Colorado | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:01:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Colorado | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Sledding in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Hidden Valley https://moon.com/2017/11/sledding-in-rocky-mountain-national-parks-hidden-valley/ https://moon.com/2017/11/sledding-in-rocky-mountain-national-parks-hidden-valley/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 02:05:26 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61273 In Rocky Mountain National Park, the place to slip-slide to your heart’s content is Hidden Valley, a now-defunct ski area that continues to entice powder enthusiasts.

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Sledding ranks high on my list of favorite winter activities for many reasons: it’s affordable to most, it’s relatively safe, there’s little skill involved, and it gets the blood pumping. Best of all, smiles and giggles are all but guaranteed. In Rocky Mountain National Park, the place to slip-slide to your heart’s content is Hidden Valley, a now-defunct ski area that continues to entice powder enthusiasts. The ski area closed for good in the spring of 1992, but a playful atmosphere remains alive and well on this bunny-slope-turned-sledding-hill.

woman laughing on a sled in snow

Kids and kids-at-heart enjoy Hidden Valley’s sledding hill. Photo © Erin English.

Who: Adults, teenagers, kids; family, friends—bring the whole gang. Just be sure that the youngest member of your group has the ability to steer their sled or tube. A note on the slope: it’s gentle, and therefore might not satisfy the desires of adrenaline junkies.

What: Glide down on your sled or tube, hike back up, and repeat. Find a soft patch of snow out of the way of sled traffic and make your best snow angel. Have a snowball fight. When your nose and toes need a break from the cold, head inside the warming hut (open on weekends, holidays, and weekdays during busy times). The hut—which was constructed using materials from the old ski lodge—is designed for brief warm-ups only. People tend to eat lunch in their vehicles or elsewhere in the park. Flush restrooms are located across from the hut and open daily.

When: Sledding season kicks off after a big snowfall that sticks. The first big pow day could happen in late October or well into November. For the most current conditions, call the park information line: (970) 586-1206. Be mindful that even mid-winter, atypical warm temperatures or high winds could temporarily transform the picture-perfect sledding hill into a grassy, slushy mess. In springtime, the snow could endure until April, or later.

Where: Hidden Valley is located on the east side of Rocky, off of Highway 34/Trail Ridge Road. Get there via the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station or Fall River Entrance Station. Ample parking is available. Hidden Valley is the only place where sleds are allowed in the park.

How: Purchase a one-day pass ($20) or seven-day pass ($30) for the park, or present your annual pass at the entrance. No additional fee is required. Bring your own sliding device and dress in insulating layers: long underwear, snow pants, fleece pullover, waterproof jacket, gloves, hat, socks and snow boots.

Why: Sledding is good old-fashioned fun, that’s why. You’ll whoop and holler, and get pink cheeks and windswept hair as gravity takes you down the hill. You’ll share memorable moments with friends and family, and feel like a kid again. What’s not to love?

Safety: Stay safe on the hill by being aware of the people around you. At the bottom of the sledding area, you’ll likely see backcountry athletes trekking from the parking lot to nearby terrain. People still hike up the old ski runs using climbing skins, then ski or snowboard down. It’s these folks’ responsibility to watch out for you, and your responsibility to watch out for them. On winter weekends, a volunteer crew called the Sled Dogs is stationed at Hidden Valley. These individuals monitor the hill for safety, and can radio protection rangers if needed.


Find more outdoor activities in Colorado with Moon Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Rocky Mountains Winter Getaway: West Side and Grand Lake https://moon.com/2017/11/rocky-mountains-winter-getaway-west-side-grand-lake/ https://moon.com/2017/11/rocky-mountains-winter-getaway-west-side-grand-lake/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 18:06:39 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61124 The words “cold,” “snowy,” and “remote,” don’t exactly describe a dream vacation spot for everyone—but if they send happy shivers up your spine, then a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side belongs on your short list for winter vacation.

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The words “cold,” “snowy,” and “remote,” don’t exactly describe a dream vacation spot for everyone—but if they send happy shivers up your spine, then a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side belongs on your short list for winter vacation.

Tiny Grand Lake, Colorado, is just a short drive from the park’s west side entrance and your jumping off point for adventures in this itinerary. Booking accommodations ahead is advised, as some area hotels and lodges have variable winter hours.

snow blanketing trees and Rocky Mountains

Winter in Rocky Mountain National Park is full of beauty and many opportunities for outdoor activities. Photo © Erin English.

Day 1: Snowshoeing & Ice Skating

After a restful night’s sleep, you’re ready for an energizing snowshoe in Rocky. But first, drive to Rocky’s Kawuneeche Visitor Center to peruse the informative displays, browse regional books, and chat with a ranger about current conditions.

Next, it’s decision time. For a mellow snowshoe outing, keep your car parked where it is, and trek along the Tonahutu Spur Trail to join the Tonahutu Creek Trail. Simply reverse your direction whenever you’d like. For a more challenging adventure with varied terrain, drive north along Highway 34 to the Colorado River Trailhead, and tramp along the Colorado River Trail to Lulu City. The round-trip journey to Lulu City is 7.4 miles, but turning around at any point is always an option. Lulu City was a bustling mining town in the late 1800s, but don’t expect to see any relics upon arrival—just a sign identifying this historic site.

Upon arriving back in town, practice your figure eights at the small but sweet skating pond in Grand Lake Town Park.

