Colorado Adventure Ideas

Enjoy the mountain air and get your adventure on! Top ideas include: National Parks, Rafting, Hot Springs, Mountain Biking, and climbing a 14er.

National Parks

Colorado is the home to 4 of the 61 national parks located in the USA.

Rocky Mountain National Park

This park is close to Denver, making it a popular day trip for many. Driving from Denver, you’ll likely want to stop first at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center just outside Estes Park, Colorado. It’s a big park, so allot yourself with enough time to explore. The park’s tallest mountain is a famous 14er called Longs Peak. Open Memorial date to late fall.

Stream fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park

Picture curtesy of the Colorado Tourism website – visit to get more information.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Here, you’ll be rewarded by some incredible views of the San Luis Valley. Experience the tallest sand dunes in America the best way possible – by sledding and sliding down them. Don’t forget to bring a sled if you’re going to visit. Hike to the top of a dune or two and have fun sliding down!

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Picture curtesy of the Colorado Tourism website – visit to get more information.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

This park’s highlight is a 53 mile stretch of narrow gorge. Great place to stargaze. This gourge apparently only receives about 33 minutes of sunlight a day!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park's dark reaches, near Montrose, CO

Picture curtesy of the Colorado Tourism website – visit to get more information.

Mesa Verde National Park

This park is a UNESCO heritage site. The park is home to an incredible amount of Ancestral Puebloan archaeology.

Mesa Verde National Park's Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings

Picture curtesy of the Colorado Tourism website – visit to get more information.

Rafting

The rafting season spans from late spring to early fall.  Although popularity has declined over the last decade, this experience is often a enjoyable experience, especially for those who have never gone rafting.  The Arkansas river is the primary river for rafting, and access is about 2-3 hours from Denver, primarily along Highway 24/285, between Canon City and Buena Vista.  The Colorado River also serves as a worthy choice and runs west of Denver along I-70 2-4 hours between about Vail and Grand Junction.  The Gunnison, Yampa, and other rivers also offer water recreation options.

A couple tour operators:

Arkansas River – Royal Gorge, Bighorn Sheep Canyon, Cottonwood Family Float, and Guided Fishing trip options available at Arkansas River Tours.

Colorado River – Glenwood Canyon is also a family-friendly option.

The Shoshone section of the Colorado can be rafted via Timberline Tours.  Per Timberline Tours, the Shoshone section of the Colorado River is best for rafting each summer from July through September, but river dynamics change throughout this seasonal window. Shoshone becomes prime for rafting in midsummer (July), when water flows remain steadily supplied by the dam. Shoshone operates at commercial safety cutoff limits in the early summer season (June), when snowmelt combines with open flows from the dam to really get the Colorado River raging, and it’s not available for commercial rafting until the water flow is stabilized. They advise those who would like to have a less intense rafting experience and require those who do not meet our age or weight minimums to opt for the Shoshone Skip the Rapids trip.

Gunnison River – If you are in town in late June, the city of Gunnison puts on a River Festival every year.  Rafting along the Gunnison river is an adventure, so bring your wild side and let it loose.

Hot Springs

The state has a number of hot springs, many of which are popular to visit after a day of hiking or skiing.  The springs are spread out across the state.  The map of top springs to visit are below courtesy of the Colorado tourism website.

8 Best Hot Springs in Colorado Worthy of a Road Trip

  • Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs:  Have been there and found this spring to be tremendous.  All natural feel with an ice-cold river right next to it that you can take a dip in, if daring, and jump right into the 100+ degree sulfur hot spring water afterwards.  Well worth the trip.
  • Hot Sulphur Springs
  • Glenwood Hot Springs
  • Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores.
  • The Springs Resort & Spa, Pagosa Springs:  Very classy place and luxurious.
  • Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, Nathrop:
  • Cottonwood Hotsprings Inn & Spa, Buena Vista:  Have been here and found this place to be relatively low-key, but relaxing.  Simple place with a few pools of varying temperature.  Would not go out of the way to visit, but if you are in the area and tired, if would be a good place to relax for a few minutes.
  • Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves, Glenwood Springs.

For more information, visit the Colorado Historical Springs Website or the Trip to Discover Blog on the best springs to visit. 

Mountain Biking

If you are looking to mountain bike, take a trip to Gunnison and Crested Butte would be in order.  The RootsRated blog chronicles how this place came to be the Mountain Biking (MTB) hub of Colorado:

Crested Butte is just four hours from Denver, but with its rugged, towering mountains and small town vibe, the Wildflower Capital of Colorado feels about a million miles away from the big city. And despite its reputation as a ski town (and don’t get us wrong, the powder is just as magical as you’ve heard), Crested Butte has just as much going for it in the summer. In addition to the wildflowers, which hit their peak in mid-July, summer in this charming mountain town means it’s mountain biking season. In fact, if you’re a mountain biker, you’ve got Crested Butte to thank.

It’s tough to narrow down the best trails in CrestedButte and the Gunnison Valley, which the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association says offers access to more than 750 miles of singletrack on over 150 different trails. Thanks to the area singletrack’s characteristically grippy dirt, vast, wildflower-filled meadows, and plenty of opportunities for rocky, technical riding, you’ll be hard-pressed to leave Crested Butte. For intermediate riders, Ochs recommends the Lupine 1 and 2 trails, which you can link with Gunsight Connector, or Snodgrass and the Lower Loop.

Intermediate to advanced riders shouldn’t miss the 20-mile Doctor Park Loop, where you’ll climb stout doubletrack up to almost 11,000 feet and be rewarded with a flowy, and at times technical, descent. The 403 and 401 trails, arguably the most widely beloved trails in the area, have a reputation for a reason— the views of the rugged Elk Range are pure Rocky Mountain beauty, with lush alpine meadows carpeting the base of towering, dramatic, snow-capped mountains. Feeling adventurous? Head to Teocalli Ridge or Deer Creek.

“If you’re here for a week and you do one of these rides each day,” Ochs says, “You’ll have just ridden five of the best mountain bike trails anywhere.”

Couple of Fun Races – 

Fat Tire 40:  This race is for serious mountain bikers.  The course has 6500 feet of elevation gain and 40 miles of track.  125 people competed in 2017.  Race during late June.

CBKlunkers:  This race is for the slightly less-serious bike group.  Only a 40 mile course one way on a klunker bike from Crested Butte to Aspen!  Early September.

Climbing 14ers

The state has 58 of these mountains, with the record climbing all of them at about 10 days.  For many, climbing 1 is an accomplishment.  Others want to check them all of the list.  If you have not yet climbed a 14er, you have not experienced Colorado.  You can also drive up Mt. Evans (west of Denver) or shuttle up to Pikes Peak (west of Colorado Springs), if you are not able to hike in order to get the views.  Check out the 14ers website for more information.

More Great Ideas

For more – check out 100 Best Things to Do in Colorado by Your RV Lifestyle.