15 of Denver’s biggest, tallest, shadiest trees to plop under

We know about all these big trees because they’re all considered champion trees by the Colorado Tree Coalition.

staff photo
A giant tree outside the Fairmont Mausoleum. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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A giant tree outside the Fairmont Mausoleum. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

There are a lot of trees in Denver. More than 260,000 alone are managed by the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation. For the public tree connoisseur, who insists on the biggest, tallest and shadiest of the bunch, here are 15 to check out.

Of course, the trees are sized according to their ranking by the American Forest’s tree point system. You budding botanists would expect no less, I assume. That means that the tallest, widest and broadest trees are biggest on this map.

We know about all these big trees because they’re all considered champion trees by the Colorado Tree Coalition, which means someone has nominated them as the biggest or only of their species in the state. To get on the list, a tree has to be among the five biggest of its kind in the state.

Not many trees are native to Denver though, which means that some of the city’s champion trees are a relic from Denver’s “City Beautiful” movement. Besides nostalgia, city trees can provide big savings by improving air quality, reducing energy usage and catching rainfall.

Taking care of these trees sounds pretty simple.

“The best advice, especially on an older tree, is to water it and leave it alone,” said Denver Forestry Spokesperson Cyndi Karvaski. “We don’t do any extra fertilization or pruning or anything like that.”

But more than 100 of Denver’s champion trees are on private property, which means that property owners can cut them down if they want.

Paradoxically, trees that are technically public, but on the street, are the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain. Cutting down a street tree requires a permit, but private trees have no protections.

“If [homeowners with a private tree] want to increase the size of their driveway, they can cut it down,” Karvaski said. “The biggest challenge is construction and development. That’s what’s causing a lot of these champion trees to be cut down, they’re not on the national register of historic trees where they’re protected.”

Methodology

I started with Denver Forestry’s register of champion and notable trees. Spokesperson Cyndi Karvaski indicated that the document was updated in November and includes both past and present trees, so I cross-referenced 2016 data from the Colorado Trees Coalition, which maintains the champion tree inventory.

CTC’s public facing data does not use a precise location, and I was unable to reach them before publication. That means that some larger trees from CTC’s public facing data were excluded if I was unable to determine where they are.

Still some mighty fine trees, though.