The window for epic summer road trips is in the books, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in one more mini road trip this fall. From exploring some of the state’s best hiking meccas, to traversing an adrenaline-packed via ferrata course, check out these five Colorado adventure destinations this season.
For the mountain biker…
Load up the bikes and hit the road for Durango, where you’ll find more than 2,000 miles of exceptional mountain biking trails. Soak in views of the scenic San Juan Mountains and challenge yourself on the Hermosa Creek Trail — a 20-mile (one-way) ride with fast and technical descents. Or take on the 12.8-mile out-and-back Engineer Mountain Trail, which boasts up-close views of one of the most popular mountains in the area. Finish your day off with a cold, locally-made brew at one of Durango’s craft breweries, like Ska Brewing Company, or Carver Brewing Company. And if you want to sample brews from all of the city’s craft breweries, book a spot on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s Durango Brew Train, which features beer tastings during a scenic ride through Cascade Canyon. When it’s time to fuel up to do it all again in the morning, head to Oscar’s Cafe—a quirky, longtime local dining hub serving up a massive breakfast (and lunch) menu loaded with tasty and hearty dishes, like the giant, chile verde-smothered Southwest Breakfast Burrito.
Drive Time From Denver: 6 hours and 30 minutes
For the angler…
There’s nothing like spending an autumn day fly fishing on Summit County’s legendary section of the Blue River. Only 322 miles of Colorado’s 9,000 miles of trout streams carry the Gold Medal Water designation (a stream able to produce 60 pounds of trout per acre and at least 14 inch or larger trout per acre), and the Blue River is one of them. To find the sweet spots to catch the big ones on this river, book a guided trip with Breckenridge Outfitters. This excellent guide shop will get you geared up and introduce you to some of the best fishing you’ll ever have. A Half Day Walk and Wade package is $210 for one person, but only $90 for each additional person after that. For a budget-friendly unique lodging option, book a room at The Bivvi Hostel. Located a short walk from downtown, The Bivvi offers up a variety of private and shared room options with pricing starting at $36 a night.
Drive Time From Denver: 1 hour and 45 minutes
For the whitewater enthusiast…
Buena Vista is a river rat’s dream. The small town has a big whitewater culture, thanks to the mighty Arkansas River that runs right through town. CKS Main Street is the place to go to rent kayaks, SUP boards, rafts, wet suits, and just about anything else you need to get out on the water. You’ll also find information here on the best put-in and take-out sites along the river. Once you’re geared up, head over to the town’s public River Park, which is located within walking distance of the town’s main drag. Here you’ll find five in-stream recreational features and plenty of benches to post up on to watch other paddlers play in the park. After a day on the water, grab a seat and a delicious whiskey or gin cocktail at the Deerhammer Distilling Company. For a sinfully good, yet healthy meal, check out the Asian Palate — a dinner-only dining establishment that is making some of the best sushi and Asian food in central Colorado.
Drive Time From Denver: 2 hours and 25 minutes
For the hiker…
The city of Estes Park is the place to be when the leaves start to change each fall. It’s location at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park makes it an ideal getaway destination for hiking enthusiasts looking to do some leaf peeping this season. While trails on the west side of the park tend to have less visitors, traversing the 3.5 mile (round-trip) trail that leads to Emerald Lake, a stunning and very photogenic alpine lake located at the base of Hallett Peak is a must for anyone visiting the park. And if you’re not quite up for peak-bagging Longs Peak this season, you can still tackle part of the hike which leads to Chasm Lake — a stunning alpine lake that highlights views of Mount Lady Washington, Longs Peak, and Mount Meeker. For a true adventure-filled weekend in this adventure destination, forego a room in one of the city’s hotels or inns, and instead opt for “Cliff Camping.” Rappel up the side of cliff with help from the guides at the Kent Mountain Adventure Center and stay overnight in a portaledge constructed by your guide. Overnight cliff camping rates begin at $800 and reservations can be made through the end of September.
Drive Time From Denver: 1 hour and 15 minutes
For the adrenaline junkie…
For a small town, Idaho Springs is packed with adventures. It’s a short drive to the trailheads of four 14ers (Bierstadt, Evans, Grays and Torrey’s), and as of this year, it’s also home the second via ferrata course in Colorado. “The Iron Way” is Arkansas Valley Adventures’ cliffside via ferrata course that overlooks Idaho Springs and climbs over 300 feet above the ground. Along with a guide from AVA, you’ll traverse along the side of the cliff, over ladders, rungs, rails, cables and bridges, eventually ending with a 50-foot free-fall and ziplining. A half day tour of The Iron Way is $149 per person. After getting your adrenaline pumping all morning, enjoy a cold beer and some elevated pub grub at the Westbound & Down Brewing Company in downtown Idaho Springs. If you’re trying to carb up before the big adventure, grab a slice (or five) at the original Beau Jo’s Colorado Style Pizza location.
Drive Time From Denver: 45 minutes