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september 2015 / DenverLifeMagazine.com
The Great Outdoors
Golden is prime territory for fall escapades close to home
By ted alan stedman
t was where 1850s miners discovered plac-
er gold, and was once the state’s territorial
capital and a frontier outpost known as the
last “flat place” before the Rocky Moun-
tains. Talk about Colorado history, and the city
of Golden comes to the forefront. Thanks to
brewing pioneer Adolph Coors founding his
company there in 1873, it has name recogni-
tion that most cities can only envy—a place
where the “Pure Rocky Mountain Spring
Water” slogan carries more outdoor cache than
early city boosters could have imagined.
Cleaved by Clear Creek, the waterway is
the heart and soul of Golden and sets the
stage for a slew of outdoor pursuits. The river
is front-and-center, a haven for anglers and
paddlers who come here for bountiful trout
and playboating the city’s manmade kayaking
course. Step beyond its banks and Clear Creek
forms a liquid artery hemmed by hundreds
of climbing routes and topped by mountain
ridges crisscrossed with all flavors of hiking
and biking trails. Something else to consider:
With the approach of fall, robust river levels,
toasty daytime temps and touristy crowds are
tamed, making Golden a serious adventure
alternative to more distant I-70 destinations.
Golden has drawn fly-fishers, as well as
praises, ever since the conservation and advo-
cacy organization Trout Unlimited dedicated
its “Golden Mile” premium trout habitat in
2009. River renovation that increased depth,
pools, boulder placement, slackwaters and
other fish-friendly features created an ideal
habitat for trout to flourish, meaning predict-
ably great fishing right in town.
“Numbers of rainbow and brown trout along
the Golden Mile are some of the best you’ll find
anywhere in the state,” says Bart Pinkham of
Golden River Sports, where he sells equipment
and provides custom guide services. The Gold-
en Mile is just the start, however. Head further
upriver and there are more than 20 miles of
fishable waters all the way to Georgetown.
“People are excited to have an excellent trout
fishing experience in a mountain environment
near a metro area,” Pinkham adds.
When it comes to playboating—practic-
ing moves and toying with river features in
a relatively confined area—Golden’s Clear
Creek Whitewater Park is the place to be.
Dedicated in 1998, one-quarter mile of riv-
erway was reconfigured by kayak guru Gary
Lacey, a hydraulic engineer and urban plan-
ner who transforms citified waterways into
frothy urban oases—a.k.a. whitewater parks.
“Playboating transformed the sport of
kayaking,” Lacey says. “Instead of going
down a river on day or overnight trips, the
concept of playing on a single wave all day
revolutionized boat designs and how boat-
Hook up with these trusted experts for your Golden adventures:
Fly-fishing: Besides equip-
ment sales and service, Golden
River Sports conducts on-
water fly-fishing classes, as well
as guided services covering
15 miles of home waters along
Paddle sports: Golden
River Sports is a one-stop shop
for kayak and stand-up paddle-
boarding sales and rentals as
well, not to mention boogie-
style rip boards, wet suits and
all levels of instruction handled
through an affiliation with Re-
naissance Adventure Guides.
Mountain biking: Rent
a demo bike, make a new
purchase or simply check in
with the two-wheel experts at
Golden Bike Shop to get the
411 on local rides.
Rock climbing: Fully per-
mitted and insured, Denver
Mountain Guiding provides
instructional courses on local
climbing routes for beginners
through experts of all ages.
To find out about events, tours, recreation, outfitters and all things Golden, visit visitgolden.com.
water world Playboating has changed the sport
of kayaking in Golden.
september 2015 / DenverLifeMagazine.com
Multi-sport items to help take
advantage of Golden’s outdoor
per Pro EVO 29 mountain
bike, $1,550. At specialized.com
Wheatley Signature Fly
Box, $200. At orvis.com
Oru Kayak Bay + Folding
Kayak, $1,575. At rei.com
Patagonia Crag Daddy
rock climbing pack, $179.
Sevylor Tomichi Pro
106 inflatable stand-up
paddleboard, $1,199.99. At
For Golden, Lacey’s company re-con-
toured the river channel with thousands of
tons of large, aesthetic granite boulders 8 to
12 feet in diameter. “These parks are a bless-
ing for the time-strapped,” he says. “And the
interaction between people on the bank and
paddlers is wonderful.”
The run has three sections built using
natural boulders, with the upper section
consisting of a series of drops
and pools with fast eddies
for a variety of skill levels;
the middle offering flat,
broad and shallow surf
waves with huge ran-
dom boulders; and the
lower section made to
entertain paddlers with
more extreme surf.
training for cold, fast-mov-
ing water is essential. But there
are other ways to enjoy Golden’s
centerpiece. Head downstream
and you’ll enter the territory of
stand-up paddleboarders and old school tubers
who ply the more mellow riffles and current,
conditions that become excellent come fall.
Golden’s biking creds are stellar, with White
Ranch Open Space and Apex Park coming
out on top for knobby tire rides. “These are
fairly technical, and, depending on ability,
we’ll match bikes with the trails people prefer,”
says Greg Floyd of Golden Bike Shop, a go-to
for retail, rentals and advice.
In town, you’ll find more pedestrian-styled
paths and light-duty roller coaster trails, from
the paved, tree-lined Clear Creek Bike Path that
meanders alongside the river for 19 miles on its
rendezvous with the South Platte River, to the
7.4-mile North Table Mountain loop that en-
circles the mesa with a rolling single track most
riders can handle. For more ambitious (read:
steep) riding with incredible views, the 5-mile
Chimney Gulch Trail at Lookout Mountain’s
Windy Saddle Park is a favorite for fall splendor.
Talk to local rock climbers worth their chalk
and they’ll gush about the hundreds of desig-
nated climbs in and around Golden. And
don’t worry if you’re new to rock,
because the routes run the
gamut from easy bouldering
to super-techie climbs.
“We’ve got routes on
North Table Mountain,
in Clear Creek—crags,
walls, boulders, you name
it,” says Kevin Capps of
Denver Mountain Guiding.
“North Table Mountain has
nice, solid black basalt rock with
single-pitch routes we’ll use for top-
roping beginning and intermediate
climbing clients. Lookout Mountain
Crag is another good top rope route that fol-
lows a cliff face with lots of cracks.”
From town, climbers can hike to Canal
Zone along a trail running beside an irrigation
canal to a shady wall offering several beginner
to intermediate climbs.
“We get groups of rank beginners and inter-
mediates who want to learn from the ground
up, or improve their skill levels, and we’ll go out
to Clear Creek for a day and everybody comes
back with smiles,” says Capps, who notes that
his guided climbs boast a 100 percent safety
success record. “That’s the thing about Golden.
If you want to test your limits and engage in
the outdoors, it’s all right here.” DLM
nities Hike and bike
without the haul up I-70.