Visiting Steamboat Springs in the Summer

Visiting Steamboat Springs in the Summer

When I think about the high-altitude mountain town of Steamboat Springs, I think of picturesque ski slopes and stunning mountain views. Although this beautiful mountain town does indeed offer powdery slopes, there’s an abundance of summer activities not to be missed.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers an Old West vibe rich in history. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver and a bit out of the way but so worth the drive.

Continuing with my Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns

In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-visit Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re too much fun not to.

Steamboat Springs is last on my list partly because one of these mountain towns had to be last, and secondly, it’s the town we’ve visited the least. However, it is the first place in Colorado that we traveled to with our new 5th wheel back in 2012, and we have very fond memories of that trip … well, except for the RV flat tire on our return home, but that’s another story.

camping Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Steamboat Lake State Park, #visitSteamboat, #campinginColorado

15 Things to do this summer in Steamboat Springs

1. Camping – Camping options around here are awesome. We loved camping at Steamboat Lake State Park which is located 27 miles north of town. Not only were we surrounded by stunning views in all directions, but it also made a great home base to explore the neighboring area. Anytime I can park near the water, I am one happy camper.

This state park can accommodate most RVs and offers both dry and electric sites. Al and I chose to camp on the peninsula where the sites have no hookups, are definitely smaller, and there’s a large area designated for tents only.

Stagecoach State Park is another big RV friendly campground and is located 17 miles south of town and is a very popular boating lake. I recommend making a reservation for a campsite anywhere near Steamboat Springs. For a full list of campgrounds in the area, here’s a list with a breakdown of all the amenities offered.

Out of all the mountain towns we’ve visited, Steamboat Springs offers some of the best camping options. Frisco (around Lake Dillon) comes in at a close second.

RV camped at Steamboat Springs with mountains in the background

2. Go for a paddle – With numerous lakes in the area and the Yampa River running right through Steamboat Springs, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding are popular and fun activities. No problem if you don’t have your own water vessel, there’s plenty of rentals around.

Several outfitters even offer rental tubes, so you can relax and float on Steamboat’s natural waterway and then catch a shuttle back to your car.

3. Soak in hot springs – Looking for more relaxation? Old Town Hot Springs is in the heart of downtown Steamboat and is one of the reasons the town is here. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a bit more of an adventure located on the edge of the Yampa Valley. Both offer a relaxing soak and a dip into Steamboat’s colorful history.

4. Alpine Slide – The first time I ever road an Alpine Slide was on a trip with my daughter to Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I had never heard of an Alpine Slide before, and let’s just say, one ride is not enough. So much fun! Nothing like taking a chairlift up the mountain and then shooshing down it on a sled like contraption. It’s a thrill!

I’ll admit, I was a little scared and timid the first time, but you can control the speed of your sled as you fly down the mountain. Did I mention how much fun this is?

Steamboat offers two exhilarating slides. The Outlaw Mountain Coaster is the longest coaster in North America at more than 6,280 linear feet. The track near Christie Peak Express descends more than 400 vertical feet and features dips, waves, turns, and 360-degree circles. The Howler Alpine Slide will wind you down a 2,400-foot track through the bends and curves of the natural landscape of beautiful Howelsen Hill. You’ll love the scenic views of downtown Steamboat as you ride the chairlift to the top.

5. Take a hike – I fell in love with the alpine forests, open meadows, beautiful aspen groves, lakes and streams around Steamboat, and my favorite way to enjoy these surroundings was via hiking. Numerous options range from a pleasant stroll along the Yampa River Core Trail, a short jaunt up to roaring Fish Creek Falls, or a couple hours on the Spring Creek Trail. For those more adventurous, you’ll be able to hike a full day or multi-day adventure in the Mount Zirkel or Flat Tops wilderness areas.

A trail at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado

6. Mountain biking – The area boasts more than 500 miles of singletrack. There are so many different places to go biking that it can be hard to narrow down. For casual cruising, the Yampa River Core Trail is a 7.5-mile paved multi-use route connecting the mountain and downtown areas.

Scenic road-riding options range from easy pedaling along River Road or Twentymile Road to a challenging hill climb up Rabbit Ears Pass. Then there’s the Emerald Mountain trail system accessible from downtown or the Steamboat Bike Park, which boasts better than 50 miles of gondola-accessible trails on the ski mountain, with rentals available at the base. You can mix and match the area’s various trails to make the right length and challenge for your personal needs.

