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8 great outdoor activities in Colorado

Written by Fiona

April 11 2018

Located in the west of America, Colorado is much acclaimed as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The diverse landscape of the Rocky Mountains, desert and river canyons offers a playground for all kinds of activities. The capital city is Denver, which is located around a mile above sea level.

8 of the best outdoor activities in Colorado

Pikes Peak. Pic credit: Ahodges7

1 Pikes Peak: Drive, Hike or Train ride

America’s mountain as it is popularly known stands a 8000ft above Colorado Springs. The summit has been a tourist site, attracting numerous visitors, for as long as anyone can remember.

The views from the mountain are breathtaking and it is also the inspiration behind Katherine Lee Bates’ ode to America: America the Beautiful.

You have many options about how you choose to reach the summit, and you most definitely must go all the way to enjoy the stunning views.

If you are a lover of adventure and are not afraid of heights, driving or hiking would be the best option for you. If you are faint hearted or in love with history, the train ride is are great alternative. The trip takes about three hours and there’s an audio guide on the history and significance of the Pikes Peak.

2 Downhill Mountain Biking at the Winter Park

If you are looking for the best downhill mountain biking experience in Colorado, it’s Winter Park. (Winter Park skiing is great, too.)

The Trestle Bike Park boasts more than 40 miles of trails for bikers with different abilities. There are the easy and smooth trails for the novices and more challenging routes, too, including huge jumps and bridges.

3 Wildlife in North Cheyenne Canyon Park

This park is an almost endless expanse of land located beneath a 1000ft deep canyon. There is a wide array of wildlife around and you may see animals such as deer, black bears and mountain lions.

If you are around during the summer, you could test your swimming skills at some portions of the North Cheyenne Creek. There are also miles of hiking trails.

Taylor River. Pic credit: Jeffrey Beall

4 Fishing the Taylor River

There is a portion of the Taylor River that is particularly famous as a hang out spot for anglers. The Hog Trough attracts a lot of crowds and you would have to be at the top of your game if you want to go home with a trophy.

Some anglers even joke that the fish in these waters have become wiser as they have become increasingly difficult to fool. Your technique has to be flawless, and your equipment has to be super-sensitive if you want to enjoy any success here. The adventure is always worth it, though.

If you are not one for the crowd, there is another fishing zone downstream the Hog Trough. You’ll enjoy some solitude and probably a higher chance of catching the prize.

5 Ballooning at Steamboat Springs

You will enjoy great views from a hot air balloon, especially the shape of Colorado’s vast mountains and endless valleys. Steamboat Springs afford tourists this opportunity as the gentle currents around the springs makes it ideal for ballooning.

The balloons launch in the early hours before the winds resume their duty and passengers get to see cattle grazing, the Yampa River and very high peaks from a good vantage point.

Mesa Verde National Park. Pic credit: Wiki

6 Hiking at Mesa Verde National Park

The Mesa Verde National Park is another hub of adventure that depicts the activities of the earliest inhabitants of America. There are more than 5000 archeological sites that are open to tourists.

If you are paying for the guided tour, you’ll be climbing ladders and crawling through tunnels in a bid to reach the Balcony House and Cliff Palace.

There are other points where you can freely explore without a tour guide, such as Nordenskiold Site 16.

Red Rock Canyon Park. Pic credit: PROmark byzewski

7 Red Rock Canyon: Hiking or Biking

You’ll be having a close look at the red rocks of Colorado Springs via any of the numerous hiking or biking trails that have served tourists for many years. Along the trail is the Red Rock Canyon, one of America’s historic sites.

The canyon has served numerous purposes over the years. It was owned by the Bock family during the 20th century and history has it they had grand plans to transform the location into the complete vacation haven.

The canyon is now state-owned and they have created even more biking and hiking trails for the pleasure of the numerous tourists that troop in every year. The Canyon also has an open-air pavilion that may be used for live performances or movie screenings.

Manitou Springs. Pic credit: Wiki

8 Manitou Springs: A lazy stroll and arcade gaming

Although Manitou Springs is not exactly part of Colorado, it is only about six miles away and worth the visit. Now a National Historic District, the springs is another tourist haven saturated with outdoor cafes, vintage boutiques, and art galleries.

You should spend some hours simply lazing about and appreciating what it’s like to be an American in the early 20th century. There are more than 250 old-fashioned gaming machines and all of them still cost just a penny.

Important tips for travellers

Notes before you go:

Passport: Ensure you are traveling at least 6 months prior to the expiration date on your passport. There should be at least one consecutive blank page on your passport to give room for visas and stamps that are required to appear together.

Visas: You need a visa if your country is not eligible for the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) of the USA or if you would be staying for more than 90 days. For information about countries eligible for the VWP, please visit consult http://travel.state.gov/visa.

Insurance: You should take out a visitor insurance package that provides health, accidents and travel insurance coverage.

ESTA form: The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is a form that determines the eligibility of a visitor to the United States to travel under the VWP.

How does the ESTA differ from other USA visas?

The ESTA is not a Visa. An approved ESTA does not qualify a visitor for admission into the United States by the Customs agency. It only determines the eligibility of such person for the VWP. If you have a valid visa, you do not need to apply for an ESTA. And if your country is not on the list of countries eligible for the VWP, you need not apply for an ESTA.

Arriving in Colorado: Most people arrive via Denver. There are flights from across Europe and America to Colorado’s biggest city.

Tips on when to visit Colorado

  • Best time to visit: Unless you are going for the skiing, the best time ot visit is March to May and September to October when the weather is warm but not too hot (although it’s still generally unpredictable) and the sites are less crowded.
  • Weather: Colorado weather can be unpredictable. The high altitude and rocky mountains make for a fast-changing weather and many people are surprised at how fast cold mornings turn into boiling afternoons. Prepare for all kinds of weather and dress in layers. Staying hydrated is also important, especially during hikes and tours.
  • Alcohol consumption: The legal age for drinking is 21 and drinking in the public is illegal. Bars follow this rule strictly and you may be asked to provide identification.
  • Driving: Unleaded fuel is from the black pump in the US while diesel petrol is from the green pump. This is a reverse of Europe.
  • Safety tip: The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card costs just $3. Buy one on getting into Colorado as it supports local search and rescue operations and also ensures professional search and rescue teams would respond to your distress call should you become lost or in danger
  • Smoking: Cannabis is legal in Colorado but there are a number of laws guiding the possession and smoking. Get up to speed with the laws to ensure you are not caught on the erring side. Importantly, marijuana remains illegal under the Federal law so do not think about taking it to a Federal land such as a National historic site or park.
  • Spending and changing money: There is an exchange point at the Denver International Airport and some other exchange offices can be found in the city. You could also use your American Express, Master card, Visa and Discover credit cards. There are cash machines all over the city if you want to make a withdrawal.

Colorado is one of the best places to visit in the United States for outdoors enthusiasts. Go and see for yourself.

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