Travel Colorado: Cherry Creek State Park
https://waybeyondthenorm.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Cherry-Creek-State-Park-featured-image.png 600 500 Kristi Corder Kristi Corder https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/40c10ae894fb923ade0e927cd19d64dd?s=96&d=mm&r=g September 26, 2018 September 26, 2019
A state park in the middle of city life? Being from Texas where all of our state parks are out in the middle of nowhere, this is a bit of a different experience for us. If you’re heading to the Denver area in your RV, don’t overlook spending some time at Cherry Creek State Park. You won’t be disappointed.
New here? You may find some of our other campground reviews helpful:
Table of Contents
Cherry Creek State Park: Location
Cherry Creek State Park is located southeast of downtown Denver in the town of Aurora, CO on the Cherry Creek Reservoir. Despite being surrounded by major highways and interstates, this campground is a nice, quiet place to set up camp. It’s a very busy campground even in late September, so I can imagine it’s a campground you would want to reserve in advance if you plan on being here in the early summer months.
Cherry Creek State Park: Fees and Campsites
This campground has about 100 campsites that will accommodate RVs up to 80′ in length. Campsites are fully paved and have full hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings. Some sites are pull-through while others are back-in. Nightly rates are around $30/night for a 6 person occupancy.
Campsites are well spaced out, have lots of shade trees, and there are plenty of green areas for gatherings and for the kids to play. This is a picture of campsite #148 in the Buffalo Loop where we are staying.
For those that rely on cell/internet to work, we are having no trouble getting signal. Both AT&T and Verizon signals are strong.
Cherry Creek State Park: Campground Facilities
This campground has 4 comfort stations with restrooms. Three of the four locations have showers, and the main comfort station also houses the laundry facilities. All of the comfort stations here seem to be well kept and very clean.
The laundry room is fairly large and equipped with 4 washers, 4 dryers, and a central table for folding laundry. Washing machines are $1.75 per load and dryers are $1.25 per load. If you happen to forget soap or fabric softener, they do have a vending machine where you can purchase these items.
The showers are located in the same area of the comfort station as the restrooms. Each shower stall has a shower area and a dressing area with a bench. There are plenty of hooks in the dressing area to keep clothes up off of the floor. With full hookups, I have not used these showers so I can’t comment on the water pressure or temperature. It does cost to use the showers…50 cents for 3 minutes and up to $1.25 for 7 minutes. If all you have are dollar bills, there’s also a change machine next to the showers for your convenience.
Cherry Creek State Park: Things To Do
There are so many things to do here that we aren’t going to get a chance to experience them all. From bicycling to water skiing, there is something for everyone at this state park.
One of the things we have noticed while here is how busy this place gets with cyclers. I think Colorado is big into cycling anyway, but it seems that every evening after work hours you can see people riding their bicycles everywhere. I have to say we enjoyed the recent bicycle ride we took.
Throughout this state park, there are 12 miles of both paved and non-paved trails. These trails can be used for biking, hiking, and/or horseback riding. While we won’t have time to hike this visit, we have enjoyed using the trails on our bicycle rides. We look forward to coming back for the hiking.
At Cherry Creek Reservoir, you have many water activities to pick from such as swimming, boating, jet skiing, fishing, sailing, and water skiing. In the winter, you can go ice fishing. There’s also a nice little playground for the kids near the reservior.
This state park has a long list of other activities that are available throughout the year. If you are camping during the winter months, there are activities such as snow tubing, ice skating, sledding, and snowshoeing.
There’s also an amphitheater near the main comfort station and ranger station where educational classes are held throughout the year.
No matter what time of year you go, there are obviously plenty of activities for everyone. Should you want to head out of the campground, it’s just a short drive into Denver where there are thousands of other activities to take advantage of while staying in the area.
Cherry Creek State Park is an amazing place to visit. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again in the future, and will most likely be booking this location again for a trip next summer.
Cherry Creek State Park: The Complete Guide
Aimee is a Colorado native with nearly 20 years of experience as a professional journalist. She is the head writer and editor for TravelBoulder.com.
Cherry Creek State Park
Cherry Creek State Park is located smack dab in the middle of Denver’s backyard in the suburb of Aurora. It’s only 17 miles from the downtown area and provides a nice refuge for those who want to experience nature but don’t have the time or desire to venture deep into the Colorado mountains. The park is open year-round (yes, you can even camp in the snow) and is a mix of natural prairie and wetlands centered around the impressive Cherry Creek Reservoir, a popular spot for boating, paddleboarding, and jet skiing. This state park, founded in 1959, makes an easy staycation getaway for adventurous city dwellers. If you live nearby or are visiting the area, it’s worth the stop to experience the bustling lakeside activity or to head out on a trail for the serenity provided by nature.
