The Ultimate Trail to Tavern 3-Day Weekend in Golden



Golden might be the best little Trail to Tavern® town in Colorado. It’s only about 15 miles from the heart of Denver, but somehow has that sleepy mountain town feel. North and South Table Mountains keep it hidden from the plains, and Clear Creek Canyon offers access to endless paddling, climbing, hiking, and mountain biking opportunities. The name fits, too—it was established during the mid-19th century Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Golden’s quaint main drag, Washington Avenue, sums up the friendly town’s attitude with a sign that reads “Howdy Folks!”

If you’re not already sold on Golden, consider its biggest export—craft beer. The town’s best-known resident is the Coors Brewery, but it’s not just big beer that’s brewed here. Golden is home to several excellent craft breweries, all gathering places for adventurers fresh off a bike ride at North Table Mountain or a paddle in Clear Creek. Make the most of a three-day weekend in Golden with this trail-to-tavern itinerary.

Day One

Rocky Mountain National Park is about 90 minutes away from Golden, and has tons of hiking and bouldering opportunities.Rocky Mountain National Park is about 90 minutes away from Golden, and has tons of hiking and bouldering opportunities. Miguel Vieira

Start your first day with a delicious breakfast burrito at the family-owned La Casa del Sabor, and then kick off your weekend with an adventure into the Wild West. From downtown Golden, head west towards Clear Creek Canyon on the bike path. Keep an eye out for a small sign marking the start of the Chimney Gulch Trail, which makes for a lung buster of a mountain bike ride up technical singletrack. Follow Chimney Gulch to the Windy Saddle area (a good place to stop for killer views of the canyon), then follow the road to the top of Lookout Mountain.

The Lookout summit is chock full of history: it’s not only the final resting place of the legendary Buffalo Bill, but you’ll also find a museum here dedicated to his life. Spend some time checking out the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, then head back down the mountain. The trip will be about seven miles when it’s all said and done, and keep your eyes peeled for the giant “M” on the east face of Mount Zion—a symbol of the local Colorado School of Mines that has been around since the early 1900s.

Follow the bike path back to Washington Avenue, the Main Street of Golden. After your trip up Lookout Mountain you’ll probably be on the verge of hangry, so pick one of the many restaurants for a bite to eat—like the Buffalo Rose Saloon that dates back to 1858 or the Old Capitol Grill with its old Western atmosphere. After that, take your time looking at the shops (make sure you check out the new Toad&Co store!) and old buildings along Washington Avenue. Learn about the history of mountaineering at the museum in the American Mountaineering Center, or head to the other side of the highway to see the Colorado Railroad Museum, with a 15-acre rail yard and artifacts from the days of Buffalo Bill.

Top off the afternoon with a stop at Golden City Brewery, historically the second-largest brewery in Golden, and enjoy a Lookout Stout or a Clear Creek Gold Pale Ale. Like most of Golden’s breweries, you’ll find a food truck at GCB most nights.

Where to stay: Table Mountain Inn is the perfect base camp for your Golden adventures. It’s right on Washington Avenue, so you’re steps away from all the action. You can’t miss it: the adobe-style hotel stands out and brings just the right amount of Southwestern charm. Also, they have a great happy hour (think $6 margaritas the size of your head), and a restaurant with Southwestern-inspired meals.

Day Two

New Belgium Brewing is known around the country for their tasty beer.New Belgium Brewing is known around the country for their tasty beer. +Russ

Golden has tons of breweries per capita, but its northerly neighbor is home to the Colorado’s best-known brewery, so we’re heading to Fort Collins for day two. Before you set out, though, walk about a block from your hotel to get a cup of coffee or chai from Cafe 13. Offering homemade pastries, bagels, and eggs to order, Cafe 13 will set you up for a day of adventure.

Hop in the car and get on I-25 north to Fort Collins, home of 100% employee-owned New Belgium Brewing. New Belgium is among the country’s largest craft breweries, and it’s not hard to see why their beer can be found all over the country—you’re probably already familiar with beloved brews like the Fat Tire Amber Ale and the Ranger IPA. Take a 90-minute tour of their brewing facility, which includes beer tastings (score!). Tours fill quickly, especially on weekends, so you’ll want to reserve your tickets online in advance. The brewery offers several tours daily between 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM. (Local tip: If you get up to FoCo before your tour starts, stop at Lucile’s Creole Cafe for a homemade, New Orleans-style beignet.)

