Psst… 11 Things to do Outdoors in Colorado this Summer

11 Things To Do Outdoors In Colorado This Summer | The Denver Ear

June is National Great Outdoors Month and our beautiful state has so many ways you can celebrate the great outdoors. In honor of National Great Outdoors Month and due to requests for a “part II”,  following our 9 Things to do in Colorado this Spring article, we compiled a list of 11 things to do outdoors in Colorado this summer for you to enjoy!

11 Thing to do Outdoors in Colorado this Summer

#1 Visit Colorado’s Wine Country in Grand Junction
Visit Colorado's Wine Country in Grand Junction | The Denver Ear

Photograph by ©Canyon Wind Cellars

Colorado’s Wine Country is located in Grand Valley which surrounds Grand Junction and Palisade in Colorado. Grand Valley is home to more than 20 wineries and vineyards that makeup most of our state’s wines. There is so much do to in Colorado’s Wine Country.

Experience a facility tour at family owned, Two Rivers Winery & Chateau, that offers tasting in an intimate tasting room and its vineyard features majestic views of Grand Junction’s Redlands area. Visit Palisade’s family owned, Canyon Wind Cellars, where wine tasting is always accompanied by the opportunity to walk among 35 acres of vines and head into the depths of an underground barrel cellar (the only one of its kind in the state of Colorado).

Drive through the Palisade Fruit & Wine Trail Byway which is divided into three routes and allows you to witness beautiful orchards, lavender gardens, world-class, vineyards, wineries and fresh farm market fruit stands along the way. If driving in a car doesn’t visually fit into your vineyard picturesque vision then you can tour Wine Country with JR’s Carriage Service that offers horse-drawn wine tours, sunset tours, orchard and fruit stand tours, and downtown historical tours.

#2 Experience the Sights of Crystal River Valley in Marble
Crystal River Valley | The Denver Ear

Crystal River Valley

Take a trip and lodge at Crystal River Valley in Marble, Colorado where you can witness awe-inspiring views of nature, then continue your tour of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway. The Crystal River Valley is among the top tourism attractions in the State of Colorado, located on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains.

The valley extends along Hwy 133, part of the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway. Amenities and attractions in the Crystal River Valley include rooms, rental cabins, restaurants, RV parks, National Forest Campgrounds, jeep and ATV and mountain biking trails, horseback riding, hiking, tent camping, hunting, fishing, photography and shopping.

Crystal River Valley’s lodging options include Beaver Lake Lodge & Cabins, which features five cabins that were once home to quarry workers centuries ago (and have been updated since), Chair Mountain Ranch, which offers five cabins and two apartment suites across eight acres, Yule Creek Lodge, located on 53 acres (mostly bordering National Forest) and is the perfect base camp to explore the Yule Lakes, Lead King Basin, Anthracite Pass, and many other high alpine adventures and more. For a complete list of lodging in Crystal River Valley visit

#3 Enjoy a Day “At the Beach” by Visiting a Reservoir
Boulder Reservoir | The Denver Ear

Boulder Reservoir. Photograph by ©Salty Chip

If you feel like going on a beach vacation without boarding a plane, you should know that you can experience a similar outing right here in Colorado by swapping the ocean with the reservoir. Reservoirs usually include activities such as boating, swimming, sun bathing, water skiing, fishing, picnics, walking, running, cycling, wildlife viewing, SCUBA diving, archery and more.

There are many “beach-like” reservoirs in our state, one of them is the Aurora Reservoir that features over 800 acres of water surface.  The reservoir has a seasonal swim beach (open Memorial Day – late September) for sunbathing and swimming and offers array of rental boats. Cool off in the AWQUA Lounge, just steps from the swim beach and learn about the amazing journey water takes to reach our faucet. Other notable reservoirs are the Boulder Reservoir, Lake Dillon Reservoir and the Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Psst… Check out our list of the ‘14 Most Swimmable Lakes in Colorado’!

#4 Take a Tropical Vacation by Witnessing a Colorado Waterfall
Rifle Falls State Park | The Denver Ear

Rifle Falls State Park. Photograph by ©iris

If you thought going to the beach was not something you would expect to do in Colorado, then how about taking a tropical vacation? Colorado is home to many spectacular waterfalls.

