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Highlands Ranch Real Estate

Highlands Ranch, CO: Where People “Live, Work and Play”

Highlands Ranch, CO is a master-planned community is located 30 minutes south of Denver with a population of 100,000. It forms the natural southern edge of the Denver basin, hemmed in by high bluffs that edge the plateaus of Douglas County a thousand feet above downtown. Its first homes were offered by Mission Viejo in 1982; but the community really arrived on the map with the opening of the C-470 freeway west from I-25 – the original southwest component of the beltway that hasn’t quite surrounded the metro area (and the portion that is toll-free). C470, running just south of the Douglas/Arapahoe county line, now forms the northern edge of Highlands Ranch real estate, providing easy access west to the mountains, and east to the huge shopping hub that grew around its interchange with south I-25.

With a canvas spanning eight miles east-to-west encompassing 22,000 acres, Mission Viejo based its community design around four components: huge core parks and open space, world-class recreation centers with sports fields, Douglas County School sites that would eventually yield some of the top-ranked high schools in Colorado, and three core commercial/shopping areas. Highlands Ranch already had a substantial employer base just northeast of the community along the Denver Tech Center/I-25 corridor (it now surpasses downtown Denver in numbers of employees); but created its own large office campus within the community at C470 and Lucent Boulevard.

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Highlands Ranch Real Estate

Highlands Ranch Real Estate

By the time the Denver Metro Parade of Homes showcased Highlands Ranch in the late 1980s, the name was becoming a synonym in some quarters for urban sprawl, culminating in a 1996 feature in National Geographic that showed a vast sea of rooftops across its expanse. But detractors weren’t to have the last word.

“The homes are indeed boxy and beige. But many of them back up to greenbelts,” the Los Angeles Times said in a 2006 review. “And those that don’t are rarely more than a few minutes’ walk from an elaborate trail system that links 19 neighborhood parks, four community gardens and thousands of acres of open space that provide habitat for elk, coyotes, foxes and the occasional mountain lion and bobcat.” Residents, meanwhile, were casting their own vote on the community’s viability by opting in large numbers to move up to newer, larger homes within Highlands Ranch – a trend that continues to this day. Reinforcing the effect, current developer Shea Homes has taken the high road on design of new shopping and recreation areas; while participating builders have consistently chosen the master plan to show off their most creative architecture and innovative housing types, including newly popular enclaves of ranch patio homes and townhomes, “lock-n-leave” condominiums, and even some urban loft concepts.

Backcountry: A Gated Luxury Community

Even with such a vast expanse, 30 years into development Highlands Ranch is now running short on new residential sites. The final, luxurious chapter is Backcountry at Highlands Ranch, rising from the south end of Broadway toward the 8,200 acres of dedicated open space that form the southern edge of the master plan.

Backcountry is a gated community; your exploratory trip with your Colorado Home Finders agent might start outside at the information center, then wind up Backcountry Drive past individual neighborhoods created by Shea, Richmond American, Toll Brothers, and by custom builders. At the crest of the hill (where the most expensive homes are) Backcountry opens into its own 462-acre South Rim Open Space, set beside its signature Sundial House community center with Pikes Pub bar, spa treatment rooms, an outdoor amphitheater, and resort-styled pools and grottos. The views are impressive: north to downtown Denver (the original ranch, parts of which are preserved in a nearby park, could glimpse downtown Denver’s D&F Tower from here, when it ranked as the highest building west of the Mississippi River); west to Mt. Evans and the Front Range, and south to Pikes Peak, set against the ridgeline of Highlands Ranch’s Wildcat Reserve.

While Backcountry forms a kind of apex to the suburban ideal captured by Highlands Ranch, developer Shea is creating its own urban counterpoint a few miles north at Highlands Ranch Town Center, near Lucent boulevard and Highlands Ranch Parkway – with a core of popular restaurants and taverns that offer residents of surrounding townhomes and condominiums the kind of “walk-to” access to shopping and dining that are popular in many Denver city neighborhoods. This end of Highlands Ranch – once it’s far outpost, is now developing more connectivity to Denver itself through its proximity to a Light Rail line that now extends directly south from downtown Denver to Littleton and Mineral Station, a few miles north.

See all Backcountry homes for sale in Highlands Ranch below.


Highlands Ranch Backcountry