Denver grew faster than ever in 2018 and it can quickly be overbearing. Take the time to reset and head out of town for the weekend. Grab your friends — or special someone — and explore the small mountain towns that are the heart and soul of Colorado. If you aren’t sure where to go, check out this list of six Colorado towns to escape to, described below.

Ridgway

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The Lowdown: Ridgway has been coined the gateway to the San Juan mountain range — and for good reason. This small town of fewer than 1,000 residents is located in the southwestern corner of the state. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and ski resorts — this quiet mountain town is a unique place to take off to for a weekend away. Take a winter hike in the crisp mountain air, relax in one of many hot springs in the area or take off towards Telluride — a famous mountain town just a short drive away. Located in the southwest corner of the state just north of Durango, drive five and a half hours through the Rocky Mountains from Denver to experience the small town culture that Ridgway provides.

Places to Stay 

In the area surrounding Ridgway, there are many hotels and lodges that you can stay at for a weekend. Located less than half a mile from downtown Ridgway is The Chipeta Solar Springs Resort — which has a spa, two heated pools and rustic southwestern United States decor. Built in 1886, The Beaumont Hotel and Spa has the feel of an old-timey hotel in the heart of Ouray, another picturesque town that is just a 15-minute drive from Ridgway. Although the Beaumont Hotel and Spa is built in a historic building, the resort does not fail to meet the needs of the modern traveler. If you’re looking for a more independent form of lodging try the Ridgway Lofts. These modern lofts are located directly on the main road in Ridgway — putting you within walking distance of the best shops and dining that Ridgway has to offer. Allowing you the comfort of home, these lofts have a full kitchen and living area which gives you the ability to stay in for the night and relax in the mountains.

Food/Booze

For a town with less than 1,000 residents, Ridgway has a wide selection of dining options that are sure to please anyone. The local favorite — Kate’s Place — is Ridgway’s premiere breakfast destination and serves breakfast all day starting at 7 a.m. and lunch starting at 11 a.m. Located along Highway 550, the Fulltilt Saloon has a menu with over 20 beers and unique yak sliders. Enjoy one of many events that this saloon holds weekly including ladies night on Wednesday. Taco Del Gnar has one of two locations in Ridgway, and with more than 10 different tacos to choose from on their menu, this street food inspired restaurant provides visitors to Ridgway a casual place to grab a bite to eat.

Things to Do

Despite having an area of less than two miles — Ridgway has many activities for visitors to take part in. The Orvis Hot Springs — just one mile south of Ridgway — gives you a place to soak away your anxieties.  Surrounded by breathtaking views of the San Juan mountain range, these pools will work to clear your mind of the stress of city life. If you’re staying in Ouray or want to take a day trip, head over to the historic Wright Opera House which shows movie screenings daily. For the adventurous souls — go ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park. This spectacular park has more than a mile of open, climbable terrain. From January 24 to 27, 2019, the Ouray Ice Park is hosting the Ouray Ice Festival where you can watch climbers of mixed experience battle for prizes on the steep walls.

Salida

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The Lowdown: Salida is located in the heart of the Rockies and is home to just over 5,000 people. Sitting tucked between the Sangre De Cristo mountain range and the collegiate peaks — Salida gives you views of some of Colorado’s most famous mountain ranges. Although small, Salida has a unique assortment of dining, shopping and activities that can fill your days and give you a weekend to remember. The two and a half hour drive from Denver winds through some of Colorado’s most beautiful mountains to drop you in Salida — just west of Cañon City.

READ: A Weekend Guide To Salida — The Heart Of The Rockies

Places to Stay

For pet-owners, their best bet may be to stay at the Amigo Motor Lodge — a pet-friendly, newly renovated motel. This Instagrammable destination has a cozy rustic vibe to take care of any traveler looking for a hotel with modern amenities in the Rocky Mountains. Like a home away from home, the Simple Lodge & Hostel gives travelers the chance to meet like-minded individuals. Just one block from Riverside park, this lodge and hostel offers private or shared rooms to meet all travelers needs. In the Salida area, there are many affordable Airbnbs for you to rent as well. Stay in a modern townhouse built in a historic church or a newly renovated townhouse in downtown. The possibilities are diverse with over 100 Airbnbs listed in the Salida area.

Food/Booze

With craft beers, pizza and more — Salida has a food scene that is growing by the year. Amicas Pizza & Microbrewery has more than 15 pizzas and their own original craft beers on the menu. Staying open in downtown Salida for over a decade, Amicas Pizza & Microbrewery has provided food to tired skiers or travelers since it opened. Near Riverside Park in downtown Salida is Sweeties Sandwich Shop which has a menu with over 30 hot and cold sandwiches. Open Monday through Saturday, Sweeties is a local favorite and has affordable food in a convenient location — they can even make it gluten-free. If you need a sweet treat, head to The Biker and the Baker for wine and dessert. For the whiskey and gin drinker, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery’s tasting room is worth a stop. If you’d rather stick to beer, also check out Elevation Beer Co. nearby in Poncha Springs, as well as Soulcraft right in town.

