Colorado Outdoor Adventure Travel Guide

Colorado Guide

Known for its high peaks, stunning landscapes, and adrenaline filling adventures, a trip to Colorado will fulfill any need for amazing outdoors adventures. With over fifty peaks above 14,000 feet, over twenty ski resorts, over ten national parks and monuments, and over five thousand miles of trails through the state, there is always something to do. 

What to know?

Language: English is the national language and most people in Colorado speak English. Colorado as a state is not a huge multi-cultural hub. You may encounter some Spanish, though not as much as other states in the South West. 

Accommodation: The nice thing about accommodation in Colorado? You have the opportunity to make your stays as cheap or as expensive as you would like. You can stay on BLM land around the state for free, just make sure you are practicing LNT at all times and following wilderness rules and regulations. There are also paid campgrounds and RV parks all across the state. For more on camping in Colorado, read my blog post about what you need to know.  There are some hostels around in the mountain towns along with cheaper motels. You can also splurge on resorts or find a fancy mountain cabin to rent on Airbnb. Options are endless. 

Safety: Know your surroundings, but Colorado in general is a very safe state for the most part unless you are a bicycle. The state sees a large amount bicycle theft and outdoor gear theft. If you are coming out of town to adventure, make sure to not leave your gear in your car over night or a bicycle unlocked, especially in the cities. 

14ers: You’ll probably hear this team a lot when you are here. It means a mountain that is over 14,000 feet high (4267 meters). And there are quite a few. You can hike, climb, and ski them. A couple you can even bike or drive up.  

Currency:  The U.S. dollar. Most places you come across will take credit or cash, but there are some smaller areas around the state that are cash only such as state parks, hot springs, or local eateries. 

Food: Colorado is not known for its culinary scene, but you can find some good eats along the way. You will hear a lot about green chili and you can find some game meat restaurants along the way. Burgers and Tex-Mex are popular food choices in Colorado. 

Drink: Colorado has some of the most Microbreweries per capita in the Unites States, so  brew lovers will be perfectly content to do a brew tour of the state. Go explore the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado. Or check out some of the smaller ones. There are plenty of beer crawls in Denver in the summer, so you can experience some of them without having to do the research, 

Marijuana: The part every tourist asks about when they come to Colorado. Yes, it is legal here. It is regulated by county however. So that means you can’t walk into any dispensary you would like. Some require a medical card to gain access. Do your research and find recreational ones if you are looking for it. Remember, it may be legal in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean it is in the surrounding states. You can face huge penalties for bringing it into another state, so leave it here. 

 

Getting Around Colorado

Getting to Colorado by flying is pretty easy. DIA, Denver International Airport, is located just outside the city with public transportation to the city center. There are other smaller airports around the state, but those will be more expensive and usually require a transfer from DIA. 

Once here, your options to get around are pretty limited. If you are only staying in Denver, you won’t need to rent a car. However, if you want to do any exploring, public transportation is limited and I would recommend renting. 

 

When to Go?

Adventure is never ending in Colorado. When you visit is dependent on what you want to do. 

 If you are looking to ski or enjoy other snow sports, the best time to go is mid-December to mid-March. January through March sees the better snow.  If you are wanting to backcountry ski or climb, the snow pack is more stable in the spring months, from later March to mid May. 

Those looking to hike, backpack, climb, mountain bike, and other late spring/summer sports, should visit during mid May to mid September. 

 

beautiful 14ers in Colorado Kit Carson

Top Colorado Towns

Denver – You’ll most likely be coming through Denver if you are flying in, so stop and enjoy the sites. As far as cities go, Denver will have less to do than your bigger cities, but you can still find a good brewery and enjoy a cheap baseball game in the summer. Or rent a bike, or scooter, and cruise down the many bike trails around the city. You can also hit the Red Rocks amphitheater for a good workout, movie night, or show. 

Boulder – You’ve seen this town on TV, but you won’t get a real idea of this town until you visit it. Part college students, part outdoor adventure hub, part trust fund hippy, you won’t find many places like it. The Boulder Bubble is a real thing, but you’ll find some eclectic eateries, great hiking, and world class climbing all within a fifteen minute drive. 

Aspen – Experience the good life in Aspen. It’s an expensive town to visit, but you can get a taste of world class skiing at Aspen’s four resorts. In January you can hang out at the winter X-Games to watch top athletes compete. In the summers, you can see the Maroon Bells in their glory and hike around the area. Take a backpacking trip some hot springs, or go for a drive down Independence pass. 

