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Colorado – Coloured By Nature

July 19, 2019 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Colorado is home to an abundance of colour provided by Mother Nature – from fiery sunsets and red rock canyons to mountains dotted with wildflowers throughout summer, developing into red, gold, orange and yellow hues as the fall colours decorate the state from late August to October. Vibrant days are met with equally stunning night skies, as parks and wilderness areas with low light pollution are perfect for stargazing in the warmer temperatures of summer and autumn.

Get among Colorado’s fall colours by bike, credit Colorado Tourism Office

So what’s new in Colorado for summer/fall? Here’s just a sample:
  • The 130-year-old Glenwood Hot Springs resort is unveiling a major renovation that includes an Adventure River with fast-moving waters, cascading tiers and boulders and a children’s play area
  • Colorado Springs launches 2019 Craft Beer Digital Passport for free drink offers at 20 local craft beer stops in the city, cheers!
  • Glenwood Springs becomes 7th city in the USA to use 100% renewable electricity
  • Dinosaur fossils have been found in Denver – Denver Museum of Nature & Science confirms bones from Triceratops discovered in Highlands Ranch, 12 miles south of Colorado’s capital.
  • New glamping options open for fall season at River Run RV Resort near Rocky Mountain National Park, including furnished yurts and Conestoga Wagons.

Glenwood Springs now running 100% on renewable energy, credit VisitGlenwood.com

Colorado’s night sky sparkles 

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is the latest Colorado location to receive a Dark Sky Park designation, making it one of four International Dark Sky Places in the state and 115 in the world. This official designation comes soon after Dinosaur National Monument – located on the Colorado and Utah border – was recognised earlier this year. While up to 500 stars can be seen in urban environments, it is possible to see more than 15,000 stars in some dark sky areas. Here’s five of the top spots for stargazing in Colorado:

  • Great Sand Dunes National Park: Dry air, little light pollution and high elevation are the key ingredients for viewing a bright moon and thousands of stars, which has earned this national park its recent Dark Sky Park title. With the mystical setting of towering dunes framed by a mountainous backdrop, this Southern Colorado spot is a hub for activity in the dark, whether this be dunes exploration under a bright full moon, viewing thousands of stars on a clear moonless night, listening for owls along the foothills or observing migrating amphibians on a wet night. For those wanting to spend the night under canvas, several campgrounds are located within 40 miles of the park. One mile north of the visitors centre is National Park Service operated Pinon Flats Campground open April – October, or privately-owned, mobile phone-free Zapata Falls Campground is open year-round with views over the dunes from 9,000 ft elevation. Travellers can also stay atZapata Ranch, a working bison and cattle ranch located a few miles south of Great Sand Dunes National Park, which has front row seats for stargazing from the comfort of the cosy lodge after a day trail riding across the dunes.

Milky Way over the dunes, credit NPS.gov / Patrick Myers

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Colorado’s first national park to be designated as an International Dark Sky Park, Black Canyon offers night sky viewing opportunities throughout the year. Rangers, astronomers and astro-photographers present evening talks followed by night sky viewing with telescopes every Wednesday and Friday night until the end of September and on specific dates throughout the winter. The canyon was carved around 2.5 million years ago and the sheer, marbled walls are among Colorado’s most distinctive landmarks, bordered by the vast open spaces of western Colorado, near Montrose and Gunnison.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, credit @blackcanyonnps (Facebook)

  • Ouray: Tucked in the South West corner of Colorado and surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, the historic mining town of Ouray provides travellers with an adventure playground by day and hot spring pools to kick back in at night as the stars put on a show. Those looking to enjoy stargazing remotely should head to elevated locations away from the centre, such as Ouray overlook or from one of the many surrounding abandoned mines, including Ironton, one of the easiest ghost towns to reach (9 miles south of Ouray on the San Juan Skyway) with several original buildings providing a solitary setting under a star-studded sky.

Milky Way over Ironton, Ouray, credit Marion Zachary

  • Dinosaur National Monument: This gem in the far northwest of the state became an International Dark Sky Park earlier this year due to its “exceptional natural darkness”. The park hosts ranger programmes and night hikes to get visitors deep into the darkest spots, with several prime locations to view the night sky with either the naked eye or telescopes. This new recognition adds toDinosaur Monument’s renowned white water rafting, Fremont culture rock art and incredibly preserved dinosaur fossils.

Petroglyph rock art set against dark sky at Dinosaur National Monument, credit NPS.gov

  • Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre: See the stars align – both on-stage and above – during an outdoor music concert at this all-natural red rock amphitheatre, which has a summer concert series lasting until October. Away from the concert venue, this 868-acre Denver Mountain Park is a beautiful place to spend an evening stargazing, with the city lights of Denver sparkling in the distance yet the solitude of a mountain setting.

