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Colorado Summer Bucket List

When you’ve been stuck at home for so long, it can be easy to start getting a little stir crazy. We don’t know how long these stay at home orders and social distancing recommendations will last, but what we do know is that once they’re done, you’re going to be itching to get out and enjoy yourself. There’s so much to do in our state, and now’s the time to start building that summer bucket list so that when we do get out of this, you’re ready to appreciate Colorado.

Item #1: See Colorado From Above

It’s safe to say that our mountainous topography is infinitely more interesting than flatter states like Kansas or North Dakota, so why not get a true appreciation for Colorado with a scenic tour from the air? There are a number of ways to do this: Royal Gorge Helicopter Tours will give you a great view of the Pikes Peak region with affordable flights for every budget, and Colorado Hot Air Balloon Rides in Hartsel offers an amazing, all-inclusive experience you’ll never forget. If a little more adrenaline is what you’re after, you could also check out Fly Colorado Ultralights for a thrilling hang gliding experience, or one of the many skydiving and ziplining services in Colorado. The Royal Gorge Bridge offers stunning panoramic views of the Via Ferrata and the gorge below. 

Royal Gorge Bridge

Item #2: Hike Hanging Lake

Okay, sure, it’s a little cliche, but there’s a reason tourists and locals alike flock to Hanging Lake, and that is because it is breathtakingly beautiful. The gorgeous waterfalls, the greenish-blue water, and the scenic 2.5 mile hike are an amazing way to appreciate Colorado’s nature scene. Note that this hike is incredibly popular, and as of Summer 2019, permits are required for those who wish to hike the trail in order to preserve the trail conditions and stop overcrowding. The good news is that this means Hanging Lake is more serene and less crowded than it has been in years, and if you think ahead and make your reservation in advance, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the jewels of Colorado.

Item #3: Conquer a 14er

There are over fifty mountains in Colorado that are classified as 14ers, meaning they are over 14,000 feet elevation at their summit. Summiting a 14er is quite a feat, and there are a number of them that are quite doable even if you’re not an extreme hiker (though it should be noted that even the easiest 14er is still a very difficult and long hike). The views from the top of a 14er are spectacular, with amazing mountain vistas as far as the eye can see, and even if you’re not a hiker or climber, a few of these incredible peaks are still accessible. Via the Mount Evans Scenic Byway and Pikes Peak Highway, you can drive right to the top of these two massive mountains. Although you should be prepared for a bit more of a crowd than you might find on another peak that’s only accessible by foot, you’ll still get to experience the same breathtaking views.

Fourteener

Item #4: Explore Colorado’s Breweries

Even in the best of times, Colorado is well-known for its amazing craft beer scene, and once we’re all allowed out of our houses again, these small craft breweries are going to need our help and patronage more than ever. That’s right, you heard me—going out and having a beer could make you a hero to some of these small businesses, and if drinking that IPA equates to doing your part to help Colorado, then by all means, my friend, go and enjoy! Drink (responsibly!) and be merry!

Item #5: Cool Off on the Water

When summer hits and that Colorado sun bears down on you, there’s nothing quite like the water to cool you down. In Colorado, we’ve got some of the best whitewater rafting in the country, thanks to the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, as well as numerous other places to raft like in Canon City with Arkansas River Tours, with Clear Creek Rafting in Idaho Springs, or on the Animas River in Durango, to name just a few. If you’re looking for something a little more low key or relaxing, try kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding (also known as SUP) on one of Colorado’s lakes or reservoirs. Any of these activities are great whether you’re with friends, family, or solo, and they all give you an awesome opportunity to cool off and get a little wet.

Item #6: Go For a Scenic Train Ride

There are several historic train routes in Colorado, from the Georgetown Loop Railroad or the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. These trains are a beautiful and unique way to see the mountains and gorgeous countryside of Colorado, and most of them feature tour guides who can answer questions and point out local points of interest. Some, like the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, even offer incredible packages like their weekly Ales on Rails event, which pairs local breweries with custom-made courses for a delicious meal.

Durango Scenic Train

 Item #7: Visit All Four National Parks

Colorado is home to four national parks—Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park. Each one has something supremely unique to offer, from the ancient Pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde to sledding down the dunes at Great Sand Dunes. Whether you’re looking to camp in the backcountry before you summit Longs Peak, climb the steep cliff walls at Black Canyon of the Gunnison, or just looking for a scenic drive and a taste of history, the national parks of Colorado are absolutely worth a visit. Try to hit all four this summer, and maybe even make a road trip out of it by visiting them one after another! You’ll see so many different regions of the Centennial State, and have a great time exploring some of Colorado’s gems.

Building Your Own Bucket List

The truth is, we don’t know when we’ll be able to get back to doing what we love, but that’s no reason not to daydream about it. I know, I know—checking those items off the list is supposed to be the fun part, but making plans can help you build your excitement and create something to look forward to. When the threat of coronavirus passes, what activities will you add to your personal Colorado bucket list?