Day 2: Cross-Country Skiing & Sledding

Today you’re headed back to Rocky for another romp in the white stuff—this time, the mode of transport is cross-country skis. Park at the Harbison Picnic Area and take the Sun Valley Trail for a 2.3-mile loop along mostly level terrain. Stop frequently to enjoy the deep silence of the winter landscape.

In the afternoon, head to the Grand Lake Nordic Center for some sledding fun. It’s free to slide down the Center’s tubing and sledding hill, and a limited amount of tubes are provided for visitors.

entrance to the Grand Lake Nordic Center

Grand Lake Nordic Center provides a limited amount of tubing gear. Photo © Erin English.

Day 3: Snowmobiling

It’s time to kick up the excitement a notch and find out why Grand Lake is dubbed the Snowmobile Capital of Colorado. You’ve made reservations for a snowmobile at On the Trail Rentals, and checked out the website’s trail report the night before. Now, get out there and explore the snowy woods until your fingers and toes start to protest. All of the essential gear you need is provided by On the Trail—just bring along your adventurous spirit.

Day 4: Ice Fishing

The fact that Grand Lake’s namesake body of water ices over in the winter is no deterrent for die-hard fishermen and fisherwomen. Even if you’ve never cast a line in the summer, you should try the winter version, just for kicks. Contact Rocky Mountain Outfitters to arrange a fully-guided ice fishing trip. Bundle up and pack a thermos of coffee or cocoa to sip while you wait for that big one to bite.

two people out on a frozen over lake in Colorado going fishing

Bundle up and head out on an ice fishing excursion. Photo © Arina Habich/iStock.

Essential Info

Rocky Mountain National Park is open 365 days a year, rain, shine, snow, or wind. Admission is $20 for one day, $30 for seven days, or $60 for an annual pass. When visiting in the winter, stay safe by dressing properly in waterproof/wicking fabrics, using good eye protection, hydrating frequently, and carrying a topographic map. A four-wheel drive vehicle and/or good snow tires are recommended for winter travel around Grand Lake and Rocky’s west side. Rent your skis and snowshoes from Never Summer Mountain Products; get your ice skates from Grand Lake Center.

If cold and snowy describe your perfect getaway, enjoy a Rocky Mountains winter and try these fun activities on the West Side and Grand Lake, CO.


Explore more of the Rockies with Moon Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Best Sites for Rockhounding in Colorado https://moon.com/2017/09/best-sites-for-rockhounding-colorado/ https://moon.com/2017/09/best-sites-for-rockhounding-colorado/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:13:12 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60224 Thanks to its remarkable diversity of landscapes and a long and varied geologic history, Colorado is one of the best places in the country for amateur gold, gem, and mineral collecting. Regardless of whether you strike it rich, hunting for treasures is a fun excuse to get outdoors and enjoy some of the Centennial State’s most spectacular scenery.

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Thanks to its remarkable diversity of landscapes and a long and varied geologic history, Colorado is one of the best places in the country for amateur gold, gem, and mineral collecting. Regardless of whether you strike it rich, hunting for treasures is a fun excuse to get outdoors and enjoy some of the Centennial State’s most spectacular scenery. Late summer and autumn, when the mountains are carpeted with golden aspen trees and the highest peaks are dusted with snow, is the most ideal season for prospecting. A good guidebook, such as William Kappele’s recently updated Rockhounding Colorado, is indispensable, as is your trusty rock hammer. Before you head out, be sure to read up on prospecting laws and make certain that you don’t collect on private land, which is illegal. Below are a few of Colorado’s richest rockhounding sites to get you started.

view from Mount Antero of trees and a mountain

Mount Antero is renowned for large smoky quartz crystals, phenakite, and blue beryl crystals. Photo © Robert Cicchetti/iStock.

Mount Antero

Located southwest of Buena Vista and high above the Arkansas River Valley, Mount Antero is part of central Colorado’s pegmatite belt, where veins of exceptionally coarse rocks contain large concentrations of rare minerals. The collecting site, which is just below the mountain’s 14,269-foot-high summit, is the continent’s highest gemstone locale. It’s renowned for large smoky quartz crystals (up to 50 pounds!), phenakite, and brilliant blue beryl crystals that (thanks to their color) are also called aquamarine.

Fairplay

One of the best spots to try your luck searching for gold is in the chilly waters of the South Platte River’s Middle Fork near the town of Fairplay. Founded in 1859 after placer gold was discovered nearby, the town is nestled in a high-elevation valley between two spectacular mountain ranges. After obtaining a permit (PDF), you can pan or sluice along the creek at the town’s “beach” and, if you’re fortunate, find a few flakes to take back home.

rock with fossil imprints from Florissant Fossil Quarry

Conifer needles, leaves of several hardwood trees, and the relative of an ancient mosquito (left) are just a few of the author’s discoveries in rocks purchased at the Florissant Fossil Quarry. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Florissant Fossil Quarry

Florissant Fossil Quarry is a privately-owned quarry located an hour’s drive west of Colorado Springs. Visitors have the opportunity to split open chunks of shale to search for fossils of the more than 1,700 species of plants and animals that were entombed in the muddy bottom of a lake that covered this area 34 million years ago. These are the same types of discoveries preserved in the nearby Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Weather permitting, the quarry is usually open daily from 10am – 5pm in summer and on weekends in September, but it’s best to call ahead (719-748-3275) to confirm.