Many people have heard of Hanging Lake, a wonder of nature that is suspended on the edge of Glenwood Canyon’s cliffs, however there are so many more magnificent waterfalls you should know about. Rifle Falls State Park boasts an unusual 70 foot triple waterfall, tumbling over a limestone cliff into an area of swimmable pools. Parallel to the waterfall you can also enter a series of limestone caves.

Rifle Falls State Park is also a great place to camp. Expect to witness many wildlife during your visit to Rifle Falls. Wildlife viewings include animals such as Turkey, Mule Deer, Great Blue Herons and more. There are 13 drive-in and seven walk-in campsites throughout the 48 acre park and many picnic areas as well. Every vehicle entering the park needs a valid park pass. Passes are $7 per day or $70 for an annual pass. Rifle Falls State Park is located in the town of Rifle, Colorado. 5775 CO-325, Rifle, CO 81650.

Fish Creek Falls at Steamboat Springs is another spectacular waterfall you should visit. Fish Creek Falls is a 283 foot tall(!) waterfall that is located just minutes from downtown Steamboat. Wilderness comes to life with a splash at the legendary falls, easily accessible for the entire family. A short 1/4-mile walk down a gravel path is a pristine view of the lower falls, while a moderate hike with picturesque views will take the more adventurous to Upper Fish Creek Falls and Long Lake, deep in the Routt National Forest. The vehicle pass for Fish Creek Falls is $5 and its address is Fish Creek Falls, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487.

Psst… Rifle Falls State Park was also featured in our ‘11 Most Unique Wedding Venues in Colorado‘ guide!

#5 Attend the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo & Art in the Park in Steamboat Springs

The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Art in the Park events offer artistry and color both on canvases and in the air making this weekend a staple of Steamboat Springs, Colorado in the summertime. This year’s Hot Air Balloon Rodeo & Art in the Park, will take place on July 8th – 9th, 2017. Get to the launch grounds early to see the balloons inflate. The rodeo portion consists of fun contests like dipping into Bald Eagle Lake and since balloon pilots can be pretty competitive, you’re guaranteed a good show.

Once the balloons are in the air, sip on coffee and eat a yummy crepe from one of the vendors as you watch more balloons dot the Yampa Valley sky. Just minutes away, another colorful scene awaits at Art in the Park, where arts and crafts, performances and an interactive children’s area will fill your day.

When the sun goes down head back up to the mountain area and take in the colors as the sun goes down and the balloons light up for the balloon glow on Mt. Werner. The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo launch site takes place at Bald Eagle Lake, 35565 South Highway 40, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487.

#6 See Wolves and Foxes Up Close at the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center
Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Sanctuary | The Denver Ear

Photograph by ©Mikey Lemoi

The Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center is a wolf sanctuary that is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums certified facility. The sanctuary provides animals  a natural habitat and is home to animals such as the Mexican Grey Wolves and Swift Foxes. The Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center educates the public about the importance of Wolves, Coyotes, and Foxes to our eco-system through tours and programs. It also educates the public about the importance of Preservation and Conservation of the forests, land, and water that supports wildlife, flora, and fauna for future generations to enjoy.

Guests can tour the sanctuary in multiple ways: a standard tour, a feeding tour and even full moon standard and feeding tours! Another great way to experience the sanctuary is by choosing the Alpha Tour. The Alpha Tour allows guests that are healthy, able-bodied and 18 years old and over, the opportunity to enter an enclosure with two staff members and have about 15 photos taken. Mature children 8 years old and over can interact with their red foxes. Guests are not allowed to rough house or play with the animals, only give soft pets and maybe get a wolf kiss.

Tour prices range from $15 – $20 for adults and $8 – $10 for children. Alpha Tours are $200 for two guests and $75 for each additional guest. The Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center is located at 4729 Twin Rocks Rd, Divide, CO 80814.

