Aspen Gold and Great Local Businesses: Autumn Boulder Road Trips


Autumn is a fleeting time of glorious color with fall foliage in magnificent display, and in Colorado the aspen leaves turn pure gold.

With more than 100 miles of walking and hiking trails in Boulder alone, you don’t even need to leave the city to enjoy the annual spectacle. But if you’re planning any Boulder road trips, whether your starting point is local or you’re just on your way through, this list of 20 great local businesses might help you on your way.


Places to Stay in Boulder

The Bradley Boulder Inn, 16th Street

Located just steps from Pearl Street, this boutique inn has 12 rooms with balconies, mountain views, fireplaces and baths with oversized jetted tubs. Enjoy a home-cooked breakfast every morning before you set out on your day trip, and plan your return in time for that afternoon’s wine and cheese hour.


St Julien, Walnut Street

Even with the four-block pedestrian Pearl Street Mall right outside your room, it may be hard to leave St. Julien Hotel and Spa, with its two-lane infinity pool, fitness center and spa with 12 treatment rooms. Once you tear yourself away from your suite overlooking the Flatirons, you can look forward to afternoon tea or dinner at Jill’s Restaurant once you return from your day trip.


Foot of the Mountain, West Arapahoe Avenue

This small dog-friendly motel is perfect when Fido’s a passenger on your road trip. Stay in one of the rustic 18 rooms located in the foothills of Boulder, just 9 blocks west of Pearl Street Mall. There are lots of hiking, biking and walking paths nearby, so you can get some exercise in before continuing your drive.



Before Heading Out

Boxcar Coffee, Pearl Street

With knowledgable baristas in vests and a friendly atmosphere, this artisan coffee shop is just the place to enjoy an espresso or cappuccino before hitting the road. It’s interesting to note that Boxcar has developed an altitude brewing method called the Boilermakr, where grounds are immersed in boiling water. Inspired by traditional “cowboy coffee,” the method allows the ideal extraction out of every cup.


Alfalfa’s Market, Broadway

A quick stop at this locally owned natural food store, and you can load up on just-baked bread, some local cheese, cured meats, sausages, imported olives, and marinated delicacies for a great picnic lunch.


McGuckin Hardware, Arapahoe Avenue

Founded by Bill McGuckin in 1955, McGuckin Hardware, a staple in the Boulder community, now offers 200,000 items in 18 different departments. If you suddenly realize you’ve forgotten a road-trip necessity, whether a pair of sunglasses or a just-in-case Ready Freddy Survival Kit, you can get it at McGuckin’s and be on your way.


Mike’s Camera, Pearl Street

This locally owned family business has been serving Boulder since 1967. If you need a camera for your road trip (or maybe a pair of binoculars), drop by Mike’s Camera and let the experienced people there help you out.


Ramble on Pearl, Pearl Street

If you’ve found the autumn chill a bit nippy and would like pick up another sweater, duck into this specialty shop that offers recreational and active lifestyle clothing. A nonprofit boutique, Ramble on Pearl hosts an apprenticeship program for adults with developmental disabilities.


Momentum, Pearl Street

Part of the Fair Trade Winds family of stores, Momentum is a family-run retailer that carries certified fair trade, sustainable products. Supporting artisans, farmers and craftspeople from around the world, Momentum has some great fair trade yarn handspun in Uruguay. Just the thing for passengers on a road trip who knit or crochet.


Canine Campovers

If you can’t take your dog on your trip, Canine Campovers offers a solution. An alternative to kennel boarding or traditional pet sitting, this local business has been taking dogs into the homes of their licensed dog sitters since 1998. With multiple locations available, they can serve dogs (and their owners) across the entire Boulder, Denver, Longmont and Fort Collins metro area. There’s a meet-and-greet at the time of reservation, so you’ll need to plan this in advance of your trip.


Boulder Pet Care

Cat owners know that felines do better when cared for in their own home. Juliet, who runs a small dedicated team at Boulder Pet Care, offers in-home, overnight pet sitting for all pets, in addition to dog walking and doggie daycare. Whether your road trip is a few hours or a few days, you can trust you cat, dog or any other pet will be well taken care of.


Broadway Animal Hospital and Pet Center

There’s a doggie daycare at the Broadway Animal Hospital and Pet Center if you plan to make short road trips out of Boulder, and there is boarding for both cats and dogs if you have a longer trip planned. Play groups throughout the day are supervised by a trained kennel staff member, and feline boarders get lots of attention from staff and technicians.



On the Road

Neptune Mountaineering, South Broadway

If you’re planning some rock climbing in Eldorado Springs and suddenly realize you’ve forgotten a helmet or harness, you’ll be glad to know Neptune Mountaineering is nearby. Since 1973, this specialty retail shop has been giving advice and selling equipment to mountaineers, skiers, climbers and backpackers.


Bent Gate Mountaineering, Golden

If you’re going in the other direction, a quick stop at Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden will set you straight. This enthusiast retail store is all about backcountry skiing, climbing, mountaineering and backpacking. They’ve got tons of equipment, footwear and clothes.



Why not try listening to KGNU Community Radio when you’re driving? This nonprofit organization with three stations (88.5 FM, 1390 AM and 93.7 FM) often features local artists who play live at the studio, and the station supports other nonprofits with interviews and through discussion of local issues. The music played at KGNU is diverse and eclectic, sometimes on the mellow side and sometimes a little more adventurous.


Sombrero Ranches and Hi Country Stables

If your road trip includes part of the Rocky Mountain National Park, northwest of Boulder, you can get out of the car and explore the area on a horseback. For more than 50 years, Sombrero Ranches and its sister company, Hi Country Stables, have been showing people of all ages and riding abilities the beauty of the Rockies.


Stanley Hotel, Estes Park

After a long horseback ride, you may not feel like hoofing it back to Boulder. Why not stay put for a night at the famously haunted Stanley Hotel, complete with ghost tours? Opened in 1909, the hotel is known for its architecture, for its haunted history, and for inspiring Stephen King’s The Shining. If you plan it just right, you can make one of the hotel’s Halloween events, which include a murder mystery dinner, a costume ball and a masquerade party.


Carousel of Happiness, Nederland

If you happen to be on a scenic drive along County Road 130 from Nederland (a mountain town 17 miles west of Boulder) to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, take a few minutes to enjoy the Carousel of Happiness. It’s got quite a history and is staffed mostly by volunteers, who are adhering to the carousel’s mission of being accessible and inclusive.


Blue Owl Books, Nederland

Don’t miss this bookstore across the street from the Carousel of Happiness. Put your Kindle aside and browse through first editions and other hard-to-find books, as well as great artwork and crafts from local artists. Blue Owl Books serves as a coffeehouse and ice cream parlor, too. And every Saturday, the shop hosts its Tacos-N-Tunes night, which is pretty self-explanatory.


Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery, Nederland

If you’ve built up an appetite hiking the Diamond Lake Trail near Nederland, head over to Wild Mountain when you get back to town. This family owned and operated restaurant serves great BBQ, double-fried stuffed green potato skins and Jackalope Sausage (made from pork, jackrabbit, antelope, dried cherries and habañeros). And to wash it all down, a glass of homebrewed beer.


Images by:
Chelsea Yarger, Paul McGowan