Things to Do
At Cherry Creek State Park, you can enjoy a plethora of Colorado-inspired outdoor activities, like hiking, trail-running, biking, horseback riding, and bird-watching. The park’s 22 multi-use trails take you off the beaten path through grassland, marshes, and cottonwood groves. Serious hikers can link short trails together for longer jaunts, and wildlife watchers can use the trails to spot species like bald eagles, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, and ferruginous hawks, in addition to waterfowl and shorebirds. Great-horned owls and mule deer make their home here year-round and can often be seen when the park is uncrowded. Pack your binoculars, and visit the wildlife observation log in the park’s office.
The reservoir at Cherry Creek is a popular spot for boating, swimming, waterskiing and wakeboarding, and fishing. And its lakeside campground makes it a favorite camping spot for both locals and visitors due to its proximity to the city and the activities it allows for. You can also plan a picnic if an overnight stay isn’t in your cards.
In the winter, put on your cross-country skis and explore miles of groomed trails. You can also go ice skating (when it’s cold enough and permitted), sledding (although there’s no specific sled zone), and snowshoeing.
At this park, you can also play volleyball on the volleyball court, shoot arrows or guns at the outdoor shooting range, or fly radio-controlled, model airplanes on the west side of the park in the Model Airplane Field, also called Suhaka Field. This special area (run by the Denver RC Eagles flying club) features paved runways and taxiways and separate rotorcraft fields.
Best Hikes & Trails
Head out for a walk along an interpretive trail or another trail in the park’s elaborate trail system. Cherry Creek boasts 35 miles of trails (12 of which are paved) that are open to walkers, runners, bicyclists, and horseback riders. Each trail has different permissions. Some allow dogs, others don’t. Some are just for walking. Check out the trail map or check in with the office for details.
- Cherry Creek Trail: This popular 4.75-mile paved trail is open to hikers, horseback riders, and bikers. It gets heavy usages and can be busy right after work hours end.
- Prairie Loop Nature Trail: This quarter-mile unpaved trail is an easy jaunt for those wanting to learn more about the flora and fauna of the park. A self-guided nature tour will take you through the wetlands ecosystem, pointing out the important species in its midst.
- Railroad Bed Trail: Running on top of a historic railroad bed (a Rails-to-Trails conservation effort), this 2.11-mile, non-paved hike offers a few miles of excellent singletrack that is also suitable for mountain biking. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but must be kept on a leash.
- 12-Mile Trail: The 12-mile Trail is not technically 12 miles; it’s actually only a 2.8-mile hike that starts at the 12-mile north and south parking lots. This trail is part of a system that allows dogs off-leash in designated areas, so it gets a lot of traffic. Expect to also see horses and bikes along the route.
Boating & Fishing
The Front Range gets hot in the summertime bringing powerboaters, sailboaters, water skiers, wakeboarders, and jet skiers to this 880-acre suburban waterway. You can also go canoeing, rafting, and kayaking. Visit the marina and yacht club on the northwestern side of the water, adjacent to the swim beach, complete with trucked-in sand. Check out one of many fishing spots along the shore, too, that provide an opportunity for you to catch largemouth bass, rainbow trout, wiper, and even trophy-size walleye. You can also fish from your boat or go ice-fishing in the winter.
Before you launch your boat, you must obtain an ANS stamp, whether you’re a resident or not. Stamps can be purchased any time through Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), either online or at a local office. Proper boat registration is also required for any powerboat or sailboat operating in Colorado waters. Additionally, boaters must comply with the CPW’s Aquatic Nuisance Species regulations to stop the spread of zebra and quagga mussels, as well as other invasive species. This requires an inspection before launching at one of the park’s two boat ramps.
Where to Camp
This vast 4,000-acre park feels like you are a thousand miles away from the bustle of Denver. And, while this park won’t put you directly into Colorado’s beautiful Rocky Mountains, it does offer you a dramatic view from your campsite. Plus, if you forget something at the store or you need to run into town for a meal, the conveniences of urban life are only minutes away. Winter camping is also available for the adventurous, and you can bet the campground won’t be packed.
Cherry Creek has one year-round campground located on the northeastern side of the reservoir. The campground contains 152 tent, RV, and deluxe hookup sites, and three group sites. The campground offers several on-site bathrooms, as well as a laundry facility and showers. There is also a seasonal dump station and an amphitheater for performances, complete with bench seating for 100 people, a podium, and a fire pit. Group sites have electric hookups only and can accommodate 36 people, with one site accommodating up to 72 people. Make reservations ahead of time for regular and group sites, especially if you plan to visit on a busy summer weekend. In the winter, reservations for the Abilene Loop are not necessary.
