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Adjacent to several state and national parks, diversity is the name of the game in Denver and the surrounding area. There are lakes, creeks, dense stands of trees, open fields, canyons and foothills. With all the varied terrain, Denver is home to a variety of wildlife—foxes, coyotes, mule and occasionally white-tailed deer, black bears, owls, hawks, eagles and various migratory waterfowl. Even in my neighborhood in the western suburbs, I see foxes, coyotes, skunks and even mule deer on a regular basis. The state and city parks offer a much wider sample of animals, however, like Roxborough State Park, which is a gem! Just south of Denver, the park has dramatic sandstone formations, rolling hills and lots of wildlife—mule deer, black bears, red and gray foxes, mountain lions and golden eagles. (Hiking the trails gives you the best opportunities, but you also can find lots of photo ops from the car.) Alternatively, the Mount Evans Wilderness Area is my summer home. Just a few miles west of Denver, it offers easy access to alpine critters like pikas and marmots, with mountain goats as one of the main attractions. (Kids are born in early June and start making their appearance around mid-June.) You also can easily find bighorns, short-tailed weasels, ptarmigan, and even elk and mule deer. The road up to Mount Evans is open only in the summer.
It’s Colorado—hot in the summer, mild (usually) in the fall and spring, and cold (from around freezing to “Holy Crap!” depending upon the most recent front) in the winter. There’s also mild to moderate snowfall from fall through spring, though snow usually melts quickly. Most wildlife is active year-round.
The best photography kit for an excursion can be as diverse as Denver. Many of the areas I frequent (the backcountry and horse trails of the local parks) are under heavy tree cover or behind large ridges, blocking the sun for much of the morning, so a fast lens can be beneficial for the low-light conditions that persist even in the day. (My most commonly used lens is a 300mm ƒ/2.8.) A sturdy tripod can be useful, not only for steadying the camera in low light, but because cold fingers are shaky fingers. Chemical heating packs can be a life-saver on cold mornings. My favorite photographic accessory is a pair of knee pads; knee pads are the best $30 investment I ever made.
Denver is great year-round, and each season has its own special charm. In the summer, I stay on Mount Evans where temperatures are easily 50º cooler than Denver. The alpine wildlife is plentiful and easy to access. As soon as fall arrives, temperatures start to become more bearable, and I spend time in the state parks, primarily looking for black bears. In the winter, I spend most of my time in the city parks, seeking foxes and coyotes in the snow and on the frozen lakes.
Contact: Learn more about the area at the VISIT DENVER Convention and Visitors Bureau website, www.denver.org.