Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in our May 2018 issue. This version was fact-checked and updated (where possible) with current information for the 2019 edition of 5280 Traveler.
We’d wager that you’ve hiked, biked, and skied to your nature-loving heart’s content in the Centennial State. If so, consider a more unconventional approach to adventure tourism this season via one of these quirky Colorado excursions. Bonus: If you’re new to the area (and your flatlander lungs are still adjusting to the elevation), these trips let you immerse yourself in stunning landscapes without too much exertion.
1. By Land
Three-year-old City on the Side shuttles guests around in unexpected vehicles: vintage-inspired bikes with sidecars. Your four-hour trip ($379) through natural havens such as Clear Creek and Golden Gate canyons includes water, snacks, and a snazzy helmet that lets you chat with your driver and fellow passenger about all the gorgeous vistas you pass. For an extra $15, you can add a picnic lunch from Tony’s Meats and Market, complete with a wicker basket and a checkered blanket for a fully charming experience.
2. By Air
If you’ve ever wondered how a red-tailed hawk feels riding the thermals of the Rockies, Colorado Hot Air Balloon Rides’ sunrise flights ($275 per person) will give you the chance to find out. Lift off from the South Park area at sunrise for a faintly lit panorama of 36 fourteeners, then try flying the balloon under the guidance of your professional pilot. After you’re back on terra firma, listen to the captain recite the Balloonist’s Prayer in appreciation of your safe return.
3. By Sea (sort of)
We may live in a landlocked state, but water lovers can still get their fixes in Ouray’s wet canyons. The licensed guides at Canyoning Colorado (half-day beginner tours start at $99) help novices learn to set up their own gear and master rappelling techniques before descending through a series of plunging waterfalls. Complete these challenges—and an oral test covering basic knowledge—and you’ll receive a beginner canyoning certification.
Where to Explore This Summer: Sentinel Point
Drive from Denver: About 2 hours
Why We Love It: For a hike that’s off the well-trodden path and comes with a quirky surprise at the top, head to the six-ish-mile Sentinel Point Trail near Divide. This challenging loop passes beaver ponds, a wildflower-speckled valley, and a long stream before delivering you to a talus field for the final approach. Make it to the 12,527-foot summit and you’ll be rewarded with majestic views of two different ranges and Pikes Peak and near-total silence—apart from the brays of Sentinel Point’s unofficial guardian, a wild donkey that sometimes greets weary hikers.