By Julie Bielenberg
In early October, I found myself cruising about 23 miles south of Denver to the Highlands Ranch Community Association’s Backcountry Wilderness Area. With easy access off of Santa Fe Drive, the 8, 200 acres of protected space is somewhat of a mystery, at least for many of us in the city or Northern suburbs.
My daughter, infant son, and I joined the five-member Backcountry staff and a couple other families and headed out on a horse-drawn hayride to survey the landscape and all it’s wonder. The weather was close to 80 degrees in October, the colors of Aspen’s yellows, the Maple’s red, and the drawn green of the long summer grasses were spectacular.
There are 26 miles of trails, on the north and east side of the property, for people to navigate on their own, however, the majority of the 13-square-mile area requires a staff member guide. The guided nature programs include hayrides, birthday parties, summer camps, school events, archery, horse trail rides, and even hunting to manage the area’s growing elk population. But why do they keep it out of the public’s direct contact? This keeps human impact to a minimum and maintains a refuge for wildlife.
Come dawn and dusk will be your best opportunity to participate in one of the most popular park activities, wildlife viewing. Elk, mule deer, bear, mountain lion, eagles, coyote, porcupine, bobcat, and much more are at home in this area. You can see all of these critters weekly on #trailcamtuesday at the Backcountry’s Facebook page, before you come out to see them for yourself.
So when you and your family are looking for that quick escape to nature, just outside the city, check out the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Wilderness Area. Get ready for a deep breath of fresh air just a few minutes from home.
Backcountry Wilderness Area Basecamp
6005 Ron King Drive, Littleton, 80125
Julie Bielenberg is a Denver-based writer. She contributes over 50 stories per year to various outlets including: AAA, Cowboys & Indians, Colorado Homes & Lifestyles, The MotherList, Mountain Magazine, Mile High Mamas, Colorado & Mountain Meetings + Events, and many more. She is the State’s #1 agritourism writer, covering more ground and events and publishing in more outlets than any other Coloradan. She travels in search of fields, farms, families and more. Sometimes . . . she finds herself in often uncovered, or understated locales. Follow her at slowandgo.org for her travels and adventures and on instagram and facebook @slowandgotraveler.
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