Suitcase Diaries: DENVER, COLORADO

“I actually cried at the top of a mountain range.
So yeah, it was humbling.”

Devil’s Head Trail

Denver, Colorado is such a unique travel experience. If you come from a city, Denver seems so vast. A lot of open land with emphasis on the natural beauty of the state. If you come from a small town, you feel both eagerness to explore yet comfortable touring the city and mountains.

Denver was a humbling experience for me. I traveled alone, yet spent all my time with my best friend. She has called the Centennial State her home for over three years, thus allowing me to come as a tourist and explore as a local. Talk about the ideal way to see a new place.

If I had to sum up the trip in 5 words: nature, peace, relaxation, inspiration, and ice cream (I’ll explain the last one later)

Let’s start with the highlight of the trip – the nature

Let me just say this… I traveled from Philadelphia. I am a city dweller, if you will. Fast walker, subway rider, quick thinker, and overall fast-paced lmao – I’m not used to slowing down. Or hiking mountains. Taking in the scenery. But let me just tell you about the SCENERY.

PRO TIP: don’t forget to put off your hiking for a day or so. It’s important to get acclimated to the higher elevation, especially if you come from a place close to sea level.

Our first hike was Devil’s Head Fire Lookout trail near Sedalia, CO.

Quick facts:

  • 2.8 miles round trip, roughly 2+ hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation gain: +940 ft
  • Drive from Denver: 1 hr 15 min

Facts cited from: Day Hikes Near Denver

This was the perfect hike for a newbee like myself. Like I said, I’ve hardly ever stepped foot up a mountain (they makes PA mountains look like hills). I felt like I conquered this one, tho of course I stopped as necessary to catch my breath – and take photos, obvi.

There were many spots along the way to stop and take photos with breathtaking views. As you reach the top, you’ll spot a small cabin where the seasonal fire lookout rests from dusk to dawn. There are a multitude of fun facts in case you are interested in where they get their food, how often they come down the mountain, etc.

The view is outstanding, like nothing I have ever seen before. Snow-capped mountains in the distance look more like paintings. Loads of greenery and tops of trees. Natural rock fixtures and a bright blue, clear sky.

additional nature sights:

Lake Dillon centered by a vast body of still water and mountain scenery for a
jaw-dropping backdrop

Breckenridge typically covered in snow and skiers, I had the joy of seeing this in the summer and let me tell you, it was still bustling!

Loveland Pass (where I cried lol) we drove up this mountain with nonstop views until the very top where I naively presumed all to be seen was out my passenger side window. Wrong. So wrong.
360 views that resulted in me feeling so small, so grateful, and full of tears.

Next up, let’s discuss – brews and food

Bigsby Folly Winery

What better way to spend my first day getting acclimated than to tour a few breweries + a winery? Kidding, I don’t recommend getting wasted in your first 24 hours lol the elevation is like a generous bartender and will get you drunk. Fast.

Alas, if you are being careful (preferably with friends) and drinking a water in between beverages, it is a blast exploring the relaxing nature of breweries and rooftop bars in RiNo (River North Art District).

A few to name:

American Bonded an adorable rooftop bar (indoor seating also available) with a kickass bartender the day we were there – s/o to him. If you want a quick snack, this is your jam. We ordered cheese curds and the ranch was out of this world
Bigsby Folly winery with an industrial, retro, artsy vibe to it. Grab yourself a glass of wine. I’ll be the first to tell you that you deserve it!
Stem Ciders was probably my favorite location, as I’m a cider connoisseur. Loads of cider at this place, and a lot that are Denver specific

Onto food, as you’ll need some substance after dabbling in the brews:

BRECKENRIDGE

This town is a GEM. One of my favorite spots. Quaint and nestled between the mountains, this town offers a happy stroll along their main street for loads of window shopping and lunch options

Bangkok Happy Bowl Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar delicious and quick service during lunch. 10/10 would recommend the shrimp tempura roll and the crab Rangoon appetizer
TBar one of the food/drink options along the gondola ride to the top (PS – the gondola is free, just a small fee to park). Grab a drink and enjoy the view! Tons of food options here as well

Gondola ride in Breckenridge

UPTOWN

Park & Co. solid choice for a downtown dinner. A+ on my turkey burger and fries and again, the ranch slays
Coperta this Italian restaurant had me drooling the moment I laid eyes on its menu. I’m always good for a solid food recommendation and I’m telling you right now to get the spaghetti cacio e pepe (see below) or the rigatoni carbonara

LOWRY

Lowry Beer Garden okay, besides Coperta (who doesn’t adore pasta?) this was my FAVORITE meal. Low-key beer garden with quick service and high quality food, grab yourself a cider and a fish sandwich… or really anything else. This place won’t disappoint

I’ll never skip a cold brew & bagel:
Woodgrain Bagels your bagel heaven. Don’t skip this if you are nearby! Plain, everything, salt + pepper, onion, and the list goes on
Copper Door after your bagel, stop by this friendly quaint coffee shop where the barista ran out of cold brew but offered to hand brew a different batch of iced Americana (or something like that) – solid customer service

I told you I’d get back to the ice cream:
High Point Creamery the first night I was there we grabbed ice cream from here after dinner, and it’s the perfect way to end an evening! Delicious, creamy, and at least 10 flavors I’d never heard of before. Think: lavender… or French toast *drooling*
Rocket Ice Cream sitting right outside the Lowry Beer Garden (see above ^) the ice cream here is..
1. Conveniently located after you finish dinner in the beer garden
2. Offering unique flavors that make a delicious treat post-dinner

Lastly, I’d like to mention – miscellaneous things

If you’re a city dweller and want to explore the “busier” side of Denver, LoDo (lower downtown) is very walkable with the free MallRide and MetroRide. Union Station is very cool to see (not to mention clean!) and contains misc. shops/food options inside

If, by some chance, you are traveling from Lake Dillon to Breckenridge (you could make this a trip btw), please drive along Swan Mountain Road. I couldn’t stop sticking my head out the window and snapping photos – which even looked gorgeous from a moving car. This scenic route showcases houses on hills, bodies of water, and mountains in the background. This is best if you have a friend to drive so you can peek out the window 😉

My final tip is simply to keep in mind the airport is located about 45 mins from the city, give or take based on traffic. Not the worst, but be prepared for a long-ish Uber/Lyft ride depending on where you are staying. If you happen to have a friend in the city, you’re one lucky SOB.

My wrap-up thoughts? I’m in love! I think everyone should plan a trip here, hike at least once, treat yourself to some authentic breweries, and enjoy the peace. It is no wonder everyone in Colorado hikes on weekends, the mountains do wonders for a clear mind.

Xoxo,
Katrina
I love to meet new people!
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