In Colorado, we are lucky to have an abundance of beautiful parks and nature centers, but they are sometimes overshadowed by the national parks and national natural landmarks scattered throughout the state. One such underrated natural attraction is the South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center in Littleton.
The greater floodplain that the park sits in was originally the location of gravel-mining activities for over three decades. But great care has been taken to restore this area to its natural beauty and utility, as an open space home to dozens of bird, wish, and mammal species. In 1965, a massive flood tore through Littleton, leaving a path of destruction. The Carson Nature Center has preserved this historic event through an interactive water table. Other land acquisitions and park improvements through time are chronicled in the park’s history brochure.
South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center are beloved by locals for their vast array of interpretive programs offered year-round and available for all ages. From campfire programs to guided nature hikes to school break camps, there is always something exciting to take part in. Kids can participate in fun nature programs about animals, build forts, pan for gold, go fishing, learn nature photography and survival skills, and much more all summer long through the Nature Center’s summer programming.
Adult outdoor recreation activities include:
- Educational programs
- Gold panning
- Horseback riding
This secluded natural oasis is situated along the South Platte River and offers views of the South Platte Reservoir, Cooley Lake, Eaglewatch Lake, the Denver Metro skyline and the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the distance. With plenty of opportunity for fishing, boating, cycling, hiking, bird-watching, and other recreation, this gem of a park is conveniently located just outside of Denver.
South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center are connected to the surrounding area through a convenient urban trail system that winds throughout Littleton, Centennial, and the Greater Denver Metro area.
Mary Carter Greenway Trail – The main trail that runs through the park is the Mary Carter Greenway Trail, which runs north-south along the beautiful South Platte River and offers views of Cooley Lake, Eaglewatch Lake, and the South Platte Reservoir. It allows access to multiple fishing sites, boat chutes, restrooms, and can be picked up from the Carson Nature Center and followed in either direction.
The Park and Nature Center is centrally located in Littleton, due south of downtown Denver. If you’re coming from Denver or Boulder, drive south on US-85 and take the exit for S Platte River Dr following signs for Santa Fe Dr. Take the first right toward Mineral Ave, and turn right onto S Platte Pkwy/S Platte River Pkwy. Follow it for 0.4 miles until you reach W Carson Dr. Turn left and South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center will be on your left.
Coming from Castle Rock or Colorado Spring, take I-25 north and take exit 194 to merge onto CO-470 W toward Grand Junction. Proceed west for 9 miles and take the exit for US-85 N/S Santa Fe Dr. Turn left onto Mineral Ave, then right onto S Platte Pkwy/S Platte River Pkwy. Turn left onto W Carson Dr and South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center will be on your left.
Address: 3000 W Carson Dr, Littleton, CO 80120
Season: Year round
Website: sspr.org/nature (Nature Center)
Website: ssprd.org/south-platte-park (Park)