8 Colorado Adventures You Can't Miss This Summer
At any altitude, the outlook for summer vacation in Colorado promises for bright blue skies during the day and cool evenings. Take advantage of our pleasant weather by getting outside and experiencing every region of the state, which offers a plethora of summer activities.
1. Reach Your Summit on a Hike
Whether you're looking for a "Summit or Bust" climb up the steep slope of a fourteener or a leisurely creekside stroll, Colorado has hundreds of miles of trails to choose from. Paths through wildflower-strewn meadows, treks amid rocks and canyons to ancient people's petroglyphs, trips through swaying grasslands that haven't altered since pioneers first set foot there hundreds of years ago, walks that lead to gushing waterfalls, and so many more.
Popular hiking havens to see:
Wildflowers: Yankee Boy Basin near Ouray; Shrine Pass near Frisco; Lake Isabel near Colorado City
Lake IsabelleLake Isabelle, Colorado, USA
Waterfalls: Fish Creek Falls near Steamboat Springs; Seven Falls in Colorado Springs; Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride (find more Colorado waterfalls)
Fish Creek FallsFish Creek Falls, Fish Creek Falls Road, Steamboat Springs, CO, USA
Seven FallsSeven Falls, South Cheyenne Canyon Road, Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Historic paths: Sante Fe Trail’s Sierra Vista Overlook near La Junta; Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (Ancestral Puebloan dwellings); Skyline Drive (dinosaur tracks) near Cañon City
Wildlife: Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park (elk); Mount Evans Wilderness Area near Idaho Springs (bighorn sheep, mountain goats); State Forest State Park (moose)
Rocky Mountain National ParkRocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
2. Connect With Nature on a Camping Trip
On a camping vacation, there's no assurance you'll be able to completely disconnect from digital life, but Colorado will provide you with plenty of motivation. There's no better way to get up up and personal with the state's abundant wilderness regions than to spend a few nights in one of its campgrounds, whether in a tent beneath the stars or in a fully furnished RV. It's easy to find a calm area to get back to basics and rejoin the simplicity of nature with campsites in 42 state parks, on more than 22 million acres of national forests and grasslands, and in hundreds of private campgrounds.
Campsites complete with:
Great amenities: Cabins and yurts in Golden Gate Canyon State Park; swimming pool, bike rentals and mini-golf at the Grand Junction KOA; hot showers at Elk Creek Campground in the Curecanti National Recreation Area
Golden Gate Canyon State ParkGolden Gate Canyon State Park, Crawford Gulch Road, Golden, CO, USA
No amenities (wilderness backpacking): West Fork Campground in the Weminuche Wilderness Area near Pagosa Springs; Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area near Meeker; Ansel Watrous Campground in the Roosevelt National Forest
Lakeside tent/RV sites: Elk Creek Campground; Cherry Creek State Park; John Martin Reservoir State Park
Epic views: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; Silver Bar Campground near Aspen; Lower Hermosa Campground near Durango
Great Sand Dunes National Park and PreserveGreat Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado, USA
3. Feel the Thrill of Mountain Biking & Cycling
Bicycling isn't just a way of getting around in Colorado before you earn your driver's license: it's a way of life. You can bet there are plenty of bike paths in the state that pioneered mountain biking (Crested Butte claims that honor) and hosts dozens of endurance and high-altitude road biking races each year (including several where you ride for 24 hours straight). For the more casual pedaler, there are hundreds of miles of paved, flat routes, as well as outfitters around the state who can provide all of the necessary gear for a two-wheel adventure. Every spring, several ski regions transform into mountain-biking routes for all skill levels, which is one of the most unique aspects of Colorado's bike culture.
A few places to bicycle:
Down the ski slopes: Eagle’s Loop on Vail Mountain; Silver Pick Trail at Purgatory Resort; Let it Ride Trail at Keystone Resort
Vail MountainVail Mountain, Colorado, USA
Around a bike park: Trestle Bike Park at Winter Park Resort; Corral Center Mountain Bike Park in Lory State Park; Palmer Park in Colorado Springs
Palmer ParkPalmer Park, Paseo Road, Colorado Springs, CO, USA
On paved routes for road bikes and cruisers: Cherry Creek Bike Trail, Denver; Gore Creek bike path in Vail; Clear Creek Trail in Golden
A singletrack paradise: Deer Creek Trail in Crested Butte; 18 Road Trails near Fruita; Marshall Mesa Trail in Boulder
4. Make a Splash on a Boat
Although Colorado is a landlocked state, it does have shorelines. Traveling through mountain basins and deep, blue-water oasis on the wide-open plains, boaters find comfort on hundreds of acres of boat-worthy water. Tow a water skier or tuber, or simply enjoy the breeze on your face as you cruise over Colorado's lakes and reservoirs, which frequently enable boaters to create large wakes. Some are BYOB (bring your own boat), but many have marinas where you may hire a boat to get on the water. While you're there, don't forget to practice boat safety.
