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Cripple Creek

Discover Cripple Creek, Colorado

On the back side of Pikes Peak, snugged onto the hillsides of a once-rollicking and wildly rich gold camp, sits today’s Cripple Creek, a limited-stakes gaming town that draws visitors from around the world.

Like many of Colorado’s mountain towns, it was first home to the Ute tribe, which moved through the high country with the seasons, living off the abundance of game and fish.

When settlers discovered gold, the landscape changed dramatically. It was Bob Womack, who had searched in vain along the southwest slope of Pikes Peak for more than a decade before hitting paydirt in 1890. Ironically, his riches were found in a place known as Poverty Gulch, which eventually became Cripple Creek.

Thousands of prospectors and the ancillary businesses of merchants and ladies of the night came to the region, and between the time of Womack’s discovery and 1910, the region was hailed as the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp.” If you were assign a 21st century value to the 22.4 million ounces of gold extracted from more than 500 mines during Cripple Creek’s heyday, you’d have yourselves more than $11 billion.

Gambling Strike in 1991

Although gold production declined dramatically in a relatively short period of time, Cripple Creek hit it big again in 1991 with legalized gambling. Many of the historic buildings became refurbished casinos and hotels, and new edifices were erected where others once stood.

In 1995 an open-pit gold mine was opened at the site of the old Cresson Mine, and it continues to produce today.

Now for many the draw is the glitter of the casino and the sounds of the electric slots and the murmur of gamers at the tables. But for history buffs, the Cripple Creek Historic District, a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, offers a wonderful glimpse into times gone by.

Many shops maintain the rustic ambience of old-time mining days, and the Cripple Creek Heritage Center offers hands-on displays that bring the past alive. Today, visitors to the area can experience the rich Cripple Creek, Colorado history through its shops, attractions and museums.

You can also tour 1,000 feet underground in the historic Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, and the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad provides another perspective on the area’s past.

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Boulder, Colorado

Boulder

Things to Do in Boulder, Colorado

If just one word were allowed to describe the Centennial State’s free-spiritedness, we’d choose “Boulder!” for any number of reasons.

University of Colorado Boulder

First, it’s home to the University of Colorado, where academics are lofty, football is passionate, and chillin’ is mandatory. The Hill and Pearl Street Mall are famed for their colorful shops, eateries, and galleries, and people-watching is unparalleled.
Boulder-downtown

Boulder Culture

Culturally, this town is the motherlode. For museum lovers, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) features contemporary fare, and the Leanin’ Tree Museum & Sculpture Garden of Western Art is a stroll through all things Western. More than just the past comes alive at the Boulder History Museum with exhibits that range from tofu to rock music, and CU itself houses the University of Colorado Heritage Center in its Old Main building. The college also is home to the University of Colorado Natural History Museum.

Shopping and Dining

If you’re a shopper, this is your place. Boutiques, designer names, thrift, and thrills await. And dining is, to say the very least, a culinary adventure. We’re hard-pressed to think of a cuisine not represented in our town, and you’ll even have the opportunity to visit the farm of origin for some of the freshest fare around.

And don’t forget the breweries. Just sayin’…

Mountain Recreation

Outdoor recreation is limitless. In addition to having Eldora Mountain Ski Resort nearby, America’s #1 Sports town also gives you the chance to experience, in no particular order, hot air ballooning, kayaking, rock climbing, tubing, fly fishing, bike riding, golfing, cross-country skiing and/or snowshoeing. The beauty is you can do many of these things – yes, even skiing – all in the same day. That’s Boulder for you! Ahhhh!

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Carbondale

Explore Carbondale, Colorado

Is Carbondale a big little town or a little big town? We’re not sure, but one thing we do know is that it’s a beautiful setting for outdoor activities and a wonderful peek into the state’s rich history.

Sitting at the base of Mt. Sopris at the confluence of the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers, Carbondale is just 12 miles from Glenwood Springs and 30 miles from Aspen. The sun shines on average 295 days each year, and in addition to abundant vitamin D, this sweet little place also blesses its visitors with access to soothing geothermal pools at nearby Avalanche Ranch.

Fly fishing is a favorite pastime in the Roaring Fork Valley, and when you’re not wetting a line, you can venture off on a bike or hike along the Rio Grande Bike and multi-use trail.

Summertime is rodeo time in Carbondale, with rip-snortin’ thrills every Thursday night, and on the somewhat more refined side of activities, concerts and films are presented during June and July.

Golf? But of course! Scenic drives? Spectacular! Dining? Divine!

In short, historic big/little (or little/big) Carbondale is a not-to-be-missed gem.

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Basalt

Find Adventure in Basalt, Colorado

Where is Basalt

Basalt is located in the middle of the Roaring Fork Valley, at the confluence of the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Rivers. This jewel of a town offers an incredible array of outdoor activities for all seasons, plus a variety of local parks to keep kids of all ages engaged. Learn more about Basalt at the local Chamber of Commerce.

On the Water

Nearby Ruedi Reservoir provides the perfect setting for summertime watersports and fishing, and the rivers’ Gold Medal waters are nirvana for anglers of all abilities.

All Kinds of Activities for All Types

Camping, hiking, hunting, rafting, golfing, four-wheeling, horseback riding – if it’s out of doors and fun, Basalt is where you’ll find it.

Basalt Culture, Art, Concerts, Shopping, and more…

Visitors can also expect a healthy dose of culture, with numerous galleries showcasing Western, Southwestern, contemporary, and primitive art, photography, and artisan wares. Live theater and the town’s renowned summer concert series are also part of the scene.

Shopping options are plentiful, and there is no shortage of dining choices. And lodging is both affordable and plentiful.

Nearby Aspen and Snowmass

Remember that you are within minutes of Aspen and Snowmass (drive times vary according to season, of course).

Basalt

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Ridgway

Explore Ridgway, Colorado

Snugged into the Uncompahgre Valley in western Colorado is the postcard-perfect little town of Ridgway, home to around 1,000 residents and one of the sweetest getaways in the entire state.

The scenery begs for superlatives, with the San Juan mountain range to the south jutting into the bluest of skies and the Cimarron peaks commanding a Standing O. Hill and vale are covered with pine and aspen, and cottonwoods dot the stream banks in the lower regions. And it’s all illuminated by an average of 300 sunshiny days each year.

Get the picture? It’s downright beautiful. But Ridgway is more than meets the eye, with a community that supports not only ranchers and farmers and other land stewards but also artists of all stripes. Studios and galleries provide outlet for painters, sculptors, artisans, potters, woodworkers, jewelry makers, photographers, weavers – if it’s beautiful, you’ll find it here.

There’s also an energetic musical force in town, with a popular concert series. And Sherbino Theater offers music, film showings and other cultural fare. Shopping is just as varied, with one-of-a-kind treasures and souvenirs ready to go home with you.

For history buffs, Ridgway has a colorful past. It was founded in the last decade of the 19th century to be headquarters for the Rio Grand Southern Narrow Gauge Railroad, which services the gold and silver mines as well as the farmers and ranchers of the area. A museum holds relics of those bygone glory days. And the area’s incredibly idyllic setting made it the perfect backdrop for 1969’s “True Grit,” for which John Wayne won the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn.

While you’re soaking up the atmosphere, consider soaking up some of Ridgway’s food and drink as well. There are numerous renowned restaurants as well as a local brewery and distillery.

Accommodations to fit every budget and need are available in Ridgway and nearby Ouray, and the area is a great place to pitch a tent and get to know Mother Nature on a first-name basis.

Four seasons present endless possibilities for outdoor recreation, but a quick inventory shows the 1,000-acre reservoir at Ridgway State Park just a couple of miles from town. Fishing is great there and on the Uncompahgre, and the reservoir park is also an ideal place for camping, boating, waterskiing, wind surfing, picnicking, hiking and biking.

