Colorado is just as beautiful covered in green as is it covered in white. (Photo: Shutterstock)
This week, my family is heading to Winter Park, Colo., for a skiing “last hurrah.” Colorado is one of our favorite places on earth, so much so that my younger daughter, Abby, told me recently, “I love spring, but does the warm weather mean we won’t go to Colorado until December?”
No, my darling daughter. We don’t need snow to get our Colorado on.
Not at all! Now that it’s April (how did that happen?), Colorado is just starting to put on the colors from which it got its name (colorado means “red” in Spanish, like the reddish silt of rivers there). The weather’s mild, the sun shines a ridiculous percentage of the time, and the outdoor activities? They’re just getting started.
Need ideas for your spring/summer Colorado adventure? Here are six great ones.
1. Sing “Happy Birthday”
Celebrate Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th birthday with a geocaching tour of the park. (Photo: Across the Divide GeoTour/Facebook)
Visit Rocky Mountain National Park this summer for its 100th birthday (that’s a lot of candles). Special events planned? This month, try your hand at geocaching (it’s sort of like a scavenger hunt) with the “Across the Divide” Geo-Tour that takes you through large swaths of the park. An item is hidden and seekers use GPS and other navigational tools to find it. Searching for these little trinkets gets you off the beaten path, and it’s fun to do with friends, family, or solo. Prefer to have a guide to see the park? Rangers offer evening programs to educate visitors about the natural wonders that surround them. And even casual wanderers will encounter the elk, bighorn sheep, and moose — even bats! — that make this park their home.
Related: 7 Best Hikes in Vail, Colo.
2. Catch some air
Those mountains are good for more than just skiing, so grab a bike and hit the trails! (Photo: Trestle Bike Park/Facebook)
Winter Park Resort is the ski resort of choice for Coloradans in the know — it’s famous for its soft powder and Double Black Diamond ski trails — but did you know that it’s also the preferred destination for mountain bikers from all over the country? We’re talking 600 miles of bike trails on the mountain and throughout the area. You can bike every day until fall and not try them all. Rent bikes (try Trestle Bike Shop) in the area and ride a ski lift to the top of the mountain to catch some air on the way down, or explore the many obstacles and technical features that keep cyclists coming back for more.
3. Dig for dinosaur bones
You can help paleontologists uncover real dinosaur bones and fossils. How cool is that? (Photo: Museum of Western Colorado/Facebook)
For real. In the western part of the state, through the Museum of Western Colorado, you can venture out with a real paleontologist to a quarry where fossil remains of these giant landlubbers are yours for the digging. People actually do find dinosaur bones, which are then tagged and used for the museum’s program. Included in your day’s adventure are transportation, lunch, and the chance to stomp your feet in the tracks of carnivorous and herbivorous reptiles. Jurassic Park, anyone?
4. Cowgirl up
Grab a hat and a horse and embrace your inner cowgirl. (Photo: Bar Lazy J)
Grand County is home to some of the best dude ranches in the country. Stay in a vintage cabin at the Bar Lazy J, ride a horse high into the mountains at Latigo Ranch, learn to line dance at Drowsy Water Ranch, or indulge in a hot stone massage in a riverside spa treatment room at the C Lazy U. Better yet? Try them all.
5. Ride the rapids
For a rugged adventure, go whitewater rafting. (Photo: Mad Adventures River Rafting/Facebook)
You’ll go mad for a river rafting trip with Mad Adventures, Colorado’s premiere guide company for all things whitewater. Beginners will want to don their life vests for a float trip down the upper Colorado River, complete with a stop for a soak in a natural hot spring; thrill seekers can paddle through the truly mad Class III and IV rapids on Clear Creek, near Denver.
6. Climb every mountain
Climbing the 14ers is no easy feat, but the views are worth it. (Photo: Getty Images)
When you fly into the Denver airport, you’ll notice a circus-tent like structure with white peaks. The art installation represents Colorado’s famous 14ers, or the state’s 53 mountains over 14,000 feet. Adventurers like National Geographic Explorer of the Year Matt Moniz (yeah, he’s only 17) set records for how fast they can climb them. Although there are well-established trails on the mountains and not all the hikes are technical, to conquer a 14er you have to be in pretty good shape because of the altitude alone. Most are doable in a day though, some people do camp at the summit. Using a guide (check out Aspen Alpine) can be helpful for newbies. Whatever your pace, don’t leave the camera behind — it’s Colorado’s colorful views that make a spring trip so memorable.
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