Staycations have been all the rage for a few years now, I mean after the housing bubble bursting, the increased cost of gas, unemployment, unstable job market and just a general sense of financial unease, many families prefer to stay close to home when they vacation. Until we started RV’ing it was really the only way we could afford to vacation, really. Unless we were lucky to find a list of things like Free, Glenwood Springs!!!
And, I know all of us have these visions of exotic beaches and luxury resorts in our heads when we dream of the perfect summer vacation, but why not explore your own state? We all think there is so much time to travel around our own locale and so the reality is, most of us haven’t ever really done it.
We are making an effort this year to really REALLY experience Colorado.
In Colorado, many people leave the hustle and bustle of city and head for the mountain towns of Western Colorado. Glenwood Springs is a very popular year round destination for anyone looking for adventure, relaxation, nature and even, surprisingly, shopping.
But it’s not only the Colorado city dwellers who flock to the mountains, people come from all over the world to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Mountains and all they have to offer.
Glenwood Springs alone has many attractions such as the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, two Hot Springs pools — Iron Mountain and Glenwood Hot Springs, there is whitewater rafting. Tons of tours from ATV, Jeep, Horseback, Snowmobiling and paragliding, and of course Sunlight Mountain Resort for skiing and riding enthusiasts.
But Glenwood Springs, nestled between Vail and Aspen, also offers a plethora of free activities.
Fun, free, outdoor activities, during which you can clear your lungs with the pristine mountain air, revel in warm sunny days, release yourself of all your stress, and simply enjoy life with your family.
As we call Glenwood Springs, CO “home”, we felt compelled to compile a list of fantastic FREE activities for the budget-minded or the nature loving or the free-spirited like us, who prefer the freedom of a hike or a bike ride over the micro-managed tours offered by resort towns across the country.
Hiking is always free and it’s spectacular in Glenwood Springs, CO with so many different hikes to take, it’s hard to find the right one.
Hanging Lake is an absolute must. It is a steep climb up, but the payoff at the top is the most beautiful scene one can imagine, it will literally take your breath away! A green/blue pristine lake surrounded by waterfalls. LIterally it’s like a Hawaiian lagoon in the middle of the Colorado mountains! Be sure to head out super early in the morning, don’t even attempt on a weekend or holiday as this trail is super popular and parking is limited. No dogs.
Storm King Trail is a tribute to the 14 firefighters who died in 1994 on Storm King Mountain fighting a wildfire. Along the way, hikers are given information about the fire and the crews that were working hard to fight it. It’s a steep, yet easy climb, bring water as much of the trail is exposed to the sun.
Red Mountain Trail takes you on switchback after switchback up Red Mountain, but when you arrive at the top the views of the entire Roaring Fork Valley, including the Roaring Fork and Colorado River and the Elk Range in the distance … truly breathtaking, it’s the perfect location for a picnic lunch and to take some absolutely amazing photographs!
Grizzly Creek Trail is a super easy hike that meanders along Grizzly Creek, really no hills at all to speak of, but the cool breeze off the creek lends to a nice mid-summer hike.
A short hike up the mountain in the middle of downtown Glenwood Springs, gives you a mini-workout and offers some beautiful views over the Valley.
At the top you are treated to a free self tour of the cemetery boasting some greats, such as Doc Holliday who had come out to the Hot Springs to cure his tubuerculosis in 1887, but unfortunately succombed in November.
Harvey Logan, aka “Kid Curry” is also buried in Linwood after committing suicide after a train robbery in 1904. For a while, Logan had been a member of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s gang.
Climbing in Glenwood Canyon
Aside from being the most beautiful place I’ve ever laid eyes on, Glenwood Canyon is home to many rock and ice climbing opportunities throughout the main canyon as well as in side canyons.
Grab the fam, grab the gear and just hit it, as just about every exit off I-70 offers a climbing opportunity.
Music in the Park
Glenwood Springs, hosts free concerts every Tuesday night during the summer. Picnic down by the river, let the kids run wild, pop open a bottle of wine and relax in the cool mountain air! It’s a pretty cool scene, heavy on the jazz, but still cool enough to check out for a bit.
If you have an ATV, Jeep, or dirt bike, Glenwood Springs is a great destination. Trails are everywhere around here.
Transfer Trail, will take you the Flattops with quite possibly the most gorgeous views in the state and great camping alongside lakes at the top.
4-Mile with it’s Aspen Groves and forest and even a huge open meadow … do a little research, grab your trailer and head on out.
Rivers are always free!! The Colorado River runs through Glenwood Springs and offers a wide range of boating.
There’s a great stretch for rafts, kayaks, SUP’s, tubes, boogie boards and even an Duckies. If you want to spend a little cash, but not quite as much as you would if you booked a guide, many outfitters will rent their rafts and duckies to private parties.
There’s a fantastic mile long section of Class III/+ called Shoshone for more avid boaters — during the summer months you can almost always hitch a ride to and from Shoshone to run loops.
And, don’t come to Glenwood Springs for some river adventure without checking out the Glenwood Wave. Below Two Rivers Park, in West Glenwood, is a great standing wave. It’s perfect for surfboards, SUP boards, boogie boards and even body surfing.
PFD’s (life jackets) are REQUIRED!
Biking is a big deal here in Glenwood. From mountain biking to dirt biking to freestyle and beyond, Glenwood Springs is on the map when it comes to top notch trails and for all levels of bikers! The Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail and the Rio Grande Trail are both paved and ideal for people of all ages and abilities.
The Boy Scout Trail, is hands-down the best in-town mountain biking trail. It’s a wild ride that Dan and some friends did a few years back … Dan’s no expert mountain biker, but he’s crazy ahtletic and he went over the handlebars 11 times! LOL, I’m not kidding, so bring your bike, check it out, but don’t expect it to be a beginner trail!!
If you aren’t ready for a trail of The Scout Trail’s caliber, check out Wulfsohn Trail to perfect your skills — it’s a great 4 mile ride, with steep hills, narrow spots and everything else that makes mountain biking fun.
Ahhh, the fishing in the pristine waters of Western Colorado are world class. Glenwood Springs itself is nationally recognized for the excellence of its fly fishing, in fact Colorado’s longest stretch of gold medal waters — 42 miles — are located right here in our Valley! And not only are they world class, but they are very easily accessible. The area’s rivers are home to brookies, browns, cutthroats and rainbow trout. Be sure to play nice with the area’s boaters, we are all on the same team!! 🙂