Secluded just sixteen miles west of Boulder, Nederland is a unique town of mountain locals and wilderness paradise. Sometimes called Ned for sure, it’s a fun town to visit in a day or longer trip from the hectic front range.
With a town motto of “life is better up here”, there’s good reason to enjoy visiting Nederland at 8,228 feet. It’s the gateway to Eldora Mountain Resort and the Continental Divide. Ned boasts a vibrant population of locals, with 1400 people in the town and more than 5,000 in the surrounding area. Its downtown is lined with beautiful shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
Fishing, camping, skiing, and festivals keep people passing through all year. It’s also located on the Peak to Peak Highway, which leads 41 miles north to Estes Park or 18 south to Black Hawk. Some of the top events include the Frozen Dead Guy Festival in March and NedFest in August.
It’s home to a number of excellent festivals throughout the year, so Ned’s known for having a rich arts scene. The indie music scene is especially popular, with concerts held nearly every week in the summer. There is a local skate park that’s popular in summer, as well as easy access to a number of parks.
Nederland is one of the smaller towns in Colorado, but it’s also one of the most interesting ones. The town began as a trading post between Ute Indians and European settlers during the 1850s, and then shortly after became a mining town. Nederland is now known for sports, music, and its absolutely picturesque scenery.
Geologically, the whole area of Nederland used to be a valley formed by glaciers. The Ute and Arapahoe Tribes were the original settlers of the region. They utilized the water availability in the land. Because of the vigorous terrain, it became an excellent hunting and settling ground. During summers, herds would travel the high terrain to feed their cattle.
By the 1850s, the town has been converted as a trading post between the Ute Indians and its European settlers. Though there’s an early discovery for Nederland, it wasn’t until 1874 that it was formally incorporated.
Initially, they named the town Dayton. Then, they changed it to Browns Crossing. The third name change was “Middle Boulder” because it has a creek at the center of the town.
However, the most significant shift in the town’s name happened when it was sold to the Mining Company Nederland from the Netherlands. “Nederland” meant low land, so it’s a little ironic to call the area by this name since it’s one of the areas in Colorado with a higher elevation. Nonetheless, the name stuck, and it became the official name in the incorporation documents.
In its pioneering era in the 1870s, mining became a primary industry in town. There was a decline in the 1890s, but the town experienced its second wind when Sam Conger found tungsten in the northern and eastern parts of Nederland.
Conger knew how valuable steel will be in America and this began the massive streak of the town’s success. By 1916, the town’s population increased to about 3,000. Trains and cars were also introduced.
In the 1960s, the town’s community experienced a shift. People from all over Colorado started coming in. “Hippies” were traveling with their vibrant music and casual lifestyle. Most of the traveling folks settled in the town.
Now, the town has become a solidified hub for local produce, entertainment, and leisure. They also host popular annual events like the NedFest and the Frozen Dead Guy Festival, previously featured in the New York Times.
Roosevelt National Forest – Nederland has nearby access to a number of excellent locations in the Roosevelt National Forest. Some go deeper into the national wilderness areas. From hiking and biking trails to 4×4 roads, camping, fishing, and hunting, there’s a lot of outdoor space to enjoy.
Eldora Mountain Resort – 680 acres of exciting and affordable skiing. It’s easy to reach the ski area, only 10-15 minutes from town. There’s a nice mix of beginner, intermediate and expert terrain.
Barker Reservoir – Nederland’s lake sets a gorgeous backdrop to the town. It’s open to fishing, but not boating. It’s popular to take a stroll around portions of the lake and enjoy the expansive views.
Read about the top things to do near Nederland.
- Open in June or late is Caribou Open Ranch, which has a ghost town and free dispersed camping. It’s located in the Arapaho National Forest near the old Caribou ghost town is a dispersed camping area with 11 numbered sites. Take CO Highway 72 west out of Nederland. In nearly a mile from the traffic circle, head west on County Road 126. Follow for 5 miles to Five Points (a 5-way intersection). Numbered sites are located within 1.5 miles of Five Points.
- West Magnolia offers free camping and eight miles of multi-use trails. It’s located only two miles out of town on Highway 72.
- Read about the camping near Nederland and Boulder.
Fishing: Fishing is great at Barker Reservoir located in town.
Hiking: The James Peak Wilderness, Indian Peaks Forest, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Roosevelt National Forest are all nearby.
Hotels and lodging:
- Read about the best hotels in Nederland.
- Read about the cabins to rent near Boulder, Lyons, and Nederland.
Restaurants and bars:
- Wild Mountain Smokehouse has an excellent barbecue, beers, and happy hour.
Mar – Frozen Dead Guy Days – Weekend party in early March, paying tribute to Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, who is cryogenically frozen in town. It’s the biggest party of the year, with food, music, a polar bear plunge, and lots of competition, like the coffin races. The New York Times named FDGD in its Top 10 Best Parties of the Winter, alongside the likes of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Jun – High Peaks Art Festival – Free arts festival held in late June. Live music, local food, art workshops, and art shows.
Jul – Fourth of July – Begins with a parade down the main street, followed by music in Chipeta Park, and concluded by impressive fireworks show over Barker Reservoir.
Aug – NedFest – This festival has been suspended due to event space issues until further notice! It’s one of Colorado’s largest music festivals with more than a dozen local and national bands. Tickets are required for entrance. Mark your calendars for the last weekend of August.
Sep – Neder-Nederland Race – September 5k and 10k race through town and the surrounding valley. A post-race party is held with food, drinks, and music.
Oct – Oktoberfest – 25 mile Mountain Bike “fondo style” event and Bavarian celebration.
Read more about the top events in Nederland.
From Denver, you can choose three different routes to be in town in around an hour and the drive is scenic! Try I-70 west to Black Hawk and then take CO-119 to Nederland. Then on the way back take either Highway 72 east to CO-93 in North Golden, or CO-119 out towards Boulder and back on Highway 36.
Activities near Nederland
Cross Country Skiing:
- Arapaho National Forest
- Brainard Lake Recreation Area (16mi)
- Devil’s Thumb Lake (Indian Peaks Wilderness)
- Gross Reservoir (15mi)
- Indian Peaks Wilderness
- James Peak Wilderness
- Rocky Mountain National Park (28mi)
- Roosevelt National Forest
- West Magnolia
- Eldorado Springs Pool (24mi)
- Eldora Mountain Resort (4mi)
- Allenspark (26mi)
- Black Hawk (18mi)
- Boulder (16mi)
- Central City (19mi)
- Golden (29mi)
- Idaho Springs (30mi)
- Lyons (31mi)
- Ward (11mi)
Visit the town’s official website.
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