If a good soaking sounds good, Orvis Hot Springs offers several pools outside and one indoors. There’s also rodeo, golf, motorcycle and off-road tours, rafting, kayaking, hunting, birding, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, scenic drives… Oh, the things you’ll do in Ridgway!

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Parachute

Parachute, Colorado

Located about halfway between Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction in western Colorado, the small town of Parachute and its sister community of unincorporated Battlement Mesa are at the confluence of the Colorado River and Parachute Creek.

Though the town is not a mecca of amenities, it does have an info center.

Things to Do in Parachute:

  • Fishing at Harvey Gap Reservoir and Rifle Gap Reservoir. These two reservoirs are year-round fishing waterways and produce some of Colorado’s largest bass, perch, crappie, catfish, rainbow trout, and northern pike. 
  • Ice climbing at Rifle Mountain Park. This park features 80-foot canyon walls and is considered the best location in the country for limestone sport climbing.
  • Skiing and snowboarding at Powderhorn Resort.
  • Snowmobiling on the Grand Mesa, which has over 500 square miles of winter wonderland to explore.
  • Hunting and rafting are also popular in the Parachute area, and its proximity to Glenwood Springs and the famed hot springs is a draw. It’s also close to Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.

Around Parachute, the primary lifestyle is cattle ranching, and some of the working ranches have opened themselves to visitors who want an up-close glimpse Western lifestyle.

There are two lodging choices and two dining options in town.

Parachute Battlement Mesa

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Montrose

Tour Montrose, Colorado

With a history that encompasses not only bits of the Wild West but also inhabitants that pre-date settlers who came from the East, Montrose is an amazing blend of ancient, old and very, very new.

At the Ute Indian Museum just south of Montrose proper, visitors are given a unique glimpse into Native life in the 1700s and 1800s. The Museum is located on the original homestead site of revered Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta. Not only does the complex include a memorial park devoted to Chief Ouray, but it also is the burial place of Chipeta. It has been lovingly restored and maintained with native plants, picnic areas, teepees and walking paths – and there is a memorial to the Spanish Conquistadors who were in the region the year the United States gained its independence – 1776.

There are other museums as well, along with a vibrant shopping area and a number of fine eateries and lodging accommodations. Much of what you’ll find in the shops is handcrafted and one-of-a-kind, and the art ranges from Western and Southwestern to edgy and playful.

In fact, there’s so much to do in Montrose that Outdoor Life magazine named it to its “Top 200 Towns for Outdoorsmen” in 2010.

During the warmer weather months from spring through fall, there are three challenging 18-hole golf courses to sample, and as your very good geographical luck would have it, Montrose is an excellent gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with a seemingly unending range of things to do and see.

Rock climbing is epic, and in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area you’ll find unparalleled rafting and unbeatable fishing in Gold Medal waters. What’s more, the San Juan Mountains are where your camping, hiking and biking memories are waiting to be made – with something great for all levels of outdoor abilities.

Got the need for off-road?  Got your cure right here. BLM lands are perfect for badland enthusiasts, but you’ll find a full range of terrain, from forest trails to scree routes.

Make sure your camera batteries are full before you leave for one or all of the six designated scenic or historic byway excursions. You’ll hit elevations of 12,000 lofty feet above sea level as you cross mountain passes – with spectacular vistas all along the way.

Wintertime means more fun, with Telluride and Crested Butte ski areas within driving distance, and snowshoeing even closer in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Yep, there’s snowmobiling as well, along with Nordic and backcountry skiing. All year, all fun.

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Grand Junction

Visit Grand Junction, Colorado

Surrounded by some of the most fantastic – and fantastical – landscapes on the continent, Grand Junction is a study in contrasts. Here in far western Colorado, the Colorado River meets up with the Gunnison and flows onto the Gulf of California. Even with the two rivers’ confluence, much of the area is desert-like. But it also boasts abundant fruit tree orchards, vegetable farms and an increasingly fruitful wine industry.

Grand Junctions

Things to do Places to See – Grand Junction

Off to the west of the city, where the desert gets serious, visitors encounter jutting spires, enormous domes and yawning, mysterious canyons of the awesome Colorado Monument, but just a short drive to the southeastern hem of the city is the much cooler, much higher pine and aspen forested wilderness of Grand Mesa, the largest flattop mountain in the world.

