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annonie Sep 9th, 2005 07:24 PM

In Search of Colorado Activies/Best Location Suggestions

We are considering a (very) last-minute vacation to, among other places, *someplace* in or around the Colorado area. We have about a week to work with and would be going sometime in late September.

Our interests are many, but we're definitely looking for scenery and ambiance, biking, a lot of relaxing (spa, hot springs type stuff or whatever), good food, a gondola ride or two, and maybe even a few beginner's lessons in rock climbing.

Last-minuters that we are, we are trying to make quick work of doing the research, but are definitely at a disadvantage this late in the game. And so, would anyone be so kind as to make some suggestions with regard to areas to concentrate on, accomodations, activities and/or any of the above? Mind you, we are not necessarily restricting ourselves to Colorado - but, as far as scenery goes, it definitely looks the part, and so here I am posting. However, if anyone has any suggestions regarding other areas, we are certainly all ears.

If so (regarding either of the above), please post! We would love to hear from you. Thanks very much...

Kappy9857 Sep 9th, 2005 07:47 PM

We took our family to Colorado a few years ago. Started off by flying to Denver. Did a day there then on to Colorado Springs for about 4 days.This was a great base location. There we saw the Airforce Academy, then Garden of the Gods gorgeous rock formations , cog railway upp Pikes Peak, whitewater rafting on the colorado river. Then we drove to Aspen by way of the continental divide and on to Vail for a few more nights before returning to Denver for the flight home. We all loved it!

annonie Sep 9th, 2005 09:57 PM

Thanks for the input!

I've actually been to Colorado Springs a couple of times. However, it was strictly for sports stuff and so, outside of the OTC, I really didn't get to see much.

Definitely will check out the sites you mentioned (I know Pike's Peak is gorgeous) and see what's what. Thanks again!

justme22 Sep 10th, 2005 04:38 AM

you might consider driving from denver up to este park, the town has lodgings from relatively budget to upscale. you have rocky mountain np at your feet, gorgeous. another option would be to head sw from denver to aspen. beautiful spot even without skiing. definately can get your spa experience there. but estes park would be my first choice.

virginia Sep 10th, 2005 07:03 AM

i suggest steamboat springs. it has all the things you listed. as it is not ski season yet there will be tons of accomodations available.
or the vail valley. there is a good rock climbing school which i cannot recall the name of, no hot spgs but plenty of spas.

sylvia3 Sep 10th, 2005 10:59 AM

You can still go over Trail Ridge road through Rocky Mt. Nat. Park, via Estes Park, then on to STeamboat or elsewhere. Very scenic.

annonie Sep 10th, 2005 05:50 PM

Thanks very much for everyone's input. I've taken some time to read up a bit more on each of your suggestions. A couple of follow-ups, if you wouldn't mind:

@justme22: Read up a bit on Estes and it looks like scenery is the main attraction there. Sounds like RMNP is tops on a lot of peoples' lists. However, Aspen looks mighty interesting too - and it's more in the direction of Ouray, which is another place that caught my eye. If you don't mind, why is Estes your #1 pick?

@virginia: Steamboat Springs looks interesting as well - although it does appear to be more off the beaten path. Good for obvious reasons, but might also be some potential disadvantages there because I'm assuming we'll burn up a fair amount of time in gettting in and out of there. Am I correct? Not ruling it out at all, but I am wondering about access to other areas, and whether or not this would cramp other plans. Vail looks a little more central and closer to RMNP (and rock/ice climbing looks awesome). Bah, humbug on the lack of springs...but, hey - you can't have it all, all of the time. :)

@sylvia3: Trail Ridge Road looks very nice. At the risk of sounding a little stupid, are we at all at risk of getting snowed in or out, though? From what I gather, it looks like a 50 mile drive (+/-) that should be done slowly.

And, for anyone, a few additional questions:

* Any thoughts on Ouray? Looks very nice from afar. We were checking out Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs.

* Dumb question, perhaps...but how should we dress? Having been there before (in November), I know that the dry Colorado cold isn't really *cold*, but I doubt it's shorts weather, either. Should we bring warm-weather clothing?

* Given the time of year (Sept./cold), would we be totally insane to not completely rule out white-water rafting?

* Garden of the Gods looks fairly interesting. How much time should we plan to kill there? And, since we'd be near Pike's Peak and the railroad, how about there? Are each of these a full-day thing?

* Any thoughts on Hot Sulphur Springs, southwest of RMNP?

