’Tis the season for road trips, weekend warriors and outdoor adventures. Summer in Colorado is a blank canvas for the experiences you’re about to gain, the trips you’ll take and the feats you’ll accomplish. So go ahead. Set some goals. Make some plans. Pack up the car. Get going. And if you need an extra kick of inspiration, let these pages be your guide to an epic Colorado summer.
Your Next Adventure
Whether you’re into breaking a sweat or popping a bottle (or both), we’ve got you covered.
Take in the Sand Dunes— Colorado is home to loads of jaw-dropping scenery, but the jaw-droppiest of them all just might be the sight of these majestic sand dunes backed up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Hike up ’em, slide down ’em, repeat.
Get a Selfie at Hanging Lake— This stunning mountain lake is one of the state’s most popular hikes for a reason: It’s absolutely gorgeous. Skip the crowded hot springs in Glenwood and hit the Hanging Lake trail instead.
Indulge in Colorado Wine Country— Western Colorado’s Grand Valley is home to more than 20 wineries, which probably makes it the best vacation spot in the whole state. Because there’s wine. And also pretty scenery. But also wine.
Ski A-Basin— If skiing is Colorado’s state pastime, then Arapahoe Basin is the HQ. It’s close, affordable (relative to its neighbors), full of locals and it boasts one of the longest ski seasons on the continent. Moguls in June, anyone?
Hike to a High-Country Hot Spring— If you like your hikes with a generous heaping of reward at the end, then pack your swimsuit (or not) and head up to a natural geothermal pool for post-workout bliss. Aspen’s Conundrum Hot Springs and Steamboat’s Strawberry Park Hot Springs are excellent options.
Get cool on a 10th Mountain Division Hut Trip— Just because it’s snowy doesn’t mean you can’t take a nice long walk in the great outdoors. And we mean long. The snowshoe or cross country ski to the huts is no joke, but the idyllic scenery and secluded shelter are beyond worth it.
Quirky Road Trip Detours (or Destinations)
Need a break from behind the wheel? These stop-offs are worth the extra miles.
Bishop’s Castle—The self-proclaimed “largest one-man project” in the country, Bishop Castle is an ongoing labor of love by Jim Bishop. Located outside of Pueblo, this stone and iron fortress is a quirky testament to the American Dream and becoming King of your own castle.
North Pole in Colorado Springs—The only thing more magical than Christmas is a Christmas-themed amusement park. Or at least, that’s the premise behind the very old-school North Pole. From meeting Santa and his elves to riding around on Rudolph to feeding llamas, this just might be the most fun way to celebrate Christmas in July.
UFO Watchtower—According to in-the-know UFO buffs, Colorado’s San Luis Valley is one of the best places in the world to see flying saucers. Have a close encounter of your own kind at the UFO Watchtower and gift shop, where you can stock up on alien key chains, make a wish request at the healing garden and look for ALF—all at the same time!
This is one jam-packed quadrilateral. Some more Colorado sights and activities not to miss:
1. White water rafting—Depending on the time of year, rafting the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon can be a gentle float or a man-overboard situation.
2. Go jump in a lake—Afraid of heights? Even better. Nothing says summer so much as free falling into an alpine body of water. Dive into one of the aquatic options at Rocky Mountain National Park.
3. Mesa Verde—And you thought your house was in shambles. Visit the only World Heritage Site located in Colorado, where you’ll walk through time to some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the country.
4. Ride the Telluride gondola—Referred to by locals as “the best commute in the country,” this breathtaking 13-minute ride is likely the only free thing you’ll experience while in Telluride.
5. Stand on the top of a 14er—A mile high? Try almost three miles high. Whether you get there by foot, bike, car or train, you can’t really live in Colorado without having summited one of our peaks.
6. Do something at Red Rocks—A concert, a stroll, a hard-core workout, cartwheels across the stage—everything is better at Colorado’s favorite music venue/hiking trails/outdoor gym/tumbling mat.
7. Island Lake in the San Juans—This gorgeous tropical-looking lake is in the decidedly un-tropical San Juan National Forest. Bring a camera and hiking boots—the lake is only accessible via a steep four-mile trek.
8. Spend too much money on something in Aspen—A six-dollar Coke? Sure, why not—you’re in Aspen!
9. Explore a small town you’ve never heard of —For your next road trip, head the other direction; Eastern Colorado’s tiny towns are ripe for exploring.