Oh, and to the north is a moonscape of weathered rock known as the Book Cliffs.

You’ll find much in the way of water sports – there’s plenty of fishing both on the Mesa and the Gunnison; the Colorado is great for guided white water raft trips that can be expanded to include kayaking.

Mountain biking is unparalleled no matter which direction you go; hiking is likewise an adventure waiting while you to lace your boots; horseback riding can take you through lush forests atop the Mesa or into a shadow-filled canyon. Climbing enthusiasts will enjoy mountain climbing, bouldering, canyoneering – the challenges change with the topography.

And don’t forget you can get off the beaten path and go four-wheeling as well.

Grand Junction Business District

Downtown is a charming mix of old and new, Western and college town. There are enough restaurants to give you ample choices in cuisine and appointment; shopping is just as adventurous as you might expect in a town that continues to spread its wings culturally. It’s eclectic but, at the same time, reassuringly peaceful – a mix of culture and outdoor activity flare. 

Music at Colorado Mesa University is a series of more than three dozen concerts; the Math & Science Center features more than 150 interactive exhibits geared for kids; Western Colorado Center for the Arts features exhibits and educational programs; and you can cheer on the boys of summer at a Grand Junction Rockies Minor League baseball game!

If that’s not enough, go fly a kite – or, better yet, go for a helicopter tour and get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful Grand Junction.

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Gateway

Find Adventure in Gateway, Colorado

The breathtaking setting for unincorporated Gateway in far western Colorado is the rugged buttes and depths of John Brown and Unaweep canyons, and as its name implies, the town is a gateway from Colorado into bordering Utah.

Offering a great staging area for adventures in the La Sal Mountains and the Uncompahgre National Forest, Gateway gives access to spectacular rock formations and sweeping vistas, but the region is also replete with desert arroyos that can and do flood quickly during sudden rainstorms. Knowing the signs saves lives.

Water enthusiasts find thrills in whitewater rapids of class III and IV that sweep through the five-mile stretch of the Dolores River through Paradox Canyon, and for pure exploration exhilaration, the Unaweep/Taberguache Scenic and Historic Byway can’t be beat. The 133-mile byway takes you through the red sandstone formations of Unaweep, where prehistoric fossils are visible in the many layers of the Uncompahgre Plateau.

Gateway Canyons Resort, Discovery Channel founder John S. Hendricks, provides a wide array of outdoor activity with mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking and climbing, fishing and rafting, kayaking, off-road tours, air tours, several foot races, a large bike race and even an auto museum.

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Dolores

Explore Dolores, Colorado

Outside Magazine calls the town of Dolores “adventure base camp for the whole family,” and we couldn’t agree more. With the Dolores River running south, and beautiful sandstone cliffs to the north, this charming town is only three blocks wide. Surrounded by the San Juan National Forest and McPhee Reservoir, you’ll feel like a local with mountain biking and hiking, paddle boarding or kayaking, snowshoe or cross country skiing opportunities straight from town or head up the mesa to the Boggy Draw trail system to start your adventure.

“Rio de Nuestra Senora de las Dolores” or The River of Our Lady of Sorrows, was named by Dominquez and Escalante, Spanish Catholic priests who came through the area seeking routes from the missions of Santa Fe, NM to California in 1776. In 1891, the railhead was established at the present site of Dolores, and became a major stop on the rail line between Ridgway, Telluride and Durango. A half rail car on the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, nicknamed the Galloping Goose, ran the mail and passenger routes and it lives on today at the Railroad Museum in Flanders Park.

Walk or float from Riverside Park to the east all the way to Joe Rowell Park to the west with access all along the public trail for some of the best fly fishing waters in Southwest Colorado. Dolores is your headquarters for local history and outdoor fun, with fascinating shops and boutiques, excellent restaurants including a local brewery, and river front and in-town lodging options to fit every traveler.

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