Thanks again to everyone. This forum is method by far to gather reliable information.

sylvia3 Sep 10th, 2005 06:27 PM

Whether it's July, August, or December, always bring warm clothing to CO; light layers are best, it can go from the 80s to COLD very quickly with time or altitude (yes, it can be very warm in the daytime, even in September).
Estes is great because it is a scenic little town at the entry to Rocky Mt. N.P., which is spectacular at any time. Trail Ridge road is very doable at a fast clip, but it can take a while because every pull-out is breathtaking. Yes, it can close early in the year, but probably not this year, and you can call ahead to be sure. BTW, Vail is far removed from RMNP, and there is no ice climbing (anywhere, to my knowledge) in CO in Sept. AND BTW, white water rafting can be iffy in Sept., the water level is pretty much down and low by then. That's a catch-as-catch-can thing.
BUT, Glenwood Springs is only about an hour from Vail, and you can find LOTS of hot water; the incredible huge pool in town is one of my favorites. (Although Steamboat, a couple of hours away, has the occasionally clothing-optional Strawberry hot springs.)
Ouray and environs are gorgeous; the hot springs pool in town is nice, but just a pool. Hot Sulfur Springs is funky, fun--lots of tiny little 2-4 person hotpools plus a big one, all varying in temperature.
I would not include Colorado Springs on the itinerary this time, frankly--it is a little touristy for what you describe as your interests right now. It is a great place for those bringing young kids along--Cave of the Winds, funky little town of Manitou Springs, etc. I think you sound as though you want a slightly more scenic trip for this time, so I would look at (1) Estes to Steamboat, or (2) Vail to Glenwood.

annonie Sep 10th, 2005 09:35 PM

Thanks again, Sylvia. Lotta detail, that - and very helpful. Looks like, based on what you've told me now and earlier, I will definitely fly into Denver and concentrate a little more on the North. And boy, I've been watching the airfares - and we're going to take a beating in that department. :(

Anyway, as for Colorado Springs...yeah, I've been there and know what you mean. Have to see what the Mrs. wants, but we could probably skip it and move right on to some of your suggestions instead.

Once again, thank you very much for your detailed answers.

- Happy traveling!

justme22 Sep 11th, 2005 02:54 AM

Aspen is BEAUTIFUL but pricey, the main attraction is the ski resort. and thqat won't be cranking when you are there, (that would mean tho possible bargains on really upscale rooms - B&B is the way to go there)
Estes Park should have the elk roaming that time of year, trailridge road will be open and the scenary is fantastic. the town of estes has a more home town feel. don't get me wrong it is a tourist town, gateway to rmnp but it is in no way like , well gatlinburg on your way into the great smokies.

Also going from Denver to Estes, you pass thru Boulder. another interesting place. but i haven't spent any real time there.

You will need warm clothes for the nights and if you are in the mountains you will need them too. i don't think parkas or anything, but polar fleece and something to act as a wind break. i would also suggest hat.

cesta Sep 11th, 2005 05:26 AM

Just to put in my 2 cents...hard to get to but it has a bunch to do...Durango. We have the mineral springs, train, hiking, water, horses...a bunch. Since I live here, I could definitely suggest good eats too!

annonie Sep 11th, 2005 06:11 PM


By all means, please do! And Durango should fit in pretty nicely with Ouray, right?

Lexma90 Sep 11th, 2005 11:05 PM

I'd echo the suggestion to skip the Springs, and concentrate on the mountain communities. Late Semptember is a wonderful time to visit Colorado's mountains - it's cool but not cold, fewer people, and beautiful, cloudless sunny days.

Re RMNP and Estes Park, there are many other areas of Colorado that we prefer. Estes Park is a VERY touristy little town - if you like Gatlinburg, TN, you'll like Estes Park. Estes Park is not known for gourmet cuisine (or even really good food, to be honest). It is at the gateway to a beautiful National Park, of course. Caveat: if you have any sort of fear of heights, Trail Ridge Road will be a daunting experience. I'm not sure there's a lot of biking in this area.

Consider the Vail area, though the only hot springs are the hot tubs at the hotels. It's beautiful, got great restaurants (and great shopping, which I'm not into, you sound like you may not be, either), is very cute to wander around in. Has a gondola, though probably only running weekends at this time of year. Biking, both mountain and road. It's close to other towns, such as Breckenridge and Keystone, lots and lots of hiking, the historic mining town of Leadville. Glenwood Springs is pretty close, too. Though my take on the hot springs there was that it's a big, shallow swimming pool. (I'm not a big hot springs fan, though our whole family enjoys the Strawberry Hot Springs outside of Steamboat - suits on, though.)

I'm not so familiar with Ouray and points west, so I have no advice for those areas. Given the time you have, however, two destinations (Ouray and RMNP or Vail) would be easily doable.

