*This is a guest post by Allison of Healthy Living in Colorado
Outdoor adventures are so much fun, a great way to get exercise, enjoy fresh air, and be with those we love. And what better place to experience things to do outside than Colorado? It is truly a beautiful place with the most amazing adventurous things to do.
A Few Thoughts Before We Get Started
The state is fairly large, and the mountains can change the weather in a heartbeat pretty much anywhere in the state. So my overall advice is to bring lots of layers of clothes. It can be 30 degrees and 70 degrees on the same day. It can pound down sun, giving you a sunburn, and snow in the same day.
There’s a saying here that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change.” Very true, so just keep that in mind.
Another outdoor tip if you are coming to Colorado to pursue fun outdoor activities is to have lip balm and sunscreen handy, even in the winter. The air is dry and the sun is really strong due to the elevation.
Also, always have lots of water handy. The elevation can cause altitude sickness. Water helps with altitude sickness, and dehydration can happen suddenly in Colorado.
It generally does not rain very much, but snow can happen year-round depending on where you are. Again, back to the layers.
The Best Outdoor Activities in Colorado for Every Season
So now that we’ve gotten some basics out of the way, let’s look at just a few of the best places to visit in Colorado for outdoor recreational activities!
Colorado in the Spring
The springtime in Colorado can be warm on days and snowy on days. So it’s hard to predict what to do outdoors if you are coming in the spring. It is also really windy in Colorado in the spring we’ve found.
Painted Mines in Colorado Springs
If you are planning a trip to the mountains, it could snow and it may be a good time to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, etc. The months of February and March are sunnier, and the snow may have stopped. But in many places, there is a lot of snow left over from the winter snowfall. But it’s not necessarily as bitter cold as December and January. Most ski areas close sometime in April.
We enjoy hiking in the spring because the crowds have not arrived for summer, and it’s not so hot like the summer can be.
Garden of the Gods in the Spring
Some of our favorite Colorado Springs activities if it’s a cooler day (like in the 50’s) are hiking at:
- Red Rock Open Space,
- Garden of the Gods, and
- Painted Mines.
These places are sunny and fun for the whole family. They can get really crowded in summer, so again we like these places in the spring. If you would like to read more about things to do in Colorado Springs, you may enjoy this blog post I wrote about it. We live in the Springs, so we are most familiar with this area.
Colorado in the Summer
If you are planning a Colorado summer vacation, there is a lot to do! Colorado is obviously known for winter sports like skiing, but our family is partial to the warmer weather activities.
One of our favorite places to visit in Colorado in summer is one of the many 14ers. A 14er is a mountain over 14,000 feet. There are over 50 of them in Colorado! So you can find them throughout the state.
A helpful website is 14ers.com which lists all of the peaks, their height, their current conditions, if they are accessible, trailheads, and has a forum for questions and answers. This may be a great resource for you if you want to hike or ski!
Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, etc. is good on the 14ers in the summer as there shouldn’t be snow or ice on trails. And it’s a bit cooler up there than in the cities below where it can be in the 80s but feels more like 100 because of the dry heat and elevation.
Colorado in the Fall
If you like to get outdoors in the fall to see the leaves and avoid some crowds, then I definitely recommend you visit Colorado this time of year!
Rocky Mountain National Park in the Fall
One of the most famous Colorado tourist attractions that we love is Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). There is a lot to do here, and we love it most in the fall.
The leaves usually change from late September to early October, and we have gone there during this time. The weather is nice, the leaves are pretty, and there is no ice yet. It was really cold at night, like in the 20’s. But the daytime was moderate. We needed jackets, and it was really windy in parts. But overall it was a great time to go.
Rocky Mountain National Park
We personally stayed in Estes Park, which is just right outside of RMNP. Our favorite part of Estes Park was all of the wild elk wandering around. They were pretty much contained to one golf course in the middle of town. But then as you drove in the Park, you saw them in lots of places.
