Bryon and I had a lovely dinner at the Gold Hill Inn the other night, so it seemed fitting to write a little bit about this precious little hamlet located high in the hills above Boulder. While we had driven through Gold Hill once shortly after we moved here, I became intimately acquainted with it after last year’s September floods. It was really the only route that connected Boulder to Nederland in some sort of direct fashion, which required driving up Sunshine Canyon, a ridge road from Boulder that then connected with a 9-mile stretch of dirt road going directly through Gold Hill.
Going to Gold Hill is like stepping into a time machine and being transported back 150 years in time. There is one main dirt road going down the center of town, with a few small houses on either side, as well as a Mercantile, Gold Hill Inn, Bluebird Lodge and a small 1-room schoolhouse that still educates the local children. Gold Hiill was founded in 1859, year of the Colorado Gold Rush, like so many towns that got their start during this time in history. After discovering $100,000 in gold the first year, the town of Gold Hill sprouted, otherwise known as “Mountain District No. 1 of Nebraska (Territory).” Gold Hill has always been challenged for its survival, sometimes by fires, sometimes by its sheer isolation and lack of commerce. Most recently in 2010, the Four Mile Canyon Fire threatened Gold Hill, and it was only saved by a heroic effort by local firefighters.
With a population of less than 150, Gold Hill isn’t officially even a town, but a “settlement.” But the community works together even without an official town government to ensure the best for its residents. During those four weeks of driving back and forth through Gold Hill, it definitely won me over with its charm, humility, and even humor. One of the signs on the end of main street tells you population, elevation, and year of founding, then gives you the total.
As Gold Hill saw hundreds of motorists during that month or so after the flood, they welcomed people through signs posted by the schoolchildren, saying “Welcome to our Town, please drive safely.” Or my person favorite, “Happily ever after starts here.” There’s something so sweet and humble about a town nestled in the mountains where everyone knows each other by name, helps each other, and is not trying to impress anyone — to me that’s Gold Hill. It’s worth slowing down for an afternoon or an evening in at the rustic Gold Hill Inn, listening to some local music, closing your eyes, and remembering how it was in times long gone by.