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If you’re interested in visiting the iconic archaeological sites in Mesa Verde National Park, a trip to Durango is in order. This southwestern Colorado city is the closest town to the Puebloan cliff dwellings, and even offers convenient day trips for travelers who are strapped for time. While you’re in town, take the Million Dollar Highway through the San Juan National Forest for some of the best views in the region.
Located in the valley of the Yampa River, Steamboat Springs is world-famous for its fantastic skiing and healing hot springs. With 165 main trails spread across 2,965 acres on the Mount Werner Park Range, Steamboat Ski Resort is one of the largest in the country. Another great winter fun is dog sledding with Grizzle-T Dog Sledding and their Alaskan Huskies.
Another annual event in Estes Park is the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival, which takes place the weekend after Labor Day in September. Like the Midsummer Festival, the Longs Peak festival features all sorts of traditional food, crafts, clothes, and activities, this time of Celtic heritage. There is also a parade through town, live music from bands around the world, and even a "Dogs of the British Isles" attraction that includes dog agility courses.
I am convinced Chautauqua is Colorado’s best-kept secret and I’m amazed how few locals know about its charms. Located at the base of the Flatirons in Boulder, this National Historic Landmark has rental cottages that are surrounded on three sides with open space that includes 48 miles of hiking trails and thousands of acres of natural lands begging to be explored. On weekends in June, Theatre-Hikes Colorado will take audience members on a moderate hike amidst the scenic backdrop of Boulder Open Space while scenes from “Snow White” are performed along the way. On June 29, don’t miss the Colorado Music Festival’s Young People’s Concert, which is a is a narrated work about a cartoon score being performed at a symphony concert (tickets are $8). The historic Chautauqua Dining Hall (a tradition since 1898) has recently undergone a huge overhaul and the wraparound porch offers some of the best patio dining in Colorado. If you visit on a Saturday, be sure to also visit the Boulder’s Farmer’s Market (the largest in Colorado). Not to be forgotten are Pearl Street Mall’s restaurants, shops, people-watching and Pop Jet Fountain–they never fail to entertain.
High on the mountain in a secluded small cove surrounded by aspen and spruce trees in Steamboat Springs, Chalet Val d'Isere is an esteemed, private bed and breakfast perfect for those romantic souls who like their peace and tranquility. The décor is elegant and comfortable, with shiny maple floors and soft oriental rugs, and rooms are full of small decorative pieces that have their own stories.
Colorado has one of the most diverse plant and animal environments of the United States, partially due to the dramatic temperature differences arising from varying elevation levels and topography. In dry climates, the average temperature drops 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit with every 1,000 foot increase in elevation (9.8 degrees Celsius per 1,000 meters). Most of Colorado is semi-arid with the mountains receiving the greatest amount of precipitation in the state.
Observing wildlife is one of the most popular activities in the Rockies. A drive through the park at dusk during the summer is sure to guarantee viewing of herds of elk and mule deer. And throughout the rest of the year, moose, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, cougars, eagles, hawks and scores of smaller animals like pikas and marmots delight wildlife-watchers of all ages.
With elevations ranging from 8,000 feet in the wet, grassy valleys to 14,259 feet at the weather-ravaged top of Longs Peak, a visitor to the park has opportunities for countless breathtaking experiences and adventures. For those wishing to experience the tundra without hiking miles above tree line, the Alpine Visitor’s Center atop Trail Ridge Road is the highest visitor’s center in the entire National Park System!
There are several Front Range towns that have fun winter attractions that are worth experiencing. Next time you’re passing through Idaho Springs, relax at Indian Hot Springs or go snowshoeing in the Arapaho National Forest. Georgetown hosts ice races on its frozen lake. While in Evergreen, make use of the giant frozen lake by ice skating or fishing.