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.

It’s not even clear which step is precisely one mile above sea level. Denver’s official website says that originally the 11th step was carved as one mile high, but it was later determined that the actual spot was four steps higher. Some time after that, scientists decided that Denver was three feet higher than previously believed.

So who knows 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 around the city, but they’re going with exactly a mile for the official elevation figure.

Visiting the ‘Mile High Steps’

“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.

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.

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

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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12 Comments

  1. I’m against the metric system for one reason and one reason only – ‘Denver – the 1.6 km high city’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it….But seriously, i’m a big fan of our mile-high moniker and love all the places in the city that are marked out indicating the altitude. It’s also clearly marked out in all of our sports arenas/stadiums to remind the visiting teams exactly how high they are in order to psyche them out before they even take the field/floor/ice.

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