On the very southern edge of metro Denver sits the community of Castle Rock — so named for the castle-like rock formation situated on the mesa next to the town.
The city is surrounded by both prairie grassland, rolling hills and forestland, giving it the perfect setting for its more than 50 miles of trails, 19 developed parks and 5,400 acres of open space.
Those looking to get up close to the unique castle formation can take the Castle Rock Trail at Rock Park – a 1.4 mile loop.
It’ll take about 45 minutes to get to the top, but you’ll be rewarded with great views of the town and Front Range.
The Gateway Mesa Open Space is another great space to take a hike.
Located between Castle Rock and Franktown, the 1.8 mile trail offers spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.
PHOTOS: Exploring Castle Rock
The history of Castle Rock
Can you imagine if Castle Rock would have been named Poundcake Rock?
Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but a group of reportedly hungry explorers in the 1840s called it by that name while on an early expedition.
That name, however, didn’t stick. Today most historians agree that the town got its name from David Kellogg who led a group of men in search of gold through the area in late 1858.
But long before white settlers made their way to Castle Rock, the land was home to the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes who hunted in the area.
Castle Rock officially came to be a city in 1874 when it was designated as a county seat of the newly realigned Douglas County.
Shortly after being established, the town became a hot spot for mining rhyolite – a volcanic stone used for building structures.
Miners worked to quarry the rhyolite stone found in the buttes surrounding Castle Rock. Much of that stone was then transported by train to Denver and other Colorado cities to help build infrastructure.
Many of the historic buildings standing today in Castle Rock were built with rhyolite – like the Douglas County Courthouse.
PHOTOS: A historic look at Castle Rock
A walkable downtown with lots of charm
Despite its growth, Castle Rock maintains a small-town feel, with a traditional downtown area along Wilcox Street, between Jerry and First streets.
There you'll find a host of independently owned shops, galleries and restaurants.
On Saturday, Castle Rock Oktoberfest will take over the Wilcox Square area of downtown with live music, food vendors, bounce houses and a street fair.
The family-friendly event runs from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and is free to attend.
Another spot to check out is the Old Stone Church Restaurant (210 Third St.). It’s located in a remodeled parish with stained-glass windows and serves American dishes.
Several nearby spots are laid-back, serving classic American comfort food: Such as CastleRock Bar & Grill (302 Wilcox St.), Castle Café (403 Wilcox St.) and Next Door Bar (217 Fourth St.), to name a few.
Yolanda's Tacos (204 Wilcox St.) and Angie's Restaurant (201 Fourth St.) are great for Mexican food; and Pegasus On the Square (313 Jerry St.) is an eclectic joint with Greek, Mexican, Italian and American dishes all on the menu.
Craft beer lovers can find a home at Maddie's Biergarten (330 Third St.) and at Z'Abbracci (a pizza/pasta/beer joint).
And just up Perry Street, Dream Pastries (370 Perry St.) has some of the best gelato in metro Denver (and plenty of other baked goods).
Those looking to get in some bargain shopping will have no shortage of options at The Outlets at Castle Rock.
Located just off I-25, the outdoor outlet center is home to over 100 brand name stores like Nike, Coach and Gap Factory.
Growth prompts building boom
Castle Rock has a population of more than 57,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is growing fast. The city estimates that it will grow to more than 100,000 residents within the next few years, and the town's officially tally for developments either recently completed, under construction or soon to break ground is nearly $400 million.
One of the biggest of those developments is Riverwalk at Castle Rock, a $60 million mixed-use development that will include more than 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 30,000 square feet of office space and 228 apartments. The first phase of construction is slated for completion in fall 2018.
Another large development is the Promenade at Castle Rock, a $200 million shopping center and a $0 million Collaboration Campus planned on 14 acres in the Meadows master-planned community.
And last April, the Castle Rock Town Council approved a public-financing package for a $300 million redevelopment project called Miller's Landing (it'll also include office, retail and a hotel) at the northwest corner of Interstate 25 and Plum Creek Parkway.
Plus, the city's website says plans may be in the works for a 117-home development near Ridge Road and Plum Creek Parkway called "Castle Oaks," although plans have yet to be formally submitted.
In short — Castle Rock's in a building boom.
All those amenities in Castle Rock can be pricey — the median home price for all-size properties is $428,500, according to real estate website Trulia.com.