After your tour, get a real Colorado-style mountain pie at Beau Jo’s. Order your pizza by the pound—one, two, three, or five—and then load it up with fresh toppings. The crust around the edges is super thick to hold all that flavor in, and you’ll see locals dipping the crust in honey to finish it off.

Horsetooth Reservoir is another great spot for trail running or for throwing down a crash pad and bouldering a bit.Horsetooth Reservoir is another great spot for trail running or for throwing down a crash pad and bouldering a bit. Angelika Boyko

Next up on the agenda is hitting the trails at nearby Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. Its namesake reservoir was created by four separate earthen dams, each built in 1949. Today, Horsetooth is a recreational playground. Bring a crash pad to check out the excellent bouldering (there are tons of moderates here) or lace up your trail shoes to go for a run on the park’s many well-maintained trails.

Bonus: Feeling ambitious? Include a side trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in your day. It’s about an hour and a half drive west of Fort Collins, but has tons of hiking and bouldering. Lots of park roads are closed during the snowy winter months, but after Memorial Day, drive up Trail Ridge Road for panoramic views of the Rockies.

Whenever you’re ready, drive back down I-25 to Golden and get some sleep before your last day.

Day Three

Holidaily Brewing Company is the only dedicated gluten-free brewery in Colorado.Holidaily Brewing Company is the only dedicated gluten-free brewery in Colorado. Holidaily Brewing Co.

Thanks to its location at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills, Golden offers access to tons of high-quality trails, all of which are walkable from downtown. This also means it’s entirely possible to do a pub crawl using the trails right out your back door.

Start your tour de brew with a trail run or bike ride on North Table Mountain. Take the 7.5-mile North Table Loop around this spectacular mesa, or mix-and-match the many trails that criss-cross its plateau. The steep, half-mile fire road from the west side parking lot to the top of the mesa also accesses some of Golden’s best single-pitch trad climbing.

If you have been searching far and wide for gluten-free beer, look no further than Holidaily Brewing Company. The only dedicated gluten-free brewery in the state, their beers are well-loved by everyone, gluten sensitivity or not. Just down the road, you can pop into Cannonball Creek Brewing Company, where you’ll find anywhere from 8-14 beers on tap at any given time, including many that have been awarded medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

Running right through downtown Golden, Clear Creek offers tubing and whitewater paddling, as well as a lovely trail that is perfect for biking or walking.Running right through downtown Golden, Clear Creek offers tubing and whitewater paddling, as well as a lovely trail that is perfect for biking or walking. Grant Bishop

If you’ve been itching to get out on the water, you’ll love the Clear Creek Whitewater Park. Designed for more experienced paddlers, this free, quarter-mile course includes boulders, drops, pools, and eddies. If tubing is more your speed, the best place for this is right around downtown, where the water will be the calmest. (Locals recommend not starting any higher than Tunnel 1 on Route 6.) Check in with Golden River Sports on Washington Avenue if you need any information before heading out.

After getting your water fix, stop by Mountain Toad Brewing Company, a local favorite that’s just two blocks away from Clear Creek on Washington. Depending on the day, sip a sour, stout, or saison out on the patio.

Finish up the weekend with a jaunt to the top of the aptly-named Castle Rock on South Table Mountain, which boasts the best views in Golden. Take the Golden Summit Trail from the dead end at 19th and Belvedere Streets, and get ready to go up. The trail is short (only about two miles round trip) and not as steep as the Sleeping Elk Trail, but will still be a decent workout.

Round out the brew crawl with a stop at Barrels & Bottles Brewery, where you’ll find an assortment of drinks from beer to wine slushies to kombucha on tap. Before heading home, play a few board games with your friends or family as you recount your amazing Colorado adventure (and plan your next one).

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.

