As the weather warms and the semester draws to a close, wanderlust sets in for many students. It seems summer has arrived and with it travel opportunities. Unfortunately, the semester does not really end for another month, so wanderlust must be satiated close to home with day trips.
One of the closest day trips is a trek up Lookout Mountain, a one-way journey of barely fifteen minutes. For the most scenic route, travelers can replicate the M-climb route by biking or driving up Lookout Mountain Road. The view heading up the mountain is spectacular, as Clear Creek Canyon opens up to the northwest and Golden shrinks to the east. Acrophobic drivers should be advised that Lookout Mountain Road is curvy and heavily used by cyclists, but does have guardrails.
Although the drive, part of the Lariat Loop, is impressive, it is far from the only attraction on the mountain. A good first stop is the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a pony express rider, an army scout, and a buffalo hunter before founding “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” a show featuring early incarnations of many classic Western conventions. When Cody died in 1917, his widow insisted it had been his wish to be buried on Lookout Mountain, and he was over the strenuous objections of the town of Cody, Wyoming. The original Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was founded in 1921.
Today, the museum offers several exhibits focusing on Cody and the American West. There is a substantial collection of memorabilia from both Cody’s life and “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” a section of Native American artifacts, and a collection of firearms from both the wild west show and Native American tribes of the time. Also not to be missed is the children’s area, which offers the chance for kids and kids at heart to try to lasso a statuary calf. (It is much more difficult than it sounds.) In addition to the museum, there is Cody’s actual grave, overlooking Golden and Denver, and Pahaska Teepee, a restaurant and gift shop. The buffalo burgers are a touch pricey, but quite good.
After receiving a dose of local history at Buffalo Bill’s, travelers can head to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center for a dose of local science. The nature center has a small museum area with interactive exhibits primarily aimed at children, but where it truly shines is on its nature trails. The nature trails offer an idyllic ramble through the full range of Colorado foothill ecosystems and also offer a good chance of meeting wildlife such as elk, deer, Abert’s squirrels, or foxes.
In addition to the nature center and Buffalo Bill’s grave, Lookout Mountain and the area around it are crisscrossed with hiking trails of all lengths. Despite its proximity to the city, the Lookout Mountain area can be shockingly quiet and feels much more isolated than it actually is.
For animal lovers who did not get enough at the nature center, the Denver Parks and Recreation maintained buffalo herd is only a couple of miles west. Although there is never a guarantee that the buffalo will be out, if the weather is nice they probably will be and they have calves in the spring.
If you want to go:
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Lookout Mountain Nature Center
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm