbreweries where you can relax with a beer after a long day in the outdoors.
A car rental from Denver
is the best way to get around both downtown and in the surrounding mountains and prairies. At Airport Rentals
, we can provide you not only with the right vehicle from among a huge range of options both at the airport and in the city, but these top picks for things to do in Denver.
1 . Hiking
It seems a little obvious, but after the road ends your own two feet are the best transport you have to get you up close and personal with Colorado’s incredible places. From the short and easy trails in the nearby and very pretty Castlewood Canyon State Park (just an hour’s drive from the city centre) to the mountain summit trails of the Rocky Mountain Park, there is something for everyone.
A strenuous 10-mile round trip, the hike to the top of Mount Ida is worth the effort and considered one of the best in the Rockies, offering spectacular views along the Continental Divide. Waterton Canyon to the southwest of the city makes a fantastic day hike, and you can choose your distance on the out-and-back trail. 6.2 miles will get you all the way to the Strontia Springs Dam. There’s nothing better than a waterfall - and if you want to see a great one, head out to Buffalo Creek Falls, the Hanging Lake or Bridal Veil Falls, all within a few hours drive of the city.
2 . Kayaking and Canoeing
There are so many waterways in Colorado, it seems a shame not to put them to use during your visit. You should have no troubles finding a place to either rent you some vessels or take you on a guided kayaking adventure, especially with a rental car to get you out to wherever the action is happening.
You can even kayak right in the central city with Confluence Kayaks. There’s white water right outside their facility in Confluence Park, and they offer classes in kayaking and SUP for all levels as well as rentals. Keen kayakers who would rather leave civilization behind can head southwest to the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center on Highway 285, or take advantage of the many tourism operators at Estes Park which lies less than 2 hours north of Denver.
3 . Wild Animal Sanctuary
Less than an hour of driving from Denver will see you amongst lions, tigers and more large carnivores. The Wild Animal Sanctuary houses more than 300 animals in 720 acres of grassland, where they are allowed to roam free without cages in large habitat sections. As well as big cats of all kinds you might see bears, wolves, coyotes, camels, alpacas, ostriches and emus.
The sanctuary doesn’t just set you loose to wander amongst the predators - there is a “Mile into the Wild” walkway, an elevated platform path which allows visitors to see the animals without either party feeling threatened. The sanctuary is open every day except public holidays from 9am to sunset, and has an entrance fee of $15 per adult and $7.50 per child.
Although not something you might immediately think of when planning a Denver vacation, the Wild Animal Sanctuary is a fantastic attraction, especially for families. It’s also a nice way to see wild animals in a low-stress and more natural environment than in a zoo.
4 . Horseback riding
Embrace a little Wild West culture during your Denver visit and get in the saddle! There are numerous horse trekking providers and dude ranches around the outskirts of the city and in the foothills of the Rockies who will get you set up for a buttock-numbing adventure in the lovely Colorado landscapes.
Sombrero Ranches offer rides throughout the Rockies and can tailor treks for beginner to expert levels or even rent you a horse for a day or more. You could give Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides a call, or head towards Fairplay to visit the American Safari Ranch for some real ranch riding. With a multitude of companies offering horseback lessons, guides and more, the options are endless and varied.
5 . Farmers’ Markets
Although a little more sedentary than the previous activities, we included farmers’ markets on the list because they take place mostly outdoors, they help support local farmers and they offer delicious food - what could be a better way to spend a morning?
There are markets spread throughout the suburbs and downtown - if you want to catch them all, you can with a car rental! The biggest of the bunch is the Cherry Creek Fresh Market on First Ave and University Boulevard. It’s open during the summer on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. “Le Jardin Secret” is something a little different for farmers’ markets enthusiasts, an elegant French-inspired market for chefs with dairy, meat, bread, produce and mimosas. It’s open from June to September on Saturday mornings.
The list of things to do in Denver’s great outdoors in the summertime doesn’t end here. Fishing, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, the Botanic Gardens, rafting, ATV adventures, golf... the opportunities are endless. Pick up a Denver car rental and start ticking things off. If you are interested in adventuring further, check out other major cities in the State of Colorado including Colorado Springs
, near the Pike National Forest or Grand Junction
, conveniently located between several National Conservation Areas. If you're still eager to hit the outdoors, continue your trip in beautiful Utah