Golden Gate Canyon

This beautiful canyon slicing through the foothills northwest of Denver is a great spot to search for specimens of semi-precious black tourmaline. Also abundant are crystals of blocky feldspar and sparkling mica, which are especially plentiful near the junction between Golden Gate Canyon and Robinson Hill Roads. Bonus: if you continue another six or so miles up the road, you’ll reach Golden Gate Canyon State Park, one of the region’s best areas for viewing fall foliage.

Museums, Rock Shops, and Gem Shows

If you don’t have time to put your own fortune-hunting skills to the test, you can always drop by one of the state’s many rock shops, including my favorite, Nature’s Own, which has branches in Nederland, Boulder, and Fort Collins. And regardless of whether you’re a novice or a serious collector, you’re sure to enjoy the gem and mineral display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which includes blocky, crimson-colored rhodochrosite and sky-blue aquamarine from Mount Antero. And don’t miss Tom’s Baby, an eight-pound gold nugget found in Breckenridge in the late 1800s.

If you’re in or near Denver, check out the Denver Coliseum Mineral, Fossil, and Gem Show and the Denver Gem & Mineral Show, both of which are held in September and feature hands-on exhibits, entertaining lectures, and hundreds of dealers hawking everything from coiled ammonite fossils to glistening nuggets of gold.


Find more ways to enjoy the natural features of Colorado in Terri’s Moon Colorado travel guide.

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Visit Colorado’s Old West Towns https://moon.com/2017/09/visit-colorado-old-west-towns/ https://moon.com/2017/09/visit-colorado-old-west-towns/#respond Wed, 06 Sep 2017 16:32:38 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58395 Once a sleepy outpost on the Western frontier, Colorado became a hive of activity in the late 1800s after gold was discovered in its clear, cold streams. Every corner of the state hosts a nugget of history and history buffs can explore old forts, gaze at gleaming gold, sashay into old saloons, and even wash down Old West grub with historic cocktails.

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Once a sleepy outpost on the Western frontier, Colorado became a hive of activity in the late 1800s after gold was discovered in its clear, cold streams. Fortune seekers flocked here, as did gun-slinging outlaws and other colorful characters who profoundly influenced the state’s history. The new arrivals laid the foundation for the state’s largest cities as well as its quaint Victorian mountain towns.

History buffs can explore old forts, gaze at gleaming gold, sashay into old saloons, and even wash down Old West grub with historic cocktails. Every corner of the state hosts a nugget of history, but due to the long driving distances, you’re better off limiting your explorations of Colorado’s Old West towns to one or two regions at a time.

welcome arch over a street in Golden

Get a taste of the Old West in Golden, Colorado. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Denver

Tour the restored mansion at the Molly Brown House Museum, then learn about the West’s African American cowboys at the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center. After lunch, visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to view sparkling samples of gold.

The Denver Foothills

The West lives on in the town of Golden, home of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave (where he may—or may not—be buried), the Colorado Railroad Museum, and the haunted saloon Buffalo Rose. Nearby Morrison offers a taste of the really Wild West—Dinosaur Ridge, where armored stegosaurus once roamed. Chow down at The Fort, a restaurant specializing in Old West food and drink, including historic cocktails.

looking down at the courtyard at Bent's Fort

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Colorado Springs

Celebrate the skill of America’s best calf ropers and bull riders at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy, then ride a horse through Colorado Springs’ stunning Garden of the Gods or wander through Old Colorado City, the Territory of Colorado’s first capital. Delve further into the past at the Old Colorado History Center or visit historic Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site along the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail, two hours southeast. Take a detour to serve some time at the Museum of Colorado Prisons in Cañon City. At night, rustle up some grub at the Colorado Mountain Brewery, located in a beautifully restored railroad roundhouse.

Steamboat Springs

Known for its Western-themed Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Wild West Air Fest, Steamboat Springs is also the home of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, which tells the story of local outlaw Harry Tracy, who once ran with Butch Cassidy. While in town, saddle up a steed at one of the many local ranches, shop for cowboy boots at F. M. Light & Sons, ski with former Olympian Billy Kidd, and pamper yourself at the Vista Verde Guest Ranch.

the historic Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado

Jerome Wheeler’s influence can be seen in many of Aspen’s buildings, including the Wheeler Opera House. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Roaring Fork Valley

Discover Aspen’s historical roots at the Wheeler Opera House and Wheeler Stallard Museum, both built by a department store-turned-mining entrepreneur. In summer, bike or drive to the eerie ghost town of Independence, where miners caught in the state’s worst blizzard once dismantled their homes to make skis, which they used to escape. Farther north, soak in the historic hot springs in the railroad hub of Glenwood Springs.


Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Colorado.

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Crested Butte Lodging https://moon.com/2017/09/crested-butte-lodging/ https://moon.com/2017/09/crested-butte-lodging/#respond Wed, 06 Sep 2017 16:04:03 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59515 Crested Butte, perched high in a pretty mountain valley at nearly 8,900 feet in elevation, boasts the state’s largest and one of its best-preserved National Historic Districts. Elk Avenue, the town’s main street, is lined with brightly colored, Victorian-era buildings packed with boutique shops and a great assortment of restaurants and brewpubs. Here are some recommendations for Crested Butte lodging.