Also, lots of communities are having Octoberfests right about now - you should check on whatever town(s) you end up choosing. I think Vail had theirs this weekend and maybe next as well, and Breckenridge's is next week too. They're usually pretty fun.

The rafting companies are winding down for the year; call local companies to see if they're still running trips. If they are, it's still gorgeous, and with the sun on the water, pretty (relatively) warm.

Re the weather, this weekend it was warm enough for usually-cold me to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts, though when I walked the dog at 7 am it was quite nippy. By the end of the month, probably long pants most of the time, but layering is the way to go. The Aspens are starting to turn; when you're here, you should see a lot of gold on the mountainsides.

beentheretwice Sep 12th, 2005 07:08 AM

I'd vote for Breckenridge/Vail, too. Summit County is the general area. While I've been to Estes, unless you are excited about RMNP that wouldn't be a good choice for you. We love RMNP, and used Estes as a place to lay our heads at night, and not much else.

Vail would be a good spot for parking the car and hanging around at the base of the mountains. You can bike the Vail pass downhill to Frisco and Breck.

End of September will be a changing period for weather. Pretty, but plan accordingly. Certainly snow high in the mountains.


BLYVAIL Sep 12th, 2005 09:37 AM

My vote would be Vail first - gondola, good food, off season rates, mtn biking and hiking - I'd stick to the trails on the mountain or close to town as it is now hunting season. There's an indoor climbing wall at the Vail Athletic Club that could probably arrange an outdoor lesson or two. Glenwood Springs is 45 minutes away - hot springs, gondola, cave tours. There was still some rafting near Glenwood as well. Google Lakota River Guides or Timberline Tours for rafting and Hummer 4whl Drive trips.
Days are beautiful now, leaves just starting to change, but nights are cool and a jacket or fleece is necessary.

2nd choice would be the Durango, Ouray, Telluride area. Durango-Silverton train, hiking, biking, Mesa Verde, scenery, springs in Ouray.

goodwill Sep 12th, 2005 10:35 AM

Depends upon how active you want to be, but here is my suggested itinerary.

Fly in to Denver and drive to Vail. Stop for night or two. rent bikes and take them up the lift for a downhill ride. trails vary from easy to difficult. take the gondola up to a restaurant for some great food in the evenings.

Next, head to Glenwood Springs and on your way, stop at Hanging Lake Trail - an absolutely stunning hike! hike up is a little steep, but the beautiful lake and waterfalls at the top are worth it. Only 30min to an hour depending upon ability.

Stop in Glenwood Springs and enjoy the town a little. Kind of kitchy, but fun. Lots of caves around here - you can take light guided tours or buy books and head off exploring by yourselves.

After this, head to Aspen - where you will obviously find some of the best spas in Colorado and some of the most delicious food.
Not to mention THE most scenic area in all of Colorado (according to me) - the Maroon Bells. Purple mountains majesty! amazing!

September is sort of an in between month for the mountain towns - but as long as you layer, layer, layer, you can do just about anything.

As far as rock climbing goes, i don't know much, but would imagine Glenwood Springs would have some good rock climbing with the canyon walls and such. Probably anywhere in the mountains would have what you are looking for if you are just starting out.

hope you get it all worked out - and have fun!

annonie Sep 12th, 2005 11:03 AM

Wow...AAA has nothing on you guys. :)

Thanks a lot to everyone. We definitely have some cool itinerary ideas from all of this.

sjde53 Sep 13th, 2005 08:52 AM

I prefer Glenwood Springs and Estes Park. Vail and Aspen are pretty, but pricey. Estes Park is coming around for dining. For one, the re-opened Mary's Lake Lodge more than met our expectations. My sister-in-law was really impressed when she visited the town, saying it was so much nicer and classier than the southern mountain resorts she'd been to.


mat318 Oct 12th, 2005 08:45 PM

Colorado is an <i>amazing</i> state. I've seen alot of the Rockies because I am a traveling photographer. I have two favorite spots in the Colorado Rockies. Near Rocky Mountain National Park and also the San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado. If you have ever seen the &quot;million dollar highway&quot; you'll never forget it. Plus I think you'll find everything you are looking for between Durango and Ouray. There is a neat website called and it has a page about Ouray under romantic vacations. The ouray page as well as the others give you a personal experience.

Tess Oct 13th, 2005 06:44 AM

I would suggest Ouray and Durango--absolutely amazing scenery in Ouray and the Million Dollar Hwy. to Durango. I've been going to Colorado my entire life but had never been in the western mountains until this summer. Honestly, I was totally blown away by the still unspoiled beauty of this area. Vail, Breck, etc. are great but more touristy--really depends on what you're looking for in a vacation.

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