Home Sweet Wilderness
Elk, deer, coyote, red-tailed hawk, and black bear—these are just a few of the neighbors quietly going about their business in the rugged wilderness adjacent to BackCountry™. For the lucky humans living next door, the 8,200-acre Backcountry Wilderness provides breathtaking views, mind-clearing bike rides, memorable family hikes, and easy access to a year-round roster of nature programs hosted by the Highlands Ranch Community Association.
Each program is thoughtfully designed to connect people to nature, while protecting the space for wildlife, which is “the primary goal,” explains Lindsey McKissick, Backcountry Wilderness Area Representative. Indeed, it’s a rare thing to find such a vast wildlife sanctuary in the middle of suburbia
“I think the greatest gift of living in BackCountry is having all the wonders of nature to explore directly in your backyard—without having to battle traffic on I-70 and the people once you get there,” says Lindsey. A nearby nature refuge can be especially meaningful to children. “We adults may remember playing in the creek in our neighborhood, but today’s kids have such a lack of time in nature,” Lindsey explains. “The Wilderness Area gives them the opportunity to engage their adventuresome spirits, to enjoy ‘free play’ in nature with no plans and no agenda.” They can even hang out with the draft horses, ponies, and chickens at the wilderness “base camp,” where most of the programs take place.
HRCA’s programs are open to the public, but Highlands Ranch residents enjoy discounted prices. The winter schedule is more modest, but on Jan. 21, families can enjoy a mini-campfire hike with a campfire, s’mores, and free play—there’s a giant log fort and sandpit with horseshoes and more—all for just $5. (Think of it as a Saturday morning alternative to the playground.) Also, private hayrides through the wilderness area are available year-round, allowing you to see places the public simply can’t. Some programs take place indoors this time of year, such as archery lessons and a Feb. 4 Pizza with Pokémon event. Held at the Southridge Rec Center, live animals akin to those in the beloved game will come for a fun, educational visit.
Warmer months bring back an abundance of outdoor events. Summer camps are a favorite, offering special focuses on art, adventure, horses, and leadership. Keep your eyes open for more about spring and summer programs in future blogs, but in the meantime, check out the many ways you can experience nature-in-the-suburbs on the HRCA website.