“And there in the blue air I saw for the first time, far off, the great snowy tops of the Rocky Mountains. I had to get to Denver at once.” — Jack Kerouac, “On The Road” (1957)
Although many people associate New York City, and to a lesser degree San Francisco, with the famous Beat Generation writers of the mid-20th century, Denver holds a prominent place in the Beat story. Neal Cassady, the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty in “On The Road,” was raised here. Allen Ginsberg spent time in the city, as did Kerouac himself.
Fan Tours and Resources
The City of Denver still shares a few key Beat destinations on its Visit Denver tourism site, and plenty of fans (including a dedicated graffiti artist) have done their part to thoroughly document the sites affiliated with the Beat Poets. Their tours, complete with photos and details, can be found at the links below.
• “Jack Was Here”
The post-World War II Mile High City, with its Larimer Street skid row and “Harlem of the West” Five Points neighborhood, comes to life in Kerouac’s pages, as well as in Neal Cassady’s 1971 autobiography, “The First Third.” Ginsberg immortalized it in his legendary poem “Howl,” referencing what he called the best minds of his generation:
“who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes…” — Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” (1955)
If you do your homework and set aside some time for exploring, you can follow in their car tracks or create your own personal Denver beat tour of the landscape that, indeed, inspired some of the most creative minds of a generation.
There are numerous highlights in the Denver area. Check out our Google Map, below, to plan your trip, and print out our handy location descriptions beneath the map to take with you on the tour.
View Following the Beat Legends in Denver in a larger map
If you’re planning to tour a few of these sites, here are a few tips to help keep your adventure hassle-free:
“ Central City is two miles high; at first you get drunk on the altitude, then you get tired, and there’s a fever in your soul… I let out a yahoo. The night was on.” - Jack Kerouac, “On the Road” (1957)
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