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A mountain refuge only 30 miles from Denver

A 9Neighborhoods guide to the Colorado community of Conifer

CONIFER — Along Colorado’s 285-corridor is a charming foothills community that attracts those who want the refuge of a mountain town without giving up the convenience of a Denver suburb.

Conifer is located about 30 miles southwest of Denver and is right off US 285, making it a quick and easy drive to and from the city.

However, its location nestled in the foothills gives Conifer an array of options for alpine outdoor activities: mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, four wheeling, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and more.

This story is part of our weekly 9Neighborhoods series, exploring the towns and neighborhoods of Colorado. Join us Friday afternoon on Instagram for a photo tour of Conifer.

About 7,708 people live in the unincorporated community.

According to the real estate website Trulia, the median sales price for a home in Conifer is $508,500, just higher than that of Denver.

A community built on a toll road

The hills of Conifer have been drawing people for thousands of years.

The first to discover them were Arapaho, Ute and Cheyenne tribes who used the land as hunting grounds.

After they moved on, merchants, trappers, ranchers and miners moved in.

But, it was the development of a toll road that led to the area’s first real growth.

In 1861, Major Robert Bradford owned land in the area that would eventually become Conifer. He was living in what is now Denver’s Ken Caryl neighborhood at the time.

Gold had been discovered in Leadville but there weren’t any roads leading from the Front Range through the mountains to get there.

View of a carriage drawn by two horses along a dirt road with light snow in rocky Kennedy Gluch, Conifer c. 1888 (Photo: Denver Public Library)

The plan was to make a flat and easy route through South Park using old Ute trails.

These roads were being chartered by the Colorado Territory, with the entrepreneurs getting the right to charge tolls for maintenance of the roads.

Bradford connected his two properties with the Denver, Bradford and Blue River Toll Road which ended at what would become known as Bradford Junction.

There was a hotel, a post office, a barn and a large toll gate. It was a popular stopping place for travelers before they would continue up the Bergen Park Toll Road to the north.

View of the well at the center of the crossroads in Conifer, c. 1910 - 1930. (Photo: Denver Public Library)

By 1880, there was even a schoolhouse and store.

Over time, Bradford Junction became not just a convenient resting place but a tourist destination in itself.

Wait – isn’t it Aspen Park?

When driving west on US 285, you will first see a large sign welcoming you to Conifer. And then several others saying you are in Aspen Park.

The sign announcing that you are in Aspen Park

So, which is it?

It’s sort-of both.

Aspen Park, located on the eastern edge of Conifer, is what is called a Census-designated place, a community defined by the United Census Bureau for statistical purposes.

Basically, it had a high enough concentration of people that the Census Bureau wanted the unincorporated community’s specific demographics to be included in the census.

However, the U.S. Postal Service name for the entire community is Conifer.

Therefore, even if you are in the 2.5-mile area that the census has designated as Aspen Park, you will still have a Conifer address.

Things to do in Conifer

Today, Conifer remains an easy escape out of the city without having to sit in I-70 traffic for hours.

For hikers, there are several options within the community.

James Newton Park is a popular spot right off the highway to take dogs walking and Reynolds Park, farther off US 285, has 17 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails as well as camping.

Meyer Ranch Park, right on the eastern edge of Conifer, has 2.4- to 4.8-mile-long routes through the gorgeous wildflower-dotted meadows and aspen groves.

Meyer Ranch Park now has 2.4- to 4.8-mile-long hiking routes through the gorgeous wildflower-dotted meadows and aspen groves. It's also popular for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Another unique outdoor activity in Conifer is the Beaver Ranch Disc Golf Course.

The course is one of the top-rated in the country and includes a total of 41 holes split over two courses. It costs about $10 – 12 per person for a day pass for unlimited play.

Beaver Ranch also has hiking trails, group cabin and tent camping, a zipline course and an event center that is popular for weddings.

The Beaver Ranch Disc Golf Course is one of the top-rated in the country and includes a total of 41 holes split over two courses.

After a day spent outside, Conifer is home to a host of locally-owned restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores.

Learn more about some of the most popular Conifer hangouts in the photo gallery near the top of this story.

Throughout the year Conifer also hosts the 285 Winterfest, a celebration each February that includes a snow tubing competition, snowman carving, and a craft beer crawl; OktoBEERfest, which features beer from local craft breweries and appetizers; the Festival of Trees, a November tradition that shows off themed, decorated trees along with appetizers and wine tasting; and the yearly Conifer Christmas parade that also includes live entertainment, Christmas shopping, trolleys and Santa land.