The sign at the parking lot calls Stevens Grove a "picnic area," but "paradise" would be more like it -- at least as far as dogs are concerned. Below the Chatfield Dam, trails wind lazily beneath groves of grand old cottonwoods around a couple of gentle ponds, with plenty of sandy spots that are perfect for beach romping, kong fetching and dog paddling out to the cattails. A field stretches out to the west of the ponds, its hardy sage, buffalo grass and milkweed unfazed by packs of flying-disc chasers. It's not a bad place for humans (or, if you're from Boulder, "pet guardians"), either: The mountain backdrop makes for dramatic sunsets, and nobody minds when a stranger's wet dog shakes off at their feet -- everyone's friendly in that anonymous way, where you know the names of all the dogs and none of the people. Just don't wear white.

The sign at the parking lot calls Stevens Grove a "picnic area," but "paradise" would be more like it -- at least as far as dogs are concerned. Below the Chatfield Dam, trails wind lazily beneath groves of grand old cottonwoods around a couple of gentle ponds, with plenty of sandy spots that are perfect for beach romping, kong fetching and dog paddling out to the cattails. A field stretches out to the west of the ponds, its hardy sage, buffalo grass and milkweed unfazed by packs of flying-disc chasers. It's not a bad place for humans (or, if you're from Boulder, "pet guardians"), either: The mountain backdrop makes for dramatic sunsets, and nobody minds when a stranger's wet dog shakes off at their feet -- everyone's friendly in that anonymous way, where you know the names of all the dogs and none of the people. Just don't wear white.

Chatfield State Park
There are plenty of lakes and wetlands around the metro area where you can watch birds, but Chatfield State Park is still the biggest, best place to see the most varied array of feathered friends. Watchers have recorded more than 300 kinds of birds there, from migrating loons, hawks and warblers to rare tanagers and thrashers to the permanent residents like house finches and red-winged blackbirds. "People get real excited about some of these," says Ann Bonnell, a volunteer with the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, adding that Chatfield has "real diversity because it's on a migratory crossroads." And now that the Audubon Society has moved into temporary digs there (before it moves into a more permanent facility later), the baffled birdwatcher can sign up for a walking tour or a class to learn the difference between a sparrow and a swallow.

There are plenty of lakes and wetlands around the metro area where you can watch birds, but Chatfield State Park is still the biggest, best place to see the most varied array of feathered friends. Watchers have recorded more than 300 kinds of birds there, from migrating loons, hawks and warblers to rare tanagers and thrashers to the permanent residents like house finches and red-winged blackbirds. "People get real excited about some of these," says Ann Bonnell, a volunteer with the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, adding that Chatfield has "real diversity because it's on a migratory crossroads." And now that the Audubon Society has moved into temporary digs there (before it moves into a more permanent facility later), the baffled birdwatcher can sign up for a walking tour or a class to learn the difference between a sparrow and a swallow.

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All right, maybe Denver International Airport isn't exactly a nature preserve, but try and tell that to the birds (not the giant steely ones). The airport has had to catch and release intrusive sparrows from Concourse C, halt construction for migrating burrowing owls on several occasions and alter flight paths to protect the sensitive ears of bald eagles at several nearby nesting areas such as Barr Lake -- a real birdwatching mecca. Compared to its other problems, though, these glitches aren't that fowl.
All right, maybe Denver International Airport isn't exactly a nature preserve, but try and tell that to the birds (not the giant steely ones). The airport has had to catch and release intrusive sparrows from Concourse C, halt construction for migrating burrowing owls on several occasions and alter flight paths to protect the sensitive ears of bald eagles at several nearby nesting areas such as Barr Lake -- a real birdwatching mecca. Compared to its other problems, though, these glitches aren't that fowl.

Best place to catch a trout without leaving town

City Park

City Park
City Park's two lakes are continuously stocked with fish, generally trout. And the park is nearby, devoid of hazardous mountain roads and the other fishing folk are friendly -- parents teach their kids how to fish, and more skilled anglers try out their new rods and reels before heading to the mountain streams. And if you don't catch anything, there's a King Soopers not too far away.

Best place to catch a trout without leaving town

City Park

City Park's two lakes are continuously stocked with fish, generally trout. And the park is nearby, devoid of hazardous mountain roads and the other fishing folk are friendly -- parents teach their kids how to fish, and more skilled anglers try out their new rods and reels before heading to the mountain streams. And if you don't catch anything, there's a King Soopers not too far away.

Clement Park remains a beautiful facility, but its proximity to Columbine High School means that it evokes some painful memories for some, and it continues to attract a certain percentage of media types and other assorted voyeurs. Fortunately, the Ridge at West Meadows, a 140-acre facility north of Coal Mine near Dakota Ridge High School, offers many of the accoutrements that mark its more famous cousin: lots of soccer fields, a lake, a huge playground, and so on. Add to that a spectacular view of the foothills and a regular breeze perfect for kite flying, and you've got a place that offers recreation sans any unpleasant baggage.

Clement Park remains a beautiful facility, but its proximity to Columbine High School means that it evokes some painful memories for some, and it continues to attract a certain percentage of media types and other assorted voyeurs. Fortunately, the Ridge at West Meadows, a 140-acre facility north of Coal Mine near Dakota Ridge High School, offers many of the accoutrements that mark its more famous cousin: lots of soccer fields, a lake, a huge playground, and so on. Add to that a spectacular view of the foothills and a regular breeze perfect for kite flying, and you've got a place that offers recreation sans any unpleasant baggage.

Best Of Denver®

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