Colorado is famous as one big playground, from snowcapped ski resorts and biking and hiking trails to white-water rivers and hot springs.
The Great Outdoors
Colorado gets more than 300 sunny days per year, and that's a big part of why the natives get restless when forced to spend too much time inside. On any given day you'll find folks figuring out ways to get out there, from biking to work along the intricate veins of multiuse paths to hiking with the dog around expanses of open space, to soccer and jogging at the well-planned parks scattered around cities. In fact, Coloradans talk about the outdoors the way some people elsewhere talk about meals. They want to know where you just skied, hiked, biked, or rafted, and then, while they're in the middle of those adventures themselves, they'll discuss in-depth the next places on the list.
In the late 1800s people came to Colorado not for gold or skiing, but for the legendary restorative powers of the mineral-rich hot springs that had been discovered all over the state. Doc Holliday was one such patient. Suffering from consumption, he spent his final days breathing the sulfurous fumes in Glenwood Springs. To this day there are nearly two-dozen commercial hot-springs resorts, most with lodging or other activities attached, and many more pools have been identified where people can hike in for the private backcountry experience. Some hot springs have been left in their natural state, while others are channeled into Olympic-size swimming pools and hot tubs. Either way, they have become destinations for all who long to take advantage of their therapeutic benefits.
Summits Without the Sweat
As fanatic as the famous "14ers" bunch can be—folks who have climbed or are in the process of "bagging" or summiting all 54 of the state's 14,000-foot peaks—not everyone is as enthusiastic about spending entire days to get the good views. The good news is that there are other ways to get, well, if not to 14,000 feet, then at least Rocky Mountain high enough to see something spectacular. In the summer a ride on the gondola in Telluride between town and Mountain Village is free and provides magnificent views. Any road trip through the Rockies will give you great views. You can drive to the tops of Mount Evans and Pikes Peak or take the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the summit, or take a road trip to Aspen and drive the route over Independence Pass. Another terrific drive is Shrine Pass—Exit 180 off I-70 toward Vail Pass—especially in the fall, which allows you to see the Mount of the Holy Cross and the Tenmile, Gore, and Sawatch ranges.
Land of the Lost
Colorado definitely has a thing for dinosaurs—no surprise, considering that the state sits on prime dino real estate, with plenty of sandstone and shale perfect for preservation and the Rocky Mountains pushing the fossils closer to the surface for easier discovery. Dinosaur Ridge, close to Morrison, features a trail where you can see, touch, and easily photograph Jurassic-period bones and Cretaceous footprints and participate in a simulated dig. Both the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History have extensive collections of fossil specimens, the former offering views into its working laboratory where volunteers process fossil specimens. Other attractions, such as the Denver Botanic Gardens and Red Rocks Amphitheatre, offer regular dino-themed events. There's even a town called Dinosaur, which sits near Dinosaur National Monument in the southwest part of the state, and Parfet Prehistoric Reserve east of Golden and Picketwire Canyonlands south of La Junta have hiking trails with extensive sets of dinosaur tracks.
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