Featured image provided by Ken Lund

The Ultimate Trail to Tavern 3-Day Weekend in Asheville

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Here’s a secret about the craft beer scene in Asheville, North Carolina: you can’t go wrong. With so much competition, each brewery has got to be at the top of its game in order to keep the doors open. Same is true for the outdoor exploration: whether you’re scouting singletrack, craving an airy mountain summit, or going in search of waterfalls, the Blue Ridge is brimming with big mountain adventure.

Still, when you’re aiming to experience the crème-de-la-crème of what this mountain town has to offer, it’s always best to ask. This three-day itinerary of trail to tavern activities in Western Carolina was brewed up by an Asheville local who excels in the fine art of pairing stout adventure with hoppy refreshment.

Day One

Paddling on the French Broad River near the Biltmore Estate.Paddling on the French Broad River near the Biltmore Estate. anoldent

Begin your long weekend with a drive along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s longest linear park. Half an hour from downtown Asheville, at milepost 364.6, you’ll find yourself at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. A brilliant section of the Great Craggy Mountain Range, the Gardens are characterized by steep rocky slopes, mile-high views, and high altitude meadows that blush pink with rhododendron in the summer.

Get your blood pumping with a hike to the top of the Craggy Pinnacle via the 1.5-mile round trip Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Twisted, altitude-stunted mountain ash, birch, and beech trees give way to a summit of exposed rock, a beautiful and fragile habitat for many rare plants. From there, the panoramic views of distant Appalachian peaks are sure to wet your appetite for more exploration to come.

As the morning rolls into afternoon, travel from the rugged mountaintops to the meticulous grounds of the Biltmore Estate, surrounded by thousands of acres of rolling meadows and wooded hillsides. Cruise alongside the peaceful banks of the French Broad River on a rented bike or wander along the extensive network of hiking trails to discover quiet fields, secluded forest groves and elaborate gardens.

It’s hard to believe that such pastoral beauty is only a four-minute drive from downtown Asheville, but when you’re done at the Biltmore, it’s time to head back. Allow yourself an hour just to wander through the bustling streets, browsing the local bookstores, cafés, chocolate shops and peruse the many art galleries.

For dinner, head over to Wicked Weed Brewery. You’ll recognize it by the crowds on the patio—a swarm of adventure-types nursing pints of Pernicious IPA around the fire pits. This insanely popular craft beer hotspot, housed inside a refurbished hardware store, was created by local climber turned award-winning brewmaster. The menu features ‘elevated pub gastronomy’ like a short rib burger and fried chicken sandwich, with an à la carte selection of classic southern sides.

Just south of downtown, the industrial buildings and former warehouses of the South Slope District (also known as Asheville’s Brewery District) have been chicly restored into restaurants, coffee shops, and no less than eight distinguished microbreweries. It’s hard to believe that this entire neighborhood claims only a couple of city blocks.

From the exclusively sour beers of the Funkatorium to the cult-following of Catawba’s Peanut Butter Jellytime Ale and Burial’s silky-dark donut skillet stout, each establishment in the Brewery District offers something fresh and tantalizing. Greenman is where the old-timers go, although its newly minted taproom is pretty hip, and Asheville Brewing Company’s lauded Ninja Porter is devastatingly delicious. Take our word for it—in one weekend, even the world’s thirstiest beer enthusiast could only scratch the surface of the illustrious South Slope.

Where to Sleep While there are plenty of hotels in the area, from the swanky downtown A-Loft and the Grove Park Inn to cheaper options on the outskirts, we recommend finding accommodation that’s more grounded in the local culture. A cursory search of Glamping Hub or Airbnb reveals a wealth of convenient, affordable, and off-beat lodging options in the Asheville area. Book a private cabin on the French Broad with Riverside Escapesor reserve a cozy cottage close to downtown at The Pines. Camping areas such as Montreat Family Campground and Big Creek Campground are quiet and entrenched in the wilderness, but will require a bit of driving.

Day 2

Pisgah National Forest covers more than 500,000 acres. Jeff BartlettPisgah National Forest covers more than 500,000 acres. Jeff Bartlett

Less than an hour outside of Asheville, the mountain town of Brevard is the jumping off point to some of the Southeast’s most popular outdoor recreation activities. Situated alongside the waterfall-studded DuPont State Recreational Forest, as well as the 500,000 acres of nearby Pisgah National Forest, you’ll have your pick of singletrack, multi-pitches, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails.

