Free (or dirt cheap) Things to do in Colorado this Spring
By Lisa Blake
Looking for a way to stay entertained during that stroppy season between skiing and biking? Here’s where to head in Colorado—on the cheap—while the mud dries.
Trails along the Front Range and Western Slope are ripe for early season hiking and biking. Head to Fruita for prime mountain biking on rugged rolling single track and don’t miss Eagle County’s early-to-dry high country trails. Raft the Colorado River near State Bridge or Glenwood Springs and soak up spring temps in the 60s and 70s. Skate parks in Breckenridge and Silverthorne have melted and mountain and lower-altitude bike parks are ready to ride. Rock climbing is going vertical around Canon City and El Dorado Canyon State Park near Boulder.
Spring means incredible wildlife watching around Colorado. Elk, moose, bear, birds and others are emerging and returning to forests and trails across the state. Watch with caution and keep your distance at populated spots such as Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado’s seven National Wildlife Refuges are free and open to the public, serving up miles and miles of protected fish, wildlife and natural areas.
For an energizing and inspiring scene, head to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison and hike around the gorgeous Denver Mountain Park; then cool off underground, strolling the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
Spring fly-fishing is top time to cast and catch along Colorado rivers. Try your luck in the Arkansas River as it flows through Buena Vista, a designated Gold Medal fishing area. Hit the Yampa River near Steamboat Springs for action-packed trout fishing
Sip and Sample
Colorado breweries and distilleries are ramping up for the whirlwind summer festival season, churning out fruit-inspired IPAs, lagers and wheat brews and fresh seasonal cocktails. Our thirsty state boasts more than 200 breweries, 100 wineries and 54 distilleries, many offering free facilities tours and tastings in their taprooms and adjoining pubs.
Not into beer or wine? Head to Boulder for a Celestial Seasonings tour to see (and taste) how the country’s largest specialty tea purveyor makes its famous blends. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate Hammond’s Candies' free factory tour where candy-makers hand-pull and twist ribbon candy, lollipops and more.
Visit a Colorado Icon
Now is a great time to check out Colorado’s natural sites. Beat the summer crowds to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs for stunning geologic formations that include cathedral spires and kissing camels. While you’re there, swing by the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum for a dose of valor and history. Climb all 3,000 steps of the Manitou Incline, or give it your best shot, and then treat yourself to ice cream and a ramble around artsy Manitou Springs.
View the one-man stone and iron project near Rye, Colorado. Jim Bishop has been building Bishop Castle for 60 years, allowing visitors to meander its three full stories for free, year-round.
Take a Drive
Sunny, clear spring days mean Colorado’s scenic byways and twisting high mountain passes begin to thaw and open to traffic. Wind through the Poudre Canyon between Fort Collins and Walden, gander at North America’s largest collection of 14,000-foot mountains near Salida and cross the Continental Divide three times on the Top of the Rockies between Leadville and Copper Mountain. Be sure to pull over for historic districts, hiking and rare only-in-Colorado photo opps along the way.
Relax and Unwind
At the end of the day, it’s all about relaxing. Head to one of Colorado’s many natural hot springs and ask about shoulder season or multi-day stay and play specials. Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs, Strawberry Park in Steamboat Springs and Trimble Spa and Natural Hot Springs near Durango are a few favorites.