Best Outdoor Shooting Range 2021 | Colorado Clays Shooting Park | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Love blasting things out of the sky? Whether you're interested in sporting clays, skeet or trap, Colorado Clays Shooting Park, on the outskirts of north Denver, is a must-visit destination for shotgun enthusiasts. But the park, which sports a variety of classes and even party packages, also has offerings for rifle and pistol shooters. There are classes for beginners through masters, as well as some targeting women and youth. Don't have the gear to shoot? No worries: You can rent a gun and buy ammo and eye/ear protection on site.

Urban hikes have a reputation for being short, one-day jaunts around a park. Not so with the historic High Line Canal trail, which ventures through eleven municipalities, starting in Waterton Canyon in Douglas County and continuing for 71 miles to Green Valley Ranch in northeast Denver. Coursing alongside cottonwood banks, the trail takes hikers through parks, golf courses, cemeteries and more. And although more than 500,000 people use the trail each year and roughly 350,000 people live within a mile of it, there are plenty of spots where city hikers can find a bit of much-needed solitude.

A stone's throw from Denver, the first segment of the Colorado Trail takes you up a semi-accessible dirt road from Littleton into Waterton Canyon and on to the epic, 200-some-feet-high Strontia Springs Dam. The scenery here turns spectacular fast. Although the wide trail — which doubles as a road for Denver Water — is often packed with mountain bikers and hikers, dogs aren't allowed. But the throngs trekking into the canyon for the relatively easy walk (800 feet of elevation gain over 12.4 miles out and back) share the corridor with deer, Bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bears and golden eagles.

There is no shortage of magnificent camping in Colorado, and the state and federal park systems offer terrific options. But if you're looking for a one-of-a-kind memorable experience, make a reservation at Sedalia's Everland Eco-Retreat and Immersive Art Park. At this new facility, you can submerge yourself in narrative-based installations and landscapes, try out a variety of adventures, and explore the surrounding streams, ponds and forests while camping — or even glamping. No, this isn't your average rustic trip into the backcountry, but it's a chance to connect with the environment and your community through art, yoga, wellness and play.

676 Pine Creek Road, Sedalia

During the pandemic, many of us got hooked on the solitary, safe activity of fishing. And when we wanted to escape the cares and concerns of the all-too-real world, there was no better place to take the plunge than Cheesman Reservoir. After a scenic drive along Highway 285, then down Jefferson County Road 126 and forest Service Road 211, a quick hike takes you to the dam, named for Denver water pioneer Walter Cheesman. It was the world's tallest when it was completed in 1905, and acquired by Denver Water in 1918. But while it remains an engineering marvel, we're most intrigued by the fishing hole below the dam, on the scenic Goose Creek Arm Trail, where you're almost guaranteed to bag a big Northern pike — and plenty of alone time.

Yes, there are smarter places to go swimming in metro Denver than Confluence Park. But is there anywhere that's more fun? People will warn you that the water's not safe and that syringes and broken glass cover the ground — and they're probably right. Still, on a blistering summer day, cooling off where the South Platte River and Cherry Creek collide is just what the doctor ordered. Keep your shoes on, don't drink the water, and plan on showering after your dip. But when you do take the plunge, know that swimming at that spot is a tradition that long pre-dates Denver's founding, and it's one that won't go away any time soon.

With 21 percent of its trails marked as beginner, Copper Mountain makes itself known as a ski resort that wants to get you started. West Ten Mile is one of its most forgiving and widest green runs, and it's usually so much less crowded than other easy runs that it's a veritable boulevard of unbroken (read: ungroomed) dreams on a powder day. Take the Kokomo lift to the Lumberjack lift, then get ready to practice carving those turns. Go ahead and face-plant, because everyone else is a beginner, too, and they're at least a football field away. And if you get tired of being a gaper (that's you, newbie, and the "gaper gap" is a telltale sign: Your helmet should be snug against those goggles), you can head to the tubing hill for guaranteed top-to-bottom thrills with no spills.

A longtime favorite of both locals and out-of-towners, the Pallavicini (aka Pali) lift has held a special place in their cold, wind-shredded hearts, even more so now that the circa 1978 lift has been retired. But fear not: The new chair is a double with a capacity of 1,200 peeps per hour, which means even more expert-level skiers and shredders can take advantage of Gauthier, a 46-degree monster pitch that's known locally as 5th Alley. Adding to the fun is its crazy-narrow lane; you'll often see skiers double-checking their bindings as they wait to drop in. Find this rocky, raucous gully by cutting across the snow fence off the lift, then start down the 4th Alley (another fun chute), and keep your goggles peeled for signs to Gauthier. Godspeed.

During a season when many skiers were looking for solitude — and trying to avoid making new friends in lift lines — uphill skiing became increasingly popular. And while almost any slope could look inviting to those willing to tackle the climb, Aspen definitely made uphill skiers feel welcome, with all four of the area's mountains — Aspen, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk — allowing uphill skiing during operational hours (with some variation on the rules because of COVID), along with two-day uphilling clinics and America's Uphill Race in March. It's all downhill from here!

It may not be part of one of the famous hut systems that traverse the state, but Weston Pass Hut, situated between Leadville and Fairplay, is every bit as comfortable and cool a backcountry experience (it's got all the hut basics and sleeps twenty) as those better-known mountain shelters. In true hut fashion, it requires a bit of a haul — via skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles or snowcat — to access in winter, with views of Mount Holy Cross and endless open sky en route. In summer, though, the hike or bike to this cozy, rustic lodging at 11,950 feet offers high-alpine wildflower-blanketed meadows and random wildlife sightings. Even better is that the owners — mostly longtime Leadville locals — constructed the solar-powered structure using earth for three of the walls and the roof.

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