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Top Five: Evergreen town parks

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Not far outside of Denver lies the town of Evergreen, a quaint little hamlet probably best known as the place where your parents go to drink when Morrison's too busy. But Evergreen has more than overpriced Chiantis: Thanks to the excellent stewardship of Jefferson County Open Space Parks and Denver Mountain Parks, it  boasts 11 parks in about 11.6 square miles (that's nearly one park per square mile, math wizards).

These parks hold awesome opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, scrambling, fishing, and more. Best of all, they're rarely as crowded as Boulder County's parks. Here are some of the best:

1. Corwina Park. The first time I set foot into Corwina, I had to look behind me for Ringwraiths: The looming firs and blue spruce on the densely forested first miles of this trail give off a distinct Middle-Earth vibe. As you climb, they give way to open ponderosa stands and expanding views of both the foothills and 13ers out towards the James Peak wilderness. Bonus: Off trail, look out for excellent bouldering and scrambling hidden on the steep slopes.

2. Alderfer/Three Sisters. Dominated by four silver plume quartz rock outcroppings (the last one is called the Brother), Three Sisters holds ample opportunities to scramble up routes of varying difficulty to catch wide views of the Bear Creek Basin. But 10 miles of mellow trail in 770 acres give the rock-wary chances to wind all around the Three Sisters.

3. Elk Meadow. Evergreen's largest park offers loads of ecosystems to explore (grasslands, deep forest, aspen stands, and high montane lodge pole) and loads of ways to do it (mountain bike, foot, horse). The capper: The almost 2,000 feet you gain while climbing 9,708-foot Bergen Peak add a bit of grandeur and purpose to an otherwise simple dayhike.

4. Pence Park. Hardass trail runners and mountain bikers rejoice: Pence is your playground. A punishing vertical grade over approximately 2.5 miles rewards the strong with exceptional views of the Evans massif. Link it with Lair o' the Bear for a burlier 10-mile route.

5. Mt. Evans Wilderness. OK, this doesn't technically count as an Evergreen Park, but it's as close as you can get to having a 14er in your backyard. The wilderness offers year-round opportunities for top-grade hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, wildlife spotting, snowshoeing, skiing,...I could go on. But with the road up to Echo Lake usually open, you'll find an incredibly accessible high-mountain paradise even in winter.

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