#7 Visit the Top of the World Rodeo & Donkey Derby Days in Cripple Creek
Top of the World Rodeo at Cripple Creek | The Denver Ear

Photograph by ©Visit Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is a historic gambling and mining town in Colorado. During the month of June, Cripple Creek offers two fun, family-friendly events: Top of the World Rodeo & Donkey Derby Days. Top of the World Rodeo is a Colorado Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) two-day sanctioned event that features two days of thrilling rodeo competitions, a street dance, mutton busting and more. The Top of the World Rodeo is named ‘Top of the World’ due to it taking it place at an elevation of 9,640 feet, the highest elevation rodeo in the world!

Donkey Derby Days at Cripple Creek | The Denver Ear

Photograph by ©Visit Cripple Creek

Donkey Derby Days is a chance to watch a race inspired by the town’s resident donkey herd and also includes games, live entertainment, heritage competitions and other fun family activities. Donkey Derby Days is held over two days and is completely free to attend, you can even bring your furry friends with you and enroll them in dog show competitions that include prizes.

Top of the World Rodeo takes place this year from June 9th through June 11th, 2017. Donkey Derby Days takes place this year from June 23rd through June 25th, 2017.

#8 View & Photograph a Herd of Wild Horses
Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses | The Denver Ear

Photograph by ©Hans Watson

View and capture images of a herd of free-roaming, wild horses at Sand Wash Basin in Moffat County. The Sand Wash Herd Management Area (HMA), managed by the Bureau of Land Management, includes more than 400 wild horses that roam the expanse of Sand Wash Basin. Sand Wash Basin holds nearly 155,000 acres of rugged desert.

The boundary of the Herd Management Area is fenced, except along State Highway 318, generally preventing wild horses from entering or leaving the area. However, there are no fences within the Herd Management Area, allowing horses to roam freely within the confines of the basin.

Even though the horses have ample territory to roam, most folks find it relatively easy to spot the herds. Witness the breathtaking sight of Greys, Buckskins, Sorrels and Paints running free this summer and experience a trip of a lifetime. *Spectators are asked to respect the horses and view them from a distance. The Herd of wild horses is located at Colorado 318, Maybell, CO 81640.

#9 Participate in Water Sport Festivals
FIBArk Whitewater Festival | The Denver Ear

FIBArk Whitewater Festival. Photograph by ©FIBArk

If you love many different types of water sports, yet don’t want to commit to engaging in only one of them, then you can combine multiple water sports in one day with summer water sport festivals.

The FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) Whitewater Festival presented by Eddyline Brewing, is the oldest and boldest whitewater festival and the city Salida’s signature event. FIBArk aims to promote, preserve, protect, and enhance whitewater paddle sports in the greater Salida area through education, competition, and commemoration. The festival features whitewater events such as the Downriver Race, the Hooligan Race, Freestyle Kayak, a Raft Rodeo, a Raft Sprint, a Pine Creek Race, a Slalom Race, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), a River Run Off and even an event for your furry friends with the Crazy Dog River.

The festival also includes a parade, mountain bike races, running races,  food, arts and crafts, a beer tent, a carnival, and a state-of-the art amphitheater for this year’s extraordinary musical line-up. The FIBArk Festival will take place in Downtown Salida from June 15th through June 18th, 2017.

Coors Light South Platte Riverfest | The Denver Ear

Coors Light South Platte Riverfest. Photograph by ©The Greenway Foundation

If you would like a festival that is closer to Denver, then you should check out the Coors Light South Platte RiverFest, presented by Elitch Gardens and benefiting The Greenway Foundation. This two-day festival is Denver’s premier urban RiverFest and includes events such as Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)/ Kayak/ Tube Races and SUP Showcases. Other activities include free stand up paddle board demos, a variety of riverside recreational activities, a kids zone, live music, beer, food vendors, and more. The festival will take place on June 24th and June 25th, 2017 at Confluence Park, 2250 15th St, Denver, CO 80202.

#10 Transport Back in Time and Gold Pan
Argo Gold Mine & Mill | The Denver Ear

Photograph by ©Vilseskogen

Gold-mining played a key role in the establishment of the state of Colorado. A gold discovery in 1858 in what is now the city of Denver sparked the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. In the early days of the gold rush people flocked to Denver ,yet bigger gold discoveries in the mountains, led people to other locations. Idaho Springs, is the city where the first major gold discovery was made in 1859 by prospector George A. Jackson. Jackson kept his find secret for several months, but after he paid for some supplies with gold dust, others rushed to follow, and the great Rocky Mountain gold-rush had begun.