One of North Carolina’s most sought-after mountain biking trails, the seven-mile Ridgeline Loop Trail in DuPont State Recreational Forest is pure joy. It begins with a sustained, roundabout climb that never gets too steep or technical, unlike most of the trails in the area. The downhill is a flowing, curving plunge that gets delivered all in one shot. You’ll be tempted to lap it again and again, but try and pace yourself, the day is young.

Next, lace up your trail runners and throw a couple of extra power bars into your backpack—the journey to the top of Looking Glass Rock is a powerhouse. The trail, which totals 6.5 miles round trip, climbs 1,700 vertical feet over a series of serpentine switchbacks. At almost 4,000 feet above sea level, the summit is a rolling granite dome with unbroken views unfurling in every direction.

After a long day of adventure, it’s time to kick back and relax. Never before has craft beer and outdoor culture found such a perfect coexistence than at the Oskar Blues Reeb Ranch. Located just outside Brevard, the Ranch is a conglomeration of all things good: biking trails, a farmhouse-turned bed and breakfast, beer, food trucks. A daily pass to the Reeb Ranch Bike Park includes access to the Pump Track, Dual Slalom and two Jump Lines. It’s like summer camp for adults, and you’ll walk away wishing every brewery would invest in something equally awesome.

Perfectly positioned between Asheville and Brevard, the dazzling, castle-like campus of Sierra Nevada Brewery is the Hogwarts of breweries. Guided tours (available by reservation) offer a glimpse into the history, evolving tastes, and eco-friendly engineering of this extraordinary establishment. The small-plate menu takes a tapas approach to creative pub fare, with a seasonally rotating selection to match the growing season. As for the beer, don’t you dare invest in a full pour until you taste a flight or two!

Day 3

The New Belgium Brewery is a bright and airy space to enjoy a pint.The New Belgium Brewery is a bright and airy space to enjoy a pint. Kevin Stewart Photography.

Begin your final morning with a southbound cruise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Your destination is Black Balsam Knob, whose lush, rolling scenery is the stuff of Appalachian daydreams. This high altitude meadow is a particularly gorgeous example of a mountain bald, a unique geological feature of the Southern Appalachians. Just under a half-mile on the Art Loeb Trail will lead you above the trees and onto an airy summit of wildflowers and waving grasses. For a longer hike, continue on the Art Loeb Trail towards the Shining Rock Wilderness.

As you follow the parkway back into town, you will pass the parking area to Graveyard Fields on the left (milepost 418.8) This mile-high valley, encompassed by 6,000-foot peaks, is home to two dramatic waterfalls and a number of wooden boardwalks. The area is popular for hunting wildflowers in the summer and wild blueberries in the fall. The best way to explore this unique landscape is by following the 3.2-mile Graveyard Fields Loop Trail.

Once you get back to town, it’s worth spending some time exploring Asheville’s River Arts District (RAD), a lively collection of art studios, pottery shops, and cafés on the banks of the French Broad River. Slick new eco-construction and crumbling brick warehouses comprise this eclectic neighborhood, brazenly decorated with street art, murals and statues.

Nothing exemplifies Asheville’s artistic, counterculture vibe quite like the Wedge Brewing Co. in the RAD. Order a pitcher of Iron Rail IPA and dig into a bucket of free salty peanuts. The RAD is filled with pizza shops and gastropubs, but we recommend eating dinner as the locals do—from one of the onsite food trucks like Melt Your Heart (grilled cheese) or El Kimchi, the beloved Mexican/Korean hybrid. In the age of renovated garages and art-deco interiors, the Wedge’s quirky aesthetics are a refreshing taste of authentic, old-school Asheville.

Across the French Broad River from the Wedge sits the gleaming campus of New Belgium. The tasting room, known as the Liquid Center, is bright and clean surrounded by bright garage door windows. It is a beautiful space to sit back, sip a cold pint of Fat Tire or Sunshine Wheat, and reminisce on the weekend’s many highlights. On a warm evening, sit outside on the deck to watch the French Broad flow lazily past, and begin planning your next visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.

Featured image provided by Melina Coogan, Wild and Bright Photography