Last Updated on January 16, 2021 by Natalie Rabinowitz
Americas Wild West
Colorado is the Wild West of America. Open Spaces to fantastic hiking and biking trails, wildlife, skiing, white water rafting, the Rocky Mountains, archaeology, petroglyphs, and yes, Colorado became the second state to legalize marijuana.
Home for 19 years.
I never had the intention of moving to Colorado. But I was young and had the opportunity for new experiences and adventure. I moved from Boston with an x-boyfriend. We were offered a job over the phone to work at Copper Mountain. The old fashioned way before mobile phones and the internet! Finding a job was the undemanding part. Finding a place to live wasn’t as easy.
We ended up living at the Tabor Grand Hotel in Leadville. 10,152 ft above sea level, and yes, you can feel it — a fabulous quirky old mining town whose population was over 15,000 in 1880. Leadville became the world’s largest silver and gold mining town. Dubbed the “Silver City” and the last home to Doc Holliday.
Leadville has a unique charm. You are stepping back in time with the 1800’s architecture lining up on Main Street. Leadville is the city where the May Company department store (now a part of the Federated Department Stores) was established. Visit and enjoy a meal at the authentic Silver Dollar Saloon built in the mid-1800s. Check out the Delaware hotel and Western Hardware store as well.
My favourite hangout was Frisco located in Summit County. A small mining town that has continued to flourish with people and traffic. The vibe is laid back, with friendly locals, amazing views, Lake Dillon that has an excellent bike path circling the Lake, and an abundance of endless hiking trails. Right next door is Silverthorne that has a large Outlet store post. If you are a shopper, it is a place to wander. I still call Frisco home.
If you ski, Ski Cooper located just outside Leadville is the most affordable place to go. Summit County has an abundance of resorts to choose from. Copper Mountain, which has a ski resort village that stands alone from all the others and situated between Leadville and Frisco. Within the area is Breckenridge, Vail, and Keystone, which offers night skiing. Further West you will find the ski towns of Aspen and Snowmass. Closer to Glenwood Springs, followed by Telluride, which is in the Southwest of Colorado.
After a year in Leadville and commuting to Copper Mountain with some of the most scenic drives and insane white-outs, we opted to move down to lower elevation. 6,000 ft to be exact.
Colorado Springs has a different diversity. It is an Alpine desert. There is now an overgrowth of Californians and Texans that have moved in. I remember when street lights were not synchronized. Out East was pure open prairie. Military bases dot the proximity of the city and you will see a lot of soldiers in and out of military wear.
Regardless, Colorado Springs has a unique history. The Olympic Training Center resides in what was the former air force base. Nikola Tesla lived here. Excellent hiking trails with spectacular views and bike trails that run along with the front range that will take you south to Pueblo and north towards Denver. This is a true outdoor paradise.
Fifteen years in Colorado Springs and a job loss, I packed up and moved to Boulder. The city surrounded by an invisible bubble. You would have to live there to understand the invisible bubble. Boulder is like no other city in Colorado. Liberal, laid back, college town, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and an hour away from Estes Park. Lots of start-up companies in the health food and outdoor industry have come out of Boulder. Some of the best hiking you will find anywhere! Pearl Street is where all the action is. A mix of high-end shops, galleries, restaurants, street artists and musicians, beautiful flowers in the summer, and the everlasting Colorado sun.
Things to know
- Marijuana is legal, but you cannot take it out of state.
- The elevation in Colorado varies depending on where you go. Regardless, Colorado is a high altitude state. Please take precaution. Drink a lot of water, eat fruit, and consume alcohol in moderation. You might brush it off thinking you feel great. Trust me, I got walloped when I moved to Leadville.
- There is no other way to say this but the Public transportation system is awful so you should opt to rent a car.
