Location: Idaho Springs, Colorado
Distance from Denver: 33 miles (~40min) ♡ ♡ ♡
Parking Situation: Plenty of street parking (brush up on your paralleling skills!) ♡ ♡ ♡
Where We Ate: Beau Jo's | TommyKnockers
Sights We Saw: Burro race | Echo Lake | Mt Evans Drive
Hikes in the Area: Chicago Lakes | St Mary's Glacier | Lookout Mountain
Idaho Springs is probably one of the closest mountain towns to Denver. It is located along I-70, & you have likely passed it on the drive up to Breckenridge, Vail, and Aspen. The town is relatively small and claims to be the first town in Colorado where gold was discovered (in 1859)! There are a handful of mines still left around town where you can go and pan for your own gold! Pretty cool right?
Idaho Springs is also known as the jumping off point for rafting as well as a variety of hikes. With all of the outdoor things to do, I have to admit that we have driven past the town quite a bit, but have only stopped in twice. Idaho Springs is well preserved, with many of the original buildings restored to their original glory. The history is apparent as you stroll around and appreciate the intricate details embedded within the architecture. There are plenty of boutiques (our favorite is Wild Grape), restaurants, and art galleries to drop into - this is definitely a great place to spend the evening after a hike.
Idaho Springs is a very laid back town. Because of all of the outdoor-sy things so close by, expect most people in town to be wearing shorts & a tank top. As the old adage goes: "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" - I thought it would be cute to wear a white v-neck tucked into navy linen shorts, and strappy sandals to take in the burro races (more on that soon).
So what brought us to town? The Idaho Springs Burro Races of course! ...ummmmmmm the what??
Don't worry, we had the same reaction. So burros are these cute little donkeys that the OG miners used to help carry their stuff around. Nowadays, burros don't have much utility other than look cute. Cue burro races. Legend goes, two miners found the same gold vein and raced each other back to town to register the land. Because their burros were packed full of gear, they couldn't ride them back (hence the rule of the burro races that you can't ride it). Participants enter their very own burro to race against all of the other burros and let me just say this is just as cute and semi-aggressive as it sounds. (Also, in case you were wondering, they do make a mess & the pooper scoopers dress up as miners).
Literally how much more C O L O R A D O can you get???? I'm not going to lie, I enjoyed this WAY more than I thought I would (Brandon's reaction, on the other hand, can be summed up as: OK that was something). Don't pay attention to the negativity ;) Look up the burro race schedule and go to one!
After the race, we hiked the Chicago Lakes (see link for our full review) and came back to town to grab a bite to eat. Everyone RAVES about Beau Jo's so we decided to check it out. We had never been there, and didn't know what to expect. Depending on when you go, it can be crowded - they don't accept call ahead reservations so drop one person off to grab a table while you find parking. Once inside, it is large and wood-paneled and includes a small arcade area for when you are waiting. The waiter drops your plates off right away and you can go to a self-serve salad bar (extra charge; this isn't very clear). We ordered a medium mountain vegetarian pizza, which was just OK. Our favorite part was dipping the crust in honey - an absolute must-do!
Overall, we loved our day in Idaho Springs & can't wait to stop back after another hike!