At an elevation of 5,280 feet above sea level, Colorado’s capital city has an ear-popping altitude of one mile. Acclimate in the city for at least a day before heading into the high country, and you’ll find all sorts of “highs” inside the metro area.
A few benchmarks in Denver hit the exact 5,280 feet of altitude point. After finding these famed spots, have fun testing the altitude of other high points in and around the city. Get an altitude app on your smart phone, then see how high you can get within the Denver sphere.
Mile High Seating at Coors Field
A Rockies baseball game at Coors Field on a summer evening is a formula for fun no matter the score. Cap a day of shopping on the 16th Street pedestrian mall downtown with a ball game, or kick off a late night of prowling the bars of LoDo surrounding Coors Field.
Inside the stadium, look up. Just beneath the western sunset and bright ballpark lights, you’ll notice one row of purple seats wrapping all the around the stadium. This line marks the exact 5,280 feet elevation line. Not the best seats in the house, but it could be worse – the “Rock Pile” nosebleed section hangs out in even thinner atmosphere.
Altitude: 5,280 feet (in the purple seats only)
The Capitol Building Stairway
An unmistakable flash of real Gold Rush gold in the city skyline, Denver’s Capitol Building is worthy of a stop on any walking tour downtown. Roaming the historic neighborhood of Capitol Hill, you can hit Civic Center Park, the Denver Art Museum, and make your way to the neo-classical white granite pillars of the Capitol, where all the state-level politics of Colorado play out.
One more good reason to visit the Capitol Building: to take the requisite “mile high” photo with the engraving on the west entrance stairway, which declares: “One mile above sea level” in all caps. Look closely and you’ll notice that the mile high marker has actually moved twice in the past 100 years. This is because of “shifting” that happens over time. What is a mile high today may not hit the mark next century.
Altitude: 5,280 feet (at least for now)
Crossing the Highland Bridge from downtown Denver across major traffic artery I-25, you’ll enter a turf known as the Highlands. Once a strongly immigrant neighborhood, the Highlands is gentrifying up to meet the lifestyle tastes of Denver’s professionals and creatives.
The pedestrian Highlands Bridge opened in 2006, intended as an extension of the 16th Street pedestrian mall. Follow it into a district with some of Denver’s top restaurants and hideaway bars like Mead St. Station, where you’re likely to catch some live music. Note: the Highlands is not to be confused with Highlands Ranch, a sprawling suburb south of Denver.
Altitude: 5,195 feet (not quite a mile)
The High Line Canal Trail
For another fun lesson in elevation and gravity in Denver, head to the High Line Canal Trail on foot or by bicycle. The trail is part of a network of biking and walking paths that helps keep Denver denizens so notably fit. It runs a course of 66 miles, passing diagonally through the counties of Denver, Arapahoe and Douglas.
The High Line Canal has a fascinating history. “High Line” is actually a reference to the irrigation principle used design the canal in the 1870s. The trail twists and turns in such a way that it loses a minimal amount of elevation for every mile it covers. This keeps water flowing by gravitational pull, without the use of energy. Today the canal is not used for irrigation as much, but the trail still offers big recreation value.
Altitude: The trail begins at an elevation of 5,542 feet and ends at an elevation of 5,410 feet (a loss of 2 feet per mile)
Hidden in the Tech Center suburbs of Greenwood Village is a spot where you can fight gravity and seek pure altitude: Jumpstreet, an indoor trampoline park. Don’t be deceived by the packs of kids and adolescents – this place is for anyone whose knees can handle it.
Inside Jumpstreet, you can literally bounce off the walls of massive trampoline tracks. Strongly recommended is the foam pit, which you can either catapult yourself into by trampoline or fling yourself into by rope swing. Get your dodge ball game on, and if you dare: see how long you can last on the mechanical bull. By the end of your hour at Jumpstreet, sweat is spilling and endorphins are gushing. This may be about as high as it gets in Denver.
Altitude: between 5,664 and 5,668 feet (depending on how high you can jump)
If You Go
Coors Field: http://colorado.rockies.mlb.com/ticketing/index.jsp?c_id=col
The Highlands Neighborhood: http://www.denver.org/metro/neighborhoods/highlands
The Capitol Building: http://www.denverhistorytours.com/tours.htm#capitolhill
Cynthia Ord is a freelance writer based in her hometown of Denver CO, a contributing editor at The Travel Word (http://www.thetravelword.com/), and a Latin America addict.
Capitol Building, Jumpstreet, and High Line Canal Trail photos by Cynthia Ord.
Coors Field photo by Wally Gobetz.
Highlands Bridge photo by Karl Uschold.