Lariat Trail Scenic Mountain Drive

Address: 4.6 mi. mountain switchback road climbing from 6136' altitude in Golden at the W. end of 19th St., winding up Mt. Zion, past Chimney Gulch, through Windy Saddle Park, to N. of the Lookout Mountain's summit,, to William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's Grave on Looko

The dream of a road to reach the summit of Lookout Mountain from Golden began in 1889, when Frederick Olmsted, Sr. (designer of New York's Central Park) designed the "City on the Hill," a resort with a natural setting, at the summit of Lookout Mountain. He had been hired by investors of the Denver Lookout Mountain Resort Land Transit & Improvement Company with capital stock of $500,000 filed in January 1890. Plans included a road winding up Mt. Zion from Golden to the summit of Lookout Mountain. In 1904, British real estate developer Rees C. Vidler owned the land as part of his Lookout Mountain Resort Company. He donated 56 acres to Denver Encourage development of a "scenic" park adjacent to his residential plat. Vidler built a funicular from Golden to his real estate office on Lookout Mountain and endorsed Golden resident William William for construction of the Lariat Trail. William "Cement Bill" William had visualized the Lariat Trail when he helped build the Golden Reservoir, south of Lookout Mountain summit in 1904. He also supervised laying wooden barrel pipe from Squaw Mountain across Vidler's Lookout Mountain land to the reservoir and down into Golden as part of the city's water supply. His dream was to bring visitors to Golden to travel west all the way to Idaho Springs. Using $9000 of his own savings, Cement Bill surveyed the mountain and hacked out a two-foot trail for more than three miles to Windy Point in 1911. He received contributions of Portland Cement from Charles Boettcher and $1,000 cash from Adolph Coors. Others donated tools, a ditcher, and pipeline for wells. By 1913, he had negotiated $7,500 from Jefferson County, $7,500 from Denver County, and $15,000 from the State Highway Department to fund the road. Bill supervised crews of 70-100 men with 50 horses, to complete the road in 1914. Denver established Lookout Mountain Park (adjacent to Buffalo Bill's Grave) in 1917. Although Denver claims to have designed and paid for construction of the road, many newspaper and county documents indicate Bill's imagination, tenacity, brawn, and brains secured the project. During 1916 to 1918, Denver Mountain Parks constructed resting areas, picnic areas, and well shelters along the 4.6 mile rise. The "loop" --from Golden, across Lookout Mountain, south to Evergreen, east along Bear Creek, and north past Red Rocks Park-- became so popular that 116,292 cars passed through in 1918. The Lariat Trail was paved by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and new guard rails were installed by Jefferson County in 1996. Professional engineers still marvel at the 56 perfectly banked (7 hair-pin) curves. Remnants of the shelters remain and apple trees still bloom along the road from cores tossed by early 20th century visitors. Jefferson County Open Space purchased most of Mt. Zion and Lookout Mountain land surrounding the road which provides eastern access to the Chimney Gulch Trail and Beaver Brook Trail. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (5JF446) on November 15, 1990.
Quad Map/Date: Morrison, 1965 (1994)
Sec/Town/Range: S32 & 33, T3S, R70W; S4 & 5, T4S, R70W
Elevation: 6136-7374
Source: Directory of State Register Places, 1997, Colorado Historical Society; Jefferson County filings 1888-1914; (Denver ) Municipal Facts 1917-1923; Brown, "The Shining Mountains"; "City & Mountain Views," (June 1996); Lomond, "Mt. Vernon Canyon Past tp Present."
Other Names: Windy Saddle Park, Lookout Mountain Funicular, Lookout Mountain, Golden Reservoir.
See Also: Lookout Mountain Road
Last Modified: Mon, December 3 2012

Send questions or comments about this Web Site to Planning and Zoning.