Just outside of Denver, Colorado sits a little town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s got the perfect balance of access to the urban plains, small-town feel, and entrance into the mountains themselves. This little, lovely spot is Golden, CO.
For visitors, it’s got just about everything that you could need. There’s hiking in Golden, CO, good food, museums, and the Coors factory. (Did you know Coors was made in Colorado? Somehow I didn’t!) All this makes a day trip to Golden, CO a great option for any itinerary, and a must for anyone living in the state.
This short guide will give you a sense for the town, and help you plan your own trip to this lovely and easily-accessed mountain town.
- 1 Five Great Reasons to Take a Day Trip to Golden, CO
- 2 Tours and Museums
- 3 Hiking in Golden, CO: North Table Mountain
- 4 Food and Drinks
- 5 Planning A Trip to Colorado?
Five Great Reasons to Take a Day Trip to Golden, CO
A taste of the mountains, close at hand
The mountain towns of Colorado are world-famous for the beautiful landscapes that they are nested within, and for their own, small-town USA charm. Golden has got you covered with both of those. You might not be up in the high Rockies, while visiting, but you will have amazing views of the mountains all around. And the town itself is gorgeous. Just taking an hour or two to walk the old, downtown area is a must. The buildings are lovely and there are loads of unique shops to check out. Taking in this little town is a great way to stay your day trip to Golden, CO, in fact.
It’s a really short drive from Denver (15-20 min) to get to Golden. It’s so close in fact, I would almost say that Golden could be considered a suburb. This means that if you don’t have time or the desire to drive deep into the mountains, this is an awesome option for a day of adventure and exploration.
Activities for the whole family.
No matter what their interest, there is something for everyone in your family in this little town. For the people-watchers and coffee drinkers, there are a couple great spots on the main drag for a sit down with a hot drink and a view of the street. For the hikers among you, there are several mountain parks, including North Table Mountain, which I will be covering here. It’s a great spot for hiking in Golden, CO.
Unique hiking opportunities.
I might be exaggerating a little, but I felt like North Table Mountain was a mini Roraima. You climb up from the grassy foothills on steep trails, and if you go to the summit, you will find yourself in a somewhat alien setting where the grass gives way to odd rock formations and scrappy shrubs. Even if you disagree about the comparison, North Table Mountain has some amazing views of the surrounding areas, and its flat top makes it an interesting world onto its own.
Amazing food and surprising variety.
Not only is there good food in Golden, but there is a bunch of different kinds of good food here. You won’t be stuck eating burgers and fries all day. In fact, when we visited, we happened into a very good Cajun restaurant, and then had ramen and Korean food for dinner. And all of it was good! (In fact, I might be a little jealous!)
So many museums!!
For a small town (or even a larger town), Golden, CO has a long list of museums to explore and learn from. These range from museums about mountain sports, to showcases of the paleontology of the area. No matter your interests, there is likely something for you to take a peek at in town.
Tours and Museums
Golden, CO is home to the Coors brewery and you can take a tour if you visit. You will need to get a reservation ahead of time to do the tour, and of course, you must also be of legal drinking age in the US (21+ years old).
There are A LOT of museums in Golden, CO, and as of writing this, we haven’t yet visited any of them. If you’d like a full list of potential museums to visit check out the city’s website on the matter.
Some spots that I hope to visit in the future include the American Mountaineering Museum, Buffalo Bill’s Gravesite and Museum, and Dinosaur Ridge.
Hiking in Golden, CO: North Table Mountain
North Table Mountain Park, run by Jefferson County, is a free hiking location that offers opportunities to exercise, experience nature, and explore right in Golden, CO. There are over 17 miles of potential trails in this park, with a large loop for people looking for a day hike. However, when I visited, we did a smaller loop that included: North Table Loop, Lichen Peak, Tilting Mesa Trail, Mesa Top Trail, and a final park of North Table Loop.
This loop was 3.7 miles long with a 646 foot elevation gain.
We did this hike from the West Trailhead, which is located right off of State Highway 93. This is a great spot to leave from, as it is accessible to all vehicles, and has a very nice bathroom. That all being said, as with every Colorado trailhead, this lot fills up throughout the day. So, if you visit, try to have a plan B if you can’t park. Blocking people in or parking in no parking zones is potentially dangerous and not at all nice to others or the park rangers.
