Mike and I recently got back from a 2 week trip to Colorado to visit my family over the holidays. If you are new, my parents moved to Denver last May for job reasons. It has been a big change that we are all getting used to, but out of all the states to move to, I am so glad it was Colorado.
Colorado is one of Mike and I’s favorite places in the world. We mostly travel there in the summertime, so it was fun to switch things up and experience Colorado during the winter. Colorado has very drastic temperatures. Some places like Denver can be 50 degrees while there could be a snow blizzard in the mountains. Colorado has the most sunny days in a year out of any state. The “winter” months in Colorado can be anywhere from mid October to the end of May.
COLORADO WEATHER TIPS
- Winter can start mid-October to the end of May. May is notorious for sometimes being the snowiest month. June is the true start of summer. Temps can be up in the 80’s in June
- Colorado is one of the sunniest states. The majority of days are sunny. Usually you can expect rain or snowfall around 2pm each day for an hour.
- If you are wanting to experience the fall in Colorado. You have a VERY tiny window. It usually starts the last week of September/First week of October and lasts for a week (maybe 2 if you are lucky) This year Mike and I visited during the last week of September during Peak fall time. The next weekend it snowed.
- Denver is actually pretty warm. The first few days we were there this past December were mid 60’s. However because you are by the mountains the weather can change within the snap of your fingers. It would be 60 one day and then freezing and a blizzard the next. My parents say they usually get snow about once every 1-2 weeks.
- Colorado is very dry. The summertime is AMAZING! There is no such thing as air conditioning. It can be high 80’s during the day and get in the mid 60’s at night. It is amazing! The higher you are in the mountains, the lower the temperature.
- If you are in Denver it usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour to get to the mountains. From there you could spend hours driving from town to town.
Mike and I both agree that Colorado is WAY better to visit in the summertime. There is much more to do and the things you can do are cheaper and mostly FREE! You can find something to do everyday for almost little to no cost! We love hiking and there are enough trails in Colorado to last you your entire life. The weather is amazing and it is much easier getting around.
The winter is amazing too, but it can be a little pricier. Skiing in most towns can cost an average of $200-250 each day per person for a ski lift and ski rentals. However there are some very affordable alternatives like snowshoeing. This only costs $13 per pair. Snowshoes allow you to hike in the winder without slipping.
RENTING SKIS, SNOWBOARDS, SNOWSHOES, ETC
I recommend getting your rentals at any Christy’s Rentals in Denver (or at any location) first and reserving online more than 24 hours in advance. Most times you can get a discount by reserving online. Christy’s is also a fraction of the cost of renting equipment in most ski towns too. Our skis only cost $27 per day and our snowshoes $13 per day.
THINGS TO DO IN COLORADO IN THE WINTER
SKI OR SNOWBOARD
Cost: $150-250 per person
Popular Ski Towns: Breckenridge, Telluride, Vail, Aspen, Keystone, Beaver Creek, and Copper Mountain. Breckenridge is one of the most popular because there is so much to do in town and it is one of the closest cities to Denver (about 2 hours). Keystone is right by Breckenridge and costs a little less to ski. Telluride, Vail, and Aspen are absolutely beautiful towns! They are on the pricier side.
We went to Breckenridge to Ski this last month and I recommend getting their before 9 to beat the rush! You take a free gondola to the ski part and get off at the 3rd stop. I mainly skiied on peak 8 and peak 9. We heard peak 7 is fun too! If you are a beginner I recommend staying on Peak 8.
*Skiing in Breckenridge, CO
COST: $13 per person
- BEAR LAKE to EMERALD LAKE TRAIL(Estes Park): *No dogs allowed – 3.5 miles out and back. This trail is one of my favorite trails of all time (especially in the summertime) You pass three lakes (Bear Lake, Dream Lake, to Emerald Lake) I recommend getting there before 8 as the parking lot to the trailhead can fill up. Overflow parking is 10 minutes down the road with a free shuttle. Restrooms are located at the trailhead by Bear Lake.
- Walker Ranch Trail (Boulder): *Dog friendly * 8 mile loop or you can go out and back to whatever distance you want. This is the trail we snowshoed at over this past Christmas. We started the trail counter clockwise and I highly recommend it! About 1 mile in it takes you to a BEAUTIFUL river. (Pictured below) We also saw a lot of deer along the way. We went out one mile out and 1 mile ack back going counterclockwise and then 1 mile out and 1 mile back going clockwise.(4 miles total) The other direction is beautiful too! I recommend driving a car with 4WD to the trailhead. It can get pretty snowy at the top.
*At the bottom of the mountain that Walker Ranch Trail is a trailhead called Chautauqua Trail by the ranger station. This leads to a to a bunch of popular trails in Boulder that are closer to town. During the summertime I hiked the Royal Arch trail and it was incredible. It will be on your left before you leave town. All are dog friendly.
