Friday, January 18, 2013

Visiting the Denver Area? Experience the Lariat Loop

Are you in Denver for the National Western Stock Show? Or maybe you’re planning a visit later this year. In any event you might want to make the Lariat Loop part of your visit.

The Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway is a 40-mile motoring adventure reminiscent of the early 1920s. It runs through the historic towns of Morrison, Evergreen, and Golden, which have maintained their integrity and authenticity over time. These towns supplied the miners and trappers in the 1850s and the early tourists in the early 1900s. Initially, railroads brought tourists to Golden and Morrison, delivering them to the bases of three mountains, where funiculars transported people up to world-class views of the Front Range and the plains. But it is not just a drive, there is plenty to see and do along the way, not to mention the spectacular views. There are more than three dozen historic sites and buildings that line the route and interpret primary themes of the mountain west, from mining and ranching to homesteads and tourism

The Byway is a combination of two historic routes: the Lariat Trail Scenic Mountain Drive that ascends Lookout Mountain and the Bear Creek Canyon Scenic Mountain Drive. These routes were part of several of the ‘scenic circles’ that were developed and promoted by Denver beginning in 1915 to help visitors experience the mountains in close proximity to Denver. The roadways were designated to the National Register of Historic Place in 1976.

The Lariat Loop provided early automobile access to the Denver Mountain Parks system. Denver has a series of Mountain Parks, some 14,000 acres in four counties along the Colorado Front Range. The Mountain Parks came into being with the acquisition of Genesee Mountain in 1912. Many of the sites you will want to visit on your excursion are part of the Denver Mountain Parks.

The ‘Loop’ gets its name from the historic Lariat Trail, a 5-mile road from Golden, Colorado up the front of Lookout Mountain, where Buffalo Bill is buried.

Here are just three places you might want to visit along the Lariat Loop.

Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave Site

When Buffalo Bill Cody died in 1917 he was buried where he wished to be, atop Lookout Mountain. The site of his grave as well as the Buffalo Bill Museum and Pahaska Lodge are part of the Denver Mountain Park system. The Museum houses a large number of artifacts including many personal items belonging to Buffalo Bill and items from his famous Wild West Shows.

May 1-October 31, the Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. November 1-April 30 it is open Tuesday – Sunday 9am to 4pm.

Colorado Railroad Museum.

There is just something beguiling about trains. Hearing the distant whistle in the night; the rock of the cars as they roll along the rails. Americans have a love affair with cars, but trains have an even greater emotional pull.

The museum has over 100 narrow and standard gauge steam and diesel locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses and a G-scale garden railway. It also has exhibit galleries, a roundhouse restoration facility and a working turntable. There are train rides every Saturday.

Open Daily from 9am to 5pm

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

This world famous park and Amphitheatre has hosted concerts from Sting to the Beatles. It is a geological phenomenon – the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. But it is more than that. It is in a unique transitional zone where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. The diverse environment allows visitors to see plants, birds and animals of both regions. The view east to the Denver Skyline and the Great Plains beyond is spectacular.
The Amphitheatre was built by Mother Nature with some assistance from the WPA and the CCC and opened in 1941. Two, three hundred-foot red sandstone monoliths provide the backdrop to the amphitheatre and are responsible for it unique acoustics.

Concerts are held during the summer. The Visitor Center is open from 8am to 7pm May through September, 9am to 4pm October to April.

You can start the Lariat Loop in Golden, Colorado. From Denver, take I-70 or US 6 west. Follow US 6 into Golden and start the Loop at 19th Street. Oh, you might want to pay a visit either before or after your excursion to the Coors Brewery in Golden for a tour there as well. They do offer free samples to those old enough to enjoy.

For more information: The Lariat Loop

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