Soaring mountains, spectacular vistas and Old West culture – Colorado has much to be proud of. And the state will have extra cause for celebration on 1 August, when it turns 140. On that day in 1876, President Ulysses S Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th state. To celebrate, here are five ways to experience Colorado, from mountain biking to mountain concerts.
Make a splash
Spanish travellers named Colorado after its river, which has a ruddy colour thanks to its mountain silt. Water-based activities offer some of the most thrilling or relaxing ways of seeing the state. For an adrenaline fix, hit the rapids in an inflatable raft. Close to Fort Collins, the Cache La Poudre River is flanked by cliffs and suitable for all abilities. Children will love splashing through sections of fast-moving water with names like Roller Coaster, while experienced rafters can navigate class IV rapids, such as Devil’s Staircase. Colorado Rafting (coloradorafting.net) offers guided trips, including the half-day Poudre River trip from $67 (£51). For something more relaxing, head to the Dunton Hot Springs (duntonhotsprings.com), a luxurious resort set in an old ghost town, where you can wallow in hot springs beneath snowy peaks and sleep in sumptuous cabins.
On your bike
When the snow melts, Colorado’s ski resorts transform into a mountain biking mecca. This June, a new 25-mile loop trail was unveiled at Snowmass, combining world-class downhill sections with gentle single-track on terrain ranging from high desert to shaded forest. Blazing Adventures (blazingadventures.com) offer bike tours, including a half-day Snowmass Divide Ride, which takes in back roads and ranches, and costs $83.25 (£64). Alternatively, Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley have the country’s longest mountain bike trail system, with more than 750 miles of fun single-track and technical descents with outstanding mountain views. Bike hire from Big Al’s (bigalsbicycleheaven.com) in Crested Butte starts at $20 (£15).
Colorado is teeming with working ranches – many of them welcoming overnight guests. Pick up some cowboy skills at the Colorado Cattle Company ranch (coloradocattlecompany.com). You’ll be working side-by-side with ranch hands and learning branding, penning and roping. A six-night, all-inclusive Cowboy Adventure Week costs from $2,199 (£1,698) excluding flights. Or, near the colourful south-western city of Durango, Wilderness Trails Ranch (wildernesstrails.com) offer Cattle 101 classes where you head out on day-long or overnight mountain pass cattle drives. An all-inclusive, six-night stay costs from $2,895 (£2,235) excluding flights.
Colorado is known for its ski resorts such as Breckenridge, Telluride, Vail and Aspen, when skiers and boarders flock here for the world-class conditions. The winter season runs from November to April – but you can also stay on board during the summer months by speeding down the dunes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Sandboards and sandsleds can be hired from outdoor retailers, such as Kristi Mountain Sports (kristimountainsports.com) in Alamosa, where rental costs $18 (£14) per day.
Music in the mountains
Concert venues don’t get much better than this. The majestic sweep of Red Rocks Amphitheatre (redrocksonline.com) is set in the middle of the Denver Mountain Parks system, 10 miles west of the city. Nestled at the bottom of swirling red rock is the amphitheatre, which has played host to the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen. Its music programme runs from April to September, and upcoming acts include Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell and Counting Crows. Widely recognised as having perfect acoustics for musical concerts – as well as unmatched scenery to enjoy between acts – this year marks the amphitheatre’s 75th anniversary.
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