High On Colorado
With 58 mountains topping 4,200 metres, four national parks, 41 state parks and 28 ski resorts, Colorado is an adventure playground all year round.
Alliance Airlines Magazine - June/July 2019
Words: Michelle Hespe
Here’s a cool armchair travel tip: Google ‘Colorado’ and hit ’Images’. What will crowd your screen is a dazzling kaleidoscope of colours and shapes, courtesy of Mother Nature, in the form of mountains, rivers, sunsets, forests, gorges, lakes, snow and flower-covered fields, and animals, that look as though they’ve stepped out of an animation. We’re talking moose, big-horned sheep, elk, cougars, foxes, bears and deer. And of course – the cutest Colorado critters of all – prairie dogs and chipmunks.
The inspiration is sure to have you clicking away, booking a flight deal – as let’s face it, there’s nothing like the real thing. The best thing is, it doesn’t matter when your next chance to get away is, because Colorado is an incredible destination at any time of year.
Colorado is ablaze with colour all year round, but in spring this dazzling state becomes a wildlife photographer’s dream, and the sunny days with crisp cool evenings make it an adventure lover’s playground.
Spring is also a time for renewal and nurturing. As Colorado has 31 historic hot springs, an abundance of spas within its ranches and resorts, plus wellness retreats with yoga, Pilates and meditation, you can mix pampering and soul searching with adventure.
If you want to get the adrenaline pumping, mountain biking, hiking and trekking trails are absolutely endless, and with so many mountains, abseilers consider Colorado one of the best spots in the world to climb high.
Spring is also wildflower season, so whether you’re on foot or taking a road trip, you'll see the hills exploding with colour.
With more than 9,656 kilometres of rivers, Colorado is a haven for fly-fishers, especially in locations such as The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Trout is the name of the game – with rainbow, cutthroat, brown and lake trout on offer, and there's plenty of salmon about too.
Don’t miss the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which is nothing short of spectacular. Open year-round, night and day, here are the tallest dunes in North America. Take a walk at night under a starry sky or a surreal stroll guided by moonlight. Go sand sledding and enjoy Medano Creek at the base of the dunes, which springs up from the winter run-off. }
Who doesn’t love a state that has 300 days of sunshine? Add to that 41 state parks and 26 national scenic byways, and your summer road trip is sorted. There are also eight national monuments to take in, including Brown Canyon, which is one of the USA’s most popular whitewater rafting locations, and Chimney Rock National Monument, which was once home to the ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, and has more than 200 homes and ceremonial structures built by the Chaco people more than 1,000 years ago.
Go camping in places where you won’t see another person, challenge yourself with rock climbing, ziplining and canyoning, or immerse yourself in Colorado’s 58 ’fourteeners’ – peaks more than 4,200 metres high!
Summertime is also an ideal season to stay at a ranch, where you can experience life as a cowboy or cowgirl – whether horse riding, learning to rope in a cow, taking a wagon ride, or fishing in a pristine mountain setting. You can visit Colorado’s many western towns and learn about the culture and wild western history of this remarkable place any time of year, but in summer it’s lovely to feel the sun on your back as you wander the streets, and it’s a great time to get into the action of a rodeo.
Colorado hosts hundreds of events every year, from rock concerts in incredible outdoor settings, to beer trails and foodie experiences that show off the culinary arts and the many exceptional chefs who are proud to call Colorado home.
Colour, colour, colour... in autumn Colorado is resplendent – the mountains, valleys and plains are awash with vibrant golds and tarnished orange against a medley of deep, lush green forests and fields. In fact, the lovely town of Aspen is named after a tree with leaves that turn bright gold, orange and red, making the mountains look as though they are on fire.
Add to this the deep blue of the many rivers and lakes, and you have a nature lover’s paradise. Fall is perfect for a road trip, and a wonderful time to go camping or stay in mountain hotels, with dropped accomodation rates. Wildlife viewing is at its finest during this time of year, and with more than 960 species (including the state’s mascot, the bighorn sheep) to tick off your critter list, you won’t be short of winning Instagram shots. During fall you can also be entertained by the exchange of bugle calls in Rocky Mountain National Park when elk are in mating mode. Seeing these creatures in herds, with the bulls fighting, is a sight not easily forgotten.
With the weather cool, it’s also a wonderful time to hike the 6.5 kilometres to the top of Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride, Colorado’s tallest waterfall. The majestic curtain of water thundering into the gorge is a moving reminder of the power of nature.
Rafting is one of the best ways to delve into Colorado’s seven major rivers, and you can be out on the water all day, passing peacefully through fairytale landscapes, and never see another soul.
For snow bunnies, it doesn't get better than Colorado. You can combine a road trip with any of the 28 ski resorts scattered across the state, or narrow it down to a couple that are near to one another, such as Beaver Creek and Winter Park.
Get into all manner of activities on the snow such as dog-sledding, ice climbing, snow-shoeing (there’s an awesome tour through the forests of Winter Park) and sipping on a beverage in front of an open fire in a log cabin. Ladies must fit in a spa treatment at a dreamy ranch, such as the one at Devil’s Thumb.
In Beaver Creek, don’t miss the amazing dinner experience at Beano’s Cabin, where excited guests take a sleigh ride up the mountain to dine in a beautiful, expansive log cabin restaurant. The food is delicious, the service is impeccable, and the views of the mountains outside are breathtakingly stunning.
There are plenty of events in winter in Colorado, including ice sculpting and snow sport competitions, light festivals and the annual National Western Stock Show in Denver.
In winter the national parks are white wonderlands where you can enjoy peace and quiet as you explore by hiking, snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing.
Last, but definitely not least, winter is a superb time to explore the astoundingly arty and sophisticted city of Denver. But really, it’s an exciting destination any time of year. And the best news is: there’s a winter train direct to Winter Park from Denver that runs on weekends from January to March.
Beaver Creek is part of Vail Resorts and is included in Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass (which can also be used at other Colorado ski resorts, Breckenridge, Vail, Crested Butte and Keystone) epicaustraliapass.com.au
Winter Park is included in Alterra’s Ikon Pass (it can be used at Colorado’s Copper Mountain, Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Eldora), ikonpass.com
For information about Colorado year-round, visit Colorado Tourism Office colorado.com
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