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Once a grimy gold-turned-coal-mining town, Crested Butte, perched high in a pretty mountain valley at nearly 8,900 feet in elevation, now boasts the state’s largest and one of its best-preserved National Historic Districts. Elk Avenue, the town’s main street, is lined with brightly colored, Victorian-era buildings packed with boutique shops and a great assortment of restaurants and brewpubs. If you are planning a visit, here are some recommendations for Crested Butte lodging.

The bulk of the slopeside accommodations are owned by the resort, and prices increase the closer to the lifts you get. Condominiums are often a better value than standard hotel rooms, especially for larger groups.

skier on the slopes at Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is superb. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Downtown

The Ruby of Crested Butte (624 Gothic Ave., 800/390-1338, $149-299) is a highly lauded guesthouse whose six bright and comfortable rooms are tastefully furnished with antiques. There are beautiful views of Mt. Crested Butte from the rooms, a luxurious six-person hot tub, and a generous organic morning spread that Colorado Scenic Byways has rated “Crested Butte’s best breakfast.”

A block away, the Purple Mountain Bed and Breakfast (714 Gothic Ave., 970/349-5888, $119-249) has six rooms, each with a private bath and within easy walking distance of the historic district. The gourmet multi-course breakfast includes locally roasted coffee, and the lodge also has a Ghirardelli hot chocolate bar, Colorado craft beer on tap, and delicious desserts to finish off your perfect day. Guests must be 16 years or older.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

The family-owned Nordic Inn (14 Treasury Rd., 970/349-5542, $85-255) is located in the only remaining original hotel that opened in 1963, along with the resort. Although it lacks frills, it’s a great value with large rooms, plus a free, hearty continental breakfast served in the spacious dining room and an electric shuttle to drive you to and from the base area.

Much higher on the luxury (and price) scale, the 226-room Grand Lodge Resort & Suites (6 Emmons Rd., 970/349-8000, $239) is a large, less-personal hotel. Given its location just 200 yards from the slopes and the comfortable, oversized rooms, the prices are surprisingly affordable (for a ski resort), especially for the suites. Amenities include a spa, indoor-outdoor pool, and a steaming outdoor hot tub.

An excellent ski-in, ski-out property, the Elevation Hotel and Spa (500 Gothic Rd., 970/251-3000, $153-199) is located steps from both the Silver Queen Express and Red Lady Express lifts. It offers nine different configurations of rooms and suites, many of which have balconies with views of the slopes and beautiful Mt. Crested Butte, as well as small kitchenettes. The hotel also has an indoor heated pool, a town shuttle, and a free ski valet so you don’t have to lug your gear up to your room.


Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Colorado.

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Where to Stay in Aspen https://moon.com/2017/08/where-to-stay-in-aspen/ https://moon.com/2017/08/where-to-stay-in-aspen/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 17:56:53 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59569 Aspen’s accommodations are spread throughout the downtown. Many of the priciest digs are clustered at the base of the mountain, but there are more choices scattered throughout downtown. Prices tend to be quite expensive in both winter and summer; there are few deals to be had outside of these seasons. This short guide provides visitors with a variety of options for where to stay in Aspen.

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Aspen’s accommodations are spread throughout the downtown. Many of the priciest digs are clustered at the base of the mountain, but there are more choices scattered throughout downtown. Prices tend to be quite expensive in both winter and summer; there are few deals to be had outside of these seasons. Cheaper accommodations can be found in outlying areas stretching north from Aspen, including Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale, and even in Glenwood Springs, an hour’s drive north. This short guide provides visitors with a variety of options for where to stay in Aspen.

aerial view of the town of Aspen

View of Aspen from Smuggler Mountain Trail. Photo © Terri Cook & Lon Abbott.

$150-250

One of the least expensive places to stay in Aspen is the family-owned Tyrolean Lodge (220 W. Main St., 970/925-4595, $220-245). Although it’s located right on the busy main street, it’s also just a few blocks from downtown, and the free ski shuttle stops right outside the door. Its 16 rooms are basic (think 1970s decor) but spacious, have kitchenettes, and accommodate up to five people apiece. Be aware that the lodge has no elevator, so if you book a room on the third floor, be prepared to climb up and down the stairs.

$250-350

Although the 53 rooms are basic and it’s located right on Main Street, the Molly Gibson Lodge (101 W. Main St., 970/925-3434, $295-370) has a wonderful pool that’s heated year-round, free daily après-ski wine-and-cheese parties, a free buffet breakfast, fireplace and whirlpool tub suites, and free guest parking just three blocks from the downtown.

One of Aspen’s few surviving, Old World-style ski lodges, the Mountain Chalet Aspen (333 E. Durant Ave., 970/925-7797, $219-334) has a family-friendly atmosphere, with a cozy living room where you can warm up next to a roaring fire, group breakfast tables, and a fantastic location near the base of Aspen Mountain. The no-frills rooms and suites are clean and comfortable and come in a variety of configurations, from economy rooms with original 1950s furniture to remodeled two-bed, two-bath apartments with full kitchens and living rooms. With a heated outdoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center, as well as free parking, the chalet represents one of Aspen’s best values.

Limelight hotel pool and hot tub in winter

Relax in the hot tub at the Limelight Hotel, a top accommodation in Aspen. Photo © Jeremy Swanson, courtesy of Limelight Hotel.