Our hotel was right beside the “elk’s golf course,” and it was elk mating season when we were there (end of September). One night we heard elk bugling noises most of the night, which are very loud in case you are wondering. It kept my kids awake. But my husband sleeps through anything, and I used earplugs so we were okay. But it definitely felt like we were close to nature even from our hotel room!
Colorado in the Winter
A lot of people think of winter when they think of Colorado destinations and outdoor activities. And with good reason.
I think most Americans would agree that Colorado has some of the best snowboarding, skiing, and winter sports of anywhere in the US. Many Winter Olympic athletes even move to Colorado to train.
The powder is good for skiing and not as icy as some destinations. Plus some of the resorts in Colorado are gorgeous and draw an elite crowd of people seeking a winter wonderland from around the world.
Our family does not ski or snowboard, but we went to Keystone in December as we heard that it was more of a “locals” place to ski. We enjoyed walking around the shops, watching people ski, drinking hot chocolate by the outdoor fire pit, playing on frozen rivers, and the drive up there!
Keystone, Breckinridge, and Vail are near each other, and on the drive up we could understand why these 3 famous ski areas are in close proximity geographically.
On the east side of the mountain, coming from Denver area on I-70, there was not much snow at all. But then we drove through Eisenhower Tunnel. Once we came out on the other side, it was suddenly white and snowy everywhere! It was truly breathtaking! Then just a few short miles later, we ended up at Keystone. But we easily could have visited the other ski areas nearby as well.
Hiking and other warm-weather sports would not be safe in the Rocky Mountains as there is a lot of snow and ice on the trails. But one thing that my family loved most was playing on frozen rivers.
Playing on the frozen river in Poudre Canyon
On this same trip we took to Keystone, we also drove through Poudre Canyon Road on highway 14 and Big Thompson Canyon Road on highway 34. There are trailheads all up and down these roads as well as pull-offs.
So we would just pull the van over and go play on the frozen river. It was really thick ice, and my husband would throw big rocks on the ice to check to be sure it was safe. But the kids felt like they were ice-skating! So many happy shrieks of delight!
The views were amazing from the riverbeds with mountains on both sides. There was no one around. And it was just a fun time to enjoy a free outdoor activity together!
Other Things to Do in Colorado
Above I have listed things that my family has personally tried, along with when we went to each place, to give you an idea of weather. The truth is there are so many more outdoor activities to try when you visit Colorado! Here are a few more ideas that we have not tried but our friends say are fun!
Things to Do in Denver, Colorado
Denver Climbing Company has outdoor climbing experiences. They give you all the equipment you need and no experience is necessary. Yes, please!
You can rent scooters to see Denver. Sounds like a fun little trip.
You can rent super cars to drive through the mountains. Oh, yeah!
I have heard great things about the Denver Zoo. (We love the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs as well!)
There are opportunities for zip lining, rafting, and paddle boarding near Denver. Hopefully next summer!
Things to Do in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder is one of the best outdoor cities in Colorado. People bike there year round. There is fishing, tubing, hiking, and so much more in the town or just outside of it. So this is a city I at least needed to mention if you are coming to Colorado for outdoor activities.
Also, there are a lot of scenic drives throughout the Rocky Mountains! Some are labeled as scenic drives, and some are just scenic and need no label. But there is one from Boulder to Estes Park called Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. We did drive this in the Fall, and it was incredible.
Hope to see you in Colorado!
If you are interested in reading more articles about nature, Colorado, health, natural remedies, or learning about how to use essential oils, please check out my website, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Allison Shorter and her family live in Colorado where they enjoy hiking, healthy living, and homeschooling. They lived in China for almost 4 years where they started a non-profit to help teenaged orphan girls with jobs, life skills, and sex trafficking prevention. Since being back in the US, her mission is to educate others about an overall healthy lifestyle including marriage, family, essential oils, and general wellness.