Colorado was trip No. 5 of 6 that we my family will have taken within a year, flying all four of us for less than $100 per flight on Southwest Airlines thanks to the amazing Southwest Companion Pass and resulting 110,000+ points earned. (Southwest Companion Pass currently requires 125,000 points) Technically, the only direct out-of-pocket flying costs for this trip were the $5.60 per way mandatory government fees for each of us.
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Here’s an overview of what we did in Colorado, one of my favorite places on earth, and the places we visited during our two-week trip in early July:
After flying into Denver in late June and driving about two hours west, our first stop was Beaver Creek, a resort town about 15 minutes from Vail. My family has owned a two-bedroom condo at The Charter in Beaver Creek since the 80s when the resort was just being built. Feel free to ask for our units 1450 & 1455 (both with king beds) 🙂 if you want to go stay yourself.
We spent the week at the condo, alternately relaxing and enjoying the beauty of the Rockies. Swimming at the resort’s large pool was tops on our list each day along with a few family movies in the evenings from the free rental machine at The Charter.
We also hiked 6 miles round-trip to Beaver Lake, a popular hike at the resort that takes you through aspens and evergreens to a lovely lake high up on the mountain. My 8-year-old was about in tears by the end due to sore feet 🙂 but he made it!
My husband and 12-year-old gave mountain biking a go and were hooked. They rented bikes from the resort, took the lift to the top and rode the access road down since they were beginners.
Aspen and Snowmass
From Beaver Creek, we drove over the gorgeous Independence Pass, which is open during warmer months, to Aspen. This is a longer route, but well worth the extra time and hairpin turns with terrifying drops below. We stayed in Snowmass at the uber cool Viceroy Snowmass. Snowmass is one of several ski areas near Aspen. We spent time hiking to Crater Lake at the Maroon Bells, the most photographed mountains in America and one of my favorite spots on the planet.
From Aspen, we headed south through some desert-type areas of Colorado through Montrose and on to Telluride. All the while, the unbelievably beautiful San Juan Mountains loomed in the distance, getting closer and closer and drawing us into Telluride.
We stopped for a look at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on our way, a canyon which is second to the Grand Canyon in size, though is narrower and deeper. It was incredible and definitely worth the stop and the heart attacks I nearly suffered at the thought of the kids falling off the cliffs with no railings into the canyon below. We took a 3-4 mile hike down into the canyon and back to get a better view.
Telluride is like nothing I have ever seen. I love the beauty of the Rockies, but they pale in comparison to the San Juans (technically a part of the Rockies). These massive jagged rocky mountains topped with snow are simply captivating.
Telluride is set in a box canyon and is surrounded on all sides by mountains with two waterfalls at one end. The town itself is quite small and bookmarked on either side by mountains; it feels like you could throw a stone from one side to the other.
The best way to experience its majesty is to take the free gondola up to the ski resort area called Mountain Village and back down. Dropping into the canyon via gondola is magical and beyond words.
In Telluride, we walked around town, hiked to Bridal Veil Falls at the end of the canyon (which is a bit strenuous and best left for those 12 and older) and saw Pearl Jam at The Ride Festival, which happened to be taking place during our visit.
Our home during our visit was the lovely Fairmont Heritage Place, Franz Klammer Lodge, Austrian-themed throughout. We hope to go back to Telluride next summer to spend more time in this one-of-a-kind mountain town.
Next, we drove east across the state to Colorado Springs, stopping at the town of Crested Butte on our way. We’d heard from many that Crested Butte was their favorite mountain town and it certainly has its charm. It’s much smaller and lacks the pretense of the more expensive resorts. Plus, it has authentic Western character with many original 1800’s buildings still standing — and occupied. Read about how to hike from Aspen to Crested Butte.
In Colorado Springs, there is so much to do! We parked ourselves at Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which is right next to Cheyenne Mountain, which they tell me houses NORAD and is where the president would go for protection in the event of an emergency :).
The resort was fantastic for families with access to a golf club with golf course, lake with kayaks and canoes, Olympic-size swimming pool, spa and plenty of onsite dining. I loved all the spots to sit outdoors and enjoy the views.
We took the cog railway to Pikes Peak, definitely a bucket list experience, just be prepared to be dizzy and short of breath at 14,000 feet! Nearby is Garden of the Gods, an assortment of naturally-occurring gigantic red rocks in varying formations. We took a very hot, but dry, hike through the rocks, taking them in from differing vantage points and marveling at their size.
At Cave of the Winds, we toured a cave situated at 7000 feet above sea level and rode the Bat-a-pult (similar to a zipline but two people to a “car”) over a canyon. The kids did the ropes course also dangling over a canyon :). Finally, we saw ancient Indian cave dwellings in Manitou. Whew!
Read more about Why Colorado Springs is an Adventurous Family’s Dream Vacation.
At this point we were pretty tuckered out 🙂 and ready to rest a bit at home. We headed back to Denver, about an hour north of Colorado Springs, to fly back to Indianapolis the next day.
We spent the night at their lovely Union Station at the Crawford Hotel. Our room had super-tall ceilings and massive floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto downtown Denver. We loved it! It was a fitting finale to our Colorado adventure.
This trip will definitely make my Top 10 list. I am amazed at how much we did and everything that we saw along the way, not to mention the beauty of it all. I love Colorado, which puts me in awe of Mother Nature and the beauty of our planet if we but take the time to go and see it.
Note: Several hotels mentioned in the article provided us with a room free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
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- Why Colorado Springs is an Adventurous Family’s Dream Vacation
- Tips for Winter Family Travel to Colorado’s Beaver Creek Resort
- A Too-Fleeting Moment with Pearl Jam in the Mountains of Telluride
- Fall Aspen Eye Candy for Your Enjoyment
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