Things to Do

The location of Salida gives you easy access to some of Colorado’s favorite activities. Hit the slopes at nearby Monarch Mountain for a day of affordable skiing in the heart of the Rockies. Monarch Mountain has worked to make their mountain accessible to skiers and snowboarders of any level. If you’re feeling adventurous book a spot on Monarch’s guided cat tours and experience the backcountry outside of Salida. Sink deep into the natural waters of Mount Princeton Hot Springs when you take a 25-minute drive from Salida. Between soaking in the pools, take the time to arrange a massage and let your muscles unwind. Or, if you aren’t into the stress-relief path, take an adventure with All Seasons Adventures. This company provides snowmobile rentals and tours into the country around Salida. All Seasons Adventures gives you the chance to race across the snow with your friends before returning to Salida for a night of drinks.

Idaho Springs

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The Lowdown: Situated along I-70 west of Denver — Idaho Springs is truly a gateway into the Rocky Mountains coming from the east. Being just a short distance from many of Colorado’s renowned winter activities, Idaho Springs gives you a home base to explore from day after day. This town of fewer than 2,000 residents gives you easy access to some of Colorado’s favorite ski resorts and Colorado’s premiere gambling town — Black Hawk. Idaho Springs is the closest mountain town on this list — only a 45-minute drive from Denver. Just hop onto I-70 west and you’ll be there in no time.

Places to Stay

Along I-7o there are a lot of places to stay in the Idaho Springs area. The Indian Hot Springs in the heart of Idaho Springs is a great place to relax and destress after a long week. These hot springs give you the chance to soak away your stress in just a short drive from Denver. Offering massages of all kinds — including a CBD massage — the Indian Hot Springs make a great place to stay in the mountains of Colorado. A more unique lodging experience is just up the road from Idaho Springs — rent a cabin or yurt at the Lawson Adventure Park. These eclectic yurts and cabins come with all that you would need for a weekend getaway while being in a fun location. While staying at the Lawson Adventure Park go snowshoeing or snow tubing — guests can even get discounted lift tickets to Loveland Ski Area just up the road. Of course, there are plenty of Airbnbs to rent as well. You can stay in an 1896 Victorian Cottage or a ColoRadical Condo just a few blocks from downtown. If you want something a little more modern — there is a Colorado Mountain Retreat just up the road from the Indian Hot Springs.

Food/Booze

Providing the community with exceptional service and distinct beers — Westbound & Down is a must hit Idaho Springs dining destination. With a menu featuring over 15 beers, this is a fan favorite in the Idaho Springs area. Enjoy one of the many Westbound brews and an entree at this unique Idaho Springs restaurant. If you’re a fan of BBQ — Smoking-Yards-BBQ is one of the best places to get it in Idaho Springs. This local favorite recently expanded their operation into Denver — but they are still right at home in Idaho Springs creating delicious BBQ for anyone walking in their doors. Looking to renovate the world of whiskey — Bouch Brothers Distilling is creating new whiskey right in Idaho Springs. Stop into this distillery to try Colorado Coffee Whiskey, Pink Bear Gin or other new recipes from the team at Bouch Brothers.

Things to Do

Within a short distance to Idaho Springs, there are more than enough things to do to get you through a weekend in the mountains. Just a short drive away is one of Colorado’s tallest mountains — Mount Evans. This towering peak reaches over 14,265 feet and in the summer you can drive to the top. Mount Evans is the twelfth highest mountain in all of Colorado and the closest fourteener to Denver. If you’re looking to relax and not climb a mountain — take a dip in the Indian Hot Springs. Not just a place to stay, these hot springs are open for people of all ages to enjoy. Inside a glass dome, these waters are surrounded by live banana and palm trees that make you feel like you’re far away from the mountains. If you’re looking for some good nighttime fun — take the short drive to Black Hawk. This Colorado town is one of two in the state to have casinos — and it has over 10. Since it’s only a short 22-minute drive from Idaho Springs, it’s the ideal destination to test your luck during your weekend away.

Buena Vista

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The Lowdown: Flanked on all sides by mountains extending over 14,000 feet, Buena Vista truly feels like a mountain town. Resting on the edge of the Arkansas River at just under 8,000 feet — Buena Vista is a perfect stop for your Colorado adventures. Situated in the Arkansas River Valley, Salida gives you access to some true gems of Colorado. Take the drive north to the highest city in the United States — Leadville — or explore one of the multiple ski resorts in the area. Heading west from Denver — this two and a half hour drive will take you along highway 285 through the Colorado mountains and into Buena Vista, giving you a wonderful view of some of Colorado’s scenery along the way.

