The City and County of Denver is the capital and most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of 2014, Denver is also the most populous county in Colorado. Denver is located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Denver downtown district is located immediately east of the confluence of Cherry Creek with the South Platte River, approximately 12 mi (19 km) east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Denver is nicknamed the Mile-High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile (5,280 ft. or 1,610 m) above sea level, making it one of the highest major cities in the United States. The 105th meridian west of Greenwich, the longitudinal reference for the Mountain Time Zone, passes directly through Denver Union Station.
Because of its proximity to the mountains and generally sunny weather, Denver has gained a reputation as being a very active, outdoor-oriented city. Many Denver residents spend their weekends on the mountains; skiing in the winter and hiking, climbing, kayaking, and camping in the summer.
Denver’s many colleges and universities range in age and study programs. Three major public schools constitute the Auraria Campus, University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Community College of Denver. The private University of Denver was the first institution of higher learning in the city and was founded in the 1864. Other prominent Denver higher education institutions include Johnson & Wales University, Catholic (Jesuit) Regis University and the city has Roman Catholic and Jewish institutions, as well as a health science school. In addition to those schools within the city, there are a number of schools located throughout the surrounding metro area.