Herons and foxes and muskrats, oh, my! You're likely to see them and much more at the Wetland Park, the Heron Pond, Bluff Lake Nature Center and the Morrison Nature Center, all of which can be found alongside the Sand Creek Regional Greenway, a fourteen-mile trail that goes from Commerce City to Aurora via Denver and Stapleton, with parking at either end and several points along the way. With connections to the High Line Canal and the South Platte River Greenway, Sand Creek is paved in parts and lined with gravel in others, which makes for a serene and scenic nature ride, in sections running right next to its namesake waterway. Check the website for navigation details — this is an urban trail, so construction occasionally calls for detours — and keep an eye out for joggers and horses.

sandcreekgreenway.org

Readers' Choice: Cherry Creek Trail

Lucky Bikes Re-Cyclery
Lucky Bikes Re-Cyclery

Lucky Bikes is the local hub for Trips for Kids Denver Metro, part of a national string of nonprofits providing bike-related opportunities for young people. Trips for Kids keeps at-risk youths ages ten and up rolling in several ways: first, by sending them on daylong mountain-biking adventures; second, by teaching them bicycle-maintenance skills and safety rules in order to rebuild and earn a bike of their own; and third, by employing high-school students in the shop. Along with being a training ground, Lucky Bikes is also a used-bike store, offering repair services and refurbished wheels to the public. What goes around comes around.

Golden Bike Library
City of Golden

There's no denying that Denver's B-cycle bike-sharing program is a boon, but what if, instead of B-cycle's somewhat pricey, one-size-fits-all model, you could borrow a bike that's just your size and style and ride it for free for the first two hours? That's the difference at Visit Golden's bike library, located at the downtown Golden Visitors Center, where your whole family can hop on a bike from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays during the summer and fall months. Daily rentals beyond the two-hour period top off at $10, and there are provisions to return bikes after hours if you want to stop for dinner. Each bike comes with a helmet, a lock, a free water bottle and a golden ticket offering discounts at Golden businesses. And even if it's more of an amenity for tourists and not really intended for use by hard-core daily commuters, a deal's a deal.

Chocolate Spokes
Chocolate Spokes Facebook

Bike shops can be chilly places where dude-bro hipster mechanics make customers feel stupid. Fancy chocolate shops can be snooty, too. Ski and snowboard stores — you guessed it, the same. Fortunately, cyclists, skiers, snowboarders and chocolate gourmands alike have a home at Chocolate Spokes, an unpretentious Five Points shop where community-minded decency reigns. As you wait for your bike or skis to be fixed, you can nosh on creative chocolate made in the U.S. The mechanics are skilled and friendly, whether helping you fix a flat tire, tuning up your rusty old bike, waxing your board or making major repairs; they'll treat you like a real person while offering first-rate service.

The Urban Cyclist
Google Maps

"People come in and say something like, 'I just want to ride [a bike] to work, ditch my car. I want to ride it to the restaurant or the bars,'" says Urban Cyclist owner Darrin Duran. "Two things will happen: Either they just use it for that, or they turn into complete fucking bike nerds." The Urban Cyclist isn't a bike shop; it's a lifestyle. The unique and oh-so-Denver shop cultivates a commuter, fixie lifestyle. Urban's Pac Man machine welcomes you to the RiNo warehouse space, which is a decked-out, bustling bike heaven. The large warehouse walls are covered in every color rim, accessory, frame, cruiser, chain, pedal and seat you can imagine. You won't find any cliché hipster decor or arrogance from employees. Instead, you'll be welcomed into a healthy way of life and leave inspired to ride your bike everywhere.

Turin Bike Shop
Turin Bike Shop Facebook

For 46 years, Turin Bike Shop has been a reliable and outstanding specialty bike shop for all types of riders, mountain or road, and has offered a healthy selection of imported gear. The oldest bike shop in the Mile High City is actually a transplant: Turin began in Chicago in 1965 and rode into Denver in 1971. Original president Alan Fine still runs things, but what makes Turin truly special is all the crazy imports from Italy and the great customer service. Its best-selling road bikes are Italian performers Bianchi (known as the "best bike in the world" and the oldest: The company was founded in Milan 125 years ago) and Wilier Triestina, among others.

Denver Bicycle Cafe

The Denver Bicycle Cafe sells and repairs bikes, but this shop is special because it serves up so much more: coffee, local brews and baked goods here and there, to be specific. Yes, there are beards everywhere, but you'll love the speed at which these bike repairmen work. No matter how busy it gets, you're always treated kindly and taken care of quickly. The bike shop is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 to 5 on Sundays. The cafe is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day and transforms into a beer hall from 3 p.m. to midnight, catering to damn near every kind of human, making it a popular hangout in the Uptown neighborhood. Bike, beer and coffee snobs come together as one, and if that isn't Denver, we don't know what is.

Tight switchbacks, long, slow, steady climbing, challenging steps and water bars, technical rocky sections through the trees — all hallmarks of a great gonzo mountain-bike ride. Bergen Peak is a 9.4-mile (round-trip) Jeffco open-space gem with a little bit of everything. It makes riders work hard for the rewards, which include killer views of the surrounding mountains from the flat stretch at the top, and a very, very fast descent. In addition to the Bergen Peak Trail itself, there are about a half-dozen other trails that can be linked up for more mileage and fast fun. But keep your head up: Elk and deer are everywhere here.

Elk Park Trailhead on Stagecoach Parkway, Evergreen

Readers' Choice: Buffalo Creek Recreation Area

Not only does Esters Neighborhood Pub serves some of the best pizza in town, but it's also designed to maximize the enjoyment of sports, with TVs visible from every vantage point and a hip neighborhood feel. Need a break from the cheering? Head out to the inviting deck for some fresh air and the quiet of the surrounding Virginia Village neighborhood. And if you have a big group and want some private time, the back room, called Sully's, has eight TVs and communal tables — perfect for a party. Brunch is the bomb, with a killer plate of chicken and waffles, and beer is the preferred beverage here, with 22 craft versions on tap.

1950 South Holly Street

303-955-4904

estersdenver.com

Readers' Choice: Blake Street Tavern

Watching the game puts us in a competitive mood, so when there's a break in the action, we like to be at Gibby's, which not only has pool tables, air hockey, shuffleboard and video games, but also a nice selection of board games. Out in that big back yard, there's volleyball, soccer, cornhole and beer pong. It all feels like a get-together with friends from the neighborhood. No matter where you are inside, you can see a TV, and the pub-grub menu — including a top-notch Cubano and shards of deep-fried onion and jalapeño called "toothpicks" — go well with the twelve beers on tap.

Readers' Choice: Blake Street Tavern

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