There seems to be a buzz in the air -- on social media and in person, more and more people are chatting about the places they’ll go and the trips they’ll take, now that the COVID-19 vaccine is readily available and as the world of travel returns to some state of “normal.”
That got me thinking: Colorado. Anyone who’s been there will likely agree: It’s such a cool state, is it not?
Full disclosure: This article is NOT sponsored by the state of Colorado. I’m just a person who loves the mountains, and I thought I’d share some reasons as to why that is. I’ve had some truly epic vacations in Colorado over the years, and I lived there for a semester in college, as well.
And I too am always planning that next big trip (sometimes on paper; sometimes in my head). So, just like I shared about the great state of California back in March, today, I think we should chat about Colorado. Here’s why ...
1. The hiking/great outdoors are unparalleled.
I have a lot of friends who don’t hike, so let’s start here: Hiking is just walking. You don’t have to feel intimidated! Sure, you might not go scale a fourteener (that’s a reference to a peak higher than 14,000 feet in elevation) as a novice, and actually, you shouldn’t do that at all, if you’re not an experienced hiker.
But on a very basic level, hiking is just taking a casual stroll in nature -- or at least, it can be! And hiking in Colorado is definitely prettier and more scenic than it is in most other places. I mean, the Rocky Mountains are the backdrop. Can’t go wrong.
So, first, you’ll want to do some research: Here’s a list I found online called “10 Easy Beginner Hikes Near Denver.” Now grab your shoes and hit the trails! For a newbie hike, you just need comfortable footwear and clothing, perhaps a light snack depending on how long you’ll be out, and some water to drink.
If you’re more of a seasoned hiker, you probably don’t need my advice. You know where to go! I recommend the Boulder Canyon Trail for a really pretty view (located in Boulder) and the Manitou Incline Hiking Trail for a TOUGH workout (just outside of Colorado Springs). But there are SO many options. Google can help you find something that fits the bill for your lifestyle and level of expertise.
Here’s the Manitou Incline, for reference:
Colorado is such an active, outdoorsy state.
Maybe you’d rather bike, get out on the water or run. Trust me when I say you can do it all. There’s truly something for everyone.
2. You’ll be reminded just how stunning nature really is.
You can’t talk about Colorado without talking about the Rockies. It’s like, if you’re outside, everywhere you turn, there they are. (For someone who grew up in the Midwest, this never fails to amaze me).
Pikes Peak, by the way, is the highest point in the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The panoramic views at the top are mind-blowing -- on a clear day, up to five states are visible. This is one of the vantages that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful.”
“Most glorious scenery I ever beheld,” she wrote in her diary the day of the trip, according to that link from National Geographic. And you’ll see why!
You can hike Pikes Peak (this is one of those “fourteeners” we were talking about -- not recommended if you’re new), drive it or take the train. It’s about 19 miles up.
Definitely check out that Pikes Peak website we linked above, if you’re thinking about making the trip. You might need reservations, and you should plan for a few days in Colorado before heading up the Peak. Going from a mile high (or 5,280 feet in Denver) to 14,115 feet in elevation at the top, it might make you feel not-so-great. One trip, my face went a little numb, and I’ve also experienced some minor altitude sickness on other out-west ski trips. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, is my advice! Here’s a virtual tour, as well, if you’re curious but not so sure you’re ready to hop on a plane just yet.
Now that I’ve used this entire section to chat about Pikes Peak, I’ll also plug Garden of the Gods (linked above and pictured below!); along with the state’s national parks and hot springs. All great options for taking in some natural beauty!
3. The big cities.
Denver is obviously king on this list. There are some awesome restaurants, breweries and hotspots -- and although it’s been awhile since I last visited, recommendations so often come down to personal preferences, anyway. Start internet-searching and asking around for the best bars based on what you know you like, and you’ll surely get some great feedback.
Look at how gorgeous it is.
Going to a Rockies game at Coors Field should be on your agenda, too. It’s one of the prettiest backdrops to a baseball game that you’ll find.
Seeing a show at Red Rocks is a bucket-list item for many people, as well.
As mentioned, Colorado Springs and Boulder are fun cities, and we’ll touch on ski towns next.
4. The skiing and snowboarding.
Of course, you can’t ski year-round, so maybe you’ll want to save these notes for a better time of the year -- and it’s not like any of this is a secret. Many already know that Colorado and ski resorts go hand in hand.
But you can’t just leave skiing off the list. Colorado is one of the best places in the U.S. to do it. There are so many resorts to choose from. If I’m remembering correctly, I’ve tried Copper Mountain, Keystone, Winter Park and Beaver Creek. I’d love to go to Aspen, Breckinridge and Vail someday. Each spot is great in its own way, and if you’ve never skied or boarded out west, you just have to. The snow is fluffy, you’ll remember just how hard the sport can be (you’re not alone if you need to pull to the side for little breaks!), your legs will burn in the best way possible, and the terrain is just endless. The first time I went, I was shocked by how cool and massive the experience really was. The apres-ski scene is fun, the hot tubs feel so good at the end of the day ... what’s not to love?
Pro tip: If you’re flying into Colorado, don’t feel like you have to lug all your equipment. That’s quite a commitment, packing up skis, poles and boots and then checking bags -- a lot of places these days have seriously upgraded their rental equipment, so it might be worth it to rent gear, or look into demo skis. Look at all the great options Keystone offers. This is not your rental gear from 1995!
5. It’s wholesome, fresh-air fun.
You’ve probably gotten that vibe by now, reading points 1-4.
But honestly: Girls trip? Bachelor party? Family vacation? Spouse trip, just you two, no kids? Colorado will deliver.
It’s so refreshing to see everyone outside, being active and healthy, exploring nature and enjoying the sunshine. The Denver nightlife is fun, the beers are some of the best you’ll try, and whenever I start thinking about another trip out west, Colorado is one of the first places I think of.
So, have you been? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments, and we can chat.