Lariat Loop Scenic & Historic Byway
Loop through history
|Mileage||37 miles (59 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||1 hour, 10 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||Spring, Summer, and Fall|
|Roadways||Colorado Highways 470, 6, and 74, Interstate 70, and US Highways 40 and 6|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Arvada, CO▼, Evergreen, CO▼, Golden, CO▼, Morrison, CO▼, Westminster, CO▼, Wheat Ridge, CO▼, Idaho Springs, CO▼, Black Hawk, CO▼, more...Edgewater, CO▼, Green Mountain Village, CO▼, Lakewood, CO▼, Leyden, CO▼, Mountain View, CO▼, North Colorado Springs, CO▼, Aspen Park, CO▼, and Sheridan, CO▼|
4.2 average from 6 votes
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The Lariat Loop Scenic and Historic Byway travels from Golden, at the foothills of the Rockies, and winds through the welcoming historic towns of Evergreen and Morrison. Enjoy majestic mountain views, with ample opportunities for outdoor adventure, and time to kick back and relax. This 40-mile drive is just 20 minutes from downtown Denver, making it a perfect day trip or weekend getaway.
We describe the drive beginning in Golden, but of course you can begin anywhere along the route, or travel in the opposite direction. Before heading out — or upon your return, discover Golden, a blend of history and modernity with restaurants, art galleries, unique shops, and a range of lodging options. Here are a few golden attractions:
Train and history buffs will love the Colorado Railroad Museum (M2). Open year-round, more than 100 narrow and standard gauge, steam and diesel trains can be seen here. The Depot Museum boasts an extensive collection of artifacts. Visit a working roundhouse, observe train restoration, or delve deeper into railroad history at the Robert W. Richardson Railroad Library. Board a train and take a ride, or participate in popular events such as the famous Day Out with Thomas, Ride the Rails, or Polar Express in winter. There is an admission fee. Train rides have an additional fee.
Prefer classic cars? Detour to the Cussler Museum (M4), home to over 100 cars collected by renowned author Clive Cussler. Observe a 1906 Stanley Steamer, 1929 Bentley Blower, 1938 Bugatti 59C, 1965 Corvette Stingray and more. Open May to September. There is an admission fee.
The MillerCoors Brewery (A5) in Golden is the largest single-site brewery in the world. Learn about the malting, brewing, and packaging process on a free one hour tour. Afterwards, explore the memorabilia collection. Visitors over 21 can sample cold, fresh beer, and all ages can enjoy non-alcoholic beverages. Note, a free ticket is required for the Brewery Tour.
Foothills Art Center (M5) is housed in a Gothic-style church on the National Register of Historic Places, a beautiful venue for local national and international artists in rotating exhibits. There is an entrance fee.
Fans of minerals and geology will love the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum (M3). Examine mining artifacts, fossils, gemstones, meteorites, and a Goodwill moon rock collected during the Apollo 17 mission. Don’t miss the outdoor walking trail, featuring fossilized dinosaur tracks, logs and leaves. The museum is free.
The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum (M8) preserves the art and heritage of quilt making. On display are quilts from the 1800’s to present day in permanent and rotating exhibits which change every 2 months. A gift shop features quilts for sale by local artists. There is a fee to enter.
Stroll, jog, or bike the multi-use paved Clear Creek Trail. The trail is part of an interconnected trail system in Golden which travels through three distinct ecosystems: grassland prairie, pinyon-ponderosa woodlands and montane, all home to a variety of wildlife.
The Golden Visitor Center (I1) has all the info you need to make the most of your time in the region. Ask for the self-guided 12th Street Historic District Walking Tour map and explore the architecture. Visit local outfitters to embark on a kayak, tubing, or fly-fishing expedition.
The drive leaves Golden on Lookout Mountain Road rising 2,000 feet as it zig zags through 56 perfectly-banked curves and seven hairpin turns to the top of Lookout Mountain. Drive carefully and be aware of motorcycles and cyclists. Aptly-named, Lookout Mountain Park (H1) mesmerizes with panoramic views. Also located here is The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave. Born William F. Cody in 1846, learn about the life and times of Buffalo Bill, the name synonymous with the Wild West through displays, his showy outfits, Stetson hat, firearms, memorabilia, and American Indian artifacts. There is a small entrance fee, and the museum is free on Feb 28, Buffalo Bill’s birthday.
Travel 1.4 miles by road, or 0.8 mile by walking trail from Buffalo Bill Museum to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve and Boettcher Mansion. The Nature Center features guided naturalist programs, exhibits, and hands-on activities for kids. Short trails just outside the Nature Center offer the chance to spot grazing elk and deer. In neighboring Windy Saddle Park (H9), take the 10-mile Beaver Brook Trail which delivers some pretty stunning views with little elevation gain, or the challenging 5-mile round trip up Chimney Gulch. Watch paragliders as they soar from the cliff side. Also located on the Preserve is the Boettcher Mansion (A1) which was originally a summer home and hunting lodge built in 1917 for Charles Boettcher. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the home is an event venue. On weekdays, take a self-guided tour of the mansion and grounds.
