Secret Gardens in the Rockies
Walter, Claire, Sunset
mountain travel guide
In Denver, Salt Lake, and Boise: Gardens designed with kids in mind
* Children love gardens, where things can grow higgledy-piggledy, just as they do. And now there are a few secret garden haunts designed just for them, tucked inside major arboretums around the West.
The newest is the imaginative Children's Secret Path at Denver Botanic Gardens. Kids can wind through tunnels and mazes threading through the dense shrubs, climb over fallen logs, explore a tepee, and play in a giant sandbox. On weekends (usually at 2 PM.), story time participants traipse through this magical place, living out the tale the storyteller spins.
The Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City has a whimsical kids' garden-a magnet for families. Kids love the 40-foot snake maze, the oversize flowerpot outfitted with a pole to slide down, and the fanciful Wizard of Oz garden. Other hot spots are spitting fountains and an adobe home where Native American crops-squash, beans, corn-grow. Em's Sprout House is headquarters for hands-on crafts and plant-related activities. The garden specializes in preschool programs and also puts on a summer camp for budding horticulturists. Kids can learn about pollination, worm composting, seed dispersal, and wildlife on Monday nights during the Summer Sunset Series.
There's a small but kid-friendly garden in Boise at the Idaho Botanical Garden, where youngsters can practice their ABCs as they learn about plants. The Alphabet Garden is planted with flora from A to Z, arranged along a walkway-go to H, for instance, and you'll see the succulent called hen and chicks. Nearby, children walk through a playful arbor-the bower is made of shrubs that butterflies love, and the entire bush is meticulously trained into a caterpillar shape.
Denver Botanic Gardens: $6.50, children $4; 1005 York St.; (720) 865-3500. Red Butte Garden: $5, $3 ages 2-17; 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City; (801) 581-4744. Idaho Botanical Garden: $4, $2 ages 6-12; 2355 N. Penitentiary Rd., Boise; (208) 343-8649. - Claire Walter
travel guide - tips and trips
Denver's newest urban trail
* The Sand Creek Regional Greenway, which should be ready for hikers and cyclists this month, winds 13 miles southeast from Commerce City through Denver and into Aurora. The partly paved pathway follows the winding creek and forges the final link in a 50-mile loop of connecting trails around Denver (including the High Line Canal and south Platte River Greenway paths). One highlight along the trail is the Bluff Lake Nature Center. The official ribbon-cutting for the greenway is June 8. For a map and events information, call the Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership: (303) 3937700, ext. 224 Bluff Lake Nature Center, On Havana, 4 mile south of Smith Rd. …