Where to Stay Nearby
When staying nearby Cherry Creek, you can choose from many chain hotels in the Aurora area. This region also services the Denver Technological Center (Denver Tech), which is a big trade hub for the area and home to several businesses and corporations. This Denver suburb contains many economical hotel options.
- : This lodging option boasts scenic views of the Rocky Mountains, Marriot-style bedding, and free Wi-Fi and breakfast options. Located close to local restaurants, like Hacienda Colorado, the Cherry Creek Grill, and Cherry Cricket, this property offers a fitness center and indoor pool. Choose from king, double queen, or executive king rooms, or a one- or two-bedroom suite. : Families often choose Tru by Hilton, with its Tru play area, game zone (complete with a pool table), and indoor pool. The modern-style king, double queen, and handicapped-accessible rooms perfectly accommodate any family. A breakfast buffet and small convenience store are offered on-site. : Kids stay and eat free (at any time of the day) at the Holiday Inn & Suites. This hotel offers guest rooms, suites, and handicap-accessible rooms, as well as an indoor heated pool and whirlpool, and a fitness center. Dine at the on-site Burger Theory restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner and can accommodate adults in the bar area.
How to Get There
Cherry Creek State Park is located in Aurora Colorado and can be accessed easily off of I-25, coming from Fort Collins, from the north, or Colorado Springs, from the south. From downtown Denver, take I-25 South for approximately 6 minutes. Take Exit 200 onto I-225 East and then get off on Exit 4 onto CO-83. Take a right onto East Lehigh Avenue and continue on to the park’s main entrance.
The closest airport, Denver International Airport, is approximately 35 minutes away. To get to Cherry Creek from the airport, take Pena Boulevard to I-70 West, then take Exit 282 to merge onto I-225 South. Next, take Exit 4 to CO-83. Take a right on East Lehigh Avenue and follow it to the park’s entrance.
Cherry Creek State Park does a great job of accommodating people with all ability levels. You can find special facilities for those with disabilities at all of the fishing access areas, the campground, the swim beach, and the group picnic sites. Parking for visitors with disabilities is designated throughout the park. And, the Campground Trail is paved and accessible to wheelchairs, as are most of the park’s paved pathways.
Hiking Boots or Shoes: Do I Really Need Hiking Boots?
The great dilemma – do you really need hiking boots? Or can you use hiking shoes? Or do you even need hiking shoes? This guide will sort it all out for you, but the short answer is that you probably don’t need hiking boots. Hiking shoes or trail runners will be a better bet for most hikers. I’ll walk you through all the options and when it makes sense to use each one. If you want to see which specific models I recommend, check out my current gear page (updated ).
- Why You Might Need Hiking Boots
- When a Trail Runner or Hiking Shoe Works
- Conditions For Heavy Hiking Boots
- Alternative Options You May Not Have Considered
The great dilemma – do you really need hiking boots? Or can you use hiking shoes? Or do you even need hiking shoes? This guide will sort it all out for you, but the short answer is that you probably don’t need hiking boots. Hiking shoes or trail runners will be a better bet for most hikers. I’ll walk you through all the options and when it makes sense to use each one. If you want to see which specific models I recommend, check out my current gear page (updated November 2022).
LAST WEEKEND ➤ Big REI Sale On Now Including Big Discounts on Hiking Tech Like inReach / Garmin Watches
This guide’s recommendations are based on my experience trying lots of different hiking footwear over thousands of miles as a professional hiking guide. My experience is echoed by most long-distance PCT and AT hikers who hike day after day. No gear company pays me to push a specific shoe or solution.
|Characteristics||Recommended For||Top Pick|
|Hiking Shoes||Comfortable and durable||Good for hikers wanting protection and good value||See Latest|
|Trail Runners||Lightweight and very comfortable||Good for hikers wanting most comfort and best performance||See Latest|
|Waterproof Hybrids||Dryer with more protection||Use for winter or cold weather hiking||See Latest|
|Hiking Boots||Heavy but very durable||Hikers wanting very long life and maximum protection||See Latest|
I’m going to explain what really matters in hiking footwear, but if you just want to read about each option, scroll down a bit until you reach the section on Hiking Shoes.
What You REALLY Need in Hiking Footwear
Believe it or not, but your feet may be better protected like this than if they were behind big hiking boots. Photo Sangudo
When you’re picking hiking footwear, these are the factors that are important:
- They should protect your feet. That means no cuts or damage to your feet from the elements.
