Top of the Town 2023: sports, outdoor activities and fitness

Editors Choice

The best fitness studio/gym

Collective fit

When the pandemic hit, Natalie Baumchen ran fitness programs for Denver Parks and Recreation. That is to say, her life’s work came to an abrupt halt. Rather than let her kids melt into their couches, however, Baumchen designed an exercise streaming service for the city and county that ultimately drew 13,000 attendees in just seven weeks. Seeing how much people craved the action, Baumchen decided to take her approach to a wider audience and founded Fit Collective in November 2020 as a virtual studio. And when that paid off, she expanded again in 2021, pouring her savings into a shiny new 2,000-square-foot physical space in the Clayton neighborhood. Today, Fit Collective offers 35 in-studio classes a week, 18 live virtual classes each week, and more than 80 on-demand sessions through its website, ranging from yoga to kickboxing to weightlifting.

While all of these options are nice, it became perfectly clear to us 10 minutes into a post-work, studio Grit class (endurance-focused circuit training) that, with Baumchen, medium doesn’t matter. The studio has 18 certified instructors, but the founder was teaching our session. And though our quads were burning, we felt energized, motivated, and not at all out of our league—a rarity for those of us in our 40s. He corrected clients form when they needed it, encouraged them when they really needed it, and maintained as needed you have this vibe somehow keeping the experience cool and, dare we say, fun. While the classes are very demanding even for elite athletes, people who are new to fitness, prenatal or postpartum, who have recovered from an injury, or need extra attention seem to gravitate to my studio because the method of education employed by staff is very inclusive, says Baumchen. Fitness phobes, welcome home.

The best local outdoor equipment store

Neptune Alpinism

Boulders’ renowned gear hub celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year, a milestone made possible by ongoing retail revolutions that are hyper-focused on serving the Front Rangers’ expanding outdoor needs.

1973: Gary Neptune, an avid climber with a résumé filled with formidable ski and summit successes (including Mount Everest), opens a small mountaineering shop in Boulder that repairs climbing and ski boots and allows the owner to indulge in adventurers.

Late 70s: Neptune begins building its signature mountaineering museum within the store, which will house illustrious artifacts such as Sir Edmund Hillary’s Everest summit boots, a puffer jacket worn on the first non-oxygenated ascent of Mt. Everest and examples of the evolution of the Chouinard carabiner.

A Neptune mountaineering boot from Sir Edmund Hillary’s Everest summit. Photo by Paul Miller

About 1980: Neptune welcomes outdoor leaders through a series of informal speakers. They include icons such as Peter Habeler and Reinhold Messner (the first climbers to summit Everest without Os) as well as other athletes who lecture on conservation.

1993: After several location changes, the store landed in its current location, a cavernous space in a South Boulder strip mall. Neptune expands its inventory by stocking more traditional outdoor gear.

2013: Neptune retires and sells to Texas-based Backwoods Retail. But after four years of declining business due in part to disconnected customers with absentee owners, Backwoods files for bankruptcy.

2017: Furthering an ambitious revitalization plan, Boulder residents and longtime Neptune customers Andrew and Shelley Dunbar purchase the store and invest $1 million in renovations. Upgrades include a café, climbing wall, and the Neptune Lab, a startup incubator for local, open-air businesses.

2021: After being restored to its former glory, Neptune is purchased by Bob Wade and Maile Spung, owners of another independent Colorado clothing store, Aspens Ute Mountaineer.

2022: The semi-regular Thursday evening speaker engagements are back, with seminars, skills drills and film screenings.

Upper Park

Denver has more than 250 city parks, which means picking the best one is hard enough even before you consider the wilder retreats just beyond the city limits. In fact, it was so difficult to choose between city and suburban getaways that we decided against it.

Photo by Lisa Seaman/Tandem Stills + Motion

In the city

Inspiration Point Park

In the spring of 2022, Denver Parks and Recreation filed a $2.5 million overhaul that restored its luster to this hidden gem, which has been perched above Northwest Denver since 1910. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Inspiration Point now boasts a modern, nature-inspired playground which is divided into areas for young and old children and resides in a meadow surrounded by evergreen trees. Those pines provide a curtain from urban distractions without obscuring what has drawn residents here for more than a century: a killer panoramic view of the Front Range.

In suburbs

Bear den

Thirty minutes from downtown Denver near the quaint Morrisons main drag, Lair o the Bear is a loot temple that residents of Mile High City can indulge in on a weekend. Need a kid-friendly hiking or mountain bike trail? Bruin Bluff is a 1.5 mile walk that winds along a lush, picturesque hillside. Want a tougher challenge? Enjoy a 12.6-mile round trip on the Bear Creek Trail, which passes through three Denver Mountain Parks. Trout await anglers in the clear waters of Bear Creek, while shady woodlands welcome picnickers. Bonus: A new biker-only trail, the four-mile Rutabaga Trail, opened last spring.

Reader’s choice

Fitness room/gym

Transversal fitness

2449 S. Broadway | 303-733-0303

Golf course

The golf club at Bear Dance

6630 Bear Dance Drive | 303-681-4653

Hike within 90 minutes of Denver

Mount Galbraith loop

21992 Golden Gate Canyon Road | 303-271-5925

Local outdoor equipment shop

Fierce Denver

3936 Tennyson St. | 303-903-8584


Washington park

Pilates studio

Spring home pilates

12650 W. 64th Ave., Unit F | 720-231-4771

Ski station

Copper mountain

Yoga workshop

Best Buzz Yoga

2714 W. 44th Ave. | 303-495-6996

Julie Dugdale

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