Almost overnight 50,000 men poured into Clear Creek Canyon and after the easy placer gold was taken from the streams, the miners followed the trail of gold to its source in the mountain and the “hard rock” mining began. The Argo Tunnel was constructed in Idaho Springs in 1893 as a way to transport gold ore from various mines around the region. The Argo Mill was constructed to process the gold-bearing ore from these mines. When completed, the Argo would be the largest mill of its type in the world. The mill processed over 100 million dollars of gold ore (at the old-time prices of $18 to $35 per ounce). Today, the Argo Gold Mine & Mill is an opportunity for the public to learn the history of our state’s gold-rush.

The Argo Gold Mine & Mill offers visitors guided tours in the mine (sometimes these tours even include a live demonstration of the rock drilling too!) as well as guided tours in the mill. The outdoor portion of this summer suggestion is the activity at the end of the tour. After your tour you can ‘Pan for Gold’. Try your luck with an ore sample with real placer gold and keep what you find. They also offer gemstone panning. The Argo Gold Mine & Mill is located at 2350 Riverside Dr., Idaho Springs, CO 80452

If you want to skip touring a gold mine and simply jump straight into gold panning, you can do so at the 22nd Annual Gold Panning on the Platte on August, 12th, 2017. Gold Panning on the Platte is a way for you experience Colorado’s heritage by trying your hand at panning for gold in the South Platte River near Carson Nature Center. South Suburban Parks and Recreation naturalists will provide the expertise and equipment for families and individuals to search for gold – you get to take home all the gold you find!

The Gold Panning on the Platte event is free drop-in event and is a  unique opportunity for people to connect to the community and find out what life was like in the South Platte River Valley 150 years ago. (Donations are accepted to help protect open space). The 22nd Annual Gold Panning on the Platte will take place from 9am to 12pm at Carson Nature Center – South Platte Park, 3000 W Carson Dr, Littleton, CO 80120.

#11 Take a Scenic Hike
Eldorado Canyon State Park | The Denver Ear

Eldorado Canyon State Park. Photograph by ©Dayhikes Near Denver

If you have been envisioning hiking as a strenuous and laborious way to spend your day… then think again! Hiking doesn’t always require a lot of physical effort, and if you already decided to take a chance and try it, then these places will surely makeup for the little bit of (healthy!) exercise involved.

Eldorado Canyon State Park near Boulder, offers hiking trails that are even comfortable enough to take young children. Kids will love hiking over rocks along the streamside trail, peering into caves, and gazing up at the climbers on the towering canyon walls. The park features one of the best picnic areas in the state (allowing you to take a relaxing lunch break) with shallow areas of Boulder Creek which quickly fill with kids.

Another trail to know about is Adams Falls near the town of Grand Lake on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Adams Falls is a scenic hike you can enjoy with the entire family. The hike to Adams Falls is a relatively easy one, with only about 79 feet of elevation gain. The trail features natural stone stairs that make for an easier climb in the steeper spots. A rocky outlook peers down on the rushing falls, which are breathtaking and surrounded by small rocky cliffs. The falls give way to a river which trickles down and can be followed for about another half a mile. Otherwise, there is a loop trail up and back or you can just return the way you came.

Devil's Head Fire Lookout | The Denver Ear

Devil’s Head Fire Lookout. Photograph by ©Jesse Varner

And last we recommend the Devil’s Head Fire Lookout near Castle Rock. Devil’s Head is a distinct granite rock that you can see from the distance once you enter the area. The hike to Devils head is perhaps the best in the area to take your kids along. The majority of this hike is shaded by mixed Aspen and Pine forest. There are plenty of shaded benches where you can take a break to cool off, and catch your breath. A sign even marks the halfway point for you. Most importantly, you get to witness Devil’s Head which is included in the National Register of Historic Places!

What are your favorite things to do outdoors in Colorado during the summer? Share with our readers in the thread below!
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