We're back from a family trip out West - our first time away from Trading Post in the two years since we first opened. What follows is a close-up on Golden, Colorado which we made our home base between day trips into Denver and over to Breckenridge. The short of it is - we loved Golden. The long? Here goes...beware: travelogue-style writing ahead.
The next time you plan a trip to Colorado, be sure to put the city of Golden at the top of your itinerary. Golden surrounds you with rugged beauty and Western hospitality only 30 minutes from Denver International Airport.
It’s where you will find the best of Old West culture and outdoor adventuring in a low-key, authentic setting.
There’s a reason why so many people from Denver pour into Golden the moment great weather rolls in. It’s a historic town (founded during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush) that rewards its visitors with relaxation, if that’s what they need, or adventure, if that’s what they crave.
Look all around you in Golden and what you see is a town that honors it’s history, celebrates its artists and preserves its architecture. It is a pleasure to explore with unique, locally-owned businesses, small museums and bronze sculptures throughout. The streets are impeccably clean and the feeling of the town is one of overall calm and well being.
Maybe it’s the wide open skies above this low-profile town (most buildings are four stories and under) but sound seems muted here. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself speaking in a softer voice during your stay to protect the rare quiet you will find in this town.
What do you hear most in Golden? On a sunrise walk recently it was the breeze, lots of wind chimes and the sound of geese calling to each other. The air hinted that it had just been to the mountains.
Keep your eyes up while in Golden - the panorama changes continuously with colors and shadows cast by the sun.
Clear Creek, at the center of town, offers an inviting place to get acclimated to the area. Along its paved path is where you will find people exercising, walking their dogs, fishing and just generally engaging with the beautiful surroundings.
Walk in one direction and you will be headed toward hiking trails that lead up to Lookout Mountain. At the very top is The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave and Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve.
If you would rather not hike to enjoy Lookout Mountain’s scenery you can drive up to some of the best overlook spots or you can do like the fittest do - bike the 7%-grade, 4 1/2-mile winding road, hairpins and all, to the top.
After taking in what you came for - the big sky views, sunset, moon rise, stars or twinkling lights of Denver in the distance - you may want to add a thrill to the ride towards town. Not satisfied with the pull of gravity, many bikers choose to pedal all the way to Golden, eager for greater speed. (Some adrenaline junkies prefer to make the return trip even more daring - they cruise it on longboards.)
Walk along Clear Creek in the opposite direction and you will find yourself meandering toward the Coors distillery where tours and tastings take place daily.
If real adventure is what you’re after, there’s plenty of opportunity for that in Golden. The landscape that surrounds Golden attracts kayakers, hang gliders, hikers and mountain bikers to the area. Rock climbers who are serious about their pursuit also make their way into town - it’s home to the American Mountaineering Center. Go for a hike at sunset and you are likely to spot groups of them coming off the trails - muddied, tired and grinning - to tailgate with a cold local brew.
One of the most pleasurable yet easygoing ways to enjoy Golden is to just walk the town. There is so much variety to the shops and architecture that you can expect a surprise around every corner. At the top of a hill there is a colorful structure - a replica of a Nepalese Sherpa house - that serves as both a restaurant and cultural center.
On a side street there is a large building made entirely of river rock. Expect to see vibrant murals along building exteriors - each one is the handiwork of artist, Jesse Crock.
There are two practical reasons to add Golden to your Colorado travel plans -- the town’s central location puts you within easy driving distance to Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and multiple ski areas. Also, at 5,675 feet above sea level, the town provides your body with a relatively gentle adjustment to the reduced air pressure and lower oxygen found at greater elevations. That’s right - the next time you travel to Colorado you can kick off your vacation with little to no altitude sickness.
When plans bring you to the Denver area, remember Golden - a town that glows with the spirit of the Old West.
Consider making reservations at The Golden Hotel. It's a warm, welcoming place to stay. The look is Western Contemporary, the location is ideal (along Clear Creek and in the heart of town's key attractions) and the restaurant serves up excellent food breakfast through dinner. Wild game meatloaf and hearty soups were among our favorite items on the menu. The atmosphere throughout the hotel is one of genuine comfort. Arrive knowing you will be in good hands.
*Full disclosure: we were guests of the hotel during a business-related visit but wouldn't recommend it unless we truly enjoyed it. We did, very much.)