Open air concert at Red Rocks, credit Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Go for Gold in Colorado’s Fall Season

2019 marks the 160th anniversary of the Colorado Gold Rush, and today adventurers can strike it rich during Colorado’s gold season – Fall. Typically running in September and early October in the mountains and from late September to early November below 8,500 feet, here’s some of the top leaf-peeping adventures for visitors across the state:

  • Four wheel among the aspens on the alpine loop scenic & historic byway: With two 12,000 ft passes to climb, the 65-mile Alpine Loop leaves behind pavement and people, replaced by the ghost towns of Silverton, Lake City and Ouray. This rugged route has hiking and mountain biking trails galore, a rich mining history and unfettered views of shimmering aspen leaves and 14,000-foot peaks. Best driven in September for witnessing the fall colours, the entire route (which is usually open from May until late October) is four-wheel drive territory so should only be attempted in a high clearance vehicle with a short wheel base.
  • Head high into the mountains on Telluride’s free gondola: Operating for the summer season until 20 October, a ride on Telluride’s free gondola is a budget-friendly way to encounter the spectacular autumnal scenery of this quaint South West corner town. Connecting the old town filled with clapboard fronted stores and saloons with Telluride’s mountains, the gondola takes visitors on an 8-mile, 13-minute ride to a 10,540 feet summit, whilst delivering panoramic views of aspen trees turning gold en route. Epic hiking and biking trails lead the way back through the colourful mountains (or a return gondola trip for those who can’t get enough of the views over the treetops).
  • Search for gold on Breckenridge’s Singletrack: The bike trails of French Gulch pass through Breckenridge’s “Golden Horseshoe,” one of Colorado’s most fertile mining regions. The initial gold strikes here in 1859 gave birth to the town and – for most of the next century – Breckenridge’s fortunes were largely driven by the Golden Horseshoe’s output. Today, the French Gulch Road area offers several singletrack options where mountain bikers – from novice to adventurous – can ride by old mining remains and groves of changing aspen trees.
  • Take a road trip along the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway: The 63-mile Grand Mesa Scenic Byway leads adventurers to the top of Grand Mesa, the largest flat-top mountain in the world, and into the colour-saturated Grand Mesa National Forest. From there, drivers can explore the town of Cedaredge, replete with apple orchards and groves of white ash, where days can be spent by one of many trout lakes and evenings in cosy, rustic accommodation. October is the best month to visit Cedaredge as its annual Applefest celebrates the harvest of the town’s most abundant fruit.

Clockwise from top: Grand Mesa, credit Colorado Tourism Office; Mountain biking in Breckenridge, credit Liam Doran; Telluride Gondola in Gold Season, credit Colorado Tourism Office

Upcoming Events

Colorado’s packed festival calendar continues from Summer into Fall, with an eclectic mix of music, food, drink and wildlife across the state. Highlights include:

  • ARISE Music Festival, combining 200 live music performances, yoga, camping and art, Loveland – 2-4 August
  • Colorado State Fair & Rodeo, with a music line-up including The Beach Boys, Rodeo Competitions and Motorsports, Pueblo – 23 August-2 September
  • A Taste of Colorado, Denver’s ultimate music weekend featuring KC and the Sunshine Band and Kool & The Gang – 31 August-2 September
  • Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, featuring world-class blues musicians, stand-up comedy and 56 craft breweries, Telluride – 13-15 September
  • Chile and Frijoles Festival, Pueblo’s HOT harvest celebration – 20-22 September
  • Elk Fest, an Annual elk rut and free elk inspired festival, Estes Park – 29-30 September
  • Great American Beer Festival, the premier U.S. beer festival and competition, Denver – 3-5 October

Pictured left: Elk in Estes Park; right: Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, credit Colorado Tourism Office

Featured accommodation: Surf Hotel & Chateau, Buena Vista
Located in the adventure town of Buena Vista, this boutique hotel is inspired by the elegance of European luxury hospitality with sweeping views of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Marking one year since its grand opening, the property offers guests two distinctive experiences whilst sharing a premier location on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Surf Chateau features independent stone cottages encircling a private courtyard and The Surf Hotel provides a more social experience, including a killer cocktail bar, bakery and restaurant. Buena Vista is uniquely located with the towering Collegiate Peaks to one side of the valley and 15 of Colorado’s “Fourteeners” mountains located in the area, with summer and fall as the best months to enjoy white water rafting, fly fishing, rock climbing and hiking – all within a close proximity to the hotel.

Pictured above: Surf Hotel with views of Buena Vista’s mountain range, credit Surf Hotel & Chateau

Getting there
Virgin Australia and Qantas offer direct flights to the U.S. and American, United and Delta airlines have connections into Denver International Airport (DIA), the gateway to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. A new train service will connect you from DIA to downtown Denver in minutes.

Want to book?
What: An adventure-filled road trip as fall colours spread across the Rockies
Where: Fly into DIA
When: August – October

Find out more and get a copy of the Colorado Official State Vacation Guide at www.colorado.com

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