There's basically just a tall ridge separating Carter Lake Park from the great expanse of the plains. And it's actually not a lake so much as a reservoir, supplied by water diverted from the Western Slope to keep the engines of Front Range commerce churning. But when you see this park, you will forget all that immediately, because Carter Lake is stunning. At three miles long and a mile wide, it offers plenty of room for boating plus a couple of manmade beaches, but if you really want to suck the awesome out of Carter Lake, you'll hike up one of the trails to a more secluded part of the shore, where the sandstone boulders tumbling into the water provide the seating and half-submerged aspens provide the shade. And unlike lakes at higher elevations, this one's always warm enough to swim in.

Trestle Bike Park

The Gravity Logic crew at Winter Park has been redefining downhill mountain biking over the past few years, greatly expanding its trail system and special features in the Trestle Bike Park each summer and hosting Crankworx Colorado as its signature event. This summer, look for the opening of three new trails, including the aptly named "Cruel and Unusual," and for the inaugural Colorado Freeride Festival July 26-29. Need a refresher session in between trips over Berthoud Pass? Try the new Trestle Bike Park outpost in Denver's Barnum North Park, near Sixth and Federal; the skills park opened in the summer of 2011 and will be back in action this summer as soon as the Gravity Logic crews can get to pushing some dirt around.

It's crowded in the summer, but Golden Gate Canyon State Park offers some of the best of the Colorado mountains very close to the big city on 12,000 acres of gorgeous pine and aspen forests, meadows and trails. Set just thirty miles from Denver, the park boasts a fantastic visitors' center, along with camping, cycling, horseback riding and fishing. And if you want to commune with nature — and the past — hike the two-mile Coyote Trail at Bootleg Bottom in the fall, when the leaves are changing. You'll get an education on Colorado's glorious moonshining past and a clue as to why people who come to Colorado never want to leave.

Readers' Choice: Mount Falcon Park

Colorado's best-known skier Tebowed before a race last December, inciting rumors that she had a special relationship with Timmy. The two turned out to be just friends, but now that Number 15 is gone, Lindsey Vonn can still get in on some quarterback action by becoming the nanny for Peyton Manning and his wife, who have one-year-old twins.

If you want to fly through the air and scope out some nice scenery while you're up there, but don't want to make the haul to the Royal Gorge or Durango, just drive to Golden and check out one of Denver Adventures' zipline packages. Denver Adventures offers four- and six-zipline tours and boasts the fastest and longest ziplines in Colorado. You can travel at up to 50 mph and as far as 1,900 feet on one zipline. Better bring an extra pair of pants, just in case.

Sub-Culture
Courtesy of Sub-Culture

There's a large contingent of urbanites who long ago cut their ties to sports culture but never abandoned their love of sports. For these folks, going to a bar to watch a game can be a nightmare of brosephian machismo, terrible food and light beer. But now there's a place where they have a sporting chance of enjoying themselves: Capitol Hill's beer-serving sandwich shop, Sub-Culture. With both a big TV and a big menu of hot and cold subs (many of them vegetarian), Sub-Culture boasts a punk-rock-meets-indie-cinema aesthetic that scores with hipster sports fans.

Pepsi Center Parking Lot

When Carmelo Anthony was traded in 2011, the Denver Nuggets took a lot of pride in playing well without a having a star on the team or definitive leader. They could have used one, however, when Oklahoma City's two stars were eliminating them from the first round of the playoffs. While Danilo Gallinari might be the most talented Nugget, little Ty Lawson has been healthier and his highs have been higher. He recently won Western Conference Player of the Week on the strength of a 3-0 week in which he averaged 20.7 points, 11.7 assists and seven rebounds. He's one of the fastest players in the league, has performed very well in his first year as starting point guard, and could be the perfect leader for a fast-paced team full of athletic wing players.

Readers' Choice: Ty Lawson

Best of Denver 2012: Sports & Recreation

Looking for the Best Nugget, Best 49-Year-Old Pro Athlete, Best New Skatepark, Best TV Sportscaster, Best Dog Park or Best Mascot?

Check out our 2012 Best of Denver Sports & Recreation picks.
Sports Authority Field at Mile High

The Outlaws missed their chance to play in the Major League Lacrosse championship for the second year in a row, but Schwartzman proved to be the best goaltender in the league. He was the only goalie to post a per-game goals-against average under ten, and he was second in the league in save percentage. Schwartzman played in every game last season and logged the second-most minutes in the league.

Readers' Choice: Jordan Hendry/Dillon Roy (tie)

City Park

It's big, it's bold, and it's hard to beat when it comes to throwing down a blanket and relaxing under a tree. Bring your favorite dish from home or stop by a market (Marczyk, 770 East 17th Avenue, or Spinelli's, 4621 East 23rd Avenue, are nearby options) and pick something up. Then scope out a spot in front of the museum or by Ferril Lake, or around the gardens near East High School. On Sunday evenings in the summer, you can join thousands of your closest picnicking friends for the free City Park Jazz, a perfect way to end the weekend.

Readers' Choice: Washington Park

Best Of Denver®

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