Hop on a road bike. Cast for giant trout. Hike a new trail. Catch a baseball game. Relax on a sunny patio. Colorado calls to us in the summer and draws us outside to play in its spectacular landscape. Here, we present nine itineraries that promise to get you outdoors—and loving every minute of the hot days of June, July, and August.
Prospecting the Gold Belt
Rediscover this iconic Western landscape replete with outdoor escapades.
By Natasha Gardner
Coffee Break Get outta town before 7 a.m. to beat the traffic, but hold off on breakfast until you reach Castle Rock’s Java Guru, where you can order a buttermilk scone with maple frosting and fill up your coffee mug. Continue south, forgoing side trips for now, to make it to your morning rafting launch in Cañon City.
Get Wet Main Street’s Raft Masters, a company that’s been running the Arkansas for 21 years, has it all: kiddie wildlife-viewing rides, family floats, and a rowdy trip in the Royal Gorge that floats over rapids such as Boat Eater and Sledgehammer. If the Arkansas is flowing fast and mad, which it usually is in June, you can even tackle some Class V white water.
Drive Time The car ride north up Shelf Road (County Road 68) will firmly cement you back on terra firma after your day on the river. Roll down the windows and enjoy the scenery. One of three branches of the Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway, the roadway follows old railroad and stagecoach lines to mostly abandoned gold camps. This section parallels Fourmile Creek into the small hamlet of Cripple Creek, a former gold-mining paradise turned gambling town. Pop into the Cripple Creek Candy and Variety for some old-fashioned fudge. Stretch your legs and explore some of the mining ruins before picking up Colorado 67 north to Woodland Park and U.S. 24 east to Manitou Springs, a quirky artists’ haven (don’t miss DERO 72 Studios and Gallery), before pulling into Colorado Springs.
Window Shop As the mines in the mountains above started pumping out gold in the 1890s, Colorado Springs became more than just a dot on a railroad map. Today, some of that old spirit remains in historic Old Colorado City, a four-block area chock-full of shops. Poke into Vintage Revival and Barracuda Bazaar before stopping for dinner at Amanda’s Fonda, which has honed its craft after five generations of serving up authentic Mexican dishes. Sip a margarita on the patio, sample the green chile, and relax your paddle-weary shoulder muscles.
Commune with Nature Head north on I-25 to the Garden of the Gods to watch the sun set on the reddish-orange sandstone formations, and settle in for some stargazing. If you find a spot in the shadow of the Kissing Camels on North Gateway Rock, it’ll help block the light pollution from town. The park closes at 11 p.m., giving you a few hours to stare at the Milky Way.
If You Go
Java Guru: 4284 Trail Boss Drive, Castle Rock, 303-660-4878; Raft Masters: 2315 E. Main St., Cañon City, 1-800-568-7238; Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway: www.goldbeltbyway.com; Cripple Creek Candy and Variety: 325 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-5902; DERO 72 Studios and Gallery: 934 Manitou Ave., Suite 103, Manitou Springs, 719-685-3376; Old Colorado City: W. Colorado Ave. from 24th to 28th streets, Colorado Springs, 719-577-4112; Vintage Revival: 2603 W. Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-635-2077; Barracuda Bazaar: 2502 W. Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-442-2202; Amanda’s Fonda: 3625 W. Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs, 719-227-1975; Garden of the Gods: 1805 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-6666.