In a few short weeks I will be going to Seattle for the first time, and I am as excited as Louis the Chihuahua on April Fool’s Day. It’s been a few years since I have been to the West Coast, and it has always struck me as a place of adventure, open spaces, laid back people (minus Hollywood and Los Angeles), and incredible scenery. With that in mind I have decided to dedicate a series of posts to “The Wild West”, and all of the cool things that you can do and see there. For starters, we’ll take a look at Colorado and 10 of the best experiences that can be had there.
1. Gold Mining and Panning
Gold Mining and Panning drove people out West over a hundred years ago, and is still a great activity to partake in when you visit Colorado today. The Phoenix Gold Mine in Idaho Springs offers tours and a panning instructor to get you ready to go. It is a popular tour spot, and has been featured on Ghost Hunters, Globe Trekkers, and in National Geographic, to name just a few. There are also two beautiful hiking trails on the property with plenty of wildlife and a resident fox, so bring your camera!
2. Colorado National Monument
With 32 square miles of utopic landscape, the Colorado National Monument is a great place to hike, bike, sight see, or take a tour. Part of the Upper Sonoran Desert, this scenic area affords you beautiful views, whether they be from the top of a cliff or the bottom of a canyon. As their website states, “Towering monoliths exist within a vast plateau-and-canyon panorama. You can experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive, where you may spy bighorn sheep and soaring eagles.”
3. Glenwood Hot Springs Pool
I have to just put in my two cents here, and tell you that if you have never had the pleasure of visiting a natural hot spring, or submerging yourself in hot springs water, you should add it to your bucket list right now. I am serious. Find a pen and do it. The waters that rise from the springs soothe tired muscles and achy joints, and have over 15 different minerals that will rejuvenate your body from top to bottom. Your skin will be newborn smooth, your muscles will be relaxed, and your cares will float away in the 104 degree therapeutic pool. After vegetating in the therapy pool, dive into the world’s largest hot springs swimming pool. A 2010 Locals Choice award winner for Best Local Attraction, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is not to be missed.
4. Maroon Bells
Envelope yourself in nature’s majesty by visiting Maroon Bells, “the most photographed peaks in North America”. These two peaks, (Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak) are part of the Elk Mountains, and provide a breathe taking scenic overlook of the Rockies. Maroon Lake is located below the peaks, and creates a stunning reflection of the bells. This is a great romantic place to take your significant other.
5. Scenic Narrow Gauge Georgetown Loop Railroad
I am a huge fan of scenic railroad tours, and drag my boyfriend on them everywhere we go that has one. They maintain an old school charm, and create an ambiance that is reminiscent of five and dimes, soda shops, and penny candy. Great for kids, the Georgetown Loop Railroad was one of the very first tourist attractions in Colorado, and considered an “engineering marvel for its time”. The railroad connects two towns with horseshoe curves, steep grades (for trains), four bridges, and the infamous Devil’s Gate High Bridge. Enjoy your ride as you pass beautiful scenery, scurrying wildlife, and buildings from the 1800’s.
6. Train ride in Royal Gorge with dinner
And because I love train rides so much, and think they are a great way to see a lot of a place in a short amount of time, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad makes my list too. Hop aboard “Colorado’s first and finest” to travel through the scenic Royal Gorge. To make this train ride especially unique I recommend the Dinner Train, where you can enjoy your prime rib, salmon, or roasted chicken in the dining car or the observation dome car. This specific train ride won the “Top of the Rockies” award, and with good reason!
7. Tour Coors Brewery
Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the Coors brewery has been thriving since 1873. This is “the world’s largest single-site brewery”, and a must see for beer fans, regardless of whether or not you like Coors beer. At the end you are rewarded with entrance to a refrigerated room with “Ice-cube benches” where you can relax and sip a super fresh cold beer. There is also a sampling room on site, with all Coors products for guests over 21 who would like to partake.
8. Visit Denver, Golden, and Rocky Mountain National Park
To get the full and comprehensive “great outdoors” experience, it is important to visit the quintessential national parks in Colorado. Most of Colorado is an artist’s palette of reds, oranges, greens, and blues, and if you really want to see the best sites, hit up these parks. Hike, bike, or horseback ride through grassy valleys, fields of wildflowers, and snow capped peaks.
9. Ghost Tour of the Stanley, (The Shining hotel)
As a horror genre fanatic, there was NO WAY that this could be left out of Colorado top 10. Not only is the hotel itself a stunning bit of architecture with classic décor, but they offer ghost tours which turns classy into classically terrifying. Featured as one of “America’s most haunted hotels” and known as being the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining”, The Stanley is a fun place to visit, and let the little kid in you get the willies.
10. Go to Ouray
Nicknamed the “Switzerland of America”, Ouray is a small mountain town nestled in the craggy and soaring peaks of the Rockies. Sitting at 7,792 feet with snow capped peaks on three sides, this community is full of friendly folks and rustic charm. The town places a huge value on keeping their Victorian architecture preserved (or restored), and their old fashioned neighborly attitude will make you never want to leave. With many quaint restaurants, boutiques, shops, and galleries there is enough to keep you busy on days when the weather is less than perfect, and being outside is not the best option.
Like all 10 things you see on the list? Want to take an escorted tour of Colorado with stops (or optional stops) at the above places? Click here to view our “Classic Colorado” tour package in our Boscov’s Travel Journey West series.