Over $350

With a fantastic location facing Wagner Park and within walking distance of the Silver Queen Gondola and the downtown, the contemporary Limelight Hotel (355 S. Monarch St., 970/925-3025, $405-1,120) is one of Aspen’s top lodging options. From king rooms to spacious suites, the hotel has 10 different types of rooms to choose from. All have very comfortable beds and a simple, inviting decor. The enormous, open lounge with leather couches and lime-green accents is a great après-ski spot, as well as the location of the impressive (and complimentary) Continental Divide breakfast buffet. The Limelight also goes well beyond the usual pool-and-hot tub amenities. They offer free bikes to cruise around town and both a ski concierge and an adventure concierge to help you plan your next hike, bike ride, tennis match, or mogul run. The concierge can even set up a one-way, 11-mile hike to Crested Butte, during which you’re equipped with a SpotSatellite GPS device so that your private transport is waiting for you when you reach the end of the trail.

Located steps from Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola, the stylish 90-room Sky Hotel (709 E. Durant Ave., 970/925-6760, $160-799) has a unique decor, with captivating black-and-white photos on the walls, headboards designed to resemble cable-knit sweaters, and racing stripes on the curtains and walls. Sky offers deluxe, premier, and superior rooms with one or two beds, plus spacious suites, pet-friendly rooms, an evening wine reception, and a late checkout time (noon).

The chic, glass-fronted Hotel Aspen (110 W. Main St., 970/925-3441, $323-584) has 45 luxurious rooms and suites with comfy beds draped with 300-thread-count sheets and fluffy down duvets. Room options range from traditional king rooms to more lavish fireplace or private whirlpool tub suites. The hotel has free guest parking, a heated outdoor pool and steaming hot tub, and a popular (and free) après-ski wine-and-cheese reception each afternoon in addition to a complimentary hot breakfast.

the historic Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado

Jerome Wheeler’s influence can be seen in many of Aspen’s buildings, including the Wheeler Opera House (pictured here) and the Hotel Jerome. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

A stout brick building built by Jerome Wheeler (of the Wheeler Opera House fame) in 1889, the Hotel Jerome (330 E. Main St., 970/920-1000, $689-855) has a distinctive Western ambiance—antlers, moose heads, and photos of Native Americans adorn the walls. The striking lobby features comfortable sofas and chairs next to a roaring fireplace, above which hangs an enormous portrait of Jerome Wheeler, one of Aspen’s most prominent founding fathers. Rooms include loveseats or a lounge chair and feature cozy king-size beds; several suites are also available. In addition to a spa, the hotel has two bars and an upscale restaurant.

Set on five lush acres three blocks east of Aspen Mountain, The Gant (610 S. West End, 970/925-5000, $591-799) is a gorgeous property that offers condominiums (1-4 bedrooms). All rooms include romantic wood-burning fireplaces, full kitchens, and a balcony or patio. Valet parking, bell and concierge service, and free in-town and airport transport round out the amenities.

In a park-like setting about 1.5 miles north of downtown, the beautiful 40-acre Aspen Meadows Resort (845 Meadows Rd., 800/452-4240, $288-499) has 98 bright Bauhaus-design suites with floor-to-ceiling windows, functional work spaces, and comfortable sitting areas. The resort is the home of the Aspen Institute, an influential nonpartisan think tank that hosts intellectual gatherings to tackle some of our nation’s most critical challenges, from improving homeland security to combating economic inequality.

The Little Nell (675 E. Durant Ave., 970/920-4600, $1,232-1,532) has the reputation of being Aspen’s most luxurious hotel, as well as the best hotel between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. It’s a beautiful facility located steps from the Silver Queen Gondola and the vibrant downtown. The 78 rooms and 14 suites are gorgeous, comfortable, and have unique floor plans that include gas fireplaces. Most also have private balconies, many with fantastic views of Aspen Mountain. The hotel’s adventure concierge can set you up with private stargazing tours (with champagne), bike rides with former pro cyclists, shotgun rides in working snowcats, and just about any ski adventure you can imagine.


Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Colorado.

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8 Best Breckenridge Shops https://moon.com/2017/08/8-best-breckenridge-shops/ https://moon.com/2017/08/8-best-breckenridge-shops/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 23:32:40 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59503 Breckenridge has more than 200 boutique shops, galleries, and gift stores lining Main Street and its adjacent streets. Prices here are a bit inflated, but still offer a great selection. Store hours vary during the shoulder seasons.

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Breckenridge has more than 200 boutique shops, galleries, and gift stores lining Main Street and its adjacent streets. Prices here are a bit inflated, but still offer a great selection. Store hours vary during the shoulder seasons.

Here are our top picks for Breckenridge shops worth a visit:

storefront of Yoyo Loco in Breckenridge

YoYo Loco in Breckenridge. Photo © Scott McLeod (mcleod), licensed CC-BY.

YoYo Loco (302 S. Main St., 970/368-2841, noon-5pm Sun.-Mon. and Wed.-Thurs., 11am-6pm Fri.-Sat.) is the place to go for a huge assortment of yo-yos and specialty toys, while Joy of Sox (324 S. Main St., 970/453-4534, 9am-9:30pm daily) has the area’s best selection of cozy socks and fluffy slippers, as well as hats, toys, and sleepwear. Ruby Jane (232 S. Main St., 970/423-6947, 10am-8pm Mon.-Sat., 10am-6pm Sun.) is a fun mix of stylish women’s clothing from lace-trimmed tanks to loungewear and (of course) shoes.