Places to Stay

Book a room at the boutique hotel Surf Chateau located in Buena Vista on the Arkansas River. This unique hotel is just a short distance from the heart of Buena Vista and all the dining and events you will need. If you’re looking for a more traditional hotel experience — Surf Chateau’s sister property the Surf Hotel is a perfect place to spend your weekend. Rent any of Buena Vista’s unique Airbnb’s that put you in the center of everything Buena Vista has to offer. Spend the night in this Downtown Garden Apartment equipped with its own rock wall or this newly built Guesthouse both within walking distance to downtown Buena Vista. A little farther from downtown is the River Trail Retreat — this Airbnb apartment is on the Arkansas River but still within walking distance of restaurants on the main strip of Buena Vista. If you’ll have more than a few guests coming with you, reserve the Eagle Summit house — a 12,000 square foot house decorated with a rustic log cabin interior.

Food/Booze

With a fast but healthy atmosphere, House Rock Kitchen strives to make healthy eating fun. Located just a few blocks off Highway 24 this restaurant and bar provide an atmosphere of hospitality for people of all ages. Take the time to order a sandwich and beer or a mixed drink made with kombucha. If you aren’t a fan of kombucha — grab a beer in the historic town bar of Buena Vista at The Jailhouse. Carrying 10 rotating taps of craft beer from Colorado, nationally and abroad this craft beer bar always has something new to try. Offering Pan Asian cuisine at 8,000 feet, The Asian Palate — founded by Eddie Sandoval in 2008 — has listened to the requests of the locals who wanted a taste of Asia and has become a hometown favorite.

Things to Do

Take the 50-minute drive to Ski Cooper — one of Colorado’s independent and well-loved ski resorts. With varying terrain for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, Ski Cooper has some of the softest snow in Colorado. Boasting about having short lift lines and amazing powder, this Colorado ski area is sure to provide you with great fun for a weekend in the mountains. Buena Vista lies in the Upper Arkansas River Valley — flanked on all sides by the Sawatch Mountain Range so there are many fourteeners to hike (in the summer). These massive mountains have become a must do for many Colorado residents. In the area surrounding Buena Vista, you can find Mount Massive, Mount Elbert, Mount Princeton and many more walkable mountains. For some winter fun, rent a fat tire bike from Absolute Bikes and take to the trails in the surrounding mountains. These fat tire bikes make biking in the snow a breeze compared to the tires on a regular bike.

Crested Butte

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The Lowdown: This bustling mountain town tucked in the mountains just north of Gunnison is an easy escape from the hustle of city life. Crested Butte — at the base of Mount Crested Butte — has access to a renowned ski resort just a few minutes away.  Take the time to travel just a short distance south to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (a Dark Sky destination, good for stargazing) or stay nearby and enjoy all the shops and dining that Crested Butte has to offer. This four and a half hour drive takes you west from Denver into the mountains and past all your favorite ski towns until you end up in beautiful Crested Butte.

READ: A Mapped Guide on Where to Find the Best Stargazing in Colorado 

Places to Stay

With only 18 rooms available, the Inn at Crested Butte is a charming boutique hotel experience in the heart of Crested Butte. Within walking distance of Crested Butte’s best shopping and dining, this upscale inn is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The Ruby of Crested Butte is a stark red building that stands out amongst the snow, making it easy to find in Crested Butte. This quaint bed and breakfast on the outskirts of downtown provide you with ample time to enjoy your morning routine as you forget about the stresses of daily life. Putting a twist on your familiar favorite breakfast foods — The Ruby of Crested Butte is sure to provide you comfort on your trip to the mountains. For a different vibe check out the Public House Lofts, located directly above a popular local pub, putting you directly on the main street with access to all the popular shops and restaurants.

Food/Booze

Escape to an old miners cabin named The Dogwood — one of Crested Butte’s favorite destinations for drinks. This 21+ venue serves creative cocktails made with house-infused liquors and simple syrups. Located just a block off Elk Avenue, this bar lets you escape the cold nighttime air and warm up with a whiskey drink at this mountain bar. One of Crested Butte’s most famous restaurants — Secret Stash Pizza — is a place you can’t miss on your trip since it was voted best pizza and wings every year since its opening in 2002. Ryce Asian Bistro has creekside dining directly in the heart of Crested Butte. This Asian bistro serves all your favorite Asian dishes — lo mein, Asian lettuce wraps, fried rice and more.

