27 Reasons to Love Colorado in the Summer

Everyone knows about our famously beautiful winters, but Coloradans know that our summers are equally stunning—and, dare we say it, maybe just a little bit sweeter.

June 2010

Colorado's white-washed winters are the stuff great travel brochures are made of: rosy-cheeked skiers schussing down powdery runs, frosted pine trees swaying in the wind, frozen lakes glistening in the afternoon sun. But Denverites know that our state's glorious summer is every bit the equal of those famous winters—and, dare we say it, maybe even a little bit sweeter. For 12 weeks (and sometimes well into late September), the thermometer hovers somewhere around perfectly comfortable; the air smells of forsythia, lilac, and freshly cut grass; and we revel in an all-too-short season full of hiking, camping, fishing, cycling, patio dining, festival-going, and flat-out sun worshipping. So sit back, kick your feet up with one of Breckenridge Brewery's 471 IPAs (#6)—or lace up your hiking boots (#13)—and enjoy.

No. 1

Because there's always a new, kick-ass way to enjoy our prodigious geography
The latest summertime fix for Colorado adrenaline addicts? Check out "canyoning:" descending a plunging mountainside stream—the more waterfalls the better—by wading, rappelling, and jumping into deep pools. Local challenges include Wolf Creek near Pagosa Springs, Booth Creek near Vail, and half a dozen different gorges near Ouray. (A guidebook to Ouray canyoning from local author Mike Dallin is due this month.) The descents require a few hours to a full day, and wetsuits, neoprene socks, ropes, and safety techniques are mandatory for dealing with deep pools and icy waterfalls. It sounds cold and scary, but Charly Oliver, a Boulder-based guide and board member of the American Canyoneering Association, says the sport is easy to learn and "allows you to venture into surreal landscapes that few people get to see." San Juan Mountain Guides (www.ourayclimbing.com) is offering a canyoning course August 16 to 18, 2010, in Ouray. Meanwhile, Canyoneering.net is the place to hook up with Colorado mentors and guides. —Dougald MacDonald

No. 2

Because watching movies outside is way better than in a stuffy theater
It's not that we don't like to cozy up on a rainy afternoon at the local cinema. It's just that on a gorgeous summer evening there's nothing more American—or sweetly reminiscent of our disappearing drive-ins—than an outdoor film session. Bring a blanket, a snack, and a relaxed attitude.

Stapleton Under the Stars

Movie Night on the Founder's Green
East 29th Avenue Town Center (shows begin at dusk)

  • Mama Mia! June 4
  • Michael Jackson's This Is It June 18
  • Julie & Julia July 16
  • The Blind Side July 30
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs August 13
  • Up August 27

No. 3

Because a pickup game of "kegball" is easy to find in any Denver park
Pick a summer evening and a Denver-area park—Washington Park is always a good bet—and you're sure to find a half dozen teams engaged in a mockingly competitive game of kickball. The twist? Every player will have an adult beverage in hand—and they're expected to kick the ball, run the bases, and drink without spilling. For $5 in beer money, most groups will let you join the fun. For more organized—and competitive—matches, check out the World Adult Kickball Association (www.kickball.com) or Denver Sport and Social Club (www.socialandsportsclub.com) for kickball leagues that wait until after the game to hit the sauce.

No. 4

Because you never know what Mother Nature has in store for you
{ ESSAY } It's a Wednesday morning, early July, and I head out for a hike along the Tonahutu Creek Trail above Grand Lake. A slow creek and thicket of willows on my right, lodgepole pines on my left, my mind chattering the way it always does when given free rein. I should have left earlier. I should have brought water. I should hike every week. Why don't I hike every week? Perhaps I'll find a nice warm rock and write in my journal about why I'm going to start hiking every week. Wow...the curve in that creek is so pretty, and that split-rail fence—why didn't I bring my camera? I always forget my camera. Why do I always forget my...oh dear...what's that? ❖ Branches crunch very close by. Not little snaps, but major footfalls crashing through the underbrush. Probably a mule deer. Maybe another hiker. I stop and peer through the trees. Something brown—and large—moves among the foliage. I catch sight of a huge, overdeveloped snout and four spindly, knock-kneed legs. A cow moose. ❖ I'm frozen. I try not to breathe, wanting to watch her forever. Until a separate movement catches my eye. There's something behind her. A calf. This is so not good. Quick: What do I do? Stand still? Make a loud noise? I can never remember. Without a plan, I simply stare at them with equal parts awe, fear, and appreciation. Mama seems to be doing the same with me. ❖ I read recently that moose are not indigenous to Colorado. I'm not either. But in this particular moment, the moose and I both seem to belong nowhere else. Together, we've been shaken out of our habitual routines long enough to wonder, just a bit, about the larger world that surrounds us. —Shari Caudron

No. 5

Because this isn't heaven or Iowa—it's Colorado
{ ESSAY } It was 1988 and my youth baseball team from Parker was chosen to play several games in Louviers (pronounced, Lou-veers), a former dynamite-manufacturing town a few miles northwest of Castle Rock. To get there, my mom had to drive her midnight-blue Trans Am for 40 minutes on a dirt road and then crumbling asphalt, back to dirt road and, finally, to Main Street, where the park stood alone at the edge of town. ❖ In the impenetrable darkness of northwestern, rural Douglas County, DuPont Park was something out of Field of Dreams. Standing at home plate, the lights—low-hanging and intense—made me feel like I was on a stage. In the distance, shadows of trees and prairie scrub loomed over the left-field fence, the edge of the Earth seemingly just beyond center field. The rest of Colorado always seemed to melt away as I strode to the plate. On particularly warm nights, moths clustered around the light poles and I'd find myself marveling between pitches at how their flapping wings looked like confetti fluttering toward the dirt infield. ❖ I was never a power hitter, but I could slap the ball through the infield on command. A few times that summer, I pushed the ball between first and second and split the outfielders. As the ball rolled, threatening to fall off the edge, all I could see was the reflected whiteness of the players' jersey numbers as they turned and ran into the darkness. ❖ More than 20 years later, I drove out to Louviers with my family. My two kids and I got out of the car and raced headlong for the dugouts. The field was frozen in time, unchanged from how it looked in my memory. We played for a half hour on the greening outfield grass. Then dusk fell, and the field's old lights flickered and clicked on. We ran the infield. And then I stood at home plate and looked out at the vastness beyond center field. I pretended to slap a ball up the middle, and then I ran, my kids in tow, dirt kicking up behind us. Between first and second I looked toward the outfield fence, and for a second I could see those outfielders' numbers glowing in the dark. —Robert Sanchez