If leather is more your style, check out Belvidere & Hern (308A S. Main St., 970/409-2086, 10am-6pm daily), which sells scarves, soaps, and jewelry along with leather handbags and stitched purses. The Breckenridge Candle Gallery (326 S. Main St., 970/453-2389, 10am-9pm daily) is a simple shop filled with beautiful, hand-carved candles and handmade soaps. The nearby Breckenridge Cheese & Chocolate (304 S. Main St., 970/453-7212, noon-8pm daily) is a great place to shop for specialty cheeses, meats, and small-batch chocolates.

East of Main Street, Mountain Outfitters (112 S. Ridge St., 970/453-2201, 10am-6pm Mon.-Thurs., 9am-6pm Fri.-Sat., 10am-5pm Sun.) is an indie retailer with all the right gear for your next summer or winter adventure. The Get Real Bazaaar (105 Jefferson Ave., 720/934-5397, noon-5pm Sun.-Mon. and Wed., 10am-6pm Thurs.-Sat.) is a co-op featuring the work of more than 20 local small businesses.


Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Colorado.

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Shopping in Denver https://moon.com/2017/08/shopping-in-denver/ https://moon.com/2017/08/shopping-in-denver/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 23:08:49 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59518 Shopping in Denver includes a fun mix of indie boutiques, innovative art galleries, and reputable chains. Prices are reasonable and the selection is excellent, especially in popular Larimer Square and the 16th Street Mall. Affluent Cherry Creek has two huge shopping areas that collectively comprise the largest, most-varied shopping district.

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Shopping in Denver includes a fun mix of indie boutiques, innovative art galleries, and reputable chains. Prices are reasonable and the selection is excellent, especially in popular Larimer Square and the 16th Street Mall. Affluent Cherry Creek has two huge shopping areas that collectively comprise the largest, most-varied shopping district.

shops in downtown Denver

Larimer Square in downtown Denver. Photo © arinahabich/123rf.

Denver Shopping Districts

16th Street Mall

The 1.25-mile 16th Street Mall (Wynkoop St. to Broadway) is known for its pedestrian-friendly shopping. It’s easy to stroll between the several hundred stores and restaurants; if you get tired, hop on the MallRide (4:59am-1:21am Mon.-Fri., 5:30am-1:21am Sat., 6:30am-1:21am Sun.), a free electric bus that stops at every block along the mall between Civic Center and Union Station.

The mall consists primarily of chain stores, especially casual clothing outlets. Scattered in between are a few more unique options. Sole St. Shoes (716 16th St., 303/893-5280, 10am-8pm Mon.-Sat., 10am-7pm Sun.) is a “sneaker boutique” with retro options as well as standard brands like Nike and New Balance. Wild West of America (715 16th St., 303/446-8640, 9am-7pm daily) sells moccasins, key chains, and dozens of knickknacks.

Larimer Square

Denver’s oldest and most historic block, Larimer Square (14th and 15th Sts. at Larimer St.) was the first place the miners constructed buildings after they settled along the South Platte River. Most of the square’s lovingly restored buildings date to the 1880s. They house a variety of shops and restaurants, making it one of Denver’s most popular destinations. It’s also fiercely autonomous; 20 out of the square’s 23 shops are independently owned.

The Blue Ruby Boutique (1426 Larimer St., 720/259-0031, 10am-6pm Mon.-Wed., 10am-8pm Thurs.-Sat., 11am-5pm Sun.) is a chic clothing store that features men’s and women’s garments from local designers as well as top New York brands. Eve (1413 Larimer St., 720/932-9382, 10am-7pm Mon.-Fri., 10am-6pm Sat., noon-5pm Sun.) focuses on stylish women’s clothing and accessories, including products from Papillon, Capote, and Trina Turk.

From boots and buckles to belts and bolos, Cry Baby Ranch (1421 Larimer St., 303/623-3979, 10am-7pm Mon.-Fri., 10am-6pm Sat., noon-5pm Sun.) sells anything your inner cowgirl (or boy) might crave. Moda Man (1459 Larimer St., 303/862-5949, 10am-7pm Mon.-Thurs., 10am-8pm Fri.-Sat., noon-5pm Sun.) sells contemporary-casual men’s clothing by top fashion designers and also specializes in custom garments.

Ever since he made his girlfriend a silver ring 40 years ago, John Atencio (1440 Larimer St., 303/534-4277, 10am-6pm Mon.-Sat.) has been designing and selling beautiful handcrafted jewelry in Colorado. His shop features a sparkling selection of beautiful rings, signature pendants, and gold and silver bracelets, crosses, and earrings.

If you have a furry friend to shop for, stop by the upscale Dog Savvy Boutique (1402 Larimer St., 303/623-3979, 10am-7pm Mon.-Thurs., 10am-6pm Fri.-Sat., 11am-5pm Sun.) for toys, beds, and oatmeal-peanut butter doggie treats, as well as blueberry facials and other spa treatments for the puppy who has it all.

Cherry Creek Mall

Denver’s ritziest shopping district is located about four miles southeast of Union Station, just east of the Denver Country Club and south of Speer Boulevard. In this area are two upscale shopping areas: the indoor Cherry Creek Mall (3000 E. 1st Ave., 303/388-3900, 10am-9pm Mon.-Sat., 11am-6pm Sun.), Denver’s largest, and the outdoor Cherry Creek North (299 Milwaukee St., Ste. 201, 303/394-2904, 10am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 11am-5pm Sun.), which has more character and correspondingly higher prices.