Wonderful water for:
Waterskiing: Navajo State Park; Jackson Lake State Park; Blue Mesa Reservoir
Canoeing: Lake Granby in Granby; Gross Reservoir near Eldorado Springs; Colorado River near Palisade
Lake GranbyLake Granby, Colorado, USA
Fishing: Grand Mesa Lakes near Cedaredge; Lake Pueblo State Park; Steamboat Lake State Park
The Grand MesaThe Grand Mesa, Lakeshore Drive, Cedaredge, CO, USA
Sailing: Lake Dillon in Dillon; Grand Lake; Ruedi Reservoir in Basalt
Lake Dillon DriveLake Dillon Drive, Dillon, CO, USA
5. Tee Up on a Golf Course
If you overhear someone boasting about how far he shot the ball on a recent golf vacation, you might wonder where he was at the time. It was most likely in Colorado. Everyone's ball flies farther and straighter at high altitude, where the air is thin and dry. One of the reasons so many golfers go to the state is because of this characteristic. You'll find plenty of other reasons when you combine year-round play — you can even go from the ski slopes to the green in one day in some areas — and only-in-Colorado surroundings. A number of companies provide bundled golf trips that allow you to sample a variety of various courses throughout the state.
Hone your skills:
On mountain courses: Pole Creek Golf Club, Copper Creek Golf Club, Breckenridge Golf Course
On only-in-Colorado links: Arrowhead Golf Course (breathtaking rock formations), Fossil Trace Golf Club (dinosaur fossils and footprints), Mount Massive Golf Course (highest-altitude course in North America)
At the most challenging clubs: Colorado National Golf Club, EagleVail Golf Club, The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa
Where the pros play: Colorado Golf Club, The Broadmoor
6. Horseback Ride into the Sunset
Colorado is an ideal site for equestrian immersion, with dramatic beautiful backgrounds, boundless trails, and a history of horseback riding. Each region has a unique setting for horseback riding and horsemanship at any level. Beginners should go on guided trail rides. Small groups are escorted by knowledgeable wranglers who point out wildlife and sites of interest. For more experienced riders, pack trips, in which guides accompany you from one campground to the next as you travel deeper into the backcountry, are ideal. Weeklong stays, superb meals, specialized riding lessons, kids' activities, and cattle collection are all available at dude ranches, making for a comprehensive Wild West experience.
Riding resources for:
Trail-ride and pack-trip outfitters: Bear Mountain Stables; Canyon Trails Ranch; Academy Riding Stables
Dude ranches: Latigo Ranch; Echo Basin Ranch; Smith Fork Ranch
7. Get the Adrenaline Going While Kayaking & Whitewater Rafting
Colorado is home to the headwaters of four major rivers: the Colorado, Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande, and whitewater enthusiasts rush here every spring with their kayaks attached to the roofs of their automobiles. The season usually lasts from May through September, with the most exciting whitewater in May and June. August is the greatest month to go on a more relaxed vacation. The variety of outfitters, paddle parks, tranquil lakes, peaceful rivers, and tough rapids in the state make it a great site to begin to kayak and raft — and then practice on more challenging waterways.
Places to put your paddle in for:
White-knuckle adventures: Arkansas River Headwaters, Salida; Gunnison Gorge near Gunnison; Browns Canyon National Monument near Buena Vista
Milder floats: Glenwood Canyon near Glenwood Springs; Ruby Canyon near Grand Junction; Eagle River near Gypsum
Easy-does-it lakes: Cottonwood Lake near Buena Vista; Pearl Lake State Park; Barr Lake State Park
Barr Lake State ParkBarr Lake State Park, Picadilly Rd, Brighton, CO, USA
Whitewater parks: Confluence Park, Denver; Clear Creek Whitewater Park; Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park; Gunnison Whitewater Park
8. Explore a Colorado Cave
One of the best ways to cool down from all of these summer activities is to visit two of the country's most popular natural caves: Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs has more than 2 miles of limestone corridors. The cave's twists and turns are explored on well-lit, accessible excursions. They'll turn off the lights so you can explore by lantern light if you want to look into its eerie depths. Glenwood Caverns in Glenwood Springs are accessible through a gondola ride with vistas of the Roaring Fork Valley and feature wide-open, huge halls lined with bizarre rock formations. If you've gotten the hang of caving, there are tours of underdeveloped caverns that require some crawling and squeezing to enter. There are several undeveloped caverns, including those near Rifle Falls State Park and Dinosaur National Monument, as well as more in the White River National Forest, for experienced cavers. Visitors should keep in mind that these caverns might be perilous, and that suitable equipment is required for a safe tour.
Breckenridge Ski Patrol — Peak 9Breckenridge Ski Patrol — Peak 9, White River National Forest, County Road 751, Breckenridge, CO, United States
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