Summertime in Colorado is all about celebrating and enjoying the great outdoors, and with 300+ days of sunshine, it's easy to have the perfect day. Experience one of the many stunning Rocky Mountain sunsets, races and contests, unrivaled outdoor concert venues, food and wine festivals, golfing, horse riding, hiking, rafting and much more as you travel through Colorado. Don't forget the sunscreen and lots of water.
Rafting in Colorado is our favorite can't-miss chance for fun. There are floats for every kind of friend or family adventure. Raft the Royal Gorge and experience class-V rapids as the Arkansas River carries you under the Royal Gorge Bridge. Head a little further west to Salida to catch their annual Fibark Festival and see what the fuss is about. Raft through Brown's Canyon National monument, or head north with the kiddos to raft the Colorado River with smaller rapids, but plenty of fun. Local's Tip: water is highest in the spring and early summer as the snow melts off the mountains to fill our Rivers. Book early for an adrenaline-filled adventure, or wait until later in the summer to take the kids on a mellow float.
Colorado boasts 26 scenic byways, with views to take your breath away if the altitude doesn't get you first. Pound out the miles as you tackle Independence pass between Leadville and Aspen, or watch for wildlife as you pedal over Trail Ride Road in Rocky Mountain Nation Park. If you prefer dirt under your tires, visit one of the many lift-accessed bike parks, like Keystone Resort or Crested Butte Mountain resorts. There are also thousands of miles of singletrack around the state. Wait for the snow to melt and experience high alpine rides in Summit County, this Colorado summer during July, August, and September. Local's tip: Stick to the road after its rained. Our dirt dries fast, but if you ride when it's wet, your knobby tires will do significant manage.
Colorado's “wild west” roots live on, with many ranches offering horseback rides for the whole family. Saddle up, head into the plains, or over the trails to expansive vistas. If you bring your own horses, many trails outside of Denver are horse-friendly. Durango has an active equestrian culture with many trails and ride opportunities!
Fly over canyons and zip over rivers. Ziplining is an activity growing in popularity for good reason – It is so much fun for every age! Race your friends in a dual slalom race to the finish while your family cheers from below! Then test your balance on the aerial parks with rope ladders, wooden platforms, and balance beams. Both activities utilize 4-point harnesses to keep everyone safe and having fun. Local's tip: Book a package of ½ day of zipline, followed by ½ day a the aerial park, which many times includes lunch for everyone!
There are over 250 golf courses in Colorado, with many that are playable year-round! The thin air in Colorado lets your ball fly further than at sea-level, so don't let a 144 slope make you nervous. Colorado Spring's Castle Pine's Golf Club has hosted PGA golf tours on its Jack Nicklaus-designed course and is always rated one of the best courses in the country. Cañon City and Pueblo are in the “banana belt” of Colorado and have courses open all year. Local's tip: Many courses offer reduced greens fees for last-minute tee times, so don't stress if you want to play a late 9-hole after lunch.
Pack the chalk back on your sticky shoes! Garden of the Gods or the Boulder Flat Irons are popular spots near Denver for multiple routes and a variety of difficulty. The town of Rifle has some of the best limestone climbing areas in the country with near-by camping sites. Not to far from Rifle is another climbing hot spot: Black Canyon of the Gunnison which has over 140 documented routes up the canyon walls for experienced climbers. Local's Tip: Make it a real Colorado Adventure by hiking or biking into your route.
When you're ready for real relaxation, Colorado's natural hot springs await you. Try a rustic hike-to Radium Hot Springs near Kremmling, where you can wave to the passing kayakers and rafters on the Colorado River. Or if you prefer a more spa-like retreat, head west to Glenwood Springs for various hot springs and vapor cave options!
Spend the day riding the rails and taking in the scenery. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad winds through spectacular & breathtaking canyons in the remote wilderness of the two-million acre San Juan National Forest for an unforgettable adventure aboard original 1880s steam engine trains. Local's tip: Take the train to Silverton, but then take the bus back over Red Mountain Pass to spend more time in Silverton AND Durango.
Colorado has 6,000 miles of streams and more than 1,300 lakes and reservoirs to choose from, including many sections of gold medal fishing waters. Float the Colorado or wade into the Blue River for your best chance to catch a prized trout or salmon. Check-in with a local outfitter to get the best flys and lures for the area, and don't forget your fishing license! Local's tip: Book a guided trip to really get insider information from a local.
These popular modes will keep you fit and smiling on white or flat water. Test your balance while SUPing on Dillon Reservoir. Marinas in Frisco and Dillon offer rentals by the hour or the day. Follow the shoreline to stay away from any boat wake. Pack a snack and picnic with your dog on the islands you've only seen from a distance. Local's tip: Go early in the day before the winds kick up!
Visiting State and National Parks
More summer vacation activity ideas.
by Kathleen Fitzsimmons