Cherry Creek Mall features mostly high-end chains, including Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., and Neiman Marcus, as well as an Apple Store, which is always packed. Cherry Creek North is a more spread-out shopping and restaurant district with a great selection of fun and fashionable shops, including Little Feet (201 University Blvd., 303/388-9535, 10am-6pm Mon.-Sat., noon-4pm Sun.), a family-owned store that specializes in kids’ shoes, Title Nine (160 Steele St., 303/321-4001, 10am-6pm Mon.-Sat., noon-5pm Sun.), which features super-comfortable women’s sportswear and casual clothing, and the Artisan Center (2757 E. 3rd Ave., 303/333-1201, 10am-5:30pm daily), a colorful and eclectic shop selling cards, candles, chimes, jewelry, and scarves made by mostly local artists.

Downtown and LoDo Shops

Books and Music

On the edge of the 16th Street Mall, the Tattered Cover Book Store (1628 16th St., 303/436-1070, 6:30am-9pm Mon.-Fri., 9am-9pm Sat., 10am-6pm Sun.), founded in 1971, is one of the best bookstores. It has remained a classic, community-oriented retailer, with regular local-author lectures and book signings, kid-friendly activities, comfy leather couches, and delicious coffee and pastries. Its floor-to-ceiling stacks feature more than 150,000 titles, with an entire room devoted to travel and maps (with an emphasis on Colorado), and the most extensive magazine selection in the state. It’s one of downtown Denver’s most venerable and popular institutions, with two other downtown locations: one in City Park (2526 E. Colfax Ave., 303/322-7727, 9am-9pm Mon.-Sat., 10am-6pm Sun.) and a smaller outlet in Union Station (1701 Wynkoop St., 8am-7pm Mon.-Fri., 9am-7pm Sat., 10am-5pm Sun.).

Two classic Denver shops are located near the Colorado State Capitol. Capitol Hill Books (300 E. Colfax Ave., 303/837-0700, 10am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm Sun.) consistently ranks as Denver’s top used bookstore. Wax Trax Records (638 E. 13th Ave., 303/831-7246, 10am-7pm Mon.-Thurs., 10am-8pm Fri.-Sat., 11am-6pm Sun.) is a real brick-and-mortar store selling new and used vinyl records and other music-related paraphernalia.

Clothing and Accessories

The third-generation business Rockmount Ranchwear (1626 Wazee St., 303/629-7777, 8am-6pm Mon.-Fri., 10am-6pm Sat., 11am-4pm Sun.) sells classic men’s and women’s Western clothing, including the original snap-button shirts designed by founder Jack Weil. The shop has a huge selection of hats, leather belts, cowboy boots, and fringed jackets. The well-known brand has been worn on stage and in films by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Hanks.

Highlands and Platte River Valley Shops

Outdoor Equipment

On the northwestern edge of downtown, perched on the bank above Confluence Park, the Denver Flagship REI (1416 Platte St., 303/756-3100, 9am-9pm Mon.-Sat., 10am-7pm Sun.) is an adventure in shopping. The huge brick warehouse has an enormous selection from bikes and kayaks to windbreakers, gloves, and freeze-dried meals and also offers plenty of classes and clinics. The flagship store includes a climbing wall, a third-floor play area for kids, and a Starbucks with a nice deck where you can toast the hundreds of other bikers, hikers, and kayakers passing by.


Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Colorado.

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Scenic Rocky Mountain Drive: Trail Ridge Road https://moon.com/2017/08/scenic-rocky-mountain-drive-trail-ridge-road/ https://moon.com/2017/08/scenic-rocky-mountain-drive-trail-ridge-road/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 17:43:10 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58223 Trail Ridge Road, the 48-mile paved road between Estes Park and Grand Lake, is the only road that crosses Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving it is an awe-inspiring adventure with stunning views that Horace Albright, a former director of the National Park Service, described as “the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions.”

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Trail Ridge Road (U.S. 34, May-mid-Oct.), the 48-mile paved road between Estes Park and Grand Lake, is the only road that crosses Rocky Mountain National Park. The country’s highest continuous paved road, Trail Ridge tops out at an impressive 12,183 feet. Although there are great views all along this scenic Rocky Mountain drive, the best are from the 11-mile section above tree line, where you are surrounded by windswept tundra stretching in every direction towards snow-capped peaks, dramatic steep-walled cirques, and deep valleys. This so-called Trail to the Sky offers some of the continent’s easiest access to the fragile tundra, where the growing season can last for as few as 40 days per year.

Trail Ridge Road winding through pine trees and mountains

Take a scenic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park on the “highway to the sky.” Photo © Ronda Kimbrow/iStock.

Trail Ridge Road was built between 1926 and 1932 to replace Old Fall River Road, which was too steep and narrow for drivers to easily navigate and too shady to provide early summer access. Thanks to its ridge-top location, Trail Ridge has less snow accumulation and more sunshine, attributes that allow the park service to open it much earlier—usually by Memorial Day weekend—and to keep it open until mid-October. Each year in mid-May, two veteran road crews, one on each side of the park, begin the painstaking and dangerous job of removing the 30 feet of snow that typically cover the road and whose layers often linger along the side until late June. Even after the crews meet, the park service sometimes needs to temporarily close the road, especially to avoid dangerous black ice.

