Thirty minutes west of Denver is Evergreen. It’s a pleasant escape that doesn’t take too long to travel to or explore, as its main area of town is only a quarter to a third of a mile long. Fir-covered hills and a few craggy mountains surround its sparkling water. When people think of a mountain town setting, this town wouldn’t be too far off from their imagination.
While training for races, I came up here to run the trails in its half-dozen open space parks during the late spring, summer and early fall, including my favorite, Elk Meadow. I’ll still visit them, but I will hike or walk/run as I’ve gotten older, and my knees aren’t what they used to be. The upside is I can now slow down, appreciate the scenery more, and tune in to the sounds of nature.
Around town, I’ve discovered a few places to have a great meal, which I wrote about a year and a half ago. Now I’m going to let you know about one of the best places to go there, and it’s right in the center of town – Evergreen Lake
In the mountains, owned by Denver
The city and county of Denver owns the 55-acre area surrounding Evergreen Lake. Back in 1914, a man named Charles Vail worked with the city’s water department to build a dam. His plan was to create a lake from Bear Creek, which would provide water for the growing city down on the plains and a mountain park area.
Even with this arrangement, Evergreen exerts local control and runs the lake and park. They have made sure that there is plenty of recreation for visitors to enjoy. After having been in the area for over two decades, I’ve curated a few of those activities you can enjoy both at specific times of the year and all year round.
The 1.5-mile trail that rims the lake is a fantastic place to walk, run, and enjoy a picturesque mountain view. Part of it is packed dirt, and part is boardwalk. A small section closest to town has a dip that descends and ascends on either side of the dam by the staircase and crosses two footbridges. A concrete spur trail leads into town. Other trails connect to Dedisse Park and a few residential areas. But it’s a treat to trek around the lake.
Paddleboarding, watercraft and fishing
During the late spring to mid-fall months, visitors can rent or take their own stand-up paddleboards onto the lake. If you’re a little balance challenged, you can always rent rowboats, kayaks or paddlewheel craft. If fishing is your thing, obtain a Parks and Wildlife license and catch some rainbow trout, which can only be for catch-and-release. Most fishers hang out around the lake’s perimeter, but float tubes are allowed.
On the south end of the lake is an eighteen-hole executive (short length) course that is somewhat challenging, as it has rolling hills and few hazards. I’ve only played there once when I golfed and got most drives down the fairways. Like the lake itself, the city of Denver owns the course. There is a clubhouse restaurant, but I recommend going into town for better food. However, it’s good for post-game drinks.
The winter rink
From late December to late February (naturally, depending on how cold it is), the lake freezes and gets thick enough to support an outdoor skating area. There is one large portion for ice skating and about a dozen smaller areas for ice hockey. If you’re the type of skater who needs guardrails to stop or steady yourself while you skate, the rink doesn’t have them, so brush up on those skills. But it is an enjoyable winter experience.