The historic town of Golden is a delightful place to experience the colors of fall. Golden’s spectacular location in Clear Creek Valley, surrounded on one side by treeless volcanic mesas and on the other side by the foothills of the Rockies, makes it the place where the mountains meet the plains. And with one of the most beautiful creekside walks in Colorado, there’s no better place to be this autumn than this historic little city, located just minutes from downtown Denver.
Do you have friends and family visiting this fall? Here are nine reasons to bring them to Golden to experience the best of Colorado.
1. A Mountain Experience Without the Altitude
Golden offers everything a mountain town should: gorgeous mountain views in all directions; a creek flowing through the center of town with kayaking and fly fishing; miles of hiking and biking trails; historic buildings from Colorado’s gold-rush days; half a dozen breweries with outdoor beer gardens and food trucks; and a unique main street filled with outdoor recreation stores, galleries and one-of-a-kind shops. But the BIG difference between Golden and other mountain towns is that it’s only 5,675 feet high! So, instead of watching your flatlander friends huff and puff, head to Golden, where they can enjoy the feel of a mountain town without the extreme altitude.
2. No Buzz-killing Traffic Jams
Nothing ruins a day in the mountains more than being stuck in a traffic jam. The beauty of Golden is that it’s served by three highways and is only 12 miles from downtown Denver — yet a world away in atmosphere and ambiance.
3. The Quintessential Mountain Road
The drive up the Lariat Loop from downtown Golden to the top of Lookout Mountain is pure Colorado: hairpin turns, drop-offs, cliffs and a disturbing absence of guardrails. Ah, but the views! It’s no wonder this road, which gains 1,300 feet in just 4.3 miles, is one of the classic bike rides in the state, featured twice in the USA Pro Challenge with the world’s best bikers. It’s also one of the state’s best scenic drives, peaking (literally) at the 7,379-foot summit of Lookout Mountain, where you can enjoy 360-degree views.
4. Breweries and Restaurants With Western Flair
After that white-knuckled drive up Lookout Mountain, many out-of-towners feel the need for a “restorative.” And what could be better than three free beers? The fascinating tour of Coors Brewery (the largest single-site brewery in the world) takes you past endless copper kettles and into the dizzying chaos of the packaging plant, ending with a chance to toss back three free glasses of their various beers. More of a craft beer person? No worries. There are six craft breweries in Golden. There are also about two dozen restaurants. Join the locals at Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza or stroll down to D’Deli (rated by many as the best sandwiches on the Front Range). You can taste the Southwest on the gorgeous patio of Table Mountain Inn or watch water sports on Clear Creek from the patio of the Golden Hotel.
5. Miles of Trails to Explore by Bike
Don’t have enough bikes for your visiting friends? The Golden Bike Library (located conveniently at the Golden Visitors Center) has 40 bikes available for free, two-hour rentals, Thurs.–Sun. Pedal down the Clear Creek Bike Path, a flat, paved, off-street trail that follows beautiful Clear Creek for miles up into the mountains or downstream to Denver.
6. Ride the Rails or Give Them a Galloping Goose
Colorado is famous for its steam-driven narrow gauge railroads, but you don’t have to drive across the state to see them. The Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden has a half mile of circular track where locomotives and chug around in circles, giving guests the thrill of riding a genuine steam train. When the steam locomotives aren’t running, they have a Galloping Goose — an antique Pierce-Arrow limousine mounted on train wheels with a bus welded on the back. This crazy contraption actually ran over Lizard Head Pass in Western Colorado, and it’s a hoot. The museum also has Colorado’s largest collection of locomotives and cars, a gigantic outdoor garden railroad and an amazing indoor HO model train, complete with a circus, city and mining camp locations.
7. Time Travel to the Old West
Golden was Colorado’s first state capital and, at one time, a rip-roaring mining camp. General Grant and General Sherman once stayed in what is now the Buffalo Rose (known for its live music on the outdoor patio or on their giant indoor stage), and the state’s first capitol building is now a restaurant and bar: Old Capitol Grill & Smokehouse. Just two blocks away is the Clear Creek History Park, a re-creation of an authentic frontier homestead, complete with a barn, chickens, farmhouse and outbuildings, all in a spectacular setting. Or spend time with the greatest Western hero of them all, Buffalo Bill Cody. Located on top of Lookout Mountain, the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave is devoted to Bill’s exciting life as a buffalo hunter, showman and army scout. Don’t miss the giant gift shop — rated one of the best places for souvenirs in Colorado.
8. Colorado Cuisine
An alfresco meal on an outdoor deck is the perfect end to your perfect day in Golden! If you’re looking for a special meal, Abejas prides itself on locally sourced ingredients and organic meats. Or, enjoy Southwestern fare like margaritas and street nachos at the Table Mountain Grill & Cantina. Another local favorite is Miners Saloon, which pays tribute to Golden’s mining history with its beautiful décor, wide selection of Colorado spirits and beer and modern take on 1800s entrees.
After your visitors head home, we bet you’ll want to come back to Golden on your own! Check out visitgolden.com or sign up for their e-newsletter to be in the know on events and activities all year long.