Once Trail Ridge is open, driving it is an awe-inspiring adventure with stunning views that Horace Albright, a former director of the National Park Service, described as “the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions.” From the lush, montane forests and fertile lowlands at either end, the road quickly climbs up to the tundra, a harsh environment where fierce winds, strong ultraviolet light, and intense cold greatly limit the plants and animals found here. Yet for a few precious weeks each summer, the tundra is home to carpets of dozens of different types of tiny wildflowers, glistening alpine lakes, and migratory and resident wildlife, which you can often spot from your car.

Fortunately for drivers, there are many pullouts along the way, which are safe places to stop and snap photos and enjoy the forever views. From east to west, great viewpoints include Hidden Valley, where you can often spot chipmunks, Many Parks Curve, the highest point to which the eastern side of Trail Ridge is plowed in winter, and Rainbow Curve, where you can see the flat Great Plains stretching far to the east. Farther west along the road, you can learn more about the tundra at the Tundra World Nature Trail, an easy half-hour walk from the Rock Cut. Two miles west of the road’s highest point, which is unmarked, the Alpine Visitor Center awaits.

Continuing west on Trail Ridge Road, you cross the Continental Divide at 10,758-foot Milner Pass and have stunning views into the upper Colorado River Valley from the aptly named Farview Curve, a short distance above the gate that closes the road in winter.

Alpine Visitor Center sign next to a winding road

The Alpine Visitor Center feels like it’s perched on top of the world. Photo © Ronda Kimbrow/iStock.

Alpine Visitor Center

Located at 11,796 feet in elevation, the Alpine Visitor Center (Trail Ridge Rd., 970/586-1222, 10:30am-4:30pm daily late May-mid-Oct.) feels like it’s perched on top of the world. Originally built in 1935, the center has been renovated several times, most recently in 2001. The building has a low profile and distinctive roof reinforced with large beams to withstand the fierce winds and crushing weight of dozens of feet of snow that can cover the structure in the winter. The center’s back windows and deck have one of the best views in Colorado, a panorama looking down Fall River Canyon toward Longs Peak and Estes Park far below.

The center has a few informative exhibits about the tundra, staff that can answer questions and help in case of an emergency, and restrooms (although it does not always have running water). Next door is the park’s only café, where you can also buy souvenirs.


Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Colorado.

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Wandering Through Historical Leadville, Colorado https://moon.com/2017/07/wandering-through-historical-leadville-colorado/ https://moon.com/2017/07/wandering-through-historical-leadville-colorado/#respond Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:30:21 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58630 Once you catch your breath at the ten-thousand-plus foot elevation, there is a lot to do and see in historical Leadville, Colorado!

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I live in California, but my heart—and my historical mystery series—are in Leadville, Colorado. As a frequent visitor for research, first to trace my family roots and later to inspire and inform my writing, I’ve noted quite a few great places to visit and wander. Once you catch your breath at the ten-thousand-plus foot elevation, there is a lot to do and see!

Sign in a field that says - We Love Leadville

Leadville pride. Photo © Ann Parker.

In addition to the sights listed in the Moon Colorado travel guide (Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, etc.), make time to visit the House with the Eye on West 4th Street. Built in 1879 by Eugene Robitaille (who plays a small but significant role in What Gold Buys, the fifth in my Silver Rush historical series), this house was one of four he designed and constructed on West 4th. There are many stories about “why the eye” in the design. I suggest you mosey down to the museum and ask the curator to explain. Inside you’ll find a 1920s electric player piano, a Prohibition-era still, period clothing, a collection of nooses (I kid you not!), vintage mining equipment, and—in the Carriage Room—a horse-drawn, 1890s hearse.

vintage electric piano with oil lanterns

1920s-era electric piano inside the House with the Eye museum. Photo © Ann Parker.

Another great museum, just a little farther down on West 4th Street, is the Temple Israel Museum. Built in 1884, this synagogue-turned-museum documents pioneer Jewish life in the area during the 1880s and 1890s. Did you know, for instance, that Meyer Guggenheim, patriarch of “the” Guggenheims, laid the foundation for the Guggenheim fortune with his purchase of two mines during the Leadville silver rush?

The Tabor Opera House on Harrison Avenue is also a must see. An imposing three-story brick building, it was constructed in 100 days in 1879. This speed is all the more amazing when you consider all the materials were hauled up into the mountains by wagons (this was long before the railroads arrived).

If you are interested in genealogy and have an ancestor or two who wandered through town (a surprising number of people came to check out the prospects during Leadville’s heyday), a stop at the Lake County Public Library and a chat with the friendly research librarians is in order. You can also visit the online Colorado Mountain History Collection from the comfort of your home.

two women standing in front of bookcases

Author Ann Parker with Lake County Public Library director Nancy Schloerke (recently retired) in the reference room of the library. Photo © Ann Parker.

If you get hungry and thirsty—and you will if you spend much time traipsing around town and visiting the mining district—here are my current favorites for food and libations: Coffee on a Hill, Treeline Kitchen, and High Mountain (Pizza) Pies. And don’t forget the iconic Golden Burro Café.

pizza topped with tomatoes mushrooms and carmelized onions

Grab a slice at High Mountain Pies. Photo © Ann Parker.

Enjoy! If you find Leadville as enchanting as I do, be sure to spread the word about this amazing high-mountain town.

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