Colorado is perhaps the most popular outdoor adventure hub in the entire United States and the statistics help to bare this claim out. Considered one of the healthiest states in the country, Colorado has the lowest rate of obesity and the longest life expectancy of any other state in the U.S.
With an abundance of some of the nation’s most stunning scenery and tallest mountains, it is not hard to see why Coloradans are so active. The Centennial State is widely considered the gateway to the American West and is home to the Rocky Mountains as well as high plains, forests, canyons, and rivers. Every imaginable outdoor activity can be done here.
Roughly 85 million people visit Colorado each year and many of them are destined for popular mountain towns or slated for trips in the magnificent backcountry. Entire books could be (and have been) written about everything there is to do in Colorado’s great outdoors.
Since you could spend an entire lifetime wandering the wilderness of Colorado and still not see everything the state has to offer, we’ve taken the time to compile a shortlist of some of the top one and two-day activities available, so you can begin planning your next mountain holiday right now!
Situated in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Aspen has been a haven for all types of skiing enthusiasts since the 1930s. Nowadays, the town’s name is practically synonymous with backcountry skiing.
Located in a remote area of the Sawatch Range, the backcountry around Aspen boasts numerous alpine bowls, steep cols, and tree-lined ridges, all of which allow for scenic and action-packed day trips.
The nearby Elk Mountains boast numerous ski lifts, which allow you to gain some elevation and head out on a variety of different backcountry routes through various different types of terrain.
Aspen is also a popular starting location for backcountry skiing trips in the surrounding resorts. Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, and Buttermilk are easily accessible and offer access to all kinds of incredible views and excellent landscapes.
Vail, another popular Coloradan ski haven, sits conveniently in between Aspen and Denver, making it another popular backcountry destination for powder hounded headed to Aspen. If you have the time to spare, spend a day exploring the White River National Forest and Vail Mountain.
Few places offer the romance and incredible beauty of Aspen. Backcountry skiing here is an experience like no other!
While Aspen is undoubtedly one of the country’s leading winter sports hubs, there is no lack of incredible outdoor adventures to be had here in the summer either.
Among the most popular and scenic is the one-day hiking option from Aspen to Crested Butte. The hike begins in the Maroon Bell Valley and takes you past numerous stunning geological formations. Don’t forget your camera as this is some of the most photogenic scenery in the entire country!
The hike takes you past several mountain lakes before heading into a pine forest, where you can get an excellent vista out over Pyramid Peak. Before long, you begin a fairly strenuous ascent up an exposed bit of trail before crossing onto West Maroon Pass.
From here, you pass through a wildflower-filled basin, soaking in the incredible alpine views. Once you reach the trailhead, a shuttle bus takes you to Crested Butte, before returning you to Aspen at the end of the day.
There are few better ways to spend a summer’s day in the Rockies!
Situated amidst the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, Ouray is frequently referred to as the Switzerland of America. Part of the reason for the comparison is the similar climate, stunning alpine scenery and, of course, the excellent ice climbing.
Ouray Ice Park is the ultimate destination for ice climbing enthusiasts. It boasts some of the best-uninterrupted ice flows in the entire world and is, therefore, a destination for mountaineers from around the globe.
There are plenty of routes for intermediate and advanced climbers as well as great views waiting at the top of frozen waterfalls and ice flows.
The Skylight area is also located just outside of the town and is another great spot to head out for even more ice climbing adventure, boasting some of the state’s hidden gems, in terms of ice climbing.
When you’re done on the ice, be sure to take a refreshing soak in the natural hot springs in Ouray, another popular draw to the little mountain town.
Sitting at the bottom of a network of valleys in the center of the Rocky Mountains, Hartman Rocks boasts a series of interconnected trails in a jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape.
Just 15 minutes south of the city of Gunnison, the rugged terrain and more than 60 kilometers of trails are perfectly suited for a day of mountain biking. Plenty of excellent views of the surrounding mountains and low-lying valley landscapes abound.
While the trails are best suited for intermediate-level mountain bikers, offering plenty of opportunities to improve techniques as well as try out all sorts of adrenaline-pumping challenges, there are also plenty of parts perfectly appropriate for novice mountain bikers.
Among the most popular routes is a 20-kilometer loop that takes you along ridgelines, up steep inclines and down amazing runs. Expect to ascend and descend about 1,5000 meters on an average grade of five percent, with a maximum one of 21 percent. Talk about a thrilling descent!
There are also plenty of other loops and routes available for mostly intermediate-level mountain bikers. The 4.5-kilometer Evans Loop is perfect for beginners, offering the opportunity to get used to mountain biking in a manageable way.
Rising to 4.346 meters in elevation, Longs Peak cuts an imposing figure above the Rocky Mountain National Park skyline. It is the highest peak in the park and the tallest in northern Colorado.
This iconic mountain was first climbed nearly 150 years ago and has become a symbol of Colorado, featuring on the state’s quarter-dollar coin.
Longs Peak is also the perfect mountaineering destination for both beginners as well as more advanced climbers. Regardless of the route you choose to take to the top, the climb requires about two days.
Starting on day one, you will trek for nine kilometers through the forest and begin to ascend past a rugged boulder field. After spending the night in the shadow of the summit, there are a few options to continue.
Novice climbers can taker the keyhole route, which winds around the mountains and only requires some scrambling as well as hiking along steep ledges. More advanced mountaineers may opt for the Cable Route via the North Face, which combines traverses with some M2-level climbing until you reach the summit.
Either way, stunning views of the national park as well as the surrounding mountains are the perfect reward for your efforts. Don’t forget your camera!
Sitting just to the west of Boulder, on the Front Range of the majestic Rocky Mountains, sits a veritable playground for rock climbing enthusiasts.
The five conglomeratic sandstone rock formations, each of which are roughly shaped like flatirons, serve as the gatekeepers to the Rocky Mountains and offer numerous moderately angled faces and steep, unique ascents to keep rock climbers of every level occupied for an entire weekend, if not longer.
A bit of hiking is required on the approach to each of these massive rocks, but the scenery is great and as you gain elevation, there are amazing views back down into Boulder.
Each of these rocks offers a range of climbing options, from alpine to trad. The Flatirons are also renowned for having some of the best beginner-level multi-pitches in the entire country.
With more than 300 meters of vertical climbing available on each, you’ll surely be able to fill an entire day just getting up one before taking a rest and gazing out over the high plains.
If you finish all of these off and are looking to try out a few other climbs, El Dorado Canyon is just a 10-minute drive south of the Flatirons too!
There are few places in the United States better suited for outdoor adventure than colorful Colorado. Whether you have only a couple of days or an entire month to spare, you’re sure to find a plethora of amazing activities at any time of year!
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