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The Ten Best Places for Denverites to Photograph the Perfect Sunrise

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An E.M. Forster quote comes to mind when I think about why so many people live in Denver: "What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?" 

The beauty that Colorado offers is endless, a photographer's dream. While catching a good sunrise shot can be a challenge, with the snow melting and the passes opening, spring is the perfect time to try. Here are our ten favorite places to shoot a sunrise, chosen for proximity to Denver (none is over two hours away, and most are within an hour), listed in alphabetical order.  Set your alarm, and then enjoy the view. 
10. Barr Lake State Park
13401 Picadilly Road, Brighton

Barr Lake State Park in Brighton has something for everyone, from fishermen to arborists to hikers — and it's close to Denver. A sunrise photo is the perfect way to start a day at Barr Lake.

9. Boulder Flatirons
50 Baseline Road, Boulder 

Boulder's Flatirons attract the runner, the rock climber, the in-shape and get-in-shapers alike, which means the area is often crowded. Going at sunrise is a great way to enjoy this landmark in a more zen setting. 

8. Brainard Lake
Brainard Lake Road, Ward

Wonderful trails, hiking, fly-fishing and pure serenity make Brainard Lake a gem. The sight of the sunrise reflecting off the lake is unreal, a reward for getting there early...and inspiration for staying all day.

7. City Park
2001 Colorado Boulevard 

City Park is a challenging place to catch one of the best Denver sunrises, which includes both the Rocky Mountains and Denver's skyline if you catch it from the right angle. Be prepared for morning traffic, since some commuters head downtown early. 

6. Garden of the Gods
1805 North 30th Street, Colorado Springs

Sunrise at Garden of the Gods is well worth the drive to Colorado Springs. You'll see rocks, rabbits and rays hitting the rocks all around the park, creating colors of orange you've never seen before.

Keep reading for five more spots to see the sunrise.

5. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
92 Crawford Gulch Road, Golden

With aspen-covered slopes surrounding you, Golden Gate Canyon is an outdoor enthusiast's playground. It's also a great spot for a photographer; at sunrise, it's impossible to take a bad photo.

4. Mount Evans
Squaw Pass Road, Idaho Springs

Mount Evans is simply majestic. Whether you're just driving up the paved, scenic byway or getting out to hike off-trail, the setting is postcard perfect.  Snap multiple sunrise shots at different elevations as you make your way to the top.  

3. Pikes Peak
Outside Manitou Springs

The mega tourist attraction that is Pikes Peak never gets old for Coloradans, either. If you can get there early enough, you'll be able to watch the sunrise both through the clouds and over them, a vision that words can't describe — but photos can capture. Fair warning: The railroad won't take you to the top in time for sunrise, and until Memorial Day the road uphill is closed to cars before 9 a.m....but you can always hike.

2. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison

The rocks at Red Rocks are a color all their own, and it's all #nofilter. Everyone knows that concerts here are incredible, but don't forget that this venue is pretty incredible in the early morning for hikers and sunrise snipers. 

1. St. Mary's Glacier
7599 Fall River Road, Idaho Springs

St. Mary's Glacier is a three-mile round-trip hike that's somewhat challenging in the summer, very challenging in the winter — and a toss-up in the spring. The view differs through the year, too. In the winter and spring, you're surrounded by white and ice as you watch the sun rise over the glacier. In the summer and fall, watch the sunrise's reflection hit the ice-melt lake below the glacier. If you're shooting in spring, be prepared: The hike up could still be cold.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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