Foothills of the Rocky Mountains
Boulder is a University town that sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder is enveloped within an invisible bubble. It is something the locals who live there understand. I being one of them. Southwest of Boulder is the stunning jagged rock formations of the Flatirons. A plethora of some of the best hiking trails. If you are not a resident of Boulder, you will need a permit for the majority of trails. Apres hike requires a visit to downtown Pearl Street. There is an abundance of shops and restaurants. Lively street performers from around the world add to the Boulder vibe.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is an open-air amphitheatre surrounded by red rock formations. Live concerts are showcased by A list performers as well as a variety of recreation from tours, hiking, biking, and shopping. (Red Rocks Online)
Estes Park is located outside of Boulder and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park nestles this thriving town with lots to offer from the great outdoors to restaurants and shopping. There is an abundance of wildlife to see. Elk, foxes and more elusively moose and bears. Visit the Stanley Hotel that was the inspiration of Stephen King’s The Shining. (Visites Park)
Pikes Peak: The highest summit of the Rocky Mountains on the front range. The inspiration for “America the Beautiful” written by Katharine Lee Bates. Hike it or drive it. The weekends will be busy and congested so go early or during the week. (Pikes Peak)
Garden of the Gods: Fabulous hike amongst incredible towering sandstone formations. You can also drive through the park but your best bet is to park at the visitor center. Located across the street from the main entrance. The weekends will be busy and congested (if driving through) so go early or before sunset or during the week. (Garden of Gods)
Air Force Academy is the military academy for officer cadets of the United States Air Force. Cadet Chapel is the main attraction; however, it is closed from 2019-2023 for renovation. Regardless, there are some fantastic hiking and biking trails. (USAF)
Broadmoor Hotel is a World Class Resort hotel built in 1918 with Cheyenne Mountain in the background. Take a walk around the Lake, enjoy a spa day or a refreshment and check out the collection of empty wine and whiskey bottles dating back to the late 1800s. Known as “bottle alley” that is found by the lobby, next to La Taverne restaurant. (Broadmore)
South West Colorado
Cañon City is the “Corrections Capital of the World” boasting nine state and four federal prisons. On a lighter side, but with a significant drop, check out The Royal Gorge. The highest suspension bridge measuring at 1,854 ft (565 m) that hovers above the Arkansas River. Outdoor activities include white water rafting, zip-lining, and hiking.
Bishop Castle: Colorado has a castle. If you find yourself driving south on Interstate 25, take a detour onto 165 West to see this unique castle. Forty years in the making; built solely by hand by Jim Bishop. Jim might seem familiar as he resembles Vincent Price.
Great Sand Dunes National Park: Huge dunes with the stunning snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background. An abundance of outdoor activities that includes hiking, backpacking, sandboarding/sand sledding, and swimming. Pay attention to the four seasons. Spring can bring high winds and the summer is hot. The sand surface can exceed 150 degrees, Autumn is mild with chilly nights, and Winter can bring snow. (NPS GOV)
Mesa Verde National Park is located in southwest Colorado and is the ancestral home featuring cliff dwellings of the ancient Anasazi Ancestral Puebloans. A must visit if you have an interest in Native America and Rock Art. NPS. While in the area, stop over to visit Durango. Home to Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. A beautiful drive as well between Durango and Silverton, relishing what life was like in the Wild West with its historic 19th-century architecture. Great shops, restaurants, arts and culture as well. (Durango)
Telluride is a former mining town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, at the base of Telluride Ski Resort. Check out the historic 19th-century architecture and enjoy the abundance of hiking. Great shops and restaurants as well. (Telluride)
Frisco/Breckenridge: Located in the heart of Summit County and accessible to Copper Mountain, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Arapahoe Basin. En route to Leadville and the gateway to Western Colorado. Lake Dillon warrants a day visit or more. Hang out at the Marina, kayak, walk or bike, with gorgeous views all the way around. A definite stopover to enjoy the architecture, shopping, restaurants as well. (Town Of Frisco, Town of Breckenridge)
Aspen: High-class ski resort town that offers an abundance of hiking trails, high-end restaurants and boutiques. One of the most beautiful drives to get to Aspen is via Independence Pass that reaches an elevation of 12,095 feet and crosses over the Continental Divide. Access is South of Leadville via Twin Lakes on Highway 82. Due to severe winter conditions, Independence Pass is closed from October – May. Make sure to check conditions before going. (Aepenowmass)
The resort town of Glenwood Springs is en route to Aspen. It is also the gateway to the West. Glenwood Springs is known for its hot springs and the resting place of Doc Holliday. A fabulous hike is Hanging Lake. It takes about two to four hours to reach with an elevation gain of 734 feet and rated as moderate. One of the best hikes in Colorado, when not packed with tourists wearing the wrong shoes. The waterfalls are breath-taking, and the water is a turquoise crystal blue. There is no swimming allowed but you can venture behind the more towering waterfall. Surrounded by rock formations, within Glenwood Canyon is a fabulous paved bike trail and white water rafting on the Colorado River.
This is just a smidgen of things to see and do in Colorado. If you want to know more or looking for some tips, please email me. I would be more than happy to offer ideas and suggestions based on your interests, free.