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There’s nothing like hitting the open road, your car pointed toward adventure. Once upon a time, travelers stayed in motor lodges and motels (a portmanteau of “motor” and “hotel”) along the country’s great highways and byways. But as alternate means of travel became more prevalent and higher-end hotels popped up, many of these bastions of hospitality fell into the dusty pages of history.
However, as with all good things, old can become new again, and that’s what’s happening with the motor lodges in Colorado’s destination towns. Classic haunts are being renovated and given new life, while modern options are being opened by entrepreneurs who saw a need for cheaper lodging options. Others still are simply not fixing what ain’t broken—and that’s equally refreshing.
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These motor lodges for the “kings of the road” have a few things in common: They’re usually one or two stories with doors opening to the outside, providing easy access to your vehicle, and they’re not designed for staying a full week (although you certainly could). Instead, these accommodations are meant as way-stops on the road to adventure. Bonus: Most are pet friendly.
Here, we take a look at five Colorado motor lodges where you can rest your weary head after a day of exploring.
Rates: Start at $109
As a shining example of the new wave, Jody Corey and Jeff Snook bought this old motel in Palisade on Halloween in 2018 and reopened it in May 2019 after six months of renovation. Now, it’s light and bright with plenty of local touches. Guests are greeted with a sample of local wines at check-in (this month is Maison La Belle Vie), and coffee from Best Slope Coffee Roasters in Fruita is available in the lobby. Breakfast includes locally made granola, pastries, and locally grown produce. “It’s a pretty banging spread for a Motel,” says Snook. Spoke and Vine also offers cruiser bikes for rent ($15 for two hours or $25 for a full day) to make exploring Palisade even easier. 424 W. 8th. St., Palisade; 970-464-2211
Rates: Start at $69.99 in the low season (January to February)
Ideally situated for exploring Mesa Verde or recreating in Canyon of the Ancients National Monument or Mancos State Park, Retro Inn highlights the best of the classic motel experience. The Inn opened in September 2013 but has been constantly “spruced up.” Amenities include a tasty continental breakfast (including breakfast burritos and tamales), on-site barbecue facilities, lawn games like horseshoes, lawn bowling, badminton, and giant chess, and board games. Oh, and the grounds include a statue of Elvis, perfect for those Instagram posts. 2040 E. Main St., Cortez; 970-565-3738
Rates: Start at $120; hostel beds will start at $55
Part of the LOGE family that originated in 2017 in Westport, Washington, LOGE Breckenridge renovated the old Wayside Inn and opened its doors to guests over Memorial Day weekend. LOGE is largely outdoors-focused, with Yeti coolers, Rumpl blankets, and camping hammocks in rooms for guests to enjoy during their stay. Each room also includes space for storing skis, bikes, and other toys, and Raleigh town bikes are free for guests to borrow. The property has outdoor hangout areas with grilling stations, and the lodge hosts events like Saturday night concerts and outdoor movies on Fridays. With its location just a few miles from the popular Blair Witch Trailhead, walking distance to the Summit Stage shuttle and an easy bike ride to the rec path that takes you downtown, it’s a great base camp for enjoying Breckenridge. LOGE Breckenridge is still finishing its renovations (a café and hostel is coming soon), so soon there will be even more to love. 165 Tiger Rd, Breckenridge; 970-453-5540
Where: Steamboat Springs
Rates: Start at $139
Perhaps one of the most iconic sights in Steamboat, the neon pink grinning rabbit of the Rabbit Ears Motel has been welcoming visitors to town for more than 60 years (rumor has it the eyes once moved back and forth). The classic motel enjoys a prime location in downtown—across from Old Town Hot Springs and just steps from the Yampa River. Open the patio door and you’ll hear the river rushing along, creating the perfect soundtrack for a restful night’s sleep. The motel has been renovated—the most recent was completed in May 2019—so the rooms remain clean and comfortable and centrally located for all your Steamboat adventures. 201 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs; 970-879-1150
Rates: Start at $100
A fully renovated boutique motel, the Amigo Motor Lodge in Salida opened as the Monarch Motor Lodge in the 1950s before becoming the Aspen Leaf Motel in the ’90s. Husband-and-wife team Philip Sterling and Kaitlyn Canfield bought the building and gave it new life as the Amigo Motor Lodge in July 2016. The result is a casual and comfortable space (take a look at the design here) from which to access all the hiking, rafting, fishing, and more that you can find around Salida. The sprawling lodge space includes indoor and outdoor lounge areas, a teepee, three fire pits, a hot tub, and four renovated Airstreams that are also available for rent. 7350 US-50, Salida; 719-539-6733