When people ask me where in Colorado I used to live, I proudly say, “Golden.” Inevitably, folks will mention Coors Brewery. Yes, it’s located there. But, I tell them there is so much more to Golden than Coors.
I was fortunate to live right in town for about 10 out the 15 years I lived in Colorado. Golden is relatively small and has a fabulous downtown area. It’s about 15 miles due west of Denver, so you have access to the bigger city. But, I seriously doubt you’ll want to spend much time in Denver. Golden is laid back, quiet, yet still has a lot to do. And the people here are super friendly.
Clear Creek runs west to east through town and has a nice path for walking, running and riding a bike along side of it. On nice weekend days in summer, you’ll see a lot of people flocking to the creek with inner tubes to take a ride down the creek. Wear a life vest! The currents can be rough. You’ll also see a lot of kayakers taking advantage of the kayak park that was built back in 1998. Clear Creek is really a great place to hang out. I always loved it even more outside of the busy summer season when it wasn’t so busy. The sight of the cottonwood trees with their gold-yellow leaves against a clear blue sky on an autumn day is something etched in my mind. Consider late September or early October for a visit here.
While some visitors (and even some of the locals) are put off by the “Howdy Folks, Welcome to Golden” sign, I always found it rather funny and kitschy. Don’t let it fool you though. Golden has some nice shops and restaurants and some awesome coffee shops as well. But, the big draw these days are the micro breweries. There are some incredible beers coming out of this town of 19,000. Golden City Brewery was the first one to start this trend. I spent some time hanging out in the beer garden there in the last few years before I moved. They make a fabulous amber/red beer and a very good IPA. Since I left in 2011, a few more microbreweries have opened up. On a recent trip I was able to try out three of these and loved all of them for different reasons.
Cannonball Creek is located a bit north of the downtown area and has, in my humble opinion, the best porter. All the beers I tasted were outstanding (including the rosemary sourdough, my friend, Jenny’s favorite). They have patio seating with fabulous views of the mountains and the mesas (North and South Table Mountains). Mountain Toad has the best atmosphere and I personally know a couple of people who work here. Their beers are incredible as well and they have a nice beer garden as well as a cool indoor area. They’re on the main street, Washington Avenue, just north of Clear Creek so well within walking distance of the hotels and restaurants. Barrels and Bottles just opened when I was there in September. They are doing guest taps right now, but are on their way to brewing their own beers. They also have wine and some food. The had a killer mexican chocolate stout on tap from Copper Kettle Brewery in Denver when I was there. Most of the beers on tap are local, although not all. They are located right across from Coors Brewery and have nice patio seating. Food trucks stop by Cannonball Creek and Mountain Toad so you can get a little something to soak up all that beer you are drinking. The quality of the food on these mobile restaurants is fabulous. The breweries will often post a schedule of which food truck will be there that day. So if you have a favorite, plan a trip to that micro brewery on that day and you can have both great beer and great food.
Of course, there’s more than just beer in Golden. The great outdoors rules here. Along with the Clear Creek Path there are trails for hiking, mountain biking and running. Chimney Gulch is a favorite for all three and can be accessed from the Clear Creek path in town. It will take you up Lookout Mountain where you’ll have fabulous views of Golden. Both North and South Table Mountains have trails, with North Table having some new access on the west side. I took a nice loop hike with my friend, Hallie, on my last visit and was pleased to see that the trails are better marked than when I lived there. You’ll have views to the East of Denver and to the West of the foothills surrounding Golden. White Ranch is just a little north of Golden and is another wonderful place for hiking, running and mountain biking – and you can ride horses here. I always loved the 3 mile uphill challenge of Belcher Hill! Apex is another Jefferson County Open Space Park that lies to the south on the outskirts of the Golden city limits. It also has some fabulous trails for hiking, mountain biking and running. I always loved hiking to the top of the main Apex trail then running back down it.
On nice days, you’ll see road bikers biking up the road to the top of Lookout Mountain. It’s a great challenge for those who love to ride. And you get the reward of those fabulous views when you get to the top.
Into kayaking? Be sure to check out the kayak park on Clear Creek. Located just across from the Golden Community Center, it’s a terrific place for paddlers. During the spring runoff, the creek will be filled with brightly colored kayaks. If it’s not your thing, then just sit and watch as they ride the waves, much like a cowboy on a bucking bull.
Golden also has a beautiful golf course called Fossil Trace. It’s a challenging, hilly course, but the views are spectacular. A bit more adventurous? How about rock climbing? You can take you pick of either climbing on North Table Mountain or in the Clear Creek Canyon. It’s all good sport climbing. And, in the winter, there are a few ice climbing routes in Clear Creek Canyon.
If cultural activities are more your cup of tea, Golden won’t disappoint. The Foothills Art Center is a great place for visual art and The Miner’s Alley Playhouse has theatre productions. The American Mountaineering Center is located in town and has a wonderful museum. There’s also Lookout Mountain Nature Center, the Colorado Railroad Museum and the Clear Creek History Park, just to name a few.
Golden has a wonderful farmer’s market that runs from spring to early fall. Buffalo Bill Days, a western-style festival with fun events, food and music takes place in late July. And, the Golden Music Festival takes place in mid-June. There’s so much to do for a small town.
Golden was home for nearly 15 years for me. I miss it every day, but carry it in my heart – always. It’s such a wonderful town with some of the nicest people on the planet. It has a strong sense of community and a pride that swells like Clear Creek during the spring runoff. So, what are you waiting for? If Colorado has been a place you’ve always wanted to go, then be sure to spend a few days in Golden. You might not want to leave!