The riparian ecosystem runs through the montane, subalpine, and alpine tundra zones and creates a foundation for life, especially for species that thrive next to streams, rivers, and lakes. The headwaters of the Colorado River, which provides water to many of the southwestern states, are located on the west side of the park. The Fall River, Cache la Poudre River and Big Thompson Rivers are located on the east side of the park. Just like the other ecosystems in the park, the riparian zone is affected by the climatic variables of temperature, precipitation, and elevation. Generally, riparian zones in valleys will have cooler temperatures than communities located on slopes and ridge tops. Depending on elevation, a riparian zone may have more or less precipitation than other riparian zones in the park, with the difference creating a shift in the types of plants and animals found in a specific zone.
Old World meets ghostly charm at the 135-room Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, just an hour from Denver, Colorado. Located six miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park in the shadow of Pikes Peak, the Stanley is a “shining” example of romantic, secluded and haunted. Make it a weekend getaway as there is so much to do and see in the surrounding area, from visiting Rocky Mountain National Park to exploring the beautiful downtown.
Located in southwestern Colorado, close to the Four Corners Monument where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, Durango is perfectly positioned for sightseeing and year-round outdoor activities. The town also has a vibrant art scene and you can spend many happy hours visiting a fascinating array of art galleries and live theater attractions.
Hands down, Crested Butte is my favorite summer destination in Colorado. In addition to world-famous mountain biking and hiking (the views from Snodgrass Mountain are second-to-none), don’t miss the four-week long Crested Butte Music Festival (with the free Divine Family Young People’s Concert July 13, 20 and Aug. 3) and the Wildflower Festival (July 8-14, 2013) where you’ll swear you climbed onto a Monet canvas of mad, extravagant colors. Last winter, CBMR purchased the Coke Zero Gravity BagJump; a 50 feet by 50 feet bag of air for guests to tube and ski and ride into. Come summer, the resort will be setting up two levels of scaffolding at 10 feet and 20 feet for kids and adults alike to jump into the cloud-like bag of air. The resort will also be building a dirt jump for biking enthusiasts to practice their jumping skills with their bicycles for an added adrenaline rush, as if the 25 miles of trails in the Evolution Bike Park isn’t enough. For younger kids, check-out the Trailhead Children’s Museum and big kids (must weigh at least 70 pounds) can try the Crested Butte Zipline Tour, which includes five zip lines ranging in length from 120 – 400 feet connected by features or “events” such as suspended wood bridges and towering platforms. P.S. A few years ago, my kids did Kids Nature Camp at world-renown Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in nearby Gothic, Colo. and still rave about it.
Summer nights are long in Colorado, and after dinner Brian and I still had time for a shoreline walk around the Barker Reservoir, rimmed by mountains and fed by a cool and clear river. I took photos of the baby Canada Geese near shore, a speck of black in the middle of the water that turned out to be a cormorant, a hummingbird settled against a tree branch, while Brian cast a line. But I really didn’t want to move.
That was not my intention. We planned a trip from Florida to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for one of my freelance writing projects, and originally scheduled a day in Denver (at 5,280 feet in elevation) to acclimate. Frontier Airlines had a different idea. I heard alternatively that our plane had a mechanical issue, that weather in the Midwest grounded the flight, and that the crew went on strike. Regardless, the airline cancelled our original flight.
A gorgeous mountain town that is not as well-known as its counterparts, Salida offers a variety of historic attractions to fill up a weekend itinerary. Take the Monarch Scenic Tram to soak in stunning Rocky Mountain views, go for a dip in the Salida Hot Springs or explore the area’s local history and culture at the nearby Salida Museum. When the weather warms up, grab a kayak or tube and head to the Arkansas River, and active travelers can utilize one of the many scenic mountain bike trails to explore the region further. A certified Colorado Creative District, visitors can also browse the area’s abundance of impressive art studios and galleries.