*Walker Ranch Loop Trail
RUNNING OR WALKING TRAILS
- Dad Clark Trail: This was our favorite running trail and is located in Castle Pines, Colorado and is about 30 minutes south of Denver. We ran on this trail a few times during our stay. You are at the top of a bluff and it overlooks all the way to Denver and you are able to get a few of Mt Evans, Pikes Peak, and Longs Peak. This is pet friends and I saw families with strollers too.
*Dad Clark Trail
- Daniel’s Park: This trail is located in Castle Pines, Colorado and is about 30 minutes south of Denver. If you are looking for a good running trail this is the start to miles of trails with amazing views of the peaks! Daniel’s Park is also known for its wild bison roaming. If you get their at the right time, the bison room around the Red Barn about .8 miles from the trailhead. This is pet friendly and I saw families with strollers too.
*Daniel’s Park Trail
POPULAR TOWNS TO VISIT IN THE WINTER
Breckenridge: This is probably the most family friendly of all the places to visit Colorado in the winter. This town is one of the closest to the airport, there is plenty to do, and it is the best cost for your buck. We stayed in an Airbnb while we were there and there are plenty of hotel options.
The town of Breckenridge was very big and there are plenty of great restaurant and shopping options. The most popular food places are the Crepes A La Cart (the most popular and a staple), Columbine Cafe (Breakfast), Fatty’s Pizzeria (Our favorite pizza), and Giampietro Pasta & Pizzeria.
Estes Park: We love Estes Park! It is not a ski town, but it is home to the Rocky Mountain National Park. If you are looking for a place to site see and experience the mountains of Colorado, Estes Park is it! This is wear one of my favorite trails is located: Bear Lake to Emerald Lake trail. Bear Lake is a popular trail to snowshoe on in Colorado. You can also walk on Bear Lake during the winter (see below). *At your own risk*
Our favorite restaurant in Estes Park is Bird and Jim. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Colorado. I love the “local vibe” and everything is made from scratch! Their are known for their pheasant chowder and their onion dip (IT IS AMAZING)! Everything on their menu is delicious! Kind Coffee is our favorite coffee shop in Estes. I love their honey oat milk latte and Mike loves their hot chocolate. Last, but certainly not least, you have to stop by the Taffy Shop. It is the ONLY shop in Estes Park that makes their own taffy fresh. It is the BEST.
Telluride: If you are wanting to escape to a small town in the mountains Telluride is it! We use to visit Telluride during the Christmas time as a family. It is truly in the base of the mountains and it absolutely beautiful! This is a great town to ski in. I have only skied in the towns of Telluride and Breckenridge.
Based on my own experiences, Telluride was ten times better of a town to ski than Breckenridge The slopes were much longer and it was less crowded. It usually would take us 20-25 minutes to get down the slopes in Telluride whereas it only took us 5 minutes to get town the slopes in Breckenridge. The downside to Telluride is that it is a bit further away and more pricier. The pros of Breckenridge is that the town is larger and their is more to do outside of skiing. It is also closer to Denver.
Vail: I have never been to Vail, but I heard it is a beautiful ski town. It is definitely on the pricier side. (similar to Aspen)
Aspen: We visited Aspen during the fall to see the famous Maroon Bells. I believe Maroon Bells is closed during the wintertime, but there is still plenty to do in the wintertime. Aspen is a popular ski town with a ton of restaurants and shopping. Just like Vail, it is on the pricier side. A large portion of stores are designer. Our favorite place to eat was Meat and Cheese! You can eat there for lunch or dinner.
Steamboat Springs: We thought this town was so cool! We have not visited in the wintertime but the summer it was beautiful! This town is filled with tradition. A ton of rodeos and is home to the Hot Air Balloon Festival. I have had a handful of people who love visiting their in the winter and say skiing there is fun!
Boulder: Boulder is at the start of the mountains and is about 30-40 minutes outside of Denver. There are plenty of trails to snowshoe on at the trailhead called Chautauqua Trail by the ranger station. Pearl Street is the popular street that has tons of shopping, live music, and the best restaurants. We went to Avery Brewery a little outside of town and it was DELICIOUS!!! The pretzel and the BBQ was very good!
Denver: To be honest, Denver is not the first place I would visit in Colorad, just because it is another city. It is great to visit for the day just because it like most cities. However, you can make it fun and there are plenty of things to do! 16th Street is the main shopping street filled with tons of stores. During the Holidays this is also were the Denver Christkindlmarkt and the ice skating rink at Skyline Park is located. We did this a few days before Christmas with my parents and it was so much fun! Another popular street for restaurants is Larimer Square. This is where Tamayo (our favorite restaurant) is located.
WHAT TO PACK
A Warm Coat
Warm (and Waterproof) Shoes