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black & white postcard image of Golden's stone pillars with no buildings behind them--just the new Lariat Loop
Stone Pillars at the Bottom of the Lariat Loop – Golden History Museum Collection

As Golden-ites, we’re well aware of the stone pillars at the base of the road that climbs Mount Zion and Lookout Mountain. They were built there in 1917 to mark the gateway to the Denver Mountain Parks.

two 1920s-era cars on a narrow dirt road, heading into trees, with mountains in the background
Continuing west through the Denver Mountain Parks

The Lookout Mountain road was built by Golden resident Bill Williams in 1912. The initial goal was to reach the top of Lookout Mountain, but after reaching it, he kept building and eventually reached Idaho Springs.

hand-tinted postcard showing two stone pillars with American and Colorado flags, two 1920s cars, and two girls
Stone Pillars that used to stand in Morrison

Did you know that there used to be a corresponding set of pillars in Morrison? Those marked another entrance to the Mountain Parks. The road that started in Morrison paralleled Bear Creek. Originally a horse and stagecoach road, it was widened when automobiles came along. The road was at the bottom of a deep canyon and was subject to catastrophic floods every few years.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps assumed the task of improving and extending the road. They moved the original road higher up the mountain, to make it safer from floods. They then went on to extend the road all the way to Evergreen.

cartoon-style map showing highlights along Lariat Loop including log cabin, red rocks amphitheater, and a dinosaur
Courtesy of the Lariat Loop Alliance

In the early 2000s, various public and private groups worked to have the area encompassed by the two historic scenic roads (Lariat Loop and Bear Creek) designated as a state historic area. In 2002, the combined two roads were declared a Colorado Scenic Byway, and in 2009 it was designated a National Scenic Byway.

It is scenic! The 40 mile loop takes you through beautiful Denver Mountain Parks and Jefferson County Open Space. If you’re looking for something to do over the holiday weekend, consider driving the Lariat Loop. You’ll find maps and points of interest on the alliance’s website: