We took a trip recently out west and what did we find in Colorado? Glorious scenic drives through mountains, babbling brooks, tasty treats, trains, swift rivers, and even a little bit of Disney Magic!
#1. Our first must-do of Colorado is to look out of your window!
This is a road tripper’s paradise with a new view at every turn. We loved looking at the changing scenery of the gigantic mountains and perfectly soothing rivers below. The Rocky Mountain National Park is full of spots to pull over and take in the epic views. A favorite of ours is Lily Lake. This lake offers gentle trails, beautiful scenery, wildlife, and perfect areas for a picnic. While driving the winding roads, keep an eye out for Bighorn Sheep!
#2. We also stumbled upon the Colorado Cherry Company. This small, local shop has all things cherry and all things delicious. We enjoyed Black Bing Cherry Juice, a fresh cherry hand pie, and homemade chocolate cream pie. The Cherry Juice was our favorite of the drinks.
#3. Don’t miss seeing the Idarado Mine Red Mountain Mining District. The surrounding creeks are contaminated from mines with metals such as zinc, copper, cadmium, and lead. This leaves a bright orange stain on many stream beds. Through the Red Mountain Project, these lands are now permanently protected and are undergoing restoration. The views are breathtaking and give you a glimpse of mining efforts in the mid-1900s.
#4. We made some quick stops in Durango and Silverton but would definitely spend more time here on a future visit. Durango is full of cute shops and quirky art pieces that are placed throughout their downtown district while Silverton boasts quaint shops and restaurants on the main strip with epic views of the surrounding mountains. This area is most notably known for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which offers train ride journeys through some of Colorado’s most rugged mountains that are not accessible by roads. Both time and COVID did not allow this adventure for us but we’re adding it to our future travel plans.
#5. Another scenic not-to-miss area is Telluride. This city is best known for alpine skiing and the annual Telluride Film Festival but there’s so much more to do in this picturesque city. We visited during the summer months and enjoyed people watching on busy Main Street. There you will find loads of galleries, boutique shops, and local restaurants. We enjoyed Detroit-style pizza at Brown Dog Pizza while gazing upon the San Miguel River, which freely flows throughout the town. The film festival and other concerts and social events were canceled due to COVID when we visited but that didn’t stop a lot of tourists from enjoying this destination.
#6. We did not expect to find Disney on this trip, so we were quite surprised when we found ourselves on the street that inspired Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. History tells us that Harper Goff, an art director from Fort Collins and employee of Disney, showed Walt Disney postcards of his hometown and told vivid stories of his childhood there. Walt liked what he saw and used parts of the imagery to create Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A., including the courthouse and red brick fire station. In addition to finding Disney magic, Fort Collins is a large city with loads of shopping, restaurants, museums, and history and nature exhibits and should not be missed.
#7. Our next must-do is to find the obscure. There are plenty of things that make this area unique and we’ll share some of our favorite finds. The Baldpate Inn, in Estes Park, is on the National Register of Historic Places and really is a must-see. Off of the lobby, they gave a room FULL of different keys from all over. Lots of the keys are hanging from the ceiling while others adorn the walls. Each key has an information tag attached to it let you know where the key came from. There are over 20,000 keys to look through including keys to the White House, Frankenstein’s castle, and Hitler’s bunker. The keys are the focal point here but we also enjoyed watching numerous hummingbirds sneak sugar water from feeders on the porch as well as a family of chipmunks scurrying at our feet.
#8. In Loveland, we stopped by the largest heart-shaped love lock sculpture in the US. You can lock your love for one another by purchasing a lock from the Visitors Center, have it engraved, and lock it on the sculpture. So sweet!
#9. And thanks to Atlas Obscura, we took the road less traveled to Calahan, Colorado to see the Paint Mines Interpretive Park. These multicolored wonders of nature are where Native Americans collected clay for pottery 9,000 years ago. These brightly colored bands are caused by oxidized iron compounds and are found throughout the many different layers of clay. To view these natural wonders is well worth the drive.
Whatever you do, take your time. The one thing we weren’t able to do was to spend enough time exploring everything on this trip. Future trips (when Covid is over) we will be able to explore the cities more and take tours of all that Colorado has to offer.