The name of North Table Mountain should tell you a little about what to expect of this hiking destination. It is an apt name. This means that the mountain has a flat top or mesa at its upper heights. But much of its sides are cliffs or steep. So, while hiking, you will have a steep trek up to the table-top, but once up there, the elevation gain is limited.
I think it’s a kind of magical place. That’s because the world on top of this mountain feels a little bit like its own little island. It’s a little slice of the surrounding plains, but it also feels isolated and special. I was especially enchanted by the short trek up to Lichen Peak. The area around this trail is very alien and not at all like the plains. In fact, the stark landscape reminded me more of the exotic and fabled landscape on top of Roraima in South America.
Of course, take this with a grain of salt. Haha.
But also, let your imagination run wild if you visit North Table Mountain. These lowland, county parks are underappreciated escapes from the rush of modern life. And they are important conservation areas. In fact, North Table Mountain has areas closed all-year and seasonally to protect the environment and animals that rely on it.
Safety and Crowding Considerations
Even close to town, you need to take care of yourself. Please remember that your safety is your own responsibility. This guide does not guarantee your safety.
One unique consideration for this park is the high level of useage and multi-useage of the trails. If you visit, expect to be navigating bikers, and other hikers. There are also climbing spots on the mountain. While bikers are technically supposed to yield to hikers, you should generally stop to let them pass, and be careful, as many don’t stop or appreciate your pause to let them pass.
It’s also good to remember that it is polite to stop to let hikers going up pass you while you are traveling down. AND stop to allow faster hikers to pass you if they are going in the same direction.
Food and Drinks
We had a few different things while doing our own day trip to Golden, CO – lunch, ice cream, coffee, cocktails, and dinner.
Trailhead Taphouse and Kitchen: For lunch, we popped into a little spot near the parking lot where we left our car for most of the day. We were expecting a typical selection of American classics, along with good beer options (standard in CO). What we got were good beer options AND really darn good Cajun food. I got a blackened catfish sandwich and it was really exceptional. Spicy, fresh, and tucked in some good baguette. There was nothing to complain about! This little spot was a really welcomed surprise and I would encourage any Cajun food lovers to give it a try.
Golden Sweets: We went to the little ice cream shop downtown after doing a bit of shopping. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was a great spot to take a little rest and grab a seat by the window.
Windy Saddle Cafe: The local coffee shop does some pretty good drinks, and has a nice, wide selection that includes good options for non-coffee drinkers (such as myself). I got a lavender matcha latte while visiting, and I eyed their baked goods as well. I stopped myself from getting any more treats, but they looked really good. This is the perfect spot for people watching and enjoying some nice, local fare.
Golden Moon Speakeasy: I was really excited to try Golden Moon Speakeasy, and for the few seconds that I got to check the place out before it was mobbed by a HUGE group of people bar crawling (without reservations), I really liked the vibe. I think the drinks here have a bit of unique flavor that might not be everyone’s jam. But the quality was high and people who like trying new things will enjoy this spot.
Nosu Ramen: Finally, after getting chased out of the cocktail bar by the uninvited partiers, we walked over to a small ramen/Asian-food shop just down the street. Having had ramen all over the US, and in Japan, I wasn’t expecting much, but this place really surprised me. All the food that I had was great (including a second dessert for the day), and I found the atmosphere of the shop to be very comfortable and calming. This was another top notch spot that you will want to consider when visiting the town.
Gosh! I know I tried a lot that day, but after hiking in Golden, CO, you really do work up an appetite!
Planning A Trip to Colorado?
There is an almost endless number of things to do in Colorado. This includes trails that range from exploration of the plains, to its high-reaching 14ers. There are also cultural landmarks and places to experience immersive art. In short, no matter what you love to experience and explore, there is something for you in Colorado. We are only just now starting to scratch the surface, but our Guide to Colorado is slowly growing as we explore the state more and more.
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I visited Golden with my Dad and sister when I was 14. We toured the Coors beer factory, and after the tour everyone got beer but my sister and I who got “water from the Rocky Mountain Streams.” Understandable, but I was hopeful I would get my first beer there! I do recall the town being really picturesque. I bet when things green up your next visit there will be even better.
Oh wow! I bet it would be kind of neat to see what it is like now. It feels like they have done their best to maintain its historic character but it’s grown as well. Maybe you need to come back and get that beer!