Colorado creates travel experiences that last a lifetime. With usually good summer weather and an annual average of 300 sunshine-filled days, Colorado is a great get-away destination. Spectacular natural beauty with 10 national parks and monuments, 13 national forests and grasslands and 42 state parks provide abundant opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking, biking, fishing, rafting, rock climbing and wildlife watching.
The state is rich with cultural heritage, which can be found in ancient cliff dwellings, frontier forts, scenic and historic railroads, as well as many other outstanding historic sites.
If you like cities and towns, Colorado has those also. Nightlife in Denver is hard to beat with almost any type of entertainment you might seek. You will find art galleries, small dinner theatres and performing arts centers. There are symphonies, plus there is famed Red Rocks State Park and Amphitheater.
If you are headed to the mountains, check out Colorado’s oldest repertory theatre, the Creede Repertory Theatre or the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
Each of Colorado’s four national parks offers a unique experience. Try climbing the tallest sand dunes in North America at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and view bighorn sheep and elk in their natural habitat at Rocky Mountain National Park. Or you can explore the breathtaking canyon walls formed over thousands of years at Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park or go back in time with ancestral Puebloan dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.
How about taking a break and soothe your muscles and relax in one of Colorado’s many natural hot springs. Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Pool is the largest in the world, while Pagosa Springs boasts the world’s deepest hot spring.
If you are into railroading, as am I, Colorado has some of the most scenic and historic railroads in the nation. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, the highest and longest narrow gauge railway in the country, travels through 64 miles of tunnels, trestles, and picturesque valleys and gorges. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad travels along many miles of historic rail offering panoramic views of wildlife and mountain meadows as it runs alongside a fast-moving river. This is particularly perfect for photo opportunities all along the way. The town of Silverton is a fine example of an old mining town of the 1800s and always good for a walk after lunch.
If you are traveling with family, explore the downtown Riverwalk of Estes Park. It offers an interesting mix of galleries, shops, museums, and recreational activities such as golfing and fly-fishing. Close by is Rocky Mountain National Park, which offers more than 350 miles of hiking trails and fantastic wildlife viewing such as bugling elk and bighorn sheep.
The western and Victorian towns of Gunnison and Crested Butte make a great place to sightsee beauty and perhaps experience some adventure. Crested Butte is the official wildflower capital of Colorado and every year you will see stunning floral displays along the mountains.
Steamboat Springs offers western charm for the entire family. Fun, culture and recreation are all here. There is an annual Hot Air Balloon Rodeo along with many musical events during the summer such as the Strings Music Festival. You will enjoy strolling the main street to explore unique shops, restaurants and galleries. You can find a tennis center, mountain biking, kayaking, fly-fishing and nearby state parks give you countless opportunities for boating, camping and rafting.
Breckenridge is loaded with history, culture and arts. This is a quaint mountain town where festivals, live music, art workshops and theatrical performances are found. You can attend a musical performance at the newly remodeled Riverwalk Center, which hosts the National Repertory and Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestras throughout the summer. Breckenridge has a marvelous arts district housing up and coming artists. You can also travel 1,000 feet into an historic gold mine.
If you enjoy camping, Colorado’s terrain is varied. You can camp near the clear water of a high-mountain lake or a valley on the Western Slope. You might consider Rocky Mountain National Park and think about taking the western entrance via Grand Lake, which is often less crowded making it easier to enjoy nature’s peace and quiet.
In Comanche National Grassland near La Junta the Perseid meteor shower lights up the sky with meteors that skip across the atmosphere like stones on a lake in mid-August — it’s a great event for the kids.
San Juan National Forest near Durango is popular with people seeking the vibrant colors of autumn. Late September through the end of October is generally a good time to see brilliant reds, yellows and oranges light up the countryside.
At Flat Tops Wilderness Area make it a point to visit Trappers Lake. This is a pristine Rocky Mountain lake that can be reached by an easy and forested half-mile hike.
If sports events are your interest, Colorado offers nine professional teams. There are NASCAR races at the Colorado National Speedway in Weld Country to PGA tournaments at Castle Pines Golf Club in Castle Rock.
Colorado has very fine museums. The Denver Art Museum is outstanding with permanent collections of fine art. Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art is here in abundance. The Colorado Springs Arts Center is important and includes its famous collection of Hispanic and American Indian art. This year, the 2000-piece collection of works by Clyfford Still will open in Denver; the public will see many of these for the first time.
Colorado grows grapes in the Grand Valley area of the Western Slope at the intersection of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. Most of Colorado’s 650 acres of vines can be found in or near Mesa County, and situated at 4,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level, they are some of the highest vineyards in the world.
Most of the wineries are located in Palisade, near Hwy. 6. The tasting rooms are usually open year-round from 11 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. Your wine tour loop of this vineyard-touring itinerary runs about 35 miles round-trip. I’m told the wines are very delicious. They also make fruit wines so check them out.
Bird watching is popular in Colorado. The Eastern Plains are the ideal environment for an astounding variety of birds. The state is home to more than 450 different avian species, many of which are found in the diverse ecosystems just east of the Rocky Mountains. Here, lone falcons share the sky with droves of tiny white-throated swifts, owls, as prairie chickens stroll the vast stretches of golden shortgrass. So grab your binoculars and see the birds.
You might enjoy Pike’s Peak trail for breathtakingly beautiful terrain and memorable tourist sites. And, you’ll find an interesting array of birds in this area.
In May of 1859 prospector John Gregory panned nearly $1,000 worth of gold dust from a gulch 40 miles west of Denver. Today it is known as Central City. This hilly area yielded what later became known as the richest square mile on earth. Now, there are casinos, luxury hotels and good old western atmosphere to be enjoyed.
Perhaps you would like staying on an authentic dude ranch. There are many and they offer such activities as cookouts, country dancing, cattle drives, swimming, trap shooting, hay rides, four wheel drive trips and rock climbing. For a complete brochure of 28 listed ranches visit: www.ranchcolorado.org or phone 1-866-942-3472.
Colorado has something for almost everyone. Seek your pleasures and drive safely.