The Denver – Boulder – Broomfield area is a thriving metropolis with a booming economy and one-of-a-kind cultural offerings like Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the 16th Street Mall. Another significant draw of living in the Mile-High City is its proximity to many of the Rocky Mountain Range’s highest peaks. In as little as a half hour, you can be winding your way up mountain passes with the feeling that Denver has been left far behind.
Here are some of our favorite majestic mountain retreats, easily accessible from Denver.
Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway recently opened for the summer season, and offers access to plenty of trails for active types but can just as easily be enjoyed by individuals who prefer to drive their way through beautiful scenery.
On the drive from Idaho Springs to Mount Evans, you’ll pass the Mount Goliath Natural Area, an exceptionally scenic stretch along the Mount Evans Byway. In the summer months, the Denver Botanic Gardens offers guided tours of the region’s special flora, including many brilliantly colored wildflowers. The half-mile Alpine Garden Loop, a trail in the area, offers stunning views of Mount Evans, Chief Mountain, Squaw Peak, Papoose Mountain, and the Chicago Lake Basin. You can reach the start of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway in Idaho Springs, just an hour from AMLI Riverfront Park. Mount Evans, the highest point along the bypass, can be reached in 30 or 40 additional minutes.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Covering an area larger than 400 square miles, Rocky Mountain National Park is a behemoth of preserved mountain magic that draws some three million visitors each year. Within the park’s boundaries are 60 mountain peaks higher than 12,000 feet, 150 picturesque alpine lakes, and more than 350 miles of maintained hiking trail. The park, with entrances just an hour and a half from Broomfield and another 15 or 20 minutes from Denver, is celebrating its 100th anniversary through September 4, 2015. Visit before Labor Day to celebrate the occasion.
If you want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, there’s a good chance you’ll pass through or stop in Estes Park on your way there. It’s home to the park’s headquarters and largest visitor center. It also has plenty going on to give it a name in its own right. Estes Park is a great place to spend an adventurous or relaxing weekend, and it’s also very doable as a day trip. After a morning hike, window shop along Elkhorn Avenue, and grab a bite to eat or a cold one from The Barrel’s beer garden. The beauty of Estes Park is just over an hour from Broomfield and an hour and a half from downtown Denver.
Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve
Over 100 years ago, buffalo roamed North America’s prairie lands in abundance. As the human population of the region grew and buffalo were assumed to be in limitless supply, their numbers dwindled until their was only one wild herd of American bison left. The buffalo is no longer on the verge of extinction, but they are still a rare enough site to get excited about. At the Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve in Golden, you can watch direct descendants of the last wild herd of buffalo roam free. With Genesee Park and other great hiking spots nearby, buffalo watching is a great thing to do before or after hitting a trail. The Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve is just a 30-minute drive from AMLI Park Avenue.
In 1859, miners looking to strike it rich in the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush took up residence in present-day Georgetown. Five years later, the discovery of silver nearby reinvigorated the boom. For the next several decades, Georgetown was the third largest community in Colorado. Today, it is a well-preserved relic of the past with enough pizzazz to keep you entertained for an overnight or weekend stay.
The 19th-century mining town is just 45 minutes from downtown Denver, but it feels worlds away in distance and in time. The next time you want to step back in time, consider a visit. If you really want to get into the spirit of the times, take a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad and visit the Lebanon Silver Mine.
Colorado has long been home to a great store of riches. Even though the mining of precious metals is no longer at the heart of the state’s economy, Colorado’s natural treasures are no less abundant than they once were. If you live in or near Denver, you are fortunate enough to have dozens of magnificent mountain escapes at your fingertips.
What are your favorite Denver area mountain escapes?
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