- They should be comfortable. You should be able to use them without getting blisters.
- They should be lightweight. You will step thousands of times when you hike. Every ounce saved on lifting your feet is more energy to hike farther.
What About Ankle Support?
On paper, a high-cuff hiking boot biomechanically supports the ankle. But my experience hiking with packs of up to about 40lbs has been that it doesn’t matter. And research has shown that not only does it not matter, but it can even make your chance of rolling an ankle worse. If you’re carrying so much weight that your ankles are buckling, then you’ve got too much weight on your back. If you roll your ankles a lot, do some ankle strengthening exercises.
Do Water-Resistant Shoes Help?
Waterproofing is another concept that looks good on paper but in practical terms doesn’t do as well. And that goes for “breathable” waterproofing like Gore-Tex too. I won’t go into all the details, but after thousands of miles I can tell you that you only really need it when hiking in the winter.
Instead of keeping water out, let it in. Shoes with very breathable uppers mean that your feet get wet easily, and they also dry quickly. In practical terms, out on the trail, this means that your feet are dryer and are less susceptible to blisters. If you look at any PCT or AT hiker, they almost all use breathable shoes today. So when you choose your hiking footwear, go with breathable uppers and not the waterproof version.
When water-resistant shoes get totally wet, they get waterlogged and heavy. Breathable shoes never get waterlogged.
Don’t Forget About Good Socks
Use proper hiking socks that are seamless with reinforcing and extra cushioning in the high-use areas.
Get a wool sock that is tough and dries quickly. When conditions are sloppy wet, I’ve also used waterproof socks, and they work great. Socks come in different weights that equate to warmth. When it’s hot, go thinner. Also, note that heavier socks can fit tighter in a shoe and cause blisters from too much friction. If you buy hiking footwear for the winter (more later), go a half-size up to allow for thicker socks.
Hiking Shoes – Good Bet For Most People
The Merrel Moab hiking shoe, a long-time favorite of many hikers. Notice the beefy soles and uppers, much like a hiking boot. This version is “ventilated” or breathable, allowing water in but also allowing your feet to dry quickly.
Hiking shoes take the best elements of hiking boots and trail runners and combine them into one. They are lighter and more comfortable than hiking boots, but generally offer the same level of protection (minus the cuff around your ankle). Hiking shoes are designed to last longer (about 800 miles or 9-18 months for most folks) than a trail runner but are usually a little heavier because of the extra protection. They’re also a bit stiffer than a trail runner. Overall the durability, lighter weight, and and protection offer the best balance for hikers.
I took my first pair of hiking shoes on a 14 mile hike in Yosemite right after buying them. Absolutely no issues at all. Very comfortable for the entire hike, my feet felt like they could have kept going, while the rest of me, not so much. – Hiking Shoe Review
Trail Runners – The Best Bet For 3 Seasons
Trail runners offer the same rugged and aggressive grip while being lighter and more minimal on the upper.
If you want the best option and are okay getting new shoes every 500 miles or so (6-12 months for most folks), go with trail running shoes. They are lighter and more “springy” than hiking shoes. Trail runners have more breathable uppers than hiking shoes, but offer less protection. If you’re bushwacking off-trail, trail runners are probably not the best bet. But the lightness and comfort make hiking feel like you are walking down the street in sneakers.
Some trail runners have problems with durability and will last much less than 500 miles. But you can and should get around 500 miles out of them. Read the reviews before you buy and check out my trail runner pick (used and tested by me).
The lines between a hiking shoe and trail runner get more blurry as shoes evolve.
Shoes Or Trail Runners?
Water-Resistant Hybrids for Winter
A hybrid offers more upper protection and is “almost” a hiking boot.
When I hike in the winter I go with a water-resistant hiking shoe / hiking boot / trail runner hybrid. It keeps my feet warm in the snow and offers good protection. If the snow level is higher I’ll wear a pair of gaiters as well to keep snow from going into my shoe. The life of these is similar to a trail runner but usually lasts longer since most people don’t do as much winter hiking than in the rest of the year.
The beefiest option are hiking boots. They’re not light but they are like wearing armor on your feet. This model, the Asolo Fugitive, I used for 8 years before they fell apart.
If you just want the maximum protection and a shoe that will last (potentially) for thousands of miles, go with a hiking boot. I don’t wear them anymore, but when I did they were though as nails. Overall they’re heavier and require more energy to hike with. If you are going off-trail or want something very beefy for all conditions, including winter, a hiking boot is a good choice.