Get out the cooler, load up the car, and hit the open road as you embark on a classic adventure from our past. Looking back on the vacations of our childhood, many of us will find that the road trips with our family, while sometimes challenging, helped our us grow closer together and create fond memories. With the cool wind in your hair, an intrepidly placed elbow out the window, and the American classics on the radio, the great state of Colorado is yours to explore. Without further ado, here is our itinerary list of the perfect budget-friendly family vacations in Colorado.
Tour the rugged San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado
Explore the Arkansas River Valley from Leadville to Canon City, CO
Tour the northern mountains of Colorado
1. Tour the rugged San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado
The San Juan’s are home to some of the most rugged and beautiful mountains in Colorado, offering an abundance of opportunities for a summer vacation. We recommend starting out in the town of Durango. Here you will be able to find some great places to stay like the historical Strater Hotel and amazing restaurants to choose from in downtown Durango. One main attraction is the narrow-gauge railroad train from Durango to the historic town of Silverton.
Step back in time on the last surviving narrow gauge railroads in Colorado along the Animas River. Enjoy shopping and the intricate history Silverton has to offer on your lunch break. Or choose from a mild to difficult hike in Silverton to lakes, peaks, and beautiful overlooks. After blazing one of the 2,000 trails, explore the array of cuisine Durango serves.
Next, head towards Ouray, Colorado on the “million dollar highway” for one of the most epic scenic drives in the state. You will see big mountains, waterfalls, 8% grade and narrow switchbacks on this stretch of road. Once you get to Ouray go for a hike with the family on Baby Bathtubs trail or Cascade Falls trail to indulge in the fresh air. Relax in one of the many geothermal heated hot springs spread throughout Ouray.
Then it is time to trek over to Telluride, Colorado located in a natural box canyon to begin your next adventure. Here you can take the free Gondola up to hike on the mountain or explore Mountain Village. Another option is to stand-up paddleboarding tour around the high alpine lakes or the San Miguel river through town. If you prefer land over water, take on Bear Creek Trail or Bridal Veil Falls trail and take in Colorado’s exquisite landscape. There’s no greater way to discover more about the San Juan mountains than to bike trails to historic mining roads or peaceful meadows.
2. Explore the Arkansas River Valley from Leadville to Canon City, CO
Find your way to the Arkansas River Valley for exhilarating adventures and a vacation in nature. This valley is home to some of the best whitewater rafting in Colorado, highest concentration of 14k feet peaks, and an abundance of recreational trails. Start off your trip with Arkansas River Tours on a guided rafting tour that can be tailored to your group’s needs with our wide array of tours from mild to wild experiences. This is a great way to spot bighorn sheep and view the snow-capped mountains along the way. If rafting is not your thing try out a Colorado guided fly-fishing trip on the Arkansas River that has 102 miles of gold-medal fishing water.
You could also spend a night camping or exploring in the tallest dunes in North America at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Take in the diversity of aspen forests, tundra, and wetlands surrounding the sandy piles. Also if you are into history, the town of Salida has the largest historic district in the state and there are several nearby abandoned ghost towns ready to be explored. Browse around St. Elmo, Colorado to discover the unique structure of the once buzzing town or take a walking tour to discover some of the wild histories from the mining days. Overall you can take your time and explore the mountains and hiking trails in Buena Vista, Salida, and Canon City for a breathtaking experience. While you’re here, don’t forget to book a Colorado family whitewater rafting trip with Arkansas River Tours!
3. Tour the northern mountains of Colorado
Northern Colorado offers various destinations and adventures to entertain you during a family vacation in Colorado this summer. Whether you prefer relaxation or recreation, Steamboat Lake State Park is a spot you do not want to miss. From cabin rentals and campsites to family fly fishing, hiking, swimming, and boating, Steamboat Lake will be a low-budget source of recreation for your family.
Also, just a short drive from downtown Steamboat is Fish Creek Falls, a 280-foot magnificent waterfall. It is accessible via a short walk down a gravel path or a more adventurous, moderate hike for a spectacular view. For a remote, scenic trail visit Clark and North Routt in the Zirkel Wilderness Area for majestic lakes enclosed by wildflowers and towering peaks. Next on your to-do list is joining the locals of Steamboat Springs on a tubing trip down the Yampa River.
On this one to three-hour family-friendly float, you can stop by riverside restaurants, parks, and bars to shed your lifejacket and enjoy the town. Make your way north of Steamboat Springs to Hahns Peak and discover the mining village, take your family on a hike to an extinct volcano, enjoy a horseback ride, or camp in Hahns Peak Lake Recreation Area. Recreational fishing is accessible at the three local lakes surrounding Hahns Peak.
We hope that you can enjoy one of our itineraries this summer to get out and experience our great state of Colorado. All of these options provide safe ways to recreate and be socially distant during this pandemic.