Winning tip: Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Strawberry Hot Springs in the Rockies mixes very hot natural spring water with ice-cold runoff from melted snow. There are a number of pools at different temperatures, including (for the brave) an all-cold pool. The rustic design is very peaceful and attracts locals and tourists. One local said: “After dark you can tell who’s from out of town because they’re the ones wearing swimsuits!”
• Adult from $15, child (3-17, daylight hours only) from $8, strawberryhotsprings.com
Run away to Glenwood Springs
The relaxing hot springs of Glenwood Springs, between Aspen and Vail, make a perfect getaway. Nearby, the Hanging Lake Trail ascends more than a mile and hugs a rushing river. At the top is a pristine lake with trout and a lovely waterfall. It’s definitely worth the hike.
Ballooning, Steamboat Springs
The best way to enjoy the spectacle and variety of Colorado’s mountains, valleys and lakes is from a hot air balloon. At Steamboat Springs, northern Colorado, colourful balloon launches begin in the calm early morning hours. As you rise slowly above the misty fields, villages, forests and herds of cattle become visible, the Yampa river snakes its way through grasslands, and snow-topped peaks stretch to the blue horizon in all directions.
• $245pp for an hour, wildwestballooning.com
Ride the Rockies
Cycle 400 magnificent miles with locals across the mountain passes of Colorado by taking part in the annual, fully supported Ride the Rockies bicycle tour. Each night you stay in a different mountain town and the organisers come up with routes to ensure that some of the most beautiful reaches of the state are included. This year some 2,000 cyclists crossed the stunning 3,300-metre Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan mountains.
• Registration details for the June 2018 race tbc, ridetherockies.com
Enjoy a ‘Cliffnic’
As a wedding gift, relatives promised us a hotel stay in Estes Park at the gateway to the Rocky Mountains national park, and lunch at a place with “Colorado’s best views”. Little did we realise it would mean abseiling 100ft down a rock face to eat on a portaledge! From the Stanley hotel, our guides drove us, equipped us and then waited on us, zipping the meal down to our ledge. The views were spectacular and food was delicious. As if our dining experience wasn’t scary enough, the Stanley was the inspiration for The Shining, and back in our room the movie played on a loop on one of the TV channels.
• $275pp (minimum two people), stanleyhotel.com
Bag a ‘thirteener’ in the Rockies
Colorado has 58 mountains over 14,000 feet high, and every tourist, local and distant cousin wants to “bag a fourteener”. The result is overcrowded trails, especially on the less-challenging fourteeners near Denver, such as Mounts Bierstadt and Evans. Instead, summit one of Colorado’s thirteeners. From Denver, head to Georgetown to Guanella Pass, and spend a beautiful fall day on 13,763ft (4,204 metre) Square Top mountain. Enjoy a top-notch hike with stunning views all the way to the top. Fall colours abound this time of year. The summit view will not disappoint. As a bonus, the hike also offers fantastic close-up views of Mount Bierstadt, as it starts at the same trailhead.
Ute Mountain tribal park
This park is more than twice the size of the adjoining and better known Mesa Verde national park, and contains hundreds of wall paintings, petroglyphs and cliff dwellings. There are still pots lying where they fell that broke centuries ago. The tour of the park requires you sign up at Towaoc visitor center, a small office building about two miles from Ute Mountain Casino and Resort (a wonderful place to stay). A tribal guide leads groups of all sizes into the park. There are a number of tours: the half-day one is a very good start ($29pp plus $12pp transport). We first saw Mancos canyon, which has a petroglyph that may be of the 1054 supernova on the canyon wall. You can also camp in the canyon. Our guide, Marshal Deer, told us about the spiritual meanings of petroglyphs.
Mirror Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Just over eight miles one way from the Monarch Lake Trailhead, near Granby, the walk to Mirror Lake boasts abundant wildlife (moose sightings are common), miles of fishable trout stream, cold-water swimming holes (for the brave or foolhardy), and superb scenery throughout. It’s possible as a long day hike, but best enjoyed with an overnight camp at Mirror, or nearby Crater Lake. Camping Permits ($5) are available from the USDA Forest Service.
Kerrie Ann Kirkwood
Telluride to Ouray over the Imogene Pass
An old mining road leaves Telluride and climbs relentlessly out of the box canyon, through Tomboy Basin, and up to Imogene Pass at almost 4,000 metres. The entire drive – which takes more than two hours despite being only 17 miles – offers superlative and daunting views of the San Juan range. It then descends through Imogene Basin past fields of wildflowers and derelict mining ruins, arriving in Ouray where there are many enjoyable restaurants.
Catamount Trail and the Garden of Eden
The Catamount Trail is a little tough to access but well worth the effort. It’s about 30 minutes outside Colorado Springs. You should park in the village of Green Mountain Falls and then follow signs for the trailhead. The trail is moderately challenging but the amazing payoff for us was passing through the Garden of Eden – a small, lush valley that stands in stark contrast to the rocky, wooded terrain elsewhere on the trail. The views here and beyond are amazing.
Hiking in Vail
After a business trip to Denver in November 2016 I headed to the ski resort of Vail. It was too early to ski but a perfect time of year for a hike. I headed to Eagle’s Nest for my first ever hike. The start of the climb was hard as my body took some adjusting to the altitude but I took it easy and soon I was walking through forests, crossing rivers and climbing up rubble hills all while taking in the amazing views with the sun shining and the sky bright blue. A highlight was coming across a section of thick snow and a squirrel, who was as shocked to see me as I was it on my solitary hike.