For natives, transplants and visitors alike, it is no surprise that Colorado is synonymous with outdoor adventures. With activities such as skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, climbing, rafting and so much more, there is little chance for an outdoor lover to get bored, of the activities or the incredible scenery. It is also one of the biggest draws for visitors to the Centennial State from all over the world.
With an abundance of outdoor opportunities available to Coloradans, breaking it down to just 10 isn’t easy, so consider these the first 10 items on your ever-growing Colorado adventures bucket list.
Hike the Manitou Incline
Pike’s Peak is known for many different things, its sheer elevation and beauty are among the most popular. But did you know this area is also home to the Manitou Incline? This great staircase is an extreme cardio workout for even the most experienced adventurers. With an incline topping out at 68 percent, 2,744 stairs made from old railroad ties, and a 2,000-foot elevation gain, your climb will take you higher than the Empire State Building!
Climb a Fourteener
Colorado is home to more than 50 peaks reaching over 14,000 feet, and it has become a right of passage to summit as many as possible. While they may range in difficulty, there is a range of options for those with more or less technical ability from clearly defined trail hikes to more extreme scrambling. With difficulties rated from class 2 to class 4 respectively, Mount Elbert (14,255′), Longs Peak (14,255′), and Capitol Peak (14,130′) are all popular choices, but it is worth some research before your visit to check on trail conditions, weather forecasts, and suggested start times for avoiding afternoon thunderstorms.
Drive Trail Ridge Road from Rocky Mountain National Park to Grand Lake
Lovingly referred to as the highway to the sky, this scenic road is closed for much of the year due to extreme snow fall and is not a journey for the faint of heart. Nearly 50 miles long, with eleven of those above tree line, Trail Ridge Road reaches its highest point at 12,183 feet, offering visitors exceptional views unmatched anywhere else in Colorado. It’s no wonder it is a nationally designated “All American Road.”
Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park
While many have spent time in this incredible park, spending the night (or three!) here heightens your experience for a whole new appreciation for the gem that is Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether you prefer laying your head in the back country or in a more traditional campground (tent or RV), you won’t be disappointed with your stay in RMNP. Reservations are your friend, with five campgrounds to choose from depending on what you consider your favorite spot in the park. If backcountry camping appeals to you, there are options for both the novice and the experienced at RMNP, but permits are required for all overnight backcountry experiences.
Hike to Hanging Lake
Named a National Natural Landmark in 2011, the popularity of this beautiful lake has exploded in recent years and means you are likely to be sharing this amazing experience with dozens of your closest Coloradan friends (if not more). But don’t let this deter you from visiting. It is unlike any other site in Colorado and requires a short, but steep one-mile hike to reach these rewarding views. You should leave your dogs at home though, as part of protecting this delicate ecosystem means that dogs are not allowed.
Attend the Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival
This popular bluegrass festival is held every June on the weekend closest to the summer solstice, drawing crowds from around the world and literally takes over the entire town of Telluride. Here in the Box Canyon, you can enjoy the incredible musical talents of some of the best in the business while surrounded by stunning views of the San Juan Mountains. In between enjoying your favorite bands, you can wander into the National Historic Landmark district of Telluride with all of its Victorian architecture and charm.You can either camp at the festival itself, or in any of the surrounding parks if you prefer a quieter experience. All will offer their own unique views and experience but you can hardly go wrong down in this part of our beautiful state.
Drive the North and South Rim of Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park
This one-of-a-kind drive offers some of the most unique views in all of Colorado, and both the north and south rims are definitely worth your time. Each rim takes about 2-3 hours for a leisurely drive and stops at multiple outlooks into the impressive canyon, but if you only have time to stop at one lookout, it should definitely be Gunnison Point or Tomichi Point. The views into this deep gorge give you a bit of perspective as to why even the Ute Indians living in the area since written history began never occupied any of this area beyond the rim. Bonus points if you can spot the Peregrine falcon that calls Black Canyon home. These majestic birds hold the title of world’s fastest bird and can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.
Sail on the Largest Natural Lake in Colorado
Would you ever have imagined you would be sailing at more than 8,300 feet elevation? The Grand Lake Yacht Club has the highest registered yacht anchorage in the world, so it is certainly worth checking off your bucket list by spending an afternoon on the water. Appropriately named, Grand Lake offers intense winds and unrivaled views, making it a popular spot for those who love to sail.
Relax in One of the Many Natural Hot Springs
Did you know that Colorado is home to 27 different hot springs? These make for the perfect spot to unwind from your adrenaline pumping outdoor activities and to soothe sore muscles, no matter the weather. Whatever part of Colorado you are in, you can bet there are some hot springs nearby, from Strawberry Springs in Steamboat all the way down to Ouray Hot Springs in the southwest corner, and multiple spots in between.
Tour the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park
Although it can be hard to comprehend this level of history, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde date back to the late 1190s, when the Ancestral Puebloans began living in pueblos located beneath the cliffs. While they only occupied this area for a little over a century, the dwellings are preserved to this day and allow for a uniquely beautiful history lesson for those with a desire to learn more about those who called this beautiful state home long before it came to be known as Colorado.