Now more than ever, escaping the congestion of the city and well-known road trip destinations is at the top of all of our lists. Lucky for you, we just returned from a 72-hour adventure in Logan County, Colorado, where the town of Sterling offers outdoor recreation and charm in big portions. A historic hub for sugar beat farming, today Sterling is the commercial center of northeast Colorado. But don’t let its remote location fool you. Located on the banks of the South Platte River with access to a 2,880-acre reservoir and several family-friendly watering establishments, Logan County is our go-to place to chill out away from it all this summer. Read on to find out why this is one place you won’t want to drive by on your next road trip!
This story was created in partnership with Explore Sterling.
DISCOVER THE OVERLAND TRAIL MUSEUM AND GO BIRD WATCHING
Journey to Sterling from the Front Range on I-76 to begin your weekend away. Only 125 miles from Denver, Logan County is within reach—even if you can’t leave until after work. Upon arrival, get checked into your lodging for the weekend. You might elect to stay at the boutique Crest Motel, or select from a number of hotels including the newly constructed Holiday Inn Express. For those who opt for the latter, stroll right across the street for easy access to the Overland Trail Museum. With detailed exhibits recounting the rich past of Logan County (from the discovery of dinosaur bones to the availability of electricity on the high plains), this is the best way to get acquainted with the area.
Afternoon and Evening
Afterwards, stretch your legs at the Overland Trail Recreation Area. With multiple access points, you can pick your own adventure. Meander along the river on the Penny Lane Trail, or stroll around the lake and even throw in a fishing line. Did you know that northeastern Colorado is known for its bird watching? Look for regal Mississippi Kites and energetic Harris’s Sparrows. Even those without an eye for flying friends will enjoy the birdsong and copious dragonflies along the river trails.
By now, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite! Head downtown to Fourth Street, where Parts & Labor Brewing serves up mouthwatering burgers and lighter options such as Thai Peanut or Balsamic Blueberry salads. Their seasonal brews, such as the prickly pear hefeweizen dubbed “Cactus Wrestler,” will wash down your first day in Sterling with ease.
PADDLEBOARD NORTH STERLING RESERVOIR AND SEE A GINORMOUS WIND FARM
On Saturday morning, take a look around. You’ll instantly notice how quiet the river, trails, and town of Sterling are. Congratulations—you’ve escaped the city life! Tuck into breakfast at the J&L Cafe or Brew Grit Coffee, where Cowgirl Cinnamon Rolls come out hot and go great with a strong cup of joe. Then, journey 20 minutes out of town. The refreshing green waters of North Sterling Reservoir and North Sterling State Park await. On weekends, you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, and other flotation devices from PJ Marina. Otherwise, kick back at the swim beach where shaded picnic areas and tables make for easy lounging. (Note: bug spray can be of benefit during summer months.)
Afternoon and Evening
After a picnic lunch, continue northward to Chimney Canyons and Peetz Table Wind Energy Center. Take either County Road 70 or 72 west (the author insists you don’t follow Google Maps) to view the windmills on top of a beautiful butte. Keep your eyes peeled for roaming pronghorn and wildflowers such as white prickly poppy along the way. That evening, enjoy dinner at another of Sterling’s local restaurants; Hot Spot Smokehouse is a local favorite for BBQ and the Grill at River City will satiate those salivating for steak.
VISIT THE LOGAN COUNTY SHOOTING RANGE AND TAKE AN URBAN ART HIKE
Come Sunday, you’ll be savoring your final day in Sterling prior to returning to the Front Range. Enjoy a decadent crepe at McCauley’s Mustache Cafe, an entrepreneurial drive-through with big flavor and hospitality. Depending on how much time you have, choose from the following options for your day. The Logan County Shooting Sports Complex costs $10 for a full day on the range (bring your own equipment). Or perhaps you would prefer a walking tour through downtown Sterling. With 12 cottonwood tree sculptures by famed artist Bradford Rhea and several murals throughout town, you’ll find artistic surprises and historic buildings at every turn. Be sure to visit a number of small businesses along the way, including the High Plains Spice Company, where you can taste local honey and countless spices.
Finally, pick up a taco plate at Baja Tacos on your way out of town. The authentic flavor and prices are sure to have us city folk coming back for seconds the very next weekend!