COLORADO OUTDOOR TRAVEL GUIDE
Colorado is an outdoor lover’s dream. With four National Parks, eight National Monuments, and 42 state parks, this state was made to be explored. From its sweeping grasslands on the Eastern Plains, to its otherworldly deserts on the Western Slope, and the Rocky Mountains in between, no matter where you go in this state, adventure is sure to follow.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT COLORADO
Colorado is a year-round destination, but when you go will determine what you can do. If you are a skier or snowboarder, winter and early spring are for you—Colorado’s wettest month is March, and powder days in mid-April are a definite possibility. If mountain biking is your vice, spring and fall are best for the slickrock and desert rides on the Western Slope, while summer is best for the bike parks in the mountain resort towns. Summer and fall are ideal for hiking and backpacking trips, particularly in the early fall when the aspens turn the hillsides to gold.
TOP OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN COLORADO
Hiking – High-alpine peaks, rolling foothills, desert canyons, and endless-sky grasslands, Colorado has just about every type of hiking covered. Colorado also has 53 peaks over 14,000, and we have all the tips for you to get started.
Skiing – From small town gems to deluxe mega-resorts, Colorado’s twenty-one ski areas provide almost 30,000 in-bounds acres to ski.
Biking – For mountain bike lovers, Western Colorado has become a desert-riding mecca. When summer rolls around, many ski areas have built bike parks to give downhill riders a chance to ride the slopes. For road bikers, there are endless tour options; there’s a reason the USA Pro Challenge road race rolled through Colorado for years.
Climbing – Whether it’s the classic climbs of Boulder’s Flatirons or legendary alpine routes like The Diamond on Longs Peak, Colorado has a wide range of bouldering, trad, and sport climbing options.
Standup Paddleboarding – Rivers and reservoirs across the state give you plenty of places to SUP your heart out.
White Water Adventures – Daily, guided whitewater trips run all summer throughout the state, with the largest commercial operators running on the Arkansas River. For multi-day trips, head out west to the Gunnison River.
GETTING TO COLORADO
Colorado’s biggest and easiest airport to fly into is Denver International Airport (DIA). There are also commercial airports in Aspen, Vail (Eagle), Durango, and Grand Junction that may cut several hours off the drive to your final destination.
NATIONAL PARKS IN COLORADO
Rocky Mountain National Park includes glacier-carved mountains and high-alpine lakes. With more than 60 peaks that rise above 12,000 feet, this park is full of hiking, backpacking, and climbing options and is less than two hours from DIA.
Great Sand Dunes National Park hosts the tallest sand dunes in North America. Sitting below the stunning Sangre De Cristo mountains to the east and above the expansive San Luis Valley to the west, this place has stunning sunsets and other-worldly landscapes in every direction.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is Colorado’s least-known. Steep and deep is the name of that game here at this hidden gem. Whether you explore this park from its rim-lined trails or are lucky enough to run the river and see it from below, there are no shortage of dramatic views.
Mesa Verde National Park is famous for its cliff dwellings, most notably the Cliff Palace, the largest of its kind in North America. While you need a Park Ranger to give you a tour of the Cliff Palace to protect the ruins, afterwards you can escape the crowds on the miles of trails that traverse the mesa.
OTHER MUST-SEE COLORADO DESTINATIONS
Colorado National Monument is the entrance to the desert country outside of Grand Junction. Huge red sandstone walls dominate the views here, whether you are road biking the Rim Rock Drive or hiking below Independence Monument.
Maroon Bells are probably the most famous mountains in Colorado, and rightly so. During the summer, hiking and backpacking trips around these 14,000 foot mountains are full of jagged peaks, painterly wildflowers, and wildlife, like moose and mountain goats.
Red Rocks Park (and Amphitheatre) is a mere twenty minutes west of Denver. Catching a concert at Red Rocks is a bucket list item on its own. But, adding a pre-show trail run or mountain bike ride around the mountain park surrounding the concert venue will make rocking out into the night even more unforgettable.
TOP COLORADO TOWNS TO EXPLORE
Denver is the capital and biggest city in Colorado. Downtown is full of microbreweries and restaurants and an ample park system means you are never far from green space. Denver’s B-Cycle bike-share program makes biking around the city a breeze. Plus, bike paths along Cherry Creek and the South Platte River give you the option to explore on two wheels well beyond the city limits.
Boulder is a college town and adventure capital. The city parks system has over 145 miles of maintained trails, giving you endless trail running, mountain biking, and hiking options. The best known park, Chautauqua, is less than two miles from downtown Boulder and gives you climbing access to the famous Flatirons.
Aspen is known for glitz and glam, but don’t let its luxury reputation fool you; this is a mountain and adventure town. Surrounded by national forest and two wilderness areas, access to four ski areas, trails leaving straight from the streets of town, and the Roaring Fork River running right through it—if you fly into Aspen, you don’t even need to rent a car to get into the wild.
Durango is the adventure hub of southwestern Colorado. For skiers, Purgatory Resort lies just out of town, while Silverton’s extreme mountain is just over Molas Pass. Mesa Verde is forty minutes to the west, and the Weminuche Wilderness wraps around the town to the northeast.