Crested Butte – Another small mountain town that is full of grand adventure, Crested Butte is a must stop for any adventurer. Experience world class mountain biking in the summer or extreme skiing in the winter. There are plenty of 4 Wheel Drive trails around the town. Go in the late summer to see stunning wildflowers or go in the fall to see brilliant fall colors. Stop by Secret Stash on your way out of town for legendary pizza. 

Durango – You will need a car to get here, Durango is about a six hour drive from Denver. You won’t be disappointed though.  There is awesome river sports in Durango and you are close to some of the best mountain biking in the state. Hike in one of the most stunning wilderness areas in the state, climb high peaks, or ski some of the best snow. 

Colorado Springs – It’s not about the city as it is what is around it. The springs gets a bad rap, but there is some great activities just outside. Take a tour of the caves, or head over to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Climb the Manitou Incline (a mile of stairs and a couple days of sore legs) or hit Pikes Peak, a Colorado 14er. You can hike it, bike it, drive it, or ride a train up it. Or hike around at Garden of the Gods. 

Steamboat Springs – Find some great gladed tree skiing and champagne powder at Steam Boat Springs in the winter. Or go here in the summer and hit the trails to do some hiking or mountain biking. There is also some great camping around the town as well for those looking for a weekend getaway. Hot springs fans will enjoy Steamboat’s hot spring park in the town, or Strawberry Park further into the mountains.

Vail – Check out the small town of Vail on your way to hit the slopes at the largest ski area in Colorado. Or just take the gondola up to for great views of the valley. If you come in the summer, stay entertained at the downhill mountain bike park or stop by one of the concerts that the whole family will enjoy. Come in early June to see the GoPro games where top athletes and locals alike compete in competitions like climbing, mountain biking, slacklining, kayaking, and more. 

Top Colorado Adventures

Skiing and Snowboarding – With over 20 ski areas, ranging from tiny local mountains to massive resorts, and nearly unlimited options for backcountry, Colorado is a snow sport’s lover’s paradise. 

Climbing – Colorado is known for its legendary climbing: from alpine trad climbing to sport crags  to bouldering to ice climbing, you’ll find a rock to hang onto pretty much anywhere here.

Hiking and Backpacking – Colorado has 5,000 miles of trails, so you will never get bored. Go for an easy mile jaunt in the woods to multi week thru hikes that span the entire state. 

Mountaineering –  With almost 700 peaks over 13,000 feet high, you can choose your adventure to be an easy day on the peak to a multi day, base camp experience. 

Mountain Biking – Ski areas have to make money in the summer too, so you are sure to find some incredible lift served terrain. Want to pedal? Colorado has some of the most IMBA epic trails in the U.S.

Rafting and Kayaking –  It may be a landlocked state, but water sports are very much a thing here. Get your adrenaline high by chasing white water on many of the rivers throughout Colorado. 

 

Top Colorado Destinations

  • Maroon Bells Wilderness – Backpack the Four Pass loop, relax in Conundrum Hot Springs, or climb some of the gnarliest 14ers in the state. 
  • Mount Evans Wilderness – Camp by the lakes, hike up a crash pad and go bouldering, or drive the tallest road in North America. 
  • Pikes Peak – Ski some classic lines, road bike up a 14er, or take a tram up the mountain and enjoy some donuts at the top.
  • Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway – Take the train through incredible wilderness, or get off mid way to backpack to the Chicago Basin.
  • Telluride Via Ferrata – Go with a guide, or by yourself if prepared, and get the thrills of being 500 feet above the ground.
  • Garden of the Gods – Revel in the beauty of nature, go for a drive or a hike, or come prepared to climb some rocks. 
  • Red Rocks Amphitheater – Go earlier in the day for yoga, workouts, and hike, or come in the evening for films and concerts in a one of a kind outdoor venue. 

National Parks and Monuments

Colorado isn’t just stunning landscapes and extreme adventure, though it certainly has a lot of it. Colorado also has a rich history in both ancient and modern times. Check out amazing ruins and learn about the peoples who lived here first. Or go much further back into history and explore fossil beds in the state. 

Great Sand Dunes NP in Colorado
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • Colorado National Monument
  • Browns Canyon National Monument
  • Canyon of the Ancients National Monuments
  • Hovenweep and Yucca House National Monument
  • Chimney Rock National Monument
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument 

Fun Facts

Highest Mountain: Mt. Elbert – 14,439 feet. It’s a class 1 hike, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. 

Number of 14ers:  53 to 58, depending on who you ask and how they are measured.  

Long trails in Colorado: Colorado Trail, Continental Divide Trail, American Discovery Trail, Collegiate Loop Trail 

Number of Breweries: 400+