Steamboat Springs Travel Guide
Where to Weekend

The Perfect Weekend Getaway: Steamboat From Denver

PHOTO: Elisa Locci/Shutterstock

Called Ski Town USA, Steamboat is home to more Olympic athletes than any other place in the country.

The town’s trademarked champagne powder needs no introduction, but beyond the slopes and en piste pastimes, Steamboat is just as appealing as a year-round destination. Beloved by adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts alike, Steamboat is an idyllic mountain town steeped in Western tradition. Whether you’re looking to explore the trails, ride the river, revel in Cowboy culture, or shred the pow, one thing’s for sure: there’s no off-season for this Colorado getaway.

GETTING THERE

A three-hour drive from Denver, many Coloradoans prefer Steamboat to other mountain getaways because you’re not stuck in the stereotypical I-70 ski traffic for long. The I-40 portion of the trip takes you past Kremmling and other old frontier towns, which is much more enjoyable than playing bumper cars.

DAY1

If you leave Denver early enough, you’ll arrive in time for a late brunch or early lunch, so post up at local favorite Winona’s, which serves breakfast all day. Savory fans will be pleased by the eggs-travaganza of options, but will be hard-pressed to leave without trying at least one of their delightful pastries, pies, or cakes.

Now that you’ve gotten some sustenance, it’s time to stretch your legs with an easy walk to Fish Creek Falls. Just a fourth of a mile to beautiful waterfalls, it’s one of the most popular hikes in the Yampa Valley. If you’re feeling good and up for the challenge, you can make it a longer jaunt by adding 2.5 miles to the Upper Falls, which takes about three hours. Be prepared for a bit of elevation gain, but after you cross a bridge and some switchbacks, you’re rewarded with those coveted views.

If you’d rather relax and take in the picturesque landscape, head back into town to Steamboat Resort for a scenic gondola ride up Mt. Werner before freshening up for evening revelries.

While Steamboat may be known for its hiking, biking, and skiing trails, they also have another kind of trail for the less actively inclined–the brewery trail. It includes stops at four local breweries and one distillery, which is perfect for happy hour. Find your favorite pour at the lively Mahogany Ridge, tip one back at Mountain Tap, and share a flight at Storm Peak before slowly meandering your way to Butcherknife under the setting sun.

Nothing sounds better than tacos after a bit of drinking, so it’s off to Salt & Lime for red pepper bacon poppers, bison queso, and hand-crafted margaritas. Their polished Mexican cuisine is the perfect nightcap before retreating to your room to sleep it off. Rest up because you have an early morning ahead.

DAY2

You know what they say: the early bird gets the shot, and there’s nothing like a sunrise hot air balloon ride to set the day in motion. A scenic 45-minute flight with Wild West Balloon Adventures is a memorable way to commemorate the weekend with a bucket-list worthy experience that sets a tone of adventure.

Once you’re really awake, post up on the patio at Creekside Café, one of the town’s favorite breakfast spots. Beloved for their smothered egg benedicts, cheesy green chili grits, and award-winning Bloody Mary’s, it’s hearty and filling comfort food. Don’t get FOMO of everyone splashing around on the Yampa because that’s where you’re headed next—for some river playtime.

Floating the Yampa River is a popular local pastime and Colorado summer must-do. Tubes can be rented from Backdoor Sports Ltd or Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, which both have shuttle service to the put-in location by Fetcher Park. Slow rolling rapids and snowmelt take you on a one-to-three-hour lazy river ride through town for a cheap and relaxing thrill. If that’s not your cup of tea, there’s also canoeing, kayaking and standup paddleboarding on Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach State Park as a way to beat the heat. For those that prefer to stay dry, there’s hiking, biking, horseback riding, and golf to enjoy the outdoors. Or in winter, skiing, snowshoeing, and fat bike rentals.

Cool off with a salad and smoothie from lunch at Rootz and head back to the hotel to dry off. Once you’ve worked up an appetite again and changed for dinner, throw another swimsuit in your bag for later. You may scoff at the idea of sushi in a landlocked state, but Tahk Omakase is no joke. A traditional Japanese izakaya, fish is imported directly from the Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo. For the adventurous eaters, omakase means “chef’s choice,” which means your palate is completely in the hands of the chef. If you’d prefer to choose your noshery, they also have standard rolls and cooked options like Miso Baked Cod.

After dinner, it’s time to head to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. One of Colorado’s most coveted natural mineral springs, it just so happens to be clothing optional after dark. Like the best outdoor hot tub on earth, unwind in that perfectly steamy 104-degree water as the night sky unfolds before your eyes.

DAY3

It’s your last day, so make the most of it. Grab a quick bite at Colorado Bagel Company (may I recommend the smoked salmon on an asiago black pepper bagel with avocado, garlic, sundried tomato cream cheese?) to bring to Yampa River Botanic Park. A converted horse pasture, the free outdoor space boasts over 50 gardens teeming with flora and fauna, and regularly hosts live music in the summer.

If you’d prefer to look for wildlife, State Forest State Park is known as the Moose Capital of Colorado, where over 600 ambling giants can be seen year-round. The rugged wilderness area has over 70,000 acres of forest, jagged peaks, and alpine lakes to explore as long as you desire.

For a spot of history, swing by the Pioneer Museum, which has interactive exhibits depicting the Wild West, and can educate you on the town’s Native American, ski, agriculture, mining, and pioneer days to appreciate the area’s eclectic past.

Before you head out of town, fill up with one last good meal in at the Paramount. There are creative favorites like crab BLTs, staples like pesto chicken, and everything in between.

WHERE TO STAY

The Steamboat Grand is the nicest, most iconic property in town. Set right on the base of the mountain, it has that distinct ski lodge feel. There are also plenty of moderately-priced hotels, vacation homes, and ski condos in the area.

For a more unique way to experience Colorado’s Western culture, Vista Verde Ranch is an all-inclusive, luxury dude ranch where you can spend your days on a cattle drive, fly-fishing, horseback riding, and dining on cowboy cuisine.

You can also spend the night at Strawberry Park Hot Springs in a converted train caboose, covered wagon, or cabin where you’ll have the hot springs all to yourself after they close for the day.

WHEN TO GO

While most people think of Steamboat as a ski getaway, summer is really the secret season. You can catch the Steamboat Pro Rodeo every Friday and Saturday night, June—August, and there are regularly free summer concerts held at Howelsen Hill.

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