If dogs could describe their perfect off-leash park experience, they'd certainly include plenty of room to run, a creek to splash in and drink from, and lots of smelly things. For humans, the description is more likely to include shade, hiking trails, benches, restrooms and a place for little dogs to feel safe. The 25-acre Bear Creek Dog Park is all of that and more: In addition to the small stretch of Bear Creek that runs through it, the tree-lined (read: stick-filled) park offers doggie drinking fountains and clean-up spots, plenty of poop-bag stations, an agility training area, and two acres for seniors and smalls. The park also hosts themed community poop pick-up days, such as April Stools.

communityservices.elpaso.com

Teaching kids to fish requires enthusiasm, patience — and an easy return to the car in case of bad weather or temper tantrums. Blackrock Lake and the adjacent Red Tail and Eagle Watch lakes in South Platte Park are close-to-home spots where kids can learn to fish and just spend time outside. There's no charge to access the lakes, and anglers under sixteen don't need a license. There are pit toilets near the parking lots. Those lots fill up with cyclists accessing the South Platte River Trail/Mary Carter Greenway, so arrive early...or as early as preschoolers and tweens can manage.

ssprd.org

Skip Colorado's most popular fisheries, like the Frying Pan River or the South Platte, and opt for a session on Clear Creek instead. The "Golden Mile" — a stretch of water that runs from Vanover Park in downtown Golden to Grant Terry Park on the other side of town — was restored in 2009, resulting in some primo trout habitat. The fish don't get as big here as they do in bigger rivers, but you should find plenty of feisty brown trout ready to tango (the go-to dry fly is the elk-hair caddis). There are also turnoffs on Highway 6 up Clear Creek Canyon; the best have walk-in access to sections of the river that diverge from the road, offering more secluded angling.

Jefferson County

Trout are a lot like humans: When it gets cold out, they tend to get lazy. This is especially true in mountain streams, where they go nearly dormant in cold weather. Fly anglers are better off fishing tailwaters (the sections of rivers just below the dam of a reservoir), and the Arkansas River Tailwater boasts the best winter fishery in the state. In fact, the Arkansas actually fishes better in winter than in summer. Nymphing is the can't-lose tactic here, but keep your eye out for dry-fly hatches. If you're willing to brave the cold, expect to hook sixteen- to twenty-inch rainbows. Looking to target warm-water species? The Pueblo Reservoir is a great spot for walleye, wiper, catfish, bass and crappie.

Nothing says fishing like a night spent soaking bait for channel catfish — and there's a damn good lake for it in Aurora. The 880-acre reservoir at Cherry Creek State Park offers anglers a chance to target America's favorite whiskered bottom-feeders, which are notorious for getting the late-night munchies. Wrap some chicken liver in old pantyhose and stick it on a circle hook, then chuck the bait out as far as you can and wait for your rod to tremble. (Pro tip: Use a loud strike indicator in case you doze off.) The park closes each night, but rangers will let you stay if you're fishing; after all, the catfish may not start biting until 2 a.m.

cpw.state.co.us

Colorado's newest state park offers an innovative way to let wheelchair users enjoy the outdoors. Special motorized chairs on treads let visitors with limited mobility explore certain trails, reach fishing ponds and see wildlife in the actual wild. Volunteers accompany users and their families to help them safely maneuver the specially equipped chairs, which are free to use with a daily parks pass. The park will start taking reservations for the chairs on May 1 at its website.

cpw.state.co.us

Colorado boasts 41 state parks, each more beautiful than the last, but some just stick with you long after you visit. Mueller State Park is one such place, a cliché of a picture postcard, with its panoramic views of Pikes Peak, miles of aspens and evergreens, springs burbling into wildflower-quilted meadows, and granite rock outcroppings spread all over its 5,000 acres. Elk frequently wander across this exquisite expanse, visitors spot the occasional black bear, and the only thing more abundant than the mule deer are the photographers hunched over their tripods, trying to capture it all.

cpw.state.co.us

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