A Rocky Mountain Roadtrip through the Centennial State

In mid-November, I had the pleasure of attending a work-related conference in Aurora, Colorado. After the forum ended, Rebecca and I procured a rental car and embarked on a Rocky Mountain roadtrip through the majestic Centennial State. Our trip would hold no particular destination point. We embraced a level of spontaneity, stopping along the way to see various points of interest, and simply enjoy each other’s company enveloped in the spirit of adventure. Our only objective was to take in some of God’s beautiful scenery and possibly catch a snowflake or two. We had a wonderful time of it all and brought back these photographic memories to share with all of you.


The skyline of the Mile High City against a majestic backdrop.

Denver, being the gateway to the Rockies, was our first stopping point along the way. As seen in the picture above, (admittingly the only picture that I did not take), the Mile High City offers a panoramic view of the mountains that spans 140 miles long. Denver has the tenth largest downtown in the entire nation and is considered one of the most walkable downtowns in all of America. With all the hype, we put on our comfortable sneakers and set out to paint the town red.


Rebecca stands outside Ted’s Montana Grill in Larimer Square, Denver, Colorado.

After strolling through the downtown streets of Denver for several hours, we had worked up quite the appetite. We decided on Ted’s Montana Grill to quell our hunger. When out West, there’s probably no better an establishment to taste the local fare. At Ted’s, the American bison is the cornerstone of their menu. Let me just say that they know how to serve up a delicious protein-dense burger in this place. The food was phenomenal!


Big John and Rebecca enjoy one of Ted’s famous buffalo burgers on Larimer Square.

Here’s a fun fact: Alcoholic beverages pack much more of a wallop in the Mile High City compared to those consumed at sea-level.


Don’t miss world-class street performers near Denver’s 16th Street Mall.

You can tell by Rebecca’s face in the background, she just loves those stringed instruments!


Rebecca’s all bundled up outside Denver’s Christmas Market.


Don’t let the picture fool you, she’s just holding that soft doughy delight for me!


Christmastime in Denver, 2017.


A woman displays her seasonal wares inside Denver’s annual Christmas Market.


On the second floor of Denver’s 16th Street Mall

This mile-long, pedestrian-friendly, open air mall is packed with shopping, restaurants and numerous attractions.


Rebecca strikes a pose outside of Hard Rock Cafe, Denver.


A bicycle-taxi zips across the bustling intersection of Denver’s popular 16th Street.


It was here in Denver where I played before an adoring crowd of thousands.

Just joking! I can’t really play piano at all, although I’ve more than mastered the kazoo. Even though our time was limited, we had a great time touring Denver at night. There seems to be no end to all the amazing things the Mile High City has to offer its visitors.  After a good night’s rest, we headed northwest and up into the Rocky Mountains.


The historic town of Golden, Colorado

Our first stopping point past Denver was the historic town of Golden. Golden is the site of a former gold rush town at the foothills of the Rockies. Clear Creek flows nearby where the precious yellow metal was first discovered. The town is also the home of the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, the Coors brewing factory, and the final resting place of Buffalo Bill Cody.


A larger-than-life Buffalo Bill Cody greets visitors entering into Golden.


A view of Table Mountain from Coors Brewing Factory, Golden.


I suddenly feel compelled to go inside and get the tour.

At the age of 21, Adolph Coors stowed away to America with the dream of brewing a great beer. He realized that dream in 1873 when he began operations on the banks of Clear Creek in Golden, Colorado. The liquid gold he found in Clear Creek is still enjoyed today in frosty pint-sized mugs and 12-ounce bottles.


This pretty girl is listening in on how beer is crafted in the Rockies.


The valet around here must be drinking on the job. Just look where they parked my car!


Coors brewery in Golden boasts as being the largest brewery facility in the entire world.


Rebecca enjoys a pint of her favorite beer, Blue Moon.

Blue moon is owned by MillerCoors brewing company and also found its start in Golden, Colorado.


Coors advertisements throughout the year.


A display of all the various beers brewed by Coors.


She really digs the cowboy in me, what can I say?


Coors has a long history of supporting and honoring active members of our military and all those who have served.

After touring Coors brewing factory we headed further up the mountain to see the gravesite of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.


Did that deer up on the hill just moon me? Rude!


The Buffalo Bill Museum and gravesite in Golden.



Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show ran for thirty years (1883–1913). The show, which toured the continental United States, displayed reenactments of wild-west myth as well as American frontier history.  Buffalo Bill Cody focused his performances on showmanship, sharp-shooting skills, and rodeo style events. Buffalo Bill used real Native Americans during that period, such as the Lakota Chief, Sitting Bull, to provide a sense of authenticity to the audience. His show was a huge success and in the show’s heyday, he thrilled crowds by the thousands.


The gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody in Golden, Colorado

Once recognized as one of the most widely known entertainers in all of the United States, Buffalo Bill Cody lived until the age of 70. He died of kidney failure and was buried here on January 10, 1917.


A view of Denver’s lights from Buffalo Bill’s gravesite.


A fun sign at the entrance of Central City


Central City – Circa 1878.

Central City is a historic mining settlement founded in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. The town was once known as the “Richest Square Mile on Earth”.  By 1860, as many as 10,000 prospectors flocked into town with the dream of striking it rich.  Today, little remains of the glory days from Central City’s past. Outside of a few casinos, restaurants, and marijuana dispensaries, the place seemed a literal ghost town. 


A few casinos line either side of Central City’s historic Nevada Street.


Rebecca outside of Annie’s  grocery, liquor, dispensary in Central City.


Recreational marijuana use was legalized in Colorado in January, 2014.

Dispensaries can be found in numerous locations throughout the state. Although I personally wouldn’t ever use the stuff, I snapped the above picture to illustrate how this substance, good or bad, has now become a small part of Colorado society. After enjoying a delicious prime rib dinner at Johnny Z’s casino, Rebecca and I hit the road in search of snow.


Rebecca is all smiles outside of The Taffy Shop in Estes Park.

The city of Estes Park is known as a base for the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is home to numerous wildlife including elk and bears. Nearby is the well known wilderness areas of Roosevelt National Forest  featuring countless trails for hiking and other recreation.


Voted Estes Park’s #1 burger, Penelope’s Old Time Burgers is a must-stop eatery when visiting the town.


I enjoyed a savory elk burger on toasted rye. The dainty little girl above stuck with the buffalo. We both left quite pleased with our orders.


The Wapiti Colorado Pub in Estes Park is well known for their sumptuous burgers and craft beer.


The snow began to fall the night after we left Estes Park. We captured much of these scenes from our vehicle while moving through the mountains.




Vail Village in Vail, Colorado.

Vail is a quaint town at the base of Vail Mountain, home of the famous Vail Ski Resort. Set within White River National Forest, the town is a gateway for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. It’s also a summertime destination for golfing, hiking and cultural festivals. Gore Creek, popular for fly fishing, runs directly through the town center. Although Rebecca and I didn’t stay for Vail’s world-class skiing, we had a great time just strolling through the picturesque town.


Big John and Rebecca outside of Lancelot steak and seafood restaurant, Vail.


If you grab this bull by the horns you’re bound to get frostbite!


The Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer brings a taste of Austria to the cobble-stoned streets of Vail.



Vail is the snowy mecca for Alpine charm.


The ski season was not yet open when Rebecca and I visited Vail. As you can see, the village was nearly empty.


A commemoration of the 10th Mountain Division in Vail, Colorado

The Vail and Aspen ski resorts both got their starts from the historic actions of the 10th Mountain Division.  During WWII, the 10th Mountain Division trained on these slopes before liberating Italy from Nazi Germany. Every year since, these aging veterans have returned to their former training sites for  heart-felt reunions and nostalgic fun-filled days in the snow.



Dilapidated goldmines tell the story of Colorado’s historical past.


Downtown in Georgetown, Colorado

The city of Georgetown is a former silver mining camp along Clear Creek in the Rocky Mountains. The town was established in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush and remains a popular tourist destination today.



