Make the Most of Colorado’s Mud Season

Mud Season means bigger deals and smaller crowds.

In the Colorado high country, mountain folk have an expression for that slowed-down stretch of time after ski season and before the busy summer hike-bike-festivals season rolls in. Aptly named “mud season,” refers to late April through May when spring’s sun melts the winter’s snowpack, rivers swell, and trails transition from frozen to sloppy to dry. Here are our top tips for making the most of Colorado’s shoulder season in the mountains.

Focus on the quiet

Take a deep breath of glorious mountain air and revel in the lack of crowds. The beauty of mud season lies in wide-open sidewalks, rested and smiling locals, and fewer cars on I-70. Daytime temps can climb into the 50s, making for a nice stroll down mountain town Main Streets or any nearby park. 

Mid-May Mud Season Activities

Mid-May is also a great time to go whitewater rafting in Colorado. The river flows are picking up speed, and rafting outfitters are excited to get their boats back in the water.

Colorado’s rainbow and cutthroat trout start to spawn in spring, making for optimal fly-fishing conditions. Other do-it-while-it’s-quiet ideas include mountain brewery tours, historic walking tours, and hot springs soaking (we recommend Iron Mountain Hot Springs or Trimble Spa & Natural Hot Springs). 
mud season

Explore Colorado's National Parks

There are four National Parks in Colorado all of which are open year-round. Spring is a good time to visit these parks as you will find them uncrowded before the summer tourist season hits in June. However, depending on the spring weather, it might make sense to go south while the more northerly parks meltdown. 

  • Mesa Verde National Park - is located in southwest Colorado and will boast the warmest weather of all the parks. They have an on-going list of special offers and events with even better offers in the spring.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park - is another choice for spring. However, April and the beginning of May can bring volatile weather. Afternoons often bring high winds and snow is still possible in higher elevations in particular. However, day temps average around the mid-50s to mid-60s F. 
  • Black Canyon of The Gunnison - is open year-round but limited in the winter unless you plan on cross-country skiing. All-access is usually open by mid-April. Popular activities are hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, rafting, fishing, wildlife viewing, fishing, and scenic drives.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park - is the most popular National Park in Colorado. In April it is still melting down and the scenic drive across Trail Ridge Road is closed. However, the park is usually completely open by mid-May, and the wildflowers are in full bloom. 

Mud Season Bike Riding

A very popular mud season activity is bike riding in Colorado. While the high mountains are still under snow, there is a plethora of gravel roads in more low-lying areas. In fact, Colorado has 105,000 unpaved lane miles of roads ready, any good weather day, for gravel riding. Gravel biking is a hybrid between road cycling and a cyclocross bike. These bikes are designed to tackle bumpy dirt roads, and are geared for steeper mountain grades.

If mountain biking is your thing. Grand Junction has taken off as a hot spot for mountain biking on the western slope. Trails are accessible year-round, and in early spring, the weather is perfect for rides such as the famous Kokopelli Loop. Fruita is another popular early spring mountain biking destination.

Eat cheap

Many mountain town restaurants that remain open in May offer diners 2-for-1 deals. Buy one steak dinner and get the second one free. It’s the perfect excuse to book a date night and try that fine dining spot you wouldn’t normally splurge on.

Some restaurants throw locals appreciation parties and serve up steeply discounted or free apps and drinks, while others host end-of-season keg draining bashes to sell off winter’s brews before they usher in summer seasonals.

Disclaimer: A handful of mountain restaurants close entirely for mud season. Call before you go.

Stay for less

Reduced rate lodging is another prime mud season perk. Hotel, condo, and resort discounts range from 30 to 50 percent off. Call ahead, check online, and follow your favorite mountain properties on social media—they’ll throw out offers to loyal fans.
Stay for less during mud season

Score gear deals

Spring is a fantastic time to spruce up your outdoor gear collection. Ski and apparel shops are slashing prices, pushing out last season’s gear before the new biking, hiking and running garb comes in. If you’re in the market for a new snowboard, boots or skis, May is the time to wrangle a deal.

For those who get bored and miss the buzz of tourism and trail traffic, don’t worry, it will be back right around Memorial Day. Hang on tight and get your fill of rafting, mountain biking, camping and hiking—summer in the mountains flies as quickly as the wildflowers bloom and the rivers flow and ebb.

Start planning your Colorado summer adventures today.

By Lisa Blake

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