This charming resort town, also known as Ski Town, U.S.A.®, was originally just a summer destination, owing much of its allure to the 150 natural hot springs that dot the landscape. Travelers as far back as 1880 came here to partake of the waters as well as the abundance of outdoor activities. The name of the town, in fact, was given by French fur trappers who thought that one of the springs sounded like a steamboat engine.
Summertime is still one of the best times to visit, and hot springs are just an appetizer in the smorgasbord of available activities. So here is my short list of the top five things to see and do.
Located just a short drive from the center of town, Fish Creek Falls is currently ranked as the #1 attraction on TripAdvisor. There is a $5.00 parking fee that provides access to a couple of hiking trails and the overlook trail is an easy, paved affair that is ideal for families with strollers or anyone using a wheelchair. This walk is quite scenic among the aspen trees and natural foliage and ends with a grand view of the 283-foot falls after about a quarter of a mile.
The other trail takes you into a valley formed by glaciers at the base of the falls. From here, you can hike up another two or so miles to the upper falls where you can take in the vistas and a refreshing dip in one of the pools located there. The entire hike takes around three hours.
This annual event attracts thousands of locals and tourists alike to watch the launch of multi-colored balloons in the Yampa Valley. Just past dawn, balloon pilots and their crews light up their burners (to the delight of the crowds) and lift off into the air. Skilled pilots descend down to kiss the lake’s waters, sending thousands of cameras into action as they catch the mirrored reflection of the balloon before it takes once again to the skies.
The fun continues in the evening where the crews perform a balloon glow. During my visit, the operators set up along hillside in the mountain village. At twilight, the roar of the burners once again filled the balloons with hot gases, bringing the multi-hued fabrics to life–a vibrant contrast against the cobalt blue sky.
Pro Rodeo Series
This is one of the most successful weekly professional rodeos in the country. Located right across from the Yampa River, its cowboy roots can be traced back to 1898. According to newspaper reports at the time, the event included literary readings, an orchestra, running races, and bronco riding.
These days, the rodeo features bareback riding, team roping, saddle bronco riding, steer wrestling, clown acts, and a host of activities for the kids. Of course, what would a rodeo be without food and here you enjoy BBQ dinners and burgers under the evening stars while watching some of the best rodeo riders in the world in action.
There are a variety of trails in Steamboat for every skill level. There are so many opportunities for riding, in fact, that they have an entire website devoted to this (www.steamboatbiketown.com). If you are into mountain biking, there are numerous trails you can take or you can hop on the gondola to the summit of Mt. Werner and serpentine your way down the mountain.
There are a number of bike shops where you can rent the ride of your choice, and my wife found a nice selection at Wheels Bike Shop, right next to the Yampa River. There is a beautiful, scenic ride that runs parallel to the river and you can cycle for miles on this easy, fairly level path.
Okay, so conditions of the Yampa River will vary from season to season but I prefer the slow, lazy river routine, not the hair-raising, hold on for your life sort of experience Whatever floats your boat.
Rent a tube from Backdoor Sports (right near Wheels Bike Shop) and then take a few steps down to the river. From there, you can float for a couple of miles or stop along the way to relax on the shore and take in the surroundings. Indeed, during the warmer months of June, July and August, you will find people lounging along the banks having picnics, frolicking in the water and enjoying the sunshine.
Steamboat Springs is located about 157 miles northwest of Denver and is an easy and scenic drive. In addition to the top 5 activities listed above, there are many other things to do, including a visit to Strawberry Hot Springs, rafting, golfing, and hiking. Although wintertime is a great time for skiing on the slopes, don’t miss all the fun that summertime has to offer.
Where to stay
Victorian Bed and Breakfast
The story behind this house is quite amazing. Originally located in Kansas, the house was dismantled with a chain saw into 5 sections. The owner learned how to drive a semi-truck and made multiple trips to Colorado, painstakingly transporting each piece across 650 miles. After a heart attack, recovery and a number of other obstacles interfered with the plan, the house was finally finished and furnished with antiques, including an 1880 Steinway piano.
Today, you can stay in this historic house and enjoy warm hospitality, a gourmet breakfast and evening appetizers. I found it a lovely place to stay in the best part of Steamboat.
FTC Disclaimer: Promotional considerations for this story were provided by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort, LLC and the Victorian Bed and Breakfast.