Golden might be the best little Trail to Tavern® town in Colorado. It’s only about 15 miles from the heart of Denver, but somehow has that sleepy mountain town feel. North and South Table Mountains keep it hidden from the plains, and Clear Creek Canyon offers access to endless paddling, climbing, hiking, and mountain biking opportunities. The name fits, too—it was established during the mid-19th century Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Golden’s quaint main drag, Washington Avenue, sums up the friendly town’s attitude with a sign that reads "Howdy Folks!"
If you’re not already sold on Golden, consider its biggest export—craft beer. The town’s best-known resident is the Coors Brewery, but it’s not just big beer that’s brewed here. Golden is home to several excellent craft breweries, all gathering places for adventurers fresh off a bike ride at North Table Mountain or a paddle in Clear Creek. Make the most of a three-day weekend in Golden with this trail-to-tavern itinerary.
Rocky Mountain National Park is about 90 minutes away from Golden, and has tons of hiking and bouldering opportunities. Miguel Vieira
Start your first day with a delicious breakfast burrito at the family-owned La Casa del Sabor, and then kick off your weekend with an adventure into the Wild West. From downtown Golden, head west towards Clear Creek Canyon on the bike path. Keep an eye out for a small sign marking the start of the Chimney Gulch Trail, which makes for a lung buster of a mountain bike ride up technical singletrack. Follow Chimney Gulch to the Windy Saddle area (a good place to stop for killer views of the canyon), then follow the road to the top of Lookout Mountain.
The Lookout summit is chock full of history: it’s not only the final resting place of the legendary Buffalo Bill, but you’ll also find a museum here dedicated to his life. Spend some time checking out the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, then head back down the mountain. The trip will be about seven miles when it’s all said and done, and keep your eyes peeled for the giant "M" on the east face of Mount Zion—a symbol of the local Colorado School of Mines that has been around since the early 1900s.
Follow the bike path back to Washington Avenue, the Main Street of Golden. After your trip up Lookout Mountain you’ll probably be on the verge of hangry, so pick one of the many restaurants for a bite to eat—like the Buffalo Rose Saloon that dates back to 1858 or the Old Capitol Grill with its old Western atmosphere. After that, take your time looking at the shops (make sure you check out the new Toad&Co store!) and old buildings along Washington Avenue. Learn about the history of mountaineering at the museum in the American Mountaineering Center
, or head to the other side of the highway to see the Colorado Railroad Museum, with a 15-acre rail yard and artifacts from the days of Buffalo Bill.
Top off the afternoon with a stop at Golden City Brewery
, historically the second-largest brewery in Golden, and enjoy a Lookout Stout or a Clear Creek Gold Pale Ale. Like most of Golden’s breweries, you’ll find a food truck at GCB most nights.
Where to stay:
Table Mountain Inn is the perfect base camp for your Golden adventures. It’s right on Washington Avenue, so you’re steps away from all the action. You can’t miss it: the adobe-style hotel stands out and brings just the right amount of Southwestern charm. Also, they have a great happy hour (think $6 margaritas the size of your head), and a restaurant with Southwestern-inspired meals.
New Belgium Brewing is known around the country for their tasty beer. +Russ
Golden has tons of breweries per capita, but its northerly neighbor is home to the Colorado’s best-known brewery, so we’re heading to Fort Collins for day two. Before you set out, though, walk about a block from your hotel to get a cup of coffee or chai from Cafe 13. Offering homemade pastries, bagels, and eggs to order, Cafe 13 will set you up for a day of adventure.
Hop in the car and get on I-25 north to Fort Collins, home of 100% employee-owned New Belgium Brewing
. New Belgium is among the country’s largest craft breweries, and it’s not hard to see why their beer can be found all over the country—you’re probably already familiar with beloved brews like the Fat Tire Amber Ale and the Ranger IPA. Take a 90-minute tour of their brewing facility, which includes beer tastings (score!). Tours fill quickly, especially on weekends, so you’ll want to reserve your tickets online
in advance. The brewery offers several tours daily between 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM. (Local tip: If you get up to FoCo before your tour starts, stop at Lucile’s Creole Cafe for a homemade, New Orleans-style beignet.)
After your tour, get a real Colorado-style mountain pie at Beau Jo’s. Order your pizza by the pound—one, two, three, or five—and then load it up with fresh toppings. The crust around the edges is super thick to hold all that flavor in, and you’ll see locals dipping the crust in honey to finish it off.
Horsetooth Reservoir is another great spot for trail running or for throwing down a crash pad and bouldering a bit. Angelika Boyko
Next up on the agenda is hitting the trails at nearby Horsetooth Mountain Open Space
. Its namesake reservoir was created by four separate earthen dams, each built in 1949. Today, Horsetooth is a recreational playground. Bring a crash pad to check out the excellent bouldering
(there are tons of moderates here) or lace up your trail shoes to go for a run on the park’s many well-maintained trails.
Bonus: Feeling ambitious? Include a side trip to Rocky Mountain National Park
in your day. It’s about an hour and a half drive west of Fort Collins, but has tons of hiking and bouldering. Lots of park roads are closed during the snowy winter months, but after Memorial Day, drive up Trail Ridge Road for panoramic views of the Rockies.
Whenever you’re ready, drive back down I-25 to Golden and get some sleep before your last day.
Holidaily Brewing Company is the only dedicated gluten-free brewery in Colorado. Holidaily Brewing Co.
Thanks to its location at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills, Golden offers access to tons of high-quality trails, all of which are walkable from downtown. This also means it’s entirely possible to do a pub crawl using the trails right out your back door.
Start your tour de brew with a trail run or bike ride on North Table Mountain
. Take the 7.5-mile North Table Loop around this spectacular mesa, or mix-and-match the many trails that criss-cross its plateau. The steep, half-mile fire road from the west side parking lot to the top of the mesa also accesses some of Golden’s best single-pitch trad climbing
If you have been searching far and wide for gluten-free beer, look no further than Holidaily Brewing Company
. The only dedicated gluten-free brewery in the state, their beers are well-loved by everyone, gluten sensitivity or not. Just down the road, you can pop into Cannonball Creek Brewing Company
, where you’ll find anywhere from 8-14 beers on tap at any given time, including many that have been awarded medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
Running right through downtown Golden, Clear Creek offers tubing and whitewater paddling, as well as a lovely trail that is perfect for biking or walking. Grant Bishop
If you’ve been itching to get out on the water, you’ll love the Clear Creek Whitewater Park
. Designed for more experienced paddlers, this free, quarter-mile course includes boulders, drops, pools, and eddies. If tubing is more your speed, the best place for this is right around downtown, where the water will be the calmest. (Locals recommend not starting any higher than Tunnel 1 on Route 6.) Check in with Golden River Sports on Washington Avenue if you need any information before heading out.
After getting your water fix, stop by Mountain Toad Brewing Company
, a local favorite that’s just two blocks away from Clear Creek on Washington. Depending on the day, sip a sour, stout, or saison out on the patio.
Finish up the weekend with a jaunt to the top of the aptly-named Castle Rock on South Table Mountain, which boasts the best views in Golden. Take the Golden Summit Trail from the dead end at 19th and Belvedere Streets, and get ready to go up. The trail is short (only about two miles round trip) and not as steep as the Sleeping Elk Trail, but will still be a decent workout.
Round out the brew crawl with a stop at Barrels & Bottles Brewery
, where you’ll find an assortment of drinks from beer to wine slushies to kombucha on tap. Before heading home, play a few board games with your friends or family as you recount your amazing Colorado adventure (and plan your next one).
Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.
Featured image provided by Ken Lund