In the 1960s, 32 carnation farms dotted Wheat Ridge, a few miles west of downtown Denver. Before growers moved their operations to South America—where it’s cheaper to grow the flowers—in the 1980s, Wheat Ridge produced roughly 40 million blooms a year. Today, all of the flower farms are gone, but the city celebrates its legacy with the Carnation Festival (August 14 to 16) in Anderson Park. The annual fete attracts more than 25,000 attendees, so parking isn’t easy. Solution: Park and ride. Each of the nine trailheads along the revitalized Wheat Ridge Greenbelt has a parking lot, so you can stash your car, unload your two-wheeler, and pedal the six-and-a-half miles of (mostly) paved trail along Clear Creek. Just give yourself plenty of time to stop and play at these seven diversions along the way.
Wheat Ridge wasn’t officially incorporated as a city until 1969, but the frontier settlement’s history is as rich as those of (technically) older burgs. Get a glimpse of what life here was once like inside the Baugh House, a hand-hewn log cabin built in 1859. Continue your walk through history a block north, where the Wheat Ridge Historic Park boasts a sod house built in the 1860s (a National Historic Landmark), Wheat Ridge’s original 1913 post office, and the Stevens-Coulahan log cabin, one of Colorado’s earliest homesteads.
Opened this past October, the Iron Rail Tavern doesn’t look like much from the outside. But the grub inside merits a visit: Pair house-smoked wings and made-from-scratch green chile and onion mac and cheese with one of the rotating seasonal brews on tap from Wheat Ridge’s Brewery Rickoli.
BYOP: Bring your own pan to Arapahoe Bar. Part of what was a 19th-century pioneer town (Arapahoe City), this Clear Creek sandbar was designated as a public gold-panning site in 2013. Pro tip: Wade from the reedy creek’s south shore to the sandbar to search for treasure without battling weeds.
More than 100 species of migratory birds call the eight-acre Bass Lake wetlands area home. And Wheat Ridge has made spotting the resident great blue herons, great horned owls, and tiny perching birds easier with a 550-foot-long wood-planked boardwalk over the water.
Nestled just south of I-70, you’ll be shocked at the serenity of Prospect Park. Buffered by a canopy of plains cottonwoods and constant birdsong, it might be the quietest part of the greenbelt. We’re betting the only interruptions you’ll hear are the giggles from the park’s two renovated playgrounds.
A two-block walkfrom the greenbelt, Discovery Park is the perfect break spot forpint-size Carnation Festival–goers. Younger children will appreciate the two playgrounds and splash pad, while older visitors can head for the skate park.
On Carnation Festival weekend, Anderson Park hosts the 173-year-old Zoppe Italian Family Circus—old-school clowns, horse tricks, and acrobats—as well as evening fireworks. Park your wheels at the bicycle corral at the festival entrance.