Ask any longtime Denverite: Colorado’s capital is no mountain town. Newcomers are often surprised at the far-off Front Range, but for the adventurously inclined, this doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things to do. The Centennial State enjoys trails even in its urban jungle, and—no surprise, from a region with the third-highest number of microbreweries per capita in the country—our favorite recovery beverage is beer. Here are the best trail to tavern pairings in the Denver Metro area.
1. Confluence Park | My Brother's Bar
Denver’s Highlands neighborhood is truly a confluence, both in the hydrological sense—Confluence Park marks the merging of Cherry Creek and the South Platte—and culturally: you’ll find a wide variety of top-notch restaurants, all within walking distance of one another. The good news is there’s a way to work off those calories first. Ride, run, or walk the gently graded South Platte River Trail , which begins at 88th and Colorado in Thornton and stretches nearly 18 miles to Aurora.
Ready for more? Take a kayak to play in the whitewater park at the confluence, conveniently located just a block from both the Denver REI flagship store and locally beloved Wilderness Exchange. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to My Brother’s Bar—literature buffs will recognize it from Kerouac’s On the Road—for a super-cheap, delicious post-fun burger and great beer. There’s no sign out front, which adds to its mystique as the oldest continually operating bar in Denver.
2. Clear Creek | Golden City Brewery
Signs of spring on the Colorado Front Range: geese return, flowers bloom, and local breweries open their patio doors. Just fifteen miles west of Denver, the city of Golden was established during the gold rush in the late nineteenth century, and today sticks to its motto—“Where the West Lives!”—with easy access to countless recreational opportunities, including Clear Creek, which runs through the heart of downtown. When the weather’s warm, take your kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or innertube (you can rent one just blocks from the creek at Golden River Sports ) to the Clear Creek Whitewater Park . If the water’s too cold, head up Clear Creek Canyon, where you’ll have your pick of thousands of sport climbing routes. Your reward is waiting at Golden City Brewery , whose charming patio offers a hearty taste of mountain living. For extra credit, match your beer to the day’s activities with a Lookout Stout or Clear Creek Gold.
3. Apex Park | Mountain Toad
There’s a reason Golden is home to a half-dozen bike shops: it’s a mountain biker’s paradise. It’s a short drive to some of the Front Range’s best singletrack, including Centennial Cone, Mayhem Gulch, White Ranch Open Space , and Apex Park . Apex offers outstanding technical riding, challenging climbs, and fun, flowy descents. Plan ahead—the park enforces directional restrictions, so certain sections of the trails are only up- or downhill depending on the day ( check the map on the land manager’s website for details). When you’re ready for a cool down, head to the Mountain Toad —quickly becoming one of Golden’s most popular microbreweries, and featuring local art—to enjoy an Apex Amber on the dog-friendly patio.
4. Red Rocks Park | Roof Top Tavern
Historic Morrison is nestled in the foothills just south of Golden and boasts some classic Front Range bouldering problems. Quick approaches to an abundance of boulders means the area has an outdoor gym feel—you can get a ton of laps in before you head into town for a beer. Taking a rest day? Check out Red Rocks Park , where you can hike to incredible panoramic views of Denver and the plains, or catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Once you’ve climbed the rocks—or the 380-odd amphitheater steps—head to the Roof Top Tavern , which serves local craft brews and spirits on a patio complete with in-table firepits. Like the rest of Morrison, the views here won’t disappoint.
5. Trail Ridge Road | Great Divide Brewing
There are plenty of continental divides in North America, but the Great Divide, which runs from Alaska’s Seward Peninsula to the tip of South America, is by far the most prominent. Denverites don’t have to go far to see the point where watersheds go their separate ways: Trail Ridge Road , a National Scenic Byway with killer Continental Divide views, runs through Rocky Mountain National Park—just an hour and a half from downtown. The Front Range also boasts the highest point on the Divide in North America: Grays Peak, which measures up at 14,278 feet. For a true Continental Divide experience, summit this approachable Fourteener, and enjoy a Great Divide Brewing creation—try a refreshing Denver Pale Ale—at the top. Hopefully it’s the only Yeti you’ll see all day.
Originally written for Toad&Co.