Sterling: Art, Adventure, and History in Northeastern Colorado

Just under two hours away from the bustle and the crowds of the Front Range, the historic town of Sterling feels like a blissful breath of fresh air. The arts and culture hub of Northeastern Colorado offers unparalleled access to nature and has something for everyone: biking, birding, fishing, art, history, shopping, great food, and more! Choose your own adventure as you mix and match a wide range of activity options.
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This story was created in partnership with Explore Sterling.

The Great Outdoors

When it comes to outdoor play, Sterling offers no shortage of places and ways to recreate. Make the short 13 minute drive just north of town to North Sterling State Park to partake in a variety of outdoor activities: bring your own bike and enjoy a mellow pedal on the 3.5 mile out-and-back South Shoreline Trail, which follows the lapping shores of North Sterling Reservoir; check out a free field guide and set of binoculars from the visitor center and go birding as you hike to Balanced Rock; bring your own paddle board or kayak and spend a day on the water; or simply relax on the swim beach under the shady cottonwoods.

If urban nature is more your style, you’ll love strolling through Sterling’s many well-maintained city parks, including beautiful Pioneer Park. Simply enjoy the trails, or bring your own discs to play a round of disc golf on the world class 18 hole course.

Brought your fishing rod? Head to the Overland Recreation Trail Area in town and fish off the dock at Kiwanis Pond, and then enjoy a leisurely stroll along Penny Lane Trail as you look for birds along the South Platte River.

Art and History

Along with being known as the arts and culture hub of Northeastern Colorado, Sterling is also known as the ‘city of living trees’ as it boasts 17 different stunning sculptures around town that were all carved out of cottonwood trees by artist Bradford Rhea. Enjoy a sculpture scavenger hunt as you stroll through town to view them all (a map can be found here)!

Sterling is also home to a rotating collection of paintings, drawings, and photography; these can be viewed in the Peter L. Youngers Fine Arts Gallery in E.S French Hall at Northeastern Junior College (open 9-4 M-F, September-May). While downtown, don’t miss the collection of paintings on display in the lower level of the historic Logan County Courthouse depicting the area’s history.

A weekend in Sterling wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Overland Trail Museum (open 9-5 M-Sat), which boasts an extensive collection of artifacts and fascinating details about the history of the area! If you’re traveling with little ones, this family-friendly activity is sure to be a highlight of your trip.

Food and Shopping

What good is an adventure without the opportunity to refuel with some delicious cuisine? Sterling’s restaurants offer up a laid-back atmosphere with that unparalleled small town, served-with-a-smile service. Start your day with a make-your-own breakfast burrito at Logan County Burrito Company, or choose between a savory or sweet breakfast crepe at McCauley’s Mustache Cafe. For a quick lunch, grab a fresh salad or wrap at Simkins Parlour, or pick up a coffee and light bite at the Old Library Mercantile and Coffee Shop while you peruse their excellent collection of homemade and local goods. Finish a day of exploring with a hearty meal and a refreshing craft beer on the patio at Parts and Labor Brewing Company, or tuck into a plate of BBQ at the Hot Spot Smokehouse.

Before you hit the road and head home, make sure to stop by the Colorado Popcorn Company to grab a few different bags of popcorn in flavors you’ve never even heard of before (birthday cake popcorn, anyone?), and head to the High Plains Spice Company to stock up on a fantastic selection of hand-mixed spices, salts, olive oils, teas, coffee, and more!

By the time you return home, don’t be surprised if you’re already reminiscing about the tranquility of this blissful slice of Colorado. Thankfully, its close proximity to several major cities and its straightforward access on I-76 makes it an easy getaway to return to again and again!

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