As snow begins to blanket the Rockies, most of us are already wiping the dust off of our skis or boards, perusing the web for that new jacket, and likely already looking forward to those après drinks after a stellar day on the slopes. For the next few months, shredding the pow, carving some turns, and riding the lifts will occupy our minds.
Colorado may be known as the quintessential destination for skiing and snowboarding in North America. Sure, there are other locations that have monumental terrain but none have as much within one state’s borders.
But what about those months after the snow melts?
While the minds of most will likely be trapped in a fog for the foreseeable future (until closing day at least), the Centennial State has so much to offer during spring, summer, and fall. From the melting snow creating epic whitewater runs to the substrate that creates the foundation for the mountain range itself, Colorado is an outdoor and adventure lover’s paradise.
And with the end of the year in sight and plans being made for the offseason, here are 10 activities to take you to new heights in the Rockies.
Riding the narrow gauge railroad from Durango to Silverton is a must for young and old. Completed in 1882, the connection between the two historic towns offers an unprecedented view of the San Juan Mountains and the Animas River as you ride the rails for 45 miles. The round trip takes nine hours. That includes a 3.5 hour one-way trip along with a two-hour stopover in Silverton to explore the historic mining town before boarding for the return trip. Alternatives to the roundtrip journey include taking the bus back to Durango or taking the bus to Silverton and riding the train back to Durango.
The same infrastructure that gets you to the top of the runs during the winter is the same catalyst that will carry you and your bike back to the summit. Resorts like Winter Park, Purgatory, Snowmass, and Telluride provide a downhill rider’s paradise. And just like ski runs, trails are designated with green, blue, and black ratings depending on skill level. Lift-assist allows you to spend more time barreling down the mountain and shredding the brown pow through both natural and man-made features.
The entire state is a veritable playground for climbers. The word ‘rock’ is prominent in the name of the mountain range itself. Rock climbing can be a dangerous endeavor and should be done only with the proper equipment and training. Consider hiring an outfitter to show you the ropes.
The ‘iron road’ was once used by soldiers in the Dolomites to navigate the mountainous regions during World War I. Today, these routes exist all over the world and allow tourists and thrill seekers the opportunity to traverse canyon walls all while tethered to steel cables and rungs. Telluride may be home to one of the more well known via ferratas in Colorado, but a new one recently opened near Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Also called canyoneering or gorge walking, canyoning provides a unique experience to maneuver down an often narrow canyon or gorge following the water source that has carved out this geologic wonderland. The sport uses a variety of techniques and disciplines including rappelling (often through waterfalls), hiking, down-climbing, and scrambling. The idyllic town of Ouray is nestled high in the San Juan Mountains and the array of canyons and waterfalls make it perfect for the sport of canyoning.
A fourteener (14er) is a mountain peak that has an elevation of at least 14,000 above sea level. Colorado has over half of the total number of 14ers (over 50) found in the United States. If you’re relatively new to the sport of bagging these iconic peaks, it can be advantageous to enlist the help of a guided service. And once you have checked all of the 14ers off the list, you can move on to those peaks that exceed 13,000 feet. There are literally hundreds of these peaks around the state.
While in Ouray for one of the many other adventures in this list, the location is ideal for renting a Jeep or UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle or more commonly referred to as a side-by-side) and heading off-road for the day. Once the snow melts and the roads have been cleared, it’s possible to escape the crowds in town and immerse yourself among fields of wildflowers. Take a ride all the way up to Imogene Pass (over 13,000 feet high) where you can see the town of Telluride, Colorado. And because Imogene Pass is the second highest mountain pass in the state for vehicular traffic, you don’t want to take your personal car on this adventure.
With the melting snow, the rivers swell with the runoff and this creates a nonstop thrill ride in the icy cold water. The season typically runs from April to October. If you are looking for the fastest ride, earlier is often better and this can also depend on the amount of snowfall during the winter. There are opportunities for all levels of experience and some rivers even provide great entry-level exposure to this adrenaline sport.
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails around the state. Ski resorts are great launching pads for post skiing adventures as many have an array of summer activities.
If some of the above activities make you cringe at the mere thought of participating, perhaps angling in one of the many trout streams, creeks, and rivers is more up your alley. The runoff in the spring paired with the abundance of hatching insects turns Colorado’s high country into a mecca for those looking to wade or float in search of a great fly fishing experience.