Published on: August 16th, 2012
Some people find happiness at the bottom of a giant bowl of triple fudge ice cream. Others define happiness by the amount of extra zeros on their paycheck. For me, happiness is a cool mountain breeze, the taste of a perfectly roasted marshmallow and the feeling you get when you reach the top of whatever mountain you’re trying to climb.
I love Colorado.
I can’t get enough. I load up my car with campfire grub, hiking and biking gear, and some good ol’ canned craft beer and head west on the weekends. Lately, “west” has meant a long and winding drive on I-70 to the Glenwood Springs area. I’m not sure what it is, but I seem to have found my summer in the red canyons of this sulfurous town.
Last weekend, I found myself soaked in water, helping guide a raft down the Shoshone rapids on the Colorado River. Two weekends ago I was on the seat of my mountain bike, Liv, cruising alongside the Colorado River and soaking in the beauty and stories of the majestic canyon walls.
Although it’s about a three-and-a-half hour drive from the Boulder area to Glenwood Springs, it’s totally worth it for a little weekend vacay. For those of you looking to blow the city limits and climb some mountains of your own, I suggest loading up a car and heading to the land of the hot springs. And while you’re there, you should probably check the following places out:
1.) The Hotel Colorado
Whether you’re staying at this (haunted) hotel or not, be sure to at least tour the main floor and check out all of the portraits and stories of the famous guests that have roamed the grounds before you. And while you’re there, grab a seat on the charming outdoor porch for a nice dinner or a wild west-themed cocktail from the bar. The smell of the fresh mountain air mixed with the old-timey, relaxing atmosphere found at dusk is a must-do for your mini-vacay.
2.) Hanging Lake
Nature’s first infinity pool. The trail head for this 1.2 mile hike is found just outside of Glenwood Springs and is well worth the 3 hour round trip hike. Pictures and words can’t even begin to capture the beauty of this National Landmark. After a steep hike through the canyons off of I-70 you are rewarded with a lake with water so clear, pictures taken from above the lake look as if they were shot underwater. It’s exceptional. And there’s also a waterfall—sprouting from the center of a canyon wall. It’s unbelievable. But get there early because the small parking lot at the trail head typically fills up by 8:30 a.m. and the trail becomes inundated with families and tourists willing their sea-level lungs and shaky legs to get them a glimpse of this scenic wonder.
3.) Glenwood Hot Springs
I feel a little obligated to add this to the list since it’s kind of the main tourist attraction for this city. Swimming at this historic destination has been said to cure what ails you with at least fifteen minerals working in harmony to rejuvenate your mind and body. The Ute Indians were the first people to take advantage of Glenwood Springs healing waters, and now the pool stays jam-packed with visitors looking to gain the same benefits. As with most tourist attractions in this area, get there early to avoid battling major crowds.
4.) Rafting on the Colorado River
For the past twenty-seven years of my life, I’ve been more of a land-dweller and less of a water baby, so when I came across a Living Social deal for some beginner white water rafting offered by the Colorado Adventure Center, I jumped in head first. This is how I found myself sitting in the back of a raft cruising through the cool waters of the Colorado River last weekend. Although I did sign up for the beginner trip, I was hoping for a little more action and little more splashing coming from hardcore rapids and not the clumsy lady struggling to paddle in front of me. The company offers a few different options, including kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, and this stretch of the river currently offers some of the best water for water babies in Colorado due to the lack of rain across the state.
5.) Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
As we were calmly coasting along an easy stretch of the river, our rafting guide pointed towards the sky to something swaying back and forth over the canyons edge. It turned out to be a swing, full of people that voluntarily got on the Glenwood Canyon Swing ride at the Caverns Adventure Park. Whoa. The hair on my arms stand up just thinking about hanging thousands of feet in the air over the side of a canyon. But if you’re the adventurous type, this ride is must-do. For others, like myself, that like to keep their feet on the ground, check out the cave tours. Not only is it an opportunity to learn the history of Glenwood, but you’ll get some exercise in and also get some killer views of the city as well.
6.) Four Mile Road Camping
On my first visit to Glenwood Springs, I stayed in a hotel and did a little late-night drinking at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. (and other various watering holes around town) before I switched gears and moved on to camping at Turquoise Lake outside of Leadville on my way back to civilization. Last weekend, I arrived in Glenwood, seeking tips from locals on campsites semi-close to town. Turns out—there really aren’t any. But if you’re looking to spend some time in the great outdoors along with partaking in activities found inside of the Glenwood Springs city limits, camping off of Four Mile Road about 45 minutes outside of town is the place to go. Exploring a tip from our rafting guide, we made our way into the mountains and set up camp underneath a sky filled with stars… and an owl’s nest. You win some and you lose some. Nothing beats the way the sleepy sun highlighted every leaf, flower and blade of grass as it climbed its own mountains early the next morning.
**Mini Mountain Vacays are super fun! but traffic on I-70 isn’t! Be sure to plan accordingly and avoid eastbound 1-70 from noon-7:00 p.m. if you can.