Quirky Attraction: ‘One Mile Above Sea Level’ Sign at the Colorado State Capitol

one mile above sea level - mile high steps

‘One Mile Above Sea Level’ sign at the Colorado State Capitol building

Location: Denver, CO (200 E Colfax Ave)
When to visit: Anytime, but daylight hours are ideal
Cost: Free
Time needed: 10 minutes
Website: Wikipedia

Denver’s nickname as “The Mile High City” is spot-on accurate. No rounding or estimating going on here! The steps of the state capitol building are marked at the exact location of one mile above sea level.

If the elevation of the capitol building was 5,270 feet or 5,290 feet, no one would care. But because one of the steps sits at exactly 5,280 feet, and because that step has been engraved to reflect its elevation, this spot has become a highly-sought-after photo opportunity.

I visited this spot and took some selfies, as everyone does. Go to the west side of the building to see the engraved step.

Here’s a look at what you can see at the State Capitol building and its famous “one mile” step.

denver sea level

Which Step is Precisely One Mile Above Sea Level?

This is a much more complicated question than you’d think. Originally, the 15th step was measured to be precisely 5280 feet elevation, and the step was engraved “one mile above sea level.”

In 1969, a marker was added to the 18th step, when a survey by Colorado State students revealed that step was actually the one at the “one mile” level.

In 2003, yet another measurement was done using modern techniques and instruments, and this time the 13th step was declared to be one mile above sea level.

So who knows what’s actually true? Perhaps every step at the Capitol will end up getting labeled “one mile above sea level” at some point, as they keep doing new measurements!

one mile above sea level step

So regardless of which step is really one mile high, you can cover your bases by posing on all of them. Join the parade of tourists and get your pic taken at the capitol.

Denver’s official elevation, by the way, is precisely 5280 feet. One mile above sea level! The elevation varies slightly at different spots around the city, but they’re going with exactly a mile for the official elevation figure.

Visiting the ‘Mile High Steps’ at the Capitol Building

You will likely see a few other tourists around. “Come on, honey, stand right between grammy and paps!”

colorado state capitol steps - denver elevation

You can visit the steps anytime, but obviously daylight hours are best. There’s no charge, making it one of the best free activities in the city of Denver.

Outside the Capitol, some statues can be found on the grounds. This one was called the Civil War Monument.

After my visit, this statue was pulled down by vandals. The city took possession of it, and will replace it with a statue of a Native American woman.

You’ll see cannons outside as well.

cannon capitol

You can tour the Capitol building if you care to see the inside. But many visitors are just curious to check out the “one mile above sea level” sign on the steps.

The Capitol building resides in the Denver neighborhood of Capitol Hill (obvs). It’s very close to downtown, so you can walk over if you happen to be staying downtown.

As with any major urban city, use common sense to remain safe. If you stop by at 3 in the morning, when nobody is working in the building and no other tourists are around, that would be unwise. But any other time, you’ll be totally fine.

colorado capitol view

You know you want to get your photo on the step! Be sure to add this to your Denver travel itinerary.

While in Denver, also check out the Museum of Nature & Science.