Best Day Ever

Trekking Trails to Tables: A Local's Guide to Golden, Colorado

by Meredith Kaufman
Clear Creek and Lookout Mountain in the fall. Photo by Meredith Kaufman.

GOLDEN, Colorado - Just twenty minutes west of the ever-sprawling city of Denver, Colorado, lies the town of Golden. It's nestled between the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and Table Mountains, two giant plateaus that formed from an erupting volcano 64 million years ago. The town itself remains distinctly unique. You’ll know you arrived when you see the brown and gold arch over Main Street that says: Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden! Where the West Lives!

Castle Rock, the iconic view to the east of town. Photo by Meredith Kaufman.
Sunset on the trails. Photo by Meredith Kaufman.

A resident since 2019, I find Golden to be so much more than a historic western town. It is filled with avid trail users, families, and students from the prestigious Colorado School of Mines. In September, trail runners participate in the weeklong Golden Hell Week, a self-supported race that began before the pandemic made virtual racing cool. Every October, quirky residents wait for a daily riddle and hunt for glass orbs hidden around town. In the summer, tourists flock to Clear Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River that runs right through town, to tube, kayak, and fish. In the fall, the Golden High School mountain bike team is a prolific presence on the path. Whether you’re on one of the many miles of trails surrounding the town or at one of the local breweries, you’ll probably run into someone you know. Stop and take in the beauty of Golden and you’ll understand why the pace of life is slower out here. Here's how to map out a perfectly Golden day.

Photo courtesy of Cafe 13.
A Golden morning. Photo courtesy of The Eddy Taproom & Hotel.

Morning

Start your morning with a coffee from Pangea, a local roaster in a green brick building. After properly caffeinating, head down the street for breakfast at Café 13 and fuel up on a burrito and homemade pastries.

Mid-Morning

Ready to burn some calories? You’re in luck. Lace up your running shoes or hiking boots and hit the trails. If you don’t have access to a car, opt for one of the trails within walking distance from downtown, including South Table Mountain or Chimney Gulch Trail. If you have a car ride, drive a short way up Clear Creek Canyon and check out Centennial Cone Park, which offers 16 miles of trails and gorgeous views.

Prefer two wheels as your method of movement? Golden is a cycling paradise. Rent a mountain bike from Golden Bike Shop and check out Apex Park or North Table Mountain. Note, the mountain biking trails in Golden are intermediate to advanced and not for the faint of heart. If road biking is more your thing, rent a road bike or an E-bike from the Trek store and go for a ride up Lookout Mountain Road. From downtown, ride the 4.5 miles and 1,257 feet of elevation gain to Windy Saddle Park where you’ll enjoy endless views of the Rocky Mountains. For the serious cyclist, continue three miles and 650 feet of elevation gain up to the Boettcher Mansion or check our Buffalo Bill’s gravesite. Lookout Mountain offers beautiful panoramas in every direction, so take your time catching your breath at the various pull-outs along the road.

Photos courtesy of Sherpa House.
A spread at Sherpa House.
Photo courtesy of Barrels & Bottles.
Photo courtesy of Goosetown Station.

Photo courtesy of Bonfire Burritos.

Lunch

After properly working yourself on the trails, it’s time to eat again. Head to Tributary Food Hall and choose from one of the seven vendors; my go to is the roasted eggplant sandwich from Mr. Miners Meat & Cheese with an oat milk latte from Generous Coffee. Or sit on the prayer-flag adorned patio at Sherpa House Restaurant and feast on Himalayan cuisine. Locals also love Bonfire Burritos, where the burritos and tacos are made from scratch and full of green chili goodness.

Afternoon

Stroll along the Clear Creek bike and pedestrian path and enjoy the beauty of the river and Mt. Zion looming above. If you’re up for a longer walk, continue on to the Peaks to Plains Trail, a newly constructed paved path that, upon completion, will run 65 miles from the Denver Metro Area to Loveland Pass in the mountains. As you amble, spot the climbers scaling the canyon walls.

Alternatively, head a few blocks south of downtown to the Colorado School of Mines campus. If you’re lucky, you may catch an a capella group performing or students LARPING on the quad. If you’re looking to add to your collection of outdoor chic apparel, you’ve come to the right place. My go-to stores are Toad & Co., Bentgate Mountaineering, and Golden Mercantile Cooperative. Stop by San Telmo Market, an Argentinian grocery store, and nosh on an empanada as you shop. Check out Icelantic Skis and you may end up leaving with a new pair of handmade powder skis.

Time for a beer. While Golden may be known as the birthplace of Coors, the microbrew scene is what the town is really about. Check out Golden City Brewery, Mountain Toad, or Barrels & Bottles, all located downtown. You’ll find Coda just a little farther away in South Golden. Our quirkiest bar may be Goose Town Station, a cozy place where you can sit on couches around a fire pit and listen to live music.

Photo courtesy of Nosu Ramen.
Photo courtesy of Golden Moon Speakeasy.
Photos courtesy of Abejas.
Photo courtesy of The Eddy Taproom & Hotel.
Photo courtesy of The Eddy Ta
Photo courtesy of Dove Inn.

Evening

For dinner, choose between Nosu Ramen or Abejas. The braised chicken ramen and tempura asparagus bao buns is my order at Nosu, where everything is excellent and the vibe is laid-back and cool. Abejas has a rotating menu of New American food and is great for a date night. After dinner, head to the Golden Moon Speakeasy for a craft cocktail and take home a bottle of a locally distilled spirit. End your night at Ace Hi Tavern, a no-frills local dive bar that has been around since the 1960s. Sing your heart out when the karaoke begins — but be forewarned that the competition is steep.

Call it a night in a minimalist modern suite at the newly opened Eddy Taproom & Hotel or check out the Dove Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast. Both are located in downtown Golden.

Getting Here

Golden is about one hour driving from Denver International Airport.

Photo by Meredith Kaufman.

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