The pillar’s are your starting point (for the race)
How I’d describe it to a friend: “It’s curvy, usually windy, steep/but short. And it’s very pretty.”
Think of breaking this climb into three parts.
- The Beginning: Front to the north side (1.42 mi)
- The Middle: north side to the Windy Saddle Parking Lot (1.22 mi)
- The End: Windy Saddle to the sign for the grave (where you are throwing up in your mouth) (1.86 mi)
Lookout Mountain Hill Climb Race
Lookout Mtn. in Golden, CO is not only a local’s favorite, but it’s one of those rides that people seek out when visiting from out of state (as is evident by tourists in jeans throwing up all over themselves in the summer, using a rental bike with a bottle of Fierce Grape Gatorade stuck in the water-bottle cage (bless their hearts). Kidding. I’ve only seen 2 tourists actually throwing up. And they were definitely from sea-level. Lookout was also part of the final stage of the inaugural US Pro Challenge in the summer of 2011, further boosting its National popularity.
There are many variations of “Lookout”. For all intents and purposes, I’m holding tried and true to the most popular version dubbed “Pillar to Post”. Meaning the actual timed portion, (the popular race portion), starts at the stone pillars at the base near the Beverly Heights Park and ends at the sign (or post) for Buffalo Bill’s Grave at the top.
*We’ll talk about variations later.
I personally like to start my ride at the Starbucks on 13th and Washington in Golden (also the meeting point for the 10 a.m. weekly “show and go” Sunday rides). This gives you a bit of time to warm up as you meander through the Colorado School of Mines Campus on 13th and Maple, working your way to 19th st. However, you can also park at the lot on the northern edge of Beverly Height’s Park for a quick lunch/after-work ride. The “pillars” can be seen from the lot.
This is nice as well, since you avoid having to cross 6th Ave/19th…and the worst part of Lookout–which I consider to be the stretch from 6th Ave./19th to the Pillars. This makes me wheeze and cry every time. There is also a porta-potty at the park and in general, the only people parked in the lot and along the park are…cyclists doing Lookout.
The beginning is awful in my opinion. Especially if you parked downtown. This is when you are thinking, “Wow. If it’s like this the whole time, I hate it already.” Unless you’re a climber. Then you’re just getting warmed up. Jerks. But it’s full of twists and turns in a fun “Oooh! What’s around THIS corner?” type of way. The answer is…more corners, more climbing annnnnnnd more wind. However, there are tons of gorgeous scenic views to distract you. Many fantastic photo ops await-especially during sunrise. As well as hang-gliders somewhere hovering above you.
The middle. Once you hit this part, you almost feel like you are going downhill…for around 6 seconds. A great place to catch your breath and spin your legs and maybe enjoy a reprieve from the wind. Don’t get too used to it. Soon you are back on the East side. And if you look up, you’ll see the famous M (where the incoming freshmen from the School of Mines make an annual pilgrimage carrying large, white-washed rocks to this location). It’s also lit up rather nicely in the dark for all to see. http://www.mines.edu/Traditions
Right around here you might start to see the cult of wickedly fast long-boarders. They are a true joy to watch and they are the Lookout Mtn. Cyclist’s true ally (in that drivers of motor vehicles appear to hate them even slightly worse than they do us). Give them a wave and watch how they surf the pavement with effortless grace.
The last 1/3. Once you reach the Windy Saddle Parking lot, you are 2/3 of the way done (at least I like to tell myself this). There are roughly 6 more twists and turns. A few right past Windy Saddle that warrant standing.
If it’s during the winter months, this is also when you should watch for gravel, ice and snow. Not such a big deal coming up…but down is a different story. This is about the time when you are ready to be done with the climb. But it’s also the spot with some of the most gorgeous scenery. So at some point, don’t be afraid to turn off your internal Strava-based clock and just enjoy it.
A few more corners and you’re done. Wait. Not yet. Now…um…no. One more, pass the lake on your left and you’ll see the sign to Buffalo Bill’s Grave on your right. That’s “the post”, my friend.
Alternative Routes from the Top
You can turn and go back down from here OR you can “Gateway-drug-ride it” with any of the following:
- Boettcher Mansion Loop (a quick extra 15-20 minutes)
- Mt. Vernon Country Club Climb (30-45 extra minutes)
- Down Hwy 40/plus a jaunt up Mother Cabrini
- Grapevine/Hwy 74
- Squaw Pass
- Kerr Gulch
- Deer Creek
The list really goes on and on.
Once you get back to Golden, if it’s summer time, head on down to the creek near 10th and Washington to ice your legs in the creek. The Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Not to mention there are multiple coffee shops, ice cream parlors, deli’s etc., plus many choices for locally brewed beer to satisfy all your needs.