Nestled in the Rocky Mountains just west of Boulder at 8,230′ is one of Colorado’s cutest and quirkiest little towns. Nederland has a rich mining and musical history and an eclectic population who live by the motto “Life Is Better Up Here!” And indeed, the unique shops, friendly town folk, funky festivals, and vast assortment of outdoor adventures are a testament to that lifestyle mantra. As a hub of the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway community, Nederland is a wonderful little pit stop where you can stretch your legs and your wallet and get a taste of what life is like in a hipped out mountain town. Nederland is definitely a must-visit from Denver!
Today Nederland has a population of roughly 1,500 locals, but the numbers have certainly waxed and waned over the years.
In the early 1800s, the glacial valley was inhabited by Indians and later settlers, homesteaders, and miners who capitalized on its geographical location, clean water source, and abundant wildlife.
The town of Nederland was officially founded in 1874 and became a booming silver mining settlement.
However, by 1890 the mines had declined and Nederland became just another of many of the state's abandoned ghost towns...
...that is, until the Tungsten Concentrating Mill began processing tungsten into steel. By 1916, the population had sky rocketed, and Nederland had about 3,000 residents, which is roughly twice that of present day. (Pictured is the mill some time between 1910 and 1920.)
As the world turns, the mill ran dry, and the population once again plummeted to about 200, but the town stayed alive due to "rich folks" from the Front Range who built cabins and used Nederland as their weekend getaway.
There was one last boom in the 1940s during WW II, when the need for tungsten resurfaced, but for the most part, the town remained ghostly until the 1960s when hippies brought new life and music with them and settled in the lonesome valley.
Today you can visit the Nederland Mining Museum to learn all about the history and heritage of the town's bygone industry, including the 1923 Panama Canal Steam Shovel.
(1923 Panama Canal Steam Shovel)
The town is situated on the Barker Meadow Reservoir, which provides water and recreation for the people of Boulder County and beyond.
Pictured is the Barker Dam at North Boulder Creek circa 1940.
Today the dam not only allows the reservoir to be used as a water supply, but also to generate hydroelectric power.
There's a trail that runs along Middle Boulder Creek from the covered pedestrian bridge to Barker Dam. It's the only developed trail in the town and is about 1.8 miles.
You certainly don't have to worry about traffic downtown...or anywhere for that matter!
You can get taste of the old days when train travel was popular by stopping into Buffalo Bill's Coffee and Confections...
...or the Happy Trails Bicycle Specialists.
And there are an abundance of other unique and quirky little shops, restaurants, book stores, and the like to peruse as you roam around town...
Since 1979, the Mountain People's Co-Op has provided high quality, sustainable products to the Nederland community.
Stop in at the Pioneer Inn for lunch, dinner, happy hour, or free live music six nights a week.
Nature's Own has been open since 1986 and features a large selection of gems and other gifts.
Blue Owl Books is just about the most adorable, funky book store, coffee shop, and ice cream parlor all rolled into one.
Whistler Cafe has been "serving Ned Since 1985" and is, "Definitely Delicious, but not always nutritious!"
Kids and adults alike will enjoy the Carousel of Happiness that's housed in this solar-powered yurt.
The carousel was originally built in 1910 and was bought by a Nederland resident in 1986, who spent the next 26 years bringing hand-carved animals to life and restoring the structure to its original glory. Today you can ride and frolic among the beautifully carved animals and have all the joy and happiness!
There's also an amazing Tony-Hawk-approved skatepark in town where you can try your hand at flips and ollies or just sit back and watch the youngsters rule the ramps.
As you can imagine, Nederland is an outdoor lovers dream, with access to hiking, biking, climbing, fishing, and more! (And, in the winter, there's hockey, ice skating, curling, snowshoeing, and skiing at nearby Eldora.)
The Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center is a nonprofit nature center located in downtown Nederland that offers educational programs and summer camps for children and adults, as well as a gift shop and information about trails and local flora and fauna.
Nederland is also home to many fantastic festivals throughout the year, including NedFest in August (pictured here), as well as the High Peaks Art Festival in June, an Old Fashion 4th of July Fireworks and Festival, a Miner's Day celebration also in July, and much, much more!
One of the most popular and BIZARRE festivals is undoubtedly the Frozen Dead Guy Days held in March.
The festival pays tribute to Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, who remains cryogenically frozen on dry ice in a Tuff Shed "awaiting the day when science can re-animate him and cure him of the heart disease that killed him in 1989."
The 3 day festival consists of 30 live bands, coffin races, a costumed polar plunge, a frozen t-shirt contest, and more! And, you can bet there's NOTHING like this ANYWHERE else in the world!
Next year's Frozen Dead Guys Days is March 10-12, 2017, so don't miss it!
"Townsfolk now wonder what the future will bring… what will Nederland’s next boom look like? Its next bust? How will we retain the town’s unique character as the times around it change? One thing is certain: Nederland is a town like no other, and probably always will be."
This summer (or fall when the aspens explode with gold) take a trip on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway and explore the fabulous one-of-a-kind town of Nederland along the way. It's like no other place on earth!
I just can’t wait to get back to the lovely little town of Ned, and it’s a great spot to take out-of-towners for a taste of old Colorado. Nederland is undoubtedly a must-visit from Denver!