Best Thirteener 2018 | Pacific Peak | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Flickr/Jon Holm

Savvy mountaineers know that it's not just about the Fourteener checklist; many of the Thirteeners in Colorado are harder and far more interesting. Pacific Peak in Arapaho National Forest falls into that category, and has the bonus of Pacific Tarn, the highest lake in the country, which sits at 13,420 feet on the way to the summit at 13,950 (which, by the way, makes it one of Colorado's so-called Centennial Thirteeners, the state's hundred highest). Located not far from Quandary, Pacific takes hikers past two abandoned mines and several lakes tucked into glorious high-alpine meadows, and also offers ice climbers two challenging couloirs. The four ridges at the top — choose your route carefully, because each ridge approach varies from moderate to expert in skill level, and all of them require some route-finding — are exposed and rocky, but slow-and-steady to the talus field results in a straight shot at Quandary, the Tarn and the whole Tenmile Range.

Readers' Choice: Dallas Peak

Tenmile Range

Flickr/Greg Younger

Just like Thirteeners, Twelvers are often overlooked because they're not Fourteeners. The highest summit in the Vasquez Mountains, which sit on the Continental Divide, the 12,947-foot-high Vasquez Peak is a true hidden gem, a mostly easygoing stroll on an old mining road and well-cut trail through forests of spruce and fir, krummholz and endless fields of wildflowers, interspersed with a few steep, rocky segments. Far fewer crowds and the flora and fauna of the surrounding wilderness areas are definite draws, but the best part of this hike is the 360-degree vista at the easily attained summit, including the Indian Peaks and Gore Range, as well as Pettingell Peak, Hassell Peak, Mount Machebeuf, Bard Peak, Mount Evans, Grays and Torreys, and even Longs Peak in the distance. Translation: Don't forget the camera.

Vasquez Mountains

It takes only one class to earn your wings at Atherial Fitness. The aerial fitness studio offers yoga, barre and dance classes, most of which incorporate aerial silks — long strips of fabric that allow fliers to hang from the ceiling while getting a serious workout. Work your core and raise your heart rate in Atherial HIIT and Aerial Core. Use the silks to elevate your yoga practice, and find yourself in inversions after a few flow classes. After flying from one pose to another, lower the silk hammock closer to the ground and settle in for Atherial's more restorative classes. Learn aerial choreography in DanceFly, or take signature barre moves to the air in Barrefly. Once you get the hang of it, fly solo during open gym sessions.

iFLY Denver Facebook page

Ever wonder what it's like to free fall from a 12,500-foot drop zone? iFLY's vertical wind tunnel looks like something out of a 1980s sci-fi flick. Giant fans create a cushion of air that propels fliers skyward, at a speed adjusted to a flier's body weight, as professional guides coach participants through their flights. In fact, iFLY's wind tunnel is so realistic that professional skydivers and military personnel frequent the Lone Tree site for training purposes. A first-time flier package includes a pre-flight training session, all necessary flight gear, instruction and hands-on assistance. The experience takes an hour and a half start to finish, and fliers who want to soar toward the top of the tunnel can add on an exhilarating "high flight" for $9.95.

City of Westminster

The winner in 2017, Westminster Hills is still the champ. Dogs love it for its muddy canal and swimming ponds, its 420 acres of meandering trails and wide-open roaming space, its drinking fountain, and its opportunities to chase the occasional prairie dog. Their people love the shady benches, the gorgeous views of the Front Range, the hiking feel of the space, and the fact that pups usually pass out from exhaustion soon after they leave. The park is kept extra-clean by regular poop-pickup events, and abundant baggies and trash cans help, too. If Fido is a bolter, be aware that there are fenceless areas, but it's easy to avoid them if you head toward the center. Not enough of a workout? Put the leash back on and head to nearby Standley Lake.

Readers' Choice: Westminster Hills

A good dog bar should first and foremost be a fun place for all involved, and Forest Room 5 fits that description and then some. With a pet-friendly outdoor space designed to resemble a campfire circle — albeit one with comfy hewn-log seats, a little stream running through it, and the fire itself nestled in lava rocks — and meats on the grill making pooches and their humans drool, this happy-hour hot spot is convivial and laid-back, and the staff is particularly accommodating of furry friends. The medium-crust pizzas, the gooey mac and cheese made salty with bacon, and the freshly steeped sangria are all stellar.

Mark Antonation

Open Thursday through Sunday only, the super-friendly Switchback is perfect for pooches and their people fresh off a hike and hungry — particularly those following a Paleo diet. The pets-welcome patio offers picnic tables and a picturesque setting next to Bear Creek, and the smokehouse results in some of the best barbecue around, from sweet-and-salty smoked bacon to juicy smoked duck to peppery, paper-thin brisket (get the grilled asparagus, too). Spot is never going to love you more than when you're slipping him some of your 'cue — if you can bring yourself to share.

Courtesy Willis Case Golf Course Facebook page

Over the years, Willis Case has done nothing but improve, from a $4 million clubhouse remodel to a more recent upgrade to the on-course bathrooms. Less than ten minutes from downtown, the entire course, part of the Denver Golf family, offers a view that spans the Front Range from Pikes Peak to Longs, which makes for some spectacular play (good luck concentrating on the ball after the panorama of the first tee). This is kind of an everyman course, though; the medium-slow greens, open fairways and no water make it hard to lose a ball here, and lavish landscaping all around, plus strong stands of pine that provide shady rest stops and plenty of parking, add up to an above-par experience. Not to mention that the fees are $28 weekdays and $40 on weekends.

Readers' Choice: Arrowhead Golf Club

Ironbridge Golf Club Facebook page

Tom Lehman revamped the original Arthur Hills design of this Glenwood Springs gem in 2014, which resulted in cutting back the bunkers from seventy to forty and a kinder, gentler back nine (though still a rugged series that starts off with four holes known as the "Lost Horizon"). In stark contrast to the meadows of the front nine, the back comes with rock walls, a drive across a ravine, deep gullies and jaw-dropping views across the Roaring Fork Valley, including of Mount Sopris. You'll get more of a workout here than golf is known for — the steep course, with its fast greens and sweeping slopes, gains 495 vertical feet before the twelfth tee — and be prepared for the sand, water and tall grasses that will try to take your ball. The only public course in Glenwood Springs, Ironbridge is also meticulously maintained, and the practice facility is top-notch. Also, did we mention that it's in Glenwood Springs? There's a soak in your future.

Readers' Choice: Fossil Trace Golf Course

Colorado Journey Miniature Golf Facebook page

We're talking about new arrivals here, because the aptly named Colorado Journey is a little trip through some of the Centennial State's best-known attractions. Two eighteen-hole courses, each xeriscaped with native plants and individually themed, depict must-see spots for the just-arrived, including Garden of the Gods, the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, Eisenhower Tunnel, St. Elmo and the Cripple Creek Mine. Some holes have water features or other hazards, and the scorecards offer reading material on the sites, so you can get educated while your friend takes forever lining up a shot. Check it out at sunset, another Colorado icon, and don't forget to take notes on which places you want to visit soon.

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