The Rocky Mountain Way Is My Favorite Way
You could easily spend a lifetime simply exploring the Centennial State’s scenic mountain country, which hosts a plethora of majestic vistas teeming with wildlife, world class hunting and fishing, and historic mining towns with old-fashioned Victorian inns or bed and breakfasts. Long term cabin rentals are idyllic bases of operation for your family’s Colorado escape. The Rockies have sights for everyone, from outdoors enthusiasts to history buffs.
Start your tour of America’s Alps in the town of Durango, residing in Colorado’s southwestern corner. In the winter, the visitor has their choice of five different ski resorts inside an hour’s drive. In the summer, there is an almost infinite number of outdoor activities in and around the community, including hiking, backpacking and mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking and golf. Rail fans will enjoy riding the Durango & Silverton Railway, one of the last two remaining lines of the old Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge railroad. Powered by steam locomotives and featuring both open cars and antique rail coaches from a century ago, this is an actual operating railroad that during the winter is the only manner to get in and out of Silverton to the north.
Traveling over the San Juan mountains, on the “Million Dollar Highway”, along the Rio de las Animas Perdidas, literally meaning “River of Lost Souls”, you will come across most historic mining towns that contain Silverton, Telluride, Ouray and Ridgway. At Montrose, you will need to cut over to the east on U.S. 50, skirting the southern edge of Gunnison National Forest in order to visit Gunnison and Salida, which is residence to one of the oldest whitewater kayaking events in the country, the FIBArk Race, which is the “weekend that Salida comes out to play,” held in June during the spring runoff.
It is difficult to choose one place in Colorado’s mountain country that stands above the rest but the Rocky Mountain National Park and nearby Estes Park in the north central part of the state are absolutely front runners. Take advantage of local cabin rentals, or stay at the historic Stanley Hotel, where writer Steven King found the inspiration for The Shining. Founded by a settler from Missouri in 1859, Estes park is located along the Big Thompson River, and is the gateway to the national park located just a few miles west.
You can ride down U.S. 34, the Trail Ridge Road, which has the distinction of being the highest continuous highway in the country. This vivid drive will lead you to an height of over 12,000 feet above sea level and some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in North America, if not the world.
Of course, Colorado is the West, and that means cattle drives and horses. Well, the grand cattle drives are long over and were primarily in the flat eastern portion of the state, but you and your family can experience a little of it at one of the area’s numerous “dude ranches”. Even with the great quantity of highways and jeep trails, there’s no better way to see this part of Colorado than from horseback.