Many of Georgetown’s original houses and structures remain as they did over 100 years ago.


Rebecca befriends Georgetown’s steam-train conductor.


The historic Georgetown Loop Railroad is a family friendly tourist attraction in GeorgetownColorado.


If these old walls could talk, what stories would they tell?


The historic streets of Silver Plume on a cold evening in November.


The town of Silver Plume, (Georgetown’s closest neighbor), was incorporated in 1880. Legend has it that the town was named by Louis Dupuy, one of the town’s earliest residents. Dupuy owned the Hotel de Paris and was also the Silver Plume newspaper editor.  According to the story, when miners from Silver Plume brought him samples of the town’s ore and asked him what they should name the small camp, he allegedly wrote a short poem on the spot:

Knights today are miners bold,
Who delve in deep mines’ gloom,
To honor men who dig for gold,
For ladies whom their arms enfold,
We’ll name the town Silver Plume!


Who knew that snow skis make such great fences?


The George Rowe Museum in Silver Plume originally opened as a schoolhouse in 1894.


The Windsor Hotel B&B, Silver Plume, Colorado

The Historic Windsor Hotel Bed and Breakfast was built in 1884 when it opened as the New Windsor Hotel. It was a miners’ hotel, providing a place for the silver miners to stay while working in Silver Plume during its heyday.


The gold-mining town of Idaho Springs, Colorado

Colorado’s mining history is nowhere more apparent than in Idaho Springs. Gold was first discovered in Colorado here in 1859.  There are several mine tours that give visitors some fascinating insight into the  local mining history.


The Argo Gold Mine & Mill in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Voted best mine tour in 2016, the Argo Gold Mine & Mill is one of Idaho Springs’ most popular attractions. During the ninteenth century, the area in and around Idaho Springs yielded $1,700,000 in gold. Because of the mine’s historic significance, it was placed on the National Historic Register by the Department of the Interior in 1977.


The best pizza we found in Colorado was at BeauJo’s in Idaho Springs.


This pizzeria celebrates its Clear Creek County history with a gold-mining theme and related decor.



Rebecca sits down to enjoy one of BeauJo’s famous mountain pies.


This hungry guy paid me no attention as he foraged in the grasses.

The following pictures were taken inside of the Rocky Mountain National Park. President Woodrow Wilson established the Rocky Mountain National Park on January 26, 1915. At the time of its creation, this location became the 10th national park in the United States. Rocky Mountain National Park spans  over 265,000 acres of pristine wilderness, making it one of the largest national parks in the country.



Beautiful Aspen trees line each side of the road as we slowly make our way through the National Park.



This was just one of the beautiful water scenes I encountered in the park.



This particular slope was littered with dead wood buried in snow.


A scenic view from an information center at Rocky Mountain National Park.



I’ve got to take cover! Rebecca is beaming me with snowballs!


A panoramic view of a clearing within the National Park.



A flyfisher tries his luck in the cold waters beneath this bridge.


The higher up we go, the more snow we begin to encounter along the way.



I thought this glimpse of the lake was simply breathtaking.


There’s nothing like a hot cup of Wendy’s chili on a cold and snowy day in the Rockies!


We passed numerous ski resorts while traveling through the Colorado Rockies.


Shortly after snapping this picture, we witnessed the driver of a small sedan sliding off the road and landing in a ditch. Fortunately, the guy was okay and was a member of AAA.



The upper portion of this babbling mountain stream had already begun to freeze over.



A closer look reveals the remnants of a mine from by-gone days.



Our roadtrip through the Colorado Rockies, albeit brief, was adventurous and fun. Rebecca and I visited some fascinating cities and towns, learned something about the state’s history and culture, and enjoyed much of Colorado’s flair and flavor along the way. I hope you enjoyed my post. Feel free to explore other areas of my blog, leave a comment, and show some love on social media. I hope you visit Big John’s Adventures in Travel again soon and share it with friends.

Happy travels,

Big John


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