Denver began buying park property in the foothills west of the city in the 1910s and 1920s to provide places for residents and visitors to enjoy mountain scenery and outings. Today, 22 developed parks and 24 conservation areas make up the 14,000-acre Denver Mountain Parks system, originally planned by Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. Much of the acreage is in Jefferson County, especially in the Evergreen area. During the summer months JustAroundHere.com will be featuring parks in the Evergreen area, encouraging you to check them out in your spare time.
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Red Rocks Park
Red Rocks Park is, in some ways, the best known of Denver’s Mountain Parks, thanks to the renowned amphitheatre that is its signature attraction. Built in the late 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers, the popular amphitheatre hosts more than 100 concerts and dozens of other events each year.
Long before the completion of the amphitheatre, the dramatic rock formations attracted visitors. From the 1880s on, tourists traveled to the park to marvel at the rocks and picnic among the scenic outcrops. In 1906, when entrepreneur John Brisben Walker purchased the property, he named it the Garden of the Titans, and planned extravagant enticements to draw visitors. Although most were never executed, his scenic incline railway to the top of Mount Morrison was a major achievement. His dream of an amphitheatre became reality after the park was purchased by Denver in 1928.
Denver officials, including George Cranmer, persuaded the federal government to establish a CCC camp in the southern end of the park. Hundreds of men worked from 1936 to 1941, largely by hand, to complete the amphitheatre. In 2015, the park and its surviving CCC camp were designated a National Historic Landmark.
Today, the 804-acre park is accessible via scenic roadways as well as several hiking trails. The 1.4-mile Trading Post Trail circles the southern end of the rock formations, beginning and ending at the Trading Post. Other trails provide access to park high points and connections to adjacent Jeffco Open Space parks. The new Geologic Overlook Trail in the north part of the park provides panoramic views of the plains and foothills. Park map.
For more information:
Mountain Parks Attractions, City website; Concert and amphitheatre information
Read more about Red Rocks history at Historic Red Rocks.
Read all about it: Denver Mountain Parks: 100 Years of the Magnificent Dream, featuring photographs by John Fielder, is available at Amazon.com. Written by Wendy Rex-Atzet, Sally L. White, and Erika R. Walker, the book contains extensive history of the system, then/now photos, and a guide to the parks. Denver Mountain Parks Foundation, 2013.