Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest urban refuges in the country and the home to 330 species of wildlife. It has 14 beautiful, short, flat trails scattered along lakesides and across prairie, wetland, and woodland habitats.
Located amidst the robust city of Denver, it is a sweet escape for hikers, wildlife enthusiasts, and families to refresh and relax from the city’s chaos.
Hiking the National Recreation Trail
The refuge has 10 miles of trails. Two of its interconnected trails, the 1.8-mile long Ladora Lake Loop Trail (Wetlands Loop Trail) and the 1.8-mile long Bluestem Loop Trail (Grassland Trail), were both designated as National Recreation Trails in 2005. These nature trails are the two most popular trails in Rocky Mountain Arsenal Refuge.
Both are rated easy to moderate and are open year-round but best used from March until October.
National Recreation Trail Routes
The trailhead of Ladora Lake Loop Trail starts in the middle of Lake Ladora and Lake Mary, just south of the Refuge Headquarter. The trail follows the edges of Lake Ladora going southeast first then going back up north to complete the loop. The trail is relatively easy to follow and it has educational signages to know more about the wildlife surrounding the area.
Take your binoculars with you and enjoy sights of various bird species like shorebirds, American white pelicans, and Double-crested cormorants. Mule deers can also be seen to frequent the area. On the other hand, Bluestem Loop Trail is an easy flat trail located on the easternmost part of the refuge.
It loops through a shortgrass prairie habit, which is abundant with wildlife and has a short 0.5-mile spur trail to explore. White-tailed and mule deers, Prairie dogs, raccoons, and coyotes are some of the animals that are present in the area all throughout the year. Also, scenic views of the distant mountains rise on sight adding up to the wonderful experience.
Tips for hiking Rocky Mountain Arsenal Trails
To avoid inconvenience, follow these simple rules observed inside the refuge: Stay on marked trails and observe all posted signs and regulations; Hiking trails are for foot travel only; Pets are allowed on the perimeter trail, but only assistance dogs under leash are allowed on the Refuge; Observe wildlife quietly and from a safe distance.
The best times to hike inside Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is at dawn or dusk. The refuge does not have potable water sources so bring enough water to keep you hydrated. Though the hikes are short, the sun can be a bit of an issue here. There is insufficient shade, so, wear sunscreen. A hat is also recommended and dress appropriately for the weather.
From Commerce City – Drive on 60th Avenue East to Gateway Road for 2.8 miles. Follow Gateway Road d to C Street /Havana Street /Wildlife Drive until the Refuge Gate. Park in the designated Parking Areas.
Address: 6550 Gateway Rd, Commerce City, CO