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.
Road-trip Around Estes Park
Peruse—and then get outside of—everybody’s favorite tourist town.
By Natasha Gardner
The Scenic Route Fly up U.S. 36, sail right through Boulder, and then stop for an iced espresso and chocolate chip–studded banana bread on the Stone Cup’s shaded patio in the tiny town of Lyons before making your way farther west into Estes Park. Past Lyons, U.S. 36 is spotted with pullouts along the tumbling St. Vrain River where you’re likely to glimpse bighorn sheep clinging to the steep crags that rise on the right side of the road. Skip the crowded overlook close to town and instead slip into the valley, pull over at Lake Estes, and take in the scenery.
Where the Tourists Roam Yes, there’ll be crowds of tourists ambling about, but you’ll still want to meander up and down Elkhorn Avenue, the town’s main thoroughfare, peeking into the T-shirt shops, sampling at the town’s plethora of old-fashioned candy stores (if you’re there on the weekend, don’t miss the lemon taffy spinning in the window at the Taffy Shop), and stopping for a frosty cold beverage on the riverside patio at Ed’s Cantina. When the throngs of summer tourists start to overwhelm you, head north on Wonder View Avenue to the MacGregor Ranch and the Twin Owls trailhead.
Go Climb a Rock The 3.6-mile Gem Lake hike falls within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, but you’ll avoid the park fee at this trailhead. Rock climbers can lug their gear up to the colossal Twin Owls formation, while Gem Lake hikers will steal views of the park and 14,259-foot Longs Peak on the way to the chilly waters of the lake.
Wildlife Crossing When you get back to your car, travel east on U.S. 34 through Big Thompson Canyon toward Loveland. For 30 miles, the twists and turns follow the turbulent Big Thompson River as it streams out of the park, making the road a kick for those with manual transmissions. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, hairy woodpeckers, and flickers before stopping to pick up a homemade pie at the Colorado Cherry Company near Loveland.
Park It For a quiet bookend to the day, head to downtown Longmont. Cruise along this hamlet’s tree-lined streets, past brightly painted Victorian homes, to the Cheese Importer’s Market Europa—a veritable warehouse of all things dairy. Don a complimentary coat to peruse the pickings in the walk-in fridge, and buy the final touches for your picnic supper. Pack up your goodies for about a six-block walk to Roosevelt Park, one of Longmont’s oldest recreation areas—it was purchased by the city in 1871 for $2.48. There’s ample grass, plenty of solitude, and a mature rose garden, so scout out a picnic spot and munch on the day’s finds as the sun disappears.
If You Go
The Stone Cup: 442 High St., Lyons, 303-823-2345; The Taffy Shop: 121 E. Elkhorn Ave., Estes Park, 970-586-4548; Ed’s Cantina: 390 E. Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, 970-586-2919; Colorado Cherry Company: 1024 W. U.S. 34, Loveland, 1-888-526-6535; Cheese Importer’s Market Europa: 33 S. Pratt Parkway, Longmont, 303-772-9599; Roosevelt Park: 700 Longs Peak Ave.