Castlewood Canyon State Park
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The best way to find our state insect — the Colorado Hairstreak butterfly — is to first find a Gambel oak tree, where said butterfly prefers to spend its time flitting around and dining on tree sap, honeydew and raindrops (adorable!). Castlewood Canyon State Park, near Franktown, happens to be full of Gambel oaks and is therefore a prime location for the Hairstreak. Optimal viewing season is from June to August — and you'll know you've spotted one by its colors: purple and black, just like a certain Colorado baseball team...

Lark buntings, the Colorado state bird, are rare, but they're a little easier to see in the spring, when the so-called "troubadours of the plains" arrive in Colorado before flying south again at the beginning of fall. During the summer, they can be spotted feeding in large flocks along roadsides on the eastern plains and, in particular, in the Pawnee National Grassland in Weld County. Their coloring makes them easy to see: The males are black with a white patch on their wings, which makes them look like they're wearing tuxedos. Fancy.

Brighton's Barr Lake State Park is like Boca Raton for bald eagles: While our nation's big birds can summer anywhere, they are increasingly spending their winters here — and one pair stays to nest every year. In fact, the proud mamas and papas of Barr Lake have produced a total of 45 eaglets. The mating season begins in early winter, and by February, there's often an egg or two in the nest. From mid-February to mid-March, Ma and Pa take turns incubating the eggs — which is a perfect time to catch a glimpse. The best place to see the nest is at the Barr Lake gazebo, which is an easy 1.3-mile walk from the Nature Center, where you can borrow a pair of binoculars with which to ogle these most American of birds.

Best Place to See the Colorado State Animal

Georgetown

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep favor steep and mountainous terrain, which means they hang out in places that are hard for humans to access. But at the Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area, looky-loos can pump a few quarters into the giant binoculars and take a gander at the hundreds of sheep that make up the "Georgetown herd." One of the best times of year to spy on sheep is in November, when the town hosts the Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Festival. It's also the species' mating season, which means visitors are more likely to see male sheep head-butting each other to establish dominance — and for a shot at makin' it with the ladies.

Don't let the confusing name fool you: This 71,000-acre swath of forest, lakes and trails is an uncrowded gem. Colorado State Forest State Park, near Walden, is also home to more than 600 moose, which can be viewed year-round. Start at the Moose Visitor Center, where moose-seekers can take a virtual tour of the expansive park, learn about the animal and get tips on where to spot one. Even if the moose prove elusive, visitors might be lucky enough to see some of the other mammals that make their home here, including bighorn sheep, elk, black bears and deer.

They may not be the tallest or the most-hiked of the state's fourteeners, but Aspen's Maroon Bells are some of Colorado's most photographed peaks, especially during the fall. Groves of aspen around the craggy sandstone mountains turn yellow as they prepare to shed their leaves, staining the nearby slopes and valleys bright gold — and drawing in gaggles of leaf-peeping tourists who pay $10 to drive down the park's access road. The quintessential place to snap a picture is from the shores of Maroon Lake, but it can get crowded; strap on a backpack and ramble down a trail into the surrounding White River National Forest for a chance to find your own aspen grove — and maybe catch a glimpse of a moose or beaver — before the trees drop their colors and the snow settles in.

Thank magazine publisher John Brisben Walker, who saw the natural sandstone amphitheater outside of Morrison in 1906 and envisioned the grand stage it would become. Or thank the Civilian Conservation Corps, whose workers helped turn it into a reality. Whoever you credit, no other venue in the country can match Red Rocks for pure grandeur. The 9,450-person-capacity theater has become a staple for touring acts from Dave Matthews Band to Pretty Lights; on summer nights, with the stage lights glowing on the rocks and the stars twinkling above, the music takes on a depth beyond the strictly aural. And lest we forget, Red Rocks is a damn fine park in the traditional sense, too, drawing local hikers, bikers and sightseers with its miles of trails, which link to the Jefferson County park system. Meanwhile, dedicated exercise groups turn the empty amphitheater into an outdoor gym during the daylight hours.

Whether you're a native or just passing through, you haven't really seen Denver until you've seen it from the seat of a scooter, hair flying, on one of those sunny Colorado days. But you don't have to commit to a Vespa of your own in order to try it: At ScooTours, you can rent one for a day, on the condition that you know how to ride a bike, are eighteen or older and have a valid driver's license. With every rental comes a "scootorial," if needed, and tour-loop suggestions to suit your personality are available for the asking. Caveat: No drinking — or inhaling — allowed while aboard a ScooTours vehicle; ScooTours recommends that you save it for later. Oh, and however cool they might make you look as you zoom through the streets, leave those six-inch stilettos at home.

Lakeside Amusement Park, a turn-of-the-last-century landmark that runs along the banks of Lake Rhoda, offers the ideal setting for a mid-summer date night. The park is full of excuses to get close to your darling: share a seat on the Ferris wheel or Skoota Boats, or get adventurous and take a shaky ride on the infamous Wild Chipmunk or historic Cyclone coasters. Then romance your sweetie with a soft-serve twist cone under Lakeside's art-deco neon strips and incandescent bulbs as they blink against the evening sky. Whatever you do, don't forget to take advantage of the most romantic attraction of all: a trip around the lake together in a petite version of a narrow-gauge rail car.

Urban pools are usually rectangular holes in the ground made of concrete and filled with chlorinated water (and sometimes leaves, lost toys and empty Cheetos bags). But when Denver Parks and Recreation decided to remake the outdoor pool next to the La Alma Recreation Center, which sits in a neighborhood chock-full of kids, it went far beyond an ordinary rectangle. Though there are still six lanes where lap swimmers can front-crawl calories away, the pool also sports a diving board and a twisty-tunnel water slide so tall that adults brave enough to give it a whirl have been known to whoop with joy when the ride is over. The pool also has an exemplary kiddie area, complete with things that rain water down, things that spit water up, a padded toddler slide and a freaking whirlpool — which is big enough for grownups, too. Not that we'd know or anything.

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