Things to Do

The ski town of Crested Butte is full of fun things to do during your weekend escape. Just outside of town is Mount Crested Butte — a famous Colorado ski area with over 120 different trails and 15 lifts. Serving Colorado for over 50 years, this resort has grown to become a favorite destination for Colorado skiers and snowboarders. After skiing or snowboarding all day, take a walk down Elk Avenue — Crested Butte’s main street. Elk Avenue is full of restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and more. Enjoy a walk down this multicolored main street before stopping into your restaurant of choice for food and drinks. If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your style go on a dog sled tour with Cosmic Cruisers. These athletic dogs will pull you deep into the Gunnison National Forest, allowing you to see the beauty of the outdoors surrounding Crested Butte. With full or half day tours — Cosmic Cruisers is easy to into your weekend schedule.

Carbondale

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The Lowdown: As one of Colorado’s 23 art districts, Carbondale is home to artists from all over the country. This city puts you close to both the shopping and activities of Aspen and Snowmass or the Glenwood Hot Springs. Carbondale is full of unique shops and dining experiences, allowing you to relax and escape from the stress of the bustling big city. Following I-70 west from Denver for a three-hour long drive will land you in Carbondale — one of Colorado’s small-town treasures.

Places to Stay

Stay in one of five rooms inside a fully working distillery at The Distillery Inn. These five rooms provide you with the modern amenities you would expect from a hotel. The Distillery Inn is also a zero-waste distillery, plus you can bring your dog as it is one of a few dog-friendly hotels in the Roaring Fork Valley. Just a few miles south of Carbondale is the Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Hot Springs. On site, they have 13 unique cozy log cabins for groups of all sizes. Bring your friends and soak yourself in hot springs built into the natural landscape and rock formations in the area after a day of exploring. With over 100 rentals listed on Airbnb — there is no shortage of places to stay. Stay in a trendy Carbondale condominium a few minutes from downtown, or a modern loft with access to a bus to Aspen or even a classic loft in downtown.

Food/Booze

The Way Home is a lodge and restaurant that gives visitors to Carbondale the chance to eat and stay at a unique place in the Roaring Fork Valley. With a rotating menu crafted off Italian roots and South American influences — The Way Home is a place for visitors to explore the wonders of the Rocky Mountains. Dedicated to tradition, Smoke Modern Barbeque takes pride in creating savory BBQ in the way that pitmasters from the Carolinas, Memphis and Kansas taught them. Founded in 2007, this restaurant has locations in Basalt and Glenwood Springs — both just a short distance from Carbondale. Just a short drive away in Basalt, Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar is a restaurant with a fun atmosphere in the heart of yet another mountain town. Working with locally grown ingredients — Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar is creating innovative comfort food for visitors and residents of the area.

Things to Do

Carbondale is a town perfectly situated to allow visitors and residents to take advantage of activities all around them. Driving just a short distance lands you in Aspen Snowmass with some of the best skiing that Colorado can offer. Ski or snowboard on over 300 trails spread between these four mountains. Aspen Snowmass is the perfect place for beginners or experts. Heading in the opposite direction of Aspen Snowmass — the Glenwood Hot Springs can soak away whatever stresses have been trapped in you. Since it’s just a 30-minute drive from Carbondale these pools are the perfect place to go after a day of skiing or hiking. Staying in Carbondale gives you the chance to experience their unique historic downtown as well. The main street is lined with art galleries, clothing stores and boutiques giving this picturesque mountain town an active main street full of things to do. Due to the number of artists and art galleries in downtown — Carbondale has been named one of Colorado’s 23 creative districts, so you won’t be sacrificing culture for scenery.

 

5 Responses

  1. Steve Chapman

    Salida is home to Colorado’s largest National Historic District. With 136 preserved buildings from 1880-1900, the area has a true wild-west past, full of lynchings, shootouts, and brothels. Salida Walking Tours is a 5-star rated guide to the downtown area. Next time you’re here, come visit. You’ll never see Salida the same again.

    Reply
  2. Trisha Oakland

    Great article, except no mention of Ridgway’s historic Sherbino Theater, which offers music, films, speakers, theatre and more, if you are planning a visit to Ridgway, check out sherbino.org for all the upcoming events

    Reply
  3. Bridgette

    Carbondale has some great restaurants. I was surprised to see only one restaurant was mentioned as a dining option in Bonedale. The other two suggested area restaurants are located in Basalt & Glenwood. You don’t have to leave Carbondale to have a great dining experience. Try Rooster’s, White House Pizza & Carbondale Beer Works, to name a few. : )

    Reply
  4. Wilson

    South fork Colorado, Just east of wolf creek ski area and pagosa springs should be on this list list….. beautiful place with tons to do!

    Reply
  5. Sue Castellion

    Check out a Best Kept Secret Colorado Favorite Playground Winter Park & Grand Lake. While visiting check it all out from the above it all year-round on a Grand Adventure Balloon Tour. Explore Something Grand Grand County Colorado the West entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Reply

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