Getting Away to Evergreen: An Easy Trip to the Mountains

Visitors to Colorado usually have one specific vision in mind of our beautiful state and that vision is of the famous Rocky Mountains. I grew up with a view of the peaks to the west for my whole life, which was not a bad view to have from pretty much every vantage point in Denver. In the Winter, the peaks are white with hints of purple and green below the tree line. In the Summer, the Rockies can look anywhere from a deep purple to a dark grey, depending on the day, and in the Fall, if you are close enough, you can see the changing of the Aspen trees forming golden carpets amongst the evergreen trees. There is never a bad time to look at the mountains and BridgeEnglish Denver students should all take advantage of the picturesque beauty that is the Rocky Mountains.

One obstacle that Bridge students, and people from Denver in general, face, however, is that most of the famous parks and ski areas are at least an hour and a half to two hours away, which makes it difficult to plan trips because you have to take into consideration the driving time, if you even have a car. Not to worry though, there is a hidden gem of a city right in the middle of the mountains that lies only half an hour from Denver. It takes its namesake from the millions of trees that encompass the area; and that name is Evergreen.

Evergreen is probably my favorite Front Range place to visit. It has everything I need from a mountain town; a small downtown lined with mom and pop shops and restaurants, a beautiful lake that you can hike around or ice skate on in the winter, hiking and biking trails galore and best of all, the peaceful, easy feeling of being in a mountain town with all the amenities of Denver only 20-30 minutes down the hill. Evergreen is what is considered a “bedroom community” or a “commuter town” which means that the majority of the workforce of the town actually works down in Denver and commutes back and forth everyday, which depending on where exactly you are going in Denver, can be quite a long commute. So, why do they even bother living in Evergreen with such a long commute? Because living in Evergreen gives “mountain folk” the pleasure of living in the mountains and having that special mountain vibe, but also gives them the opportunity to have a career and have easy access to a big city when they need it.

Evergreen was founded in 1859 by a man named Thomas Bergen who established a ranch and a stagecoach stop there. In the years following, Evergreen’s population grew mainly due to the lumber demands of building in Denver. It is, after all, named Evergreen because of the vast amounts of Evergreen trees. So it is no wonder that the lumber industry flourished shortly after being founded as a city. Evergreen’s elevation is 7220 feet so it is colder there all year round by at least a few degrees. Winter starts earlier in Evergreen due to the higher elevation so, when it rains in Denver, it is usually snowing in Evergreen. Packing a coat is always advisable even in the Summer.

Evergreen is surrounded by thousands of acres of land that make up Jefferson County open space. Mountain bikers, hikers, rock climbers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds flock to Evergreen all year round. I go mostly in the Summer because of the great mountain bike trail system. If you don’t want to expend your energy doing outdoor activities, I suggest you head to downtown Evergreen, which is basically a quarter mile main street lined with shops and restaurants. One of the most popular and oldest restaurants is called the Little Bear. The Little Bear fits everyone’s image of an Old West saloon. Formerly a church and a drugstore, the Little Bear has always enjoyed the reputation of being Colorado’s rowdiest mountain bar. For students that have never experienced a “biker bar,” the Little Bear is the place to go. Summers in Colorado are a haven for bikers from all over the country. The windy mountain roads and spectacular scenery attract a plethora of bikers and biker clubs. I am talking about the kind of bikers you see on TV, clad in leather, sporting tattoos and Harley Davidson motorcycles. On a hot Summer day, the front of the Little Bear is lined with Harleys and inside their owners are dancing to live music or having a burger and a cold beer. The inside of the Little Bear is all wood, giving it that “Old West” feel. There are two floors and the ceiling is ornamented with array of undergarments of the female variety. Yes, the Wild West is still pretty wild! Fear not; the intimidating looking bikers are just normal people with jobs like everyone else. They aren’t there to fight or cause violence, as mean as they might appear.

If the Little Bear is too crowded, which in the Summer is very possible, you can head across the street catty corner and find Cactus Jack’s which is another biker bar but not as old as the Little Bear. Cactus Jack’s has a great outdoor patio, which is something the Little Bear lacks. The patio rests over Bear Creek, adjacent to the dam and Evergreen Lake. There, you can see live music of all types, get a good burger and a cold beer after a day of whatever outdoor activity you have chosen to do. I especially like to sit out on the patio with a cold beer after trekking up one of the many trails on my mountain bike. There is nothing like having the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair surrounded by mountains and the sound of a rushing mountain creek.

So for all the students who fear not being able to get to Aspen or Vail or Telluride, not to worry, because the RTD bus system goes right to Evergreen. But even if you have a car, Evergreen is a perfect choice for getting away for a day from all the English you are learning, all the homework you have, and just become one with the mountains without having to plan too much.