Eight reasons to visit Colorado

By Aaron Millar

Colorado-based travel journalist

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April 2018

Colorado is well known for winter fun, but the adventure doesn’t stop when the snow melts. From world-class hiking to Wild West history, the outdoors isn’t a destination here, it’s a way of life.

Powder dreams

European ski resorts might get all the airtime, but for true winter junkies a Rocky Mountain trip is a must. Powder here is drier, lighter and perfect for carving, plus the runs are empty and enormous. The amount of choice is superb too, from the wide-open bowls of Vail and Breckenridge to the fast lines of Aspen and Snowmass, as well as more than a dozen other world-class winter resorts within a short drive of each other.

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For true winter junkies a Rocky Mountain trip is a must, powder here is drier, lighter and perfect for carving, plus the runs are empty and enormous.

Elevated adventure

Colorado is home to 11 national parks and monuments, offering everything from backpacking and horseback riding to rafting, rock climbing and even, in Great Sand Dunes National Park, sand boarding among North America’s highest dunes. Most ski resorts stay open year-round, switching from pistes to downhill mountain biking trails and keeping the lifts running for high-elevation hiking and easy-to-reach panoramic views. The town of Grand Junction makes an excellent adventure base-camp, with some of the best outdoor activities in the state right in its back yard.

  • Cheer on the Colorado Rockies at their much-loved stadium, Coors Field © Alamy.

    Did you know…?

    The Colorado Rockies’s mascot, Dinger the dinosaur, came to be after a 66-million-year-old dinosaur skull was found on stadium grounds during its construction.

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  • Horse around at Colorado’s patriotic National Western Stock Show.

    Rodeo ride

    Held every January, the show features several high-action rodeo events, plus local art exhibitions and the Stock Show Parade through the streets of downtown Denver.

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  • Head 2.7 kilometres above sea level to the oh-so-scenic Telluride Blues and Brews festival © Getty Images.

    Brews, blues and dancing shoes

    Unsigned musicians looking for their big break can enter the Telluride Blues Challenge to win a spot on the festival’s jam-packed line up.

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Some like it hot

Combining the spectacular scenery of the Rockies with five of the hippest hot spring towns in the country, the 1,158-kilometre Historic Hot Springs Loop is the best way to soak up Colorado’s healing waters. With 19 natural thermal pools open year-round, highlights include the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world at Glenwood Springs, the soothing natural vapour caves of Ouray and the bubbling delights of Steamboat.

National parks

Rocky Mountain National Park is legendary: a 415-square-mile wilderness of jagged peaks and high alpine lakes home to coyote, black bear and moose. The fun mountain town of Estes Park is a great base from which to explore it. There are lesser known national parks too such as Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a spectacular 2,000-foot gorge that rivals the Grand Canyon but draws a fraction of the crowds, and the cliff-dwellings of Mesa Verde, one of the best preserved examples of Native American culture in the country.

Plan a Colorado road trip

  • Hit the slopes at Vail Ski Resort, Colorado © Getty Images.

    Swiss style

    Minutes from the Vail’s charming retail district you’ll find the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, with exhibits on the ski troopers of WWII, plus vintage ski tickets.

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The Wild West

From ghost towns and vintage trains to working cowboy ranches and the largest rodeo in the world, thanks to Denver’s National Western Stock Show, the Wild West is alive and kicking in Colorado. Saddle up or join a cattle drive, and you’ll feel the spirit of that old frontier still – footprints of dinosaurs embedded in stone, petroglyphs carved into cliffs, and rivers where you can pan for gold.

Hop heaven

With more craft breweries per capita than any other state, Colorado is heaven for hopheads. Denver’s Great American Beer Festival is the largest craft beer event in the country while the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival is set in a spectacular valley. But, it’s the little-known gems that really catch the eye: The Grimm Brothers, serving fable-inspired brews in Loveland, and the mountain views from Avery’s enormous outdoor patio in Boulder, are two local favourites.

Sports mad

Denver is Bronco’s country. When Colorado’s American Football team plays, the whole city dresses in orange to support. Catch games live at the Blake Street Tavern in the heart of downtown. But with seven premier sports teams in all, don’t stop there. On a warm summer night, hot dog in one hand, cold beer in the other, there’s no better place to be than Coors Field, home of The Rockies baseball team.

On the rails

Vintage train lovers will adore Pikes Peak Cog Railway near Colorado Springs. The highest cog railway on the planet, it climbs to the 4,300-metre summit of Pike’s Peak, the view from here inspired the song America the Beautiful. While the steam-powered Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, built in 1882, cuts spectacularly through the canyons and remote mountains of the San Juan National Forest – a journey taken by Colorado’s first pioneers more than a century ago.

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