I have wanted to check out the Lookout Mountain Nature Preserve for a couple of years now, so I finally made the time to do so with my sons last week. The preserve is free and open to the public, offering some great views of the Denver metro valley. It is roughly a 40-minute drive from Parker without traffic. Take C-470 to westbound I-70, then take exit 256 for Lookout Mountain and follow the signs. The road will wind around for a couple of miles until you reach the top.
The center itself is quite nice with lots of hands on nature displays and a knowledgeable staff. You can pick up a trail map either inside the center or at the information kiosks outside the building entrance. Both hiking trails are easy and under a mile in length which makes it ideal for younger children.
When we arrived at 11:00 we were already racing against the building thunderstorm clouds to the west, so we did not loiter for fear of lightning strikes or getting soaked in a downpour. We were able to see downtown Denver and most of the surrounding area before the clouds rolled over. It took us only 20 minutes to hike the Meadow Loop Trail. Along the way, there are many descriptive signs about various flowers, plants, trees and animals. If we had had more time, we would’ve stopped to read more of these. If you go earlier in the morning you have a better chance to see bigger wildlife like deer or possibly elk. We saw a two hummingbirds, other birds, beetles and butterflies. Inside the nature center, they have a video display of images captured on their motion-activated cameras of larger animals visiting the preserve at night such as bears, skunks, foxes and mountain lions.
Next door to the nature center is the beautiful Boettcher Mansion, which was the summer vacation home of Charles Boettcher from around 1920 to 1948. It was later bequeathed to Jefferson County for public use in the 1970’s. Visitors are welcome to tour the home provided there isn’t a wedding or other private event being held at the time. At the end of our hike, we ducked inside the mansion to walk around and look over the photographs and historical information they display about the Boettcher family as well as life in early Denver. We learned many things including that the Boettcher family’s main residence in downtown Denver was also donated to the state in 1958 and was turned into the current Governor’s Mansion.
It began to rain soon after we exited the Boettcher Mansion, so we ended up having our picnic lunch in the car versus using the nice picnic tables next to the nature center building. We debated driving over to the nearby Buffalo Bill area, but decided to head for home to avoid more storms. All told, it was a fun and informative day trip well worth the visit. For more information, check out these links.
Super special thank you to Chrisy Schulz for the great summer article about hiking on the Front Range with her family. Thanks Chrisy! We are always looking for fun things to do with out kids.