Genesee Park (H4) was established in 1913, and is the oldest and largest unit of the Denver Mountain Park system. Drive to the summit and walk the paths that unveil precious wildflowers and gorgeous views of Mt Bierstadt, or hike 1-mile up from the picnic area to the summit. The Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve is home to a small herd of buffalo which can be observed from the overlook. Cyclists and walkers will love the new I-70 Genesee Bike Path and Pedestrian Bridge on the north side of I-70 in Genesee Park. The bridge connects the trail as it travels through Genesee Park and offers a great vantage point from which to observe the buffalo.
The road heads towards Evergreen where recreation abounds. Evergreen Lake (W1) is popular for fishing, rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board. In winter, the lake is a mecca for ice skating. At 8.5 -acres, it is the world’s largest groomed outdoor ice rink! Skate rentals onsite.
At Elk Meadow Park (H3) along with, yes, elk viewing, you’ll find 12-miles hiking trails for every level of ability. A steep climb on the Stagecoach Boulevard Trail leads to the summit of Bergen Peak. At 9,708-feet you will be rewarded with astounding views of the Continental Divide.
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park (H2) is named for three rocky outcroppings that jut up from the ridge, perfect for bouldering. There are two other small outcroppings called The Brothers, plus the ever popular Evergreen Mountain Hike with majestic 360 degree views of the surrounding area.
The Hiwan Museum (M6) evolved from a one-room cabin constructed in 1893 to a 25-room log retreat. Enjoy the Rocky Mountain rustic style of architecture, and explore original furnishings, artifacts, and Native American artwork. The grounds are nice for a picnic. Admission is free.
After Kitteridge, the road is curvy and fun to drive. Along this stretch are a few small parks, O’Fallon Park (H7), Corwina Park (H11) and Lair O’ the Bear Park (H5). Each offers typical park amenities such as hiking and biking trails, fishing, and picnic tables.
Detour south to Mount Falcon Park (H6) to see the Walker Castle Ruins. The castle was originally built by John Brisben Walker in 1909, and burned down in 1919. Some of the stone foundation and fireplace remain. Take the 5-mile strenuous Mount Falcon Castle Trail to the ruins, where expansive views of Denver and the Red Rocks Amphitheater await. Also here, is the foundation of Walker’s proposed summer home for U.S. Presidents. It was never completed. Other short and kid-friendly trails circumnavigate the park.
Red Rocks Amphitheater and Park (H8) is the ultimate concert venue. Red sandstone ledges jut from the landscape creating a natural amphitheater and superb acoustics. Catch a concert, there is a dizzying array of bands from every genre. Located within the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheater is the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Defining Colorado’s diverse musical legacy explore, exhibits and displays of inductees including John Denver, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Glenn Miller. Whether you catch a show here or not, stopping to take in the extraordinary beauty, is must. Hike some of the many trails in Red Rocks Park, which was designated a national historic landmark in 2015, along with nearby Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, which housed workers while building the Red Rocks Amphitheater from 1935-1941.
Morrison Main Street Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places, maintaining many original buildings from its heyday in the late 1880’s as a railroad hub. Enjoy small shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, after rock climbing, bouldering, and rafting of course.
The Morrison Natural History Museum (M7) boasts a Tyrannosaurus skull among its many fossil finds. The small museum digs locally, where they have unearthed many treasures, including infant sauropod footprints and baby stegosaurus fossils. The museum is a continually at work, so peer into the lab to see what their working on. Learn more on a guided tour included with admission.
Love fast cars? The Bandimere Speedway (A6) is a family-run racetrack with a 1/4-mile dragstrip. Rev up for National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and other racing events.
Channel your inner paleontologist by exploring over 300 dinosaur tracks, bones, and other fossils at Dinosaur Ridge (A2). Some of the world’s best known dinosaur fossils were found here, and this area has been designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service. Take a guided shuttle tour (fee) or walk the two self guided trails, Dinosaur Ridge Trail and Triceratops Trail, (free). Along the way, learn more from interpretive signage. If walking, note the high elevation and some steep sections. Bring water and sunscreen. Please respect all fossils and do not collect or disturb any natural features. The indoor hall features fossils, full-size replicas, hands-on exhibits and educational programs.
The drive heads back to Golden. Stop at the Golden Bike Library (A4) where you can actually “check out” a bicycle to use free for trips under 2 hours, or a small fee for daily rental. There are a variety of bike types and sizes for every age and type of riding. Or continue the mountain adventures on the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway.