Staycations have been all the rage for a few years now. Many families are choosing to stay relatively close to home and explore their local surroundings. Staycations cut down on the planning, the packing and the cost of long distance travel. We were the Kings and Queens of staycations until we started RV’ing. It was really the only way we could afford to vacation. Glenwood Springs, CO is a worldwide destination, due to having the Largest Hot Springs Pool in the world. Glenwood Springs, CO is also a popular vacation destination for 303’s (people residing in the Denver area). If you are planning a family vacation, be sure to check out this list of Free Things To Do In Glenwood Springs, CO.
Where is Glenwood Springs, CO
Glenwood Springs is a medium sized mountain town located off I70, between the hamlets of Vail and Aspen. Being only 2.5 hours from Denver, Glenwood Springs is a popular destination for Colorado city dwellers looking to escape the hustle and bustle.
There are so many Things To Do In Glenwood Springs, CO that are FREE, fun and exciting. Glenwood Springs offers everything from extreme adventures to relaxation. Check out the following list and start planning your epic Summer Vacation to GWS!
Glenwood Springs alone has many attractions such as the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, two Hot Springs pools — Iron Mountain and Glenwood Hot Springs. On the extreme side, Glenwood Springs offers whitewater rafting and epic kayaking, SUP’ing and surfing.
While all of these activities are absolutely recommended, they aren’t free. in fact, they cost a pretty penny and can quickly eat up a family’s vacation budget. But, do not fret, you will also find a plethora of Free Things To Do in Glenwood Springs, CO. And, I’m not talking about window shopping or hitting the local library.
I’m referring to fun, free, outdoor activities. Things To Do that will clear your lungs, get you outside in the pristine mountain air, revel in the warmth of the sun, release stress, enjoy your family and make you feel alive!
So, if you prefer the freedom of doing your own thing, I implore you to check out the following list of Free Things To Do In Glenwood Springs.
Colorado is synonymous with hiking. Hiking is always free and it’s one of the most spectacular Free Things To Do in Glenwood Springs, CO. But with so many different hikes, it’s hard to find the right one.
Hanging Lake Trail
Hanging Lake is a definite must. Things will be changing soon, in fact in 2019 a fee based permit will be required, but if you can manage to get up to see it before then, I highly recommend it.
“Hanging Lake is a crystal-clear, travertine lake located high atop the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon. Suspended on the edge of Glenwood Canyon‘s cliffs, the clear turquoise lake and the waterfalls that spill into it are a breathtaking sight after the rigorous uphill climb. The mile-long hike is steep and rigorous, but rewarding once you see the natural beauty that awaits you at the top. Hanging Lake is a geologic wonder and is popular with travelers for its awe-inspiring beauty and gentle Colorado waterfalls!”
TIPS: Do Not Bring Your Dogs. And don’t attept this hike on a holiday, or even a weekend. It is too busy to enjoy during these days and you will inevitably run into idiots smoking pot or swimming in the water.
Storm King Trail
The reason this trail exists is a tragic one. The Storm King Mountain Trail is a memorial to the 14 firefighters who died defending the homes and property of people they didn’t even know. Each of them left their homes, families, and friends to help extinguish a fire caused by a lightning strike in the mountains surrounding Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The trail was built by volunteers as a tribute to those firefighters.
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.
TIPS: Dogs Welcome. Bring water as much of the trail is exposed to the sun.
Red Mountain Trail
Red Mountain Trail is steep, but it winds slowly, so not too strenuous. This trail takes you on switchback after switchback up Red Mountain. When you arrive at the top, you are rewarded with views of the entire Roaring Fork Valley, Storm King Mountain, Mount Sopris and the Elk Range in the distance. It is truly breathtaking.
Red Mountain Trail is the perfect location for a picnic lunch, a fun family hike or for an amazing photography session! The road is wide and large groups can hike on up side by side!
TIPS: Do not forget your camera, the views are amazing.
Grizzly Creek Trail
Grizzly Creek is one of several tributary streams that feeds into the Colorado River. The out and back trail meanders along the creek for several miles of spectacular, towering cliffs. Located at one of the most popular rest and recreation areas in Glenwood Canyon, Grizzly Creek is an up and back hike that follows the stream of the same name.
Grizzly Creek Trail is super easy, completely flat and when you’ve seen enough, you just turn around and head back to the parking lot.
TIPS: A great place for a quick picnic lunch along the Creek.
Doc Holliday Grave Site
Hiking to the Doc Holliday grave marker is a must-do activity while visiting Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Almost every family member who has come to visit wishes to make the short trek up to Linwood Cemetary to visit the grave of this infamous outlaw. The dentist turned gambler and gunslinger died from tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs in November of 1887. The famous friend of lawman Wyatt Earp, Doc hoped the hot springs water would cure him. It did not, he was 36 when he died.
Doc Holliday’s grave is easy to find and is typically adorned with mementos including coins and playing cards, cigarettes and whiskey bottles.
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 the plethora of side canyons.
Grab the fam, grab the gear and just hit it, as just about every exit off I-70 offers a climbing opportunity that is not to be missed.
Music in the Park
Glenwood Springs, CO 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.
TIPS: Bring sweatshirts as the temperature drops rapidly as the sun sets behind the mountains.
If you have an ATV, Jeep, or dirt bike, Glenwood Springs is a great destination. Trails are everywhere around here, literally hundreds of thousands of miles of trails just waiting for you. Following are two of the most popular trails in Glenwood Springs …
Transfer Trail is located north of Glenwood Springs. Riders follow this route into a remote, rugged, and scenic area. This trail begins at the Transfer Trailhead, which is located off Hwy 6 across from the Glenwood Caverns. From the trailhead, the trail steadily climbs to the north, offering incredible views of No Name Canyon, Glenwood Springs, and Mt. Sopris. Transfer Trail climbs into the southeastern Flat Tops, traversing spruce forest and open meadows. It also passes near several lakes, with great camping opportunities, including Haypress, Yellow, and Monument Lakes. Many of these lakes provide good high country fishing opportunities.
Four Mile Road (CR 117) is an intermediate/moderate road you can bike. This is a paved road to Sunlight Mountain in Glenwood Springs, CO. The road splits and turns to the right and to dirt at Sunlight Mountain continuing on as Four Mile Road (FSR 300). Up the Forest Road is a haven for off-roading of all kinds.
Rivers are always free!! The Colorado and the Roaring Fork Rivers run through Glenwood Springs and offers a wide range of boating for nearly every experience level.
Both are perfect for rafts, kayaks, SUP’s, tubes, boogie boards and even 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 are many sections on the Colorado River ranging from Class V whitewater to meandering Class II water. The Colorado River is big water, meaning the river is wide and deep … plan accordingly.
Up above, at the Hanging Lake Rest Area is Barrell Springs, arguably the most treacherous of water, only for the most experienced boaters. Our sons have run this section several times in their Jackson Kayak’s and they will attest to it’s difficulty.
Below Barrel is Shoshone. Shoshone is a 3/4 mile long section of Class III/+ . It’s crazy fun on a SUP, in a kayak, and even in a duckie. It is Class III+, so be sure to check your skill level and be sure you are comfortable running this class of whitewater.
Below Shoshone is Grizzly. Grizzly is the quintessential river run that most of us are familiar with. Grab your tubes, or whatever, and float down the river.
TIPS: Be sure to stop at the natural hot springs along the south side (left) for some rest and relaxation before continuing on your float.
Roaring Fork River
One of the quickest whitewater fixes in Glenwood Springs is on the Roaring Fork River. It’s a great river to take beginners to intermediate boaters as most of the rapids are Class II+, except for Cemetary, which is Class III. Cemetery is a super quick, sweet section with big rollers that are fun and exciting.
To reach the put-in, head south out of town on Grand Ave. and as you leave town this becomes Highway 82. Approximately 5 miles out of town take Old Highway 82 down to the river and the County Road 109 Bridge, also known as “Black Bridge.”
Hands down, the best of the Things To Do in Glenwood Springs is 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. It’s a great place to cool off and have a blast. If the river isn’t your thing, come watch us (and others) throw down in kayaks, and on surf boards.
TIPS: Don’t be dumb … wear a PFD’s (life jackets) if you are getting on the river at all … the local fire department hands them out if asked.
Biking is a big deal here in Glenwood. From mountain biking to dirt biking to freestyle and beyond, biking is at the to of the list when it comes to free Things To Do in Glenwood Springs. Across the state, Glenwood Springs is on the map when it comes to top notch trails for all levels of bikers!
The Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail
The Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail is a must in the array of Things To Do in Glenwood Springs. It provides easy access to Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River, and is perfect for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy. The paved trail spans the full length of Glenwood Canyon and connects all four rest areas.
The Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail is accessible from Glenwood Springs and a perfect place to view wildlife, fish the riverbanks, enjoy a family picnic, watch the Amtrak trains roll through the canyon and cycle for miles on end.
Rio Grande Trail
The Rio Grande runs along the Roaring Fork River from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, and is also ideal for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy. Cyclists can choose to do portions of the trail, from Glenwood to Carbondale for example, or ride the entire trail in one day.
Despite the fact that it runs along the highway, there is still plenty to see along this trail. Watch for bald eagles soaring above the river, look for historic old ranch buildings, herds of elk, rafters and boaters taking advantage of the flowing waters, and the amazing