An alpine village peppered with an array of modern resorts, Beaver Creek is the perfect weekend getaway destination. A laid-back ambiance of unhurried travelers, here visitors can get away from it all with the area’s world-class skiing and resort amenities. With gorgeous Rocky Mountain views, Beaver Creek is located in the Vail Valley and offers plenty of activities to fill a weekend itinerary. Many people come to try their hand at the 1,815 acres of skiable slopes, catering to both novice and experts alike. The area has plenty of other things to do, however, as visitors can take in a show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, or indulge in anything from golf courses to pampering spas, shops and restaurants, with the city even home to a large outdoor ice rink in its city center.
There is a fitness area, complimentary wireless internet access in the lobby, 24-hour room service, a full-time concierge, twice-daily maid service and overnight valet parking. Choose from 241 guest rooms and suites, some furnished in Victorian style, while others reflect Art-Deco decor. There are five restaurants, ranging from fine dining to casual fare. Room rates start at $ 152 per night on weekends.
An alluring destination to explore throughout the year, Durango offers a wealth of activities for every season. From white water rafting to horseback riding, fishing and snowboarding, outdoor enthusiasts will be in heaven at Durango. Popular for its Durango train ride day trip, the famous line runs from the old mining areas in Durango and Silverton, where visitors can soak in breathtaking views of the mountain vistas against its black steam-powered engines. Explore the archaeological sites in Mesa Verde National Park, visit Henry Strater Theatre, the oldest running theatre in Colorado, and explore the downtown area to discover an array of lovely shops, galleries and eateries.
The Experience: If Aspen isn't quite your mountain town scene, head to Vail instead. It's equally as idyllic (it was modeled after European mountain resorts), pedestrian-friendly, and lovely, but the town itself is more of a square in a village with a small collection of boutiques and restaurants for visitors. Ride up and down the gondolas for mountain views in every direction and ski the unique back bowls. It's also closer to Denver, making it easier to get to and, therefore, a little more crowded during peak seasons.
Situated on Vail Square, The Arrabelle sets the standard for luxurious lodging, while its jaw-dropping setting reflects the romantic heritage and ambiance of the European Alps. Here you’ll find architectural touches of Salzburg, Innsbruck and Prague, along with high-end amenities such as personal butler service, ski valet and even grocery delivery. Look forward to heading to the rooftop for laps in the pool and soaking in the whirlpool together while taking in magnificent Rocky Mountain views. You can also relax and unwind together while indulging in treatments at the property’s RockResorts Spa, which offers even more stunning Rockies vistas. Each one of the spacious suites host impressive features like a living room area with a fireplace, ideal for toasting to your new life together while cuddling up next to its warmth.
At the Ruby of Crested Butte, your pooch will be treated like an honored guest. With six luxurious rooms all featuring private baths, a hot tub to warm up your bones when you come back from the skiing, a gourmet breakfast with famous hot cinnamon rolls, and a comfy bed for your dog, the Ruby will quickly become your base for the adventures in and around Crested Butte.
A spectacular scenic drive stretches from the old mining town of Silverton, to the town of Ouray, along what is called the Million Dollar Highway. This is a 46-kilometer two-lane highway that hugs the mountainside in places and looks out over jaw-dropping cliffs and across valleys to inspiring mountain peaks. It is one of the most spectacular mountain drives in Colorado. If you have time, you can extend this into a longer route and drive the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. The Skyway is a full-day trip that you will want to do in good weather, but can be done in winter or summer.
Would you like to stay in a historic red barn, a former milk room, or an original historic log cabin and get an idea of how the original Colorado settlers lived? Converted to the luxury Four Mile Creek Bed and Breakfast, this former 1885 homestead is a quaint reminder of the area’s adventurous past. With its main lodge building, old converted barn, and two log cabins, the Bed and Breakfast today offers rustic luxury and unparalleled comfort. The rooms are furnished with antique pieces and fireplaces, with luxurious bathrooms featuring claw foot tubs, conveying a sense of times gone by while providing entirely modern comfort and amenities.