7. Fishing – The Steamboat Springs area is renowned for its world-class fly fishing. Beginners can take a lesson with any number of outfitters and learn about fly casting, knots, entomology and more. In addition to the Yampa River, there’s an abundance of streams, lakes, and reservoirs for the more experienced angler to check out.

fishing boats at a mountain Lake

8. Shopping, art galleries, concerts, and events – Browse fine art. Steamboat is a creative and artsy town. A leisurely stroll through shops and art galleries is always entertaining. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, and more. Usually, in early July there’s an art event set at the base of the ski area; Art on the Mountain.

The town is also host to events, concerts and theatrical performances.

9. Visit a museum – Steamboat Springs is known for its great appreciation of cultural heritage. The newly expanded and renovated Tread of Pioneers Museum offers something for everyone. The heart of the museum is a 1901 Queen Anne-style Victorian home with turn-of-the-century furnishings. The Western Heritage Exhibit, home of an extensive firearms collection, traces the areas agricultural history and the story of an infamous outlaw, Harry Tracy. The Tread of Pioneers Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and shares the history and heritage of the Steamboat Springs area.

10. Golf, Mini Golf, Disc Golf or Sporting Clays – Steamboat Springs has three 18-hole golf courses that challenge every club in your bag. Then there’s mini golf, disc golf, and even golf with a gun aka Sporting Clays.

11. Visit the Yampa River Botanic Park – Go for a walk in the park while enjoying beautiful flowers, trees, and more.  Every garden has a different focus with a unique setting … its own slope, sun exposure, soil chemistry, trees and shrubs which determine what will grow. Since 1992 the Yampa River Botanic Park has grown from a flat, horse pasture into a six-acre gem of over 50 gardens with ponds, benches, and sculptures.

The Park is free and open to the public from May to October. It serves as a place of serenity, as a venue for a summer music and theater festivals, as a site for weddings and similar events, and a resource for individuals. The Park sits at 6,800 feet above sea level, but through the use of carefully developed microclimates supports plants from the entire Yampa River Basin, which runs from 12,000 feet in the Flattops Wilderness to 4,000 feet where it enters the Green River.

Colorado wildflowers #Bokeh #wildflowersinColorado

12. Horseback Riding – Single-day horseback trail rides and multi-day pack trips are an everyday event for local cowboys around here. Visit the Flat Tops Wilderness, Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Routt National Forest, or Howelsen Hill on horseback or ride for two hours or an all-day photo safari or dinner on the trail. You can even ride a horse-drawn wagon for dinner on a ranch.

13. Farmers Market – Fill up on food and fun when you shop, eat and browse at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market. This will give you a great taste of the local culture and unique personality of Steamboat. The farmers market runs from 9 to 2 on Saturdays starting in early June through mid-September.

It’s also a great place to pick up a meaningful souvenir that’s not just regular tourist trap kitsch.

14. Go on a scenic drive

Al and I love exploring the backcountry. So, a scenic drive is a great way for us to take in the surrounding beauty. During our stay, we didn’t venture down any 4×4 roads but did explore the different lakes, campgrounds, and small towns.

One day, during our return to camp, we witnessed a sheepherder and his flock. I asked if it was okay for me to photograph him, but he spoke no English. If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably from South America. I did take a couple of quick snapshots and offered him a cold bottle of water which he seemed thrilled to receive.

You never know what you’ll see when you go off the beaten path exploring.

Shepard, sheep herder, herding sheep in Colorado

15. Dining – The dining options are endless. You’ll find everything from breweries to coffee shops to casual dining to fine dining.

Conclusion

This concludes my posts on my top 5 favorite mountain towns. I assure you, one visit to Colorado is not enough. The Centennial State’s crisp air, endless walking trails, inimitable Western culture, and stunning mountain beauty are just a few reasons to return time and again. I feel very fortunate that I was able to call Colorado home for over twenty years.

Do you have a favorite Colorado mountain town?

camping at Steamboat Lake, Colorado, #Coloradodreaming #RVingColorado #Steamboatliving

 


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Let’s Sum it Up !

Steamboat Lake State ParkThis past week spent at Steamboat Lake State Park has flown by.  We’ve hiked, we’ve explored, taken tons of pictures, enjoyed a couple of great campfires, read, had some yummy meals, and relaxed.

Watching the sky and weather change through-out the day, never got boring.  I found myself changing clothes three times a day.  I felt like a school girl, never satisfied with my outfit.  Now the adage in Colorado is “dress in layers”.  Ok, tried that and failed.  I try….pants, no wait, shorts.  Long sleeves, no short sleeves, long sleeves, ok short sleeves with light jacket, maybe.  Oh no, this doesn’t coordinate with that.  Oh dear, with such limited closet space, what’s a gal to do?Steamboat Lake State Park

Columbia ClothingIn all seriousness, I don’t get too worked up about my attire these days while back woods n it.  That is unless daughter is around.  I might get, “Really, mother. You’re not seriously going to wear that?”   Then it’s back to the closet for this mother to find something that coordinates with mother earth and mother nature.  I can think of another word that aptly fits with the word mother, but we won’t go there.

I can’t go wrong with my white Columbia shirt.  I can leave the sleeves down or roll them up and white goes with anything, but best of all I found this gem at an Outlet Mall at a fraction of retail….yeah!  Sure to amuse was this ever-changing weather along with my numerous clothing changes.  Al and Bear were duly entertained, and I ….. well let’s just say, I was humored.Steamboat Lake State Park

Although we didn’t make it out on the water during this particular visit, not without a little begging on my part, we did hike and drive around the area.  We also explored Hahns Peak Lake and Pearl Lake State Park.

Steamboat Lake State ParkWe explored downtown Steamboat Springs and spent a couple of hours hanging out at a quaint little bookstore…. Off the Beaten Path Bookstore & Coffee HouseFree WiFi, great coffee, and enough seating to hang out.   I’m a sucker for Cookbooks and books on Travel.  As a matter of fact this trip to Steamboat Lake and our earlier trip to Crested Butte / Lake Irwin were both inspired by a book;  Colorado Campgrounds, The 100 Best And All the Rest by Gil Folsom.   We’ve had this book sitting on our bookshelf since 2000 and have referred to it a few times.

Hahns Peak
Hahns Peak

While wandering around Off the Beaten Path, I see a posting on the window and at the coffee shop counter discouraging the purchase of a Kindle.  It goes on to note these e readers will be the death of bookstores such as this one.  Hum, not the first time I’ve heard this.  Well, since we’ve hung out here awhile, it’s only appropriate I support this establishment and make a purchase (in addition to the coffee and treats).  I am a huge fan of books written by Moon and find one I don’t own and must have; Colorado Camping, the Complete Guide to Tent and RV camping by Moon Outdoors.  Now granted, we use the internet for a lot of our info on travels, etc. but I sooo enjoy a good old fashioned book in my hands.  There’s something about flipping pages, folding page corners, and keeping notes stuck between pages that technology just can’t replace.  I understand the need for space in an RV, but there’s always a little corner that can be designated for a few books.  I actually have a book self above the frig in my RV.Steamboat Lake State Park

We’ve supported local establishments and explored, now it’s time to return to camp and enjoy a few of our purchases.  You know, the bottle (or two) purchased at the mom and pop liquor store.  Life’s good.  Tomorrow we return to reality….Steamboat Lake State Park

Nothing to do, but Admire the View

SteamboatWe watched the sunrise.  We ate breakfast, drank coffee, and just sat while admiring the view.  We hear cows mooing and sheep baaing. Al and I are both morning people.  As a matter of fact, when we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, my favorite time of day on the strip was 5:30 – 6:00 in the morning as the sun was rising.  And why would I be on the Strip that early?  Let’s just say “college football and checking spreads”.  The rest of that story will just have to wait.Steamboat Lake State Park

Ah, back to the beauty of Steamboat Lake and the Colorado Rockies.  Steamboat Lake State Park is located 26 miles north of the town of Steamboat Springs and sits at an elevation of 8000 feet above sea level.  There’s 198 camp sites and the park is open year-round, but full-facilities are only available late May to mid October.  It gets cold around here and Steamboat receives plenty of snow each winter….over 300 inches.

Steamboat Lake State Park
We’re camped on a peninsula 🙂
Steamboat Lake State Park
Camper Cabin

This 1,055 acre man-made lake is a haven for water sports and anglers.  Steamboat Lake is well known for sizable rainbow trout.  Visitors can rent a watercraft from the marina; canoes, kayaks, ski boats, and fishing boats.  There are plenty of hiking trails in the area, and are surrounded by meadows of wildflowers.

The Dutch Hill Campground offers campsites with electric, campsites without electric, and Camper Cabins for those lacking their own equipment.  We opt to camp at the Bridge Island Loop, which is on a peninsula and surrounded by water.  We take a small bridge over a creek to access the land.  This is a less popular camping loop since there’s no electric.  Fine by us, we have a generator and plenty of battery operated lights.  Right now there’s only two other campers in this area.  However, the weekend will fill up.  Thus, we’ll leave prior to then.  Right now, we’ll enjoy our own private slice of paradise.Steamboat

Sandhill crane
Sandhill Crane

The weather is gorgeous today….sunny and 72 degrees.  It’s the third week in August.  Al and I take a couple of short hikes today.  We meet and visit with the couple hosting at the campground and they share some information on the area.  We enjoy lunch at camp at the picnic table and later in the evening a wonderful campfire.

Wildlife in the area consists of sandhill cranes, waterfowl, elk, deer, bear, coyote, fox, beaver, chipmunks and other small mammals.  The trash containers have a special locking mechanism, making it “bear proof”.Steamboat Lake State Park

Oh, what shall we do tomorrow?

Hahns Peak
Admiring Hahns Peak

Hubby wins !

Steamboat SpringsAs Al and I enjoy a leisurely lunch on the outdoor patio at Grappa Bistro in downtown Golden, we discuss a new location.  Although I am in love with Golden, Colorado, it’s time to move on…..move on to cooler temps.  I suggest Rocky Mountain National Park.  It’s August 20th and the tourist season is winding down.  So I feel confident we’ll have no trouble finding a camp spot.  Besides, it should only take us about an hour and a half at the most to get to Estes Park.

Al has other thoughts.  He suggests Steamboat Springs and the campground at Steamboat Lake. We return to the RV and he presents me with information on Steamboat Springs and the surrounding area.  It’s been almost fourteen years since our last visit to Steamboat.  Al, the consummate gentleman, always acquiesces to my whims.  Perhaps it’s time I agree to his……nah, I allow him to plead his case and pry me with champagne and chocolate before submitting….”you win”.  I’m kidding, no champagne was needed.  I really didn’t care where in Colorado we went, but it was fun playing with hubby.

Golden Colorado
Al taking care of ‘business’

We say our good-byes to daughter and the next morning we depart Golden and head west on Interstate 70.  We’ll need to cross the Continental Divide twice.  Our first summit is Loveland Pass at 11,158 feet above sea level.  We drive through the famous Eisenhower Tunnel.  This tunnel is the highest vehicle tunnel in the United States and is approximately 1.7 miles in length.  The Eisenhower Tunnel is located 50 miles west of Denver.

SteamboatI have no photos because I’m busy being a back seat driver co-pilot.  As we exit the tunnel we are graced with the most gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains.  However, what goes up, must come down.  We decrease in elevation with a series of turns….first left, then right.  Al downshifts the truck transmission to keep from riding the brake. That’s ok because I’m pushing down hard on my imaginary brake on the passenger side and gripping the “ah sh*t” handle until my knuckles turn white.  I’m very used to mountain driving and don’t usually stress, but we’re pulling 31 feet and can’t take the turns like a normal vehicle.  We also don’t have the ability to stop as quickly.

Whew, one pass behind us.  At the towns of Dillon and Silverthorne, we head north on Highway 9 and eventually pick up Highway 40 in the town of Kremmling.  We’re heading toward the northwest part of the State of Colorado.  Rabbit Ears Pass is our next Continental Divide crossing at an elevation of 9426 feet.  This pass is long and more gradual.  No white knuckles necessary!

We arrive in the town of Steamboat Springs in time for lunch.  We manage to find parking and a rustic, quaint restaurant where we devour a couple of Buffalo Burgers before heading north on County Road 129, twenty-six miles to Steamboat Lake.

Steamboat Lake
Steamboat Lake State Park

We arrive at Steamboat Lake State Park and set up camp on Bridge Island; a less popular loop without electric that sits on a peninsula.  We have a private spot in paradise.  We spend the rest of the evening relaxing and taking in the beauty……Steamboat