Boulder offers an almost limitless number of breweries to enjoy and explore. But some times the mountains call. With a quick drive up the stunning Boulder Canyon, you’ll have the opportunity to see some incredible mountain scenery and drink delicious beer with minimal effort.
From downtown Boulder, head up CO 119 into Boulder Canyon towards Nederland. You might leave earlier in the morning to allow time during this section of the drive for exploring the near-by trails, waterfalls, and vistas. A nice hike, or at least a pause to soak in the beauty of the canyon, can be a great way to begin your day. Though often crowded, Boulder Canyon deserves time for exploration.
After about sixteen miles, you’ll arrive in Nederland, and immediately get the opportunity to experience a Colorado mountain town. A popular festival, the Frozen Dead Guy Days, happens in March, which might be an adventurous time to enjoy this drive. Consider enjoying lunch at Kathmandu Restaurant, which offers delicious Indian and Nepali fare. Or head straight to Wild Mountain Smokehouse for the first brewery of the day where you can enjoy tasty BBQ alongside your sample tray or pint.
During lunch, be sure to drink a good bit of water as you’ve quickly climbed up in elevation, and don’t forget to look out at the views. After dining and tasting the first beer of the day, stroll the town of Nederland. It won’t take long, but there are some interesting shops, and the fresh air up there is always wonderful.
From Nederland, head north on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, CO 72, and continue north on CO 7 when the two merge after about 23 miles. While this scenic byway actually begins in Central City to the south, you’ll catch some of the prettier mountain panoramas as you drive beneath the Indian Peaks and into the Rocky Mountain National Park area. Watch for deer, bear, elk, coyote, fox and other wildlife, (we’ve seen them all along this road), and maybe take a stroll near Lily Mountain before arriving to the tourist favored town of Estes Park.
Estes Park is just about as kitschy as it gets in Colorado. But don’t worry, that means there are ample stores to buy souvenirs and enjoy an ice cream cone. And off the main downtown strip, Estes Park Brewing Company provides a welcome haven. The beer tasting on their bottom level is extremely inexpensive and will quickly introduce you to their many different styles and maybe a limited release or two. If you like something, you can buy bottles and growlers of most of their beer right there in the tasting room, or head upstairs for pints on the patio.
From Estes Park, you have several options. The Rocky Mountain National Park Loop Drive (when Trail Ridge Road is open), can start from here by leaving west on CO 34. Or head east into Loveland on CO 34 through Big Thompson Canyon, where a growing beer scene awaits your enjoyment. But our Peak-to-Peak drive heads southeast on CO 36 to the cool little town of Lyons.
The drive between Estes Park and Lyons, like most of the day’s miles, is quite scenic. Be sure to take photos and enjoy the vistas . . . there’s no reason to race through the day. And when you arrive in Lyons, you’ll be greeted by the big beers of Oskar Blues Grill and Brew. With other locations in Longmont and elsewhere, this is not the only place to enjoy Oskar Blues beer, but it is the original.
Known for great music and jam sessions, you might also time your arrival to Oskar Blues with a performance. If nothing is on the concert calendar, arrive here at the dinner hour for another fine combination of beer and food. But before you do, it’s time to decide on a designated driver, and to take caution with the beer. Even small tasters of their high ABV brew can be stronger than you think.
More than likely, your appetite and thirst will now be satisfied: this has been a day of incredible Colorado scenery and beer. So from Lyons, continue on CO 36 back to Boulder or head due east on CO 66 back to I25.