Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rugged, Restful, Golden

The next time you plan a trip to Colorado, be sure to put the city of Golden at the top of your travel 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 this town the moment great weather rolls in. It’s a historic destination (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 discover is a place 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 town. The streets are impeccably clean. The overall feeling is one of 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 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 you're here - the panorama changes continuously with the 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 rather not hike to enjoy Lookout Mountain's scenery you can drive up to some of its 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 back 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 draws avid 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 and whimsy 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.

All photos - © 2016 Maria Gorshin


* Consider making your reservations at The Golden Hotel - a warm, welcoming place to stay. The look is Western Contemporary, the location is ideal (along Clear Creek and steps to all of the town's attractions), and the restaurant serves up excellent dishes breakfast through dinner. (Wild game meatloaf and hearty soups are among guest favorites.) The atmosphere throughout is one of genuine comfort. 

* Pack layers to take you through chilly mornings, warm afternoons and cold nights. Remember to bring all of your outdoor gear plus hiking boots and sturdy walking shoes - pack for adventure.

* Try not to miss a single sunrise or sunset. 

* Visit the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum and take the Coors distillery tour. (The shorter version is shortcut to beer and small-batch craft brews that are available only in Golden.) 

* Grab snacks, breakfast burritos and baked goods at The Windy Saddle and coffee at Pangea. Order spicy, steaming soups at Sherpa House and enjoy the unique interior of the space. If you have special dietary requirements, you can pick up everything you need at Golden's Safeway or at the Whole Foods minutes from town.