Denver Colorado International Airport: A World-Class Hub


Denver International Airport (DEN) serves as the primary airport for Denver, Colorado, and the surrounding Front Range Urban Corridor. As the largest airport in North America by land area and the second largest in the world, DEN offers visitors expansive open spaces showcasing Colorado’s natural beauty along with modern amenities.

However, DEN is perhaps most famous for the many conspiracy theories and mysteries that swirl around its unique art, architecture, and history. This article explores some of the airport’s defining characteristics – from its role in facilitating Front Range travel to its otherworldly aesthetics.


  • With 6 runways across 53 square miles, DEN is the largest airport in North America by land area.
  • DEN serves as a major hub for Frontier, United, and Southwest Airlines.
  • The airport has been the subject of many conspiracy theories related to secret underground tunnels, Freemasonry symbols, and a future New World Order.

Overview: Denver Colorado International Airport

Opened in 1995 to replace the aging Stapleton International Airport, DEN was built to accommodate Denver’s expanding population and role as a transportation hub. The $4.8 billion airport was the most expensive public works project in US history at the time.

Its signature peaked tent-like roof mimics the Rocky Mountains visible to the west. Inside, travelers are greeted by expansive glass windows overlooking the taxiways, open indoor spaces filled with natural light, and colorful, regionally-inspired works of art.

DEN is located approximately 25 miles northeast of downtown Denver on 53 square miles of land. At 5,430 feet above sea level, it has the highest elevation of any major airport in the United States. Its six runways allow it to operate in nearly any weather condition. In 2022, the airport served over 69 million passengers.

Local Experiences and Culture

Beyond functioning as a travel hub, DEN strives to immerse visitors in authentic Colorado experiences. The airport features exhibits on local history and hosts events celebrating the state’s cultural heritage.

Travelers can sample local cuisine and products at any of the airport’s 85 concessions. Standout dining options range from Colorado-inspired restaurants like Root Down and Elway’s to outposts of famous eateries like Shake Shack.

Art aficionados will discover works by Colorado artists interspersed throughout the terminals. The iconic 32-foot-tall blue Mustang statue greets visitors near the east entrance, while the North Terminal houses “Interior Garden,” a plant-filled oasis featuring over 9,000 feet of steel ribbon sculpture.

DEN also partners with nearby arts organizations to stage live musical performances in the terminals. Through these offerings, the airport promotes the cultural riches of both Denver and the wider Colorado region.

Denver Airport: A Hub of Travel

A hub airport serves as a central connection point for an airline’s operations. As one of United Airlines’ largest hubs, DEN offers direct United flights to over 200 domestic and international destinations. Frontier Airlines maintains a focus city at DEN, operating direct flights to over 110 destinations. Southwest Airlines has also designated Denver as a mini-hub city with service to nearly 100 airports.

As the largest airport in the Mountain West region, DEN also facilitates travel within the Front Range Urban Corridor. This narrow strip of urban development stretches along I-25 from Colorado Springs through the Denver metropolitan area up to Fort Collins and into Cheyenne, Wyoming. Residents and visitors utilize DEN to access the corridor’s diverse cities and mountain getaways.

Unique Features of Denver Airport

DEN stands out for its immense scale and geographic capabilities. At 33,531 acres, it is the largest airport in North America by land area and second only to King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, worldwide.

The airport’s most visually striking feature is its signature peaked tent-like roof spanning the main Jeppesen Terminal. Composed of Teflon-coated fiberglass and steel, the roof spans over 1 million square feet and stands 210 feet tall at its highest point. Its shape and dimensions were carefully designed to allow maximum natural light into the terminal.

DEN’s six runways provide exceptional capability to operate in adverse weather conditions. At 16,000 feet long, Runway 16R/34L is the longest public-use runway in North America and the seventh longest in the world. This length allows fully loaded jumbo jets to take off at Denver’s mile-high altitude.

At an elevation of 5,434 feet above sea level, DEN is the highest large-hub airport on the continent. Aircraft engines generate less thrust in thinner air, so the long runways help compensate at this altitude. While challenging for pilots, the elevation provides a thrilling take-off experience for passengers as planes rapidly ascend over the Front Range landscape.

Denver Airport Conspiracy Theories

Since its opening, DEN has been the subject of many conspiracy theories ranging from secret underground tunnels to alien involvement. Some of the most persistent conspiracies include:

New World Order

Some theorize the airport’s remote location, distance from Denver, and bunker-like design indicate it will serve as a headquarters for a future totalitarian one-world government.

Underground Facilities

Unexplained construction overruns have led to theories that the airport sits above a secret deep underground base. This could serve any number of sinister purposes from FEMA camps to alien lairs.

Freemason Symbols

Masonic symbols like the square and compass appear in various murals and plaques at DEN, leading to speculation about secret society influences in its design.

While intriguing, evidence disproving most of these theories is readily available. The airport’s location and layout are typical for a large-hub airport designed for future growth. Most construction issues stemmed from challenging soil conditions and design changes. The purported underground facilities would be extraordinarily expensive, serve no logical purpose, and lack any evidence beyond conjecture.

As for Masonic symbols, the architects incorporated imagery from various cultures and organizations with ties to Colorado’s history – both the Masons and Native American tribes use the square and compass motif. With over 1.5 million square feet of space to fill, DEN features art and design elements from numerous influences.

Art and Symbolism at Denver Airport

DEN houses a robust public art program with over 40 site-specific works intermingled throughout the terminals and concourses. The pieces reflect local artists’ interpretations of Colorado’s diverse landscape, peoples, history, and culture. Several installations have deeper meanings – though none quite as sinister as conspiracy theorists allege.

The airport’s most famous and controversial pieces are the gargoyle and demonic-looking sculptures that populate the east and west baggage claim areas. Artist Terry Allen created these provocative characters, known as “Notre Denver” and “Children of the World Dream of Peace,” to symbolize themes of environmental destruction and morality.

Other notable works include “Dual Meridian,” a 22-foot diameter astrological calendar marking the equinoxes and solstices, and “In Peace and Harmony,” a bright blue tile mosaic wall depicting native peoples and wildlife coexisting peacefully.

While the art pieces may seem oddly ominous at first glance, most symbolize positive themes of peace, unity, environmentalism, and morality. As with any artwork, deeper meaning comes from understanding the full context of the artists’ intentions.

Facilities and Services at Denver Airport

DEN offers an extensive array of amenities and services befitting a world-class global transportation hub. Concessions include diverse dining, shopping, and leisure options to satisfy business travelers and families alike. Travelers can also take advantage of on-site transportation, health/wellness, and convenience services.

The centerpiece of DEN’s culinary offerings is the food court in the main terminal. This modern space houses outposts of local favorites like Little Man Ice Cream alongside national brands like Shake Shack. Those seeking a full-service dining experience can visit one of the airport’s 25+ sit-down restaurants ranging from quick bites to fine dining. Shopping options span over 100 stores where travelers can purchase regional souvenirs, designer fashion brands, electronics, and more.

For pre-flight relaxation, DEN features an open-air yoga studio and spa services. Pet relief areas, nursing rooms, and medical services provide additional support for families and those with special needs. Onsite hotel and transit options include a 519-room Westin Denver International Airport hotel and train service to Denver Union Station in downtown Denver via the University of Colorado A Line.

DEN’s three-level parking plaza houses over 14,000 parking spaces across covered, economy, and close-in parking. EV charging, taxi service, valet parking, an on-site rental car facility, and cell phone lots round out the airport’s ground transportation infrastructure.

Travel Information for Denver Airport

Travelers passing through DEN can take advantage of helpful tools and services to navigate their visit:

Flight Status

Travelers can check flight status screens throughout the terminals or via for up-to-date schedules, gates, baggage claim info, and more.

Lost and Found

If you leave something behind, the airport’s lost and found system can help reunite you with your items. Unclaimed luggage and other items are donated after 30 days.

International Arrivals

DEN offers streamlined customs and immigration processing. Travelers should proceed to the customs hall in the north terminal upon arrival to declare any items.


What is the airport code for Denver International Airport?

The IATA airport code for Denver International Airport is DEN. Its ICAO airport identifier is KDEN.

How large is Denver International Airport in terms of land area?

At 33,531 acres (52.4 square miles), Denver International Airport is the largest airport in North America by land area.

What airlines operate hubs at Denver International Airport?

United Airlines and Frontier Airlines utilize Denver International Airport as a major hub. Southwest Airlines operates a smaller focus city at the airport.

What is unique about Runway 16R/34L at Denver International Airport?

At 16,000 feet long, Runway 16R/34L is the longest public-use runway in North America. This length allows fully loaded jumbo jets to take off in Denver’s high-altitude environment.

What is an example of a conspiracy theory associated with Denver International Airport?

Some conspiracy theorists believe there are secret underground bunkers beneath Denver International Airport that will serve as a headquarters for a totalitarian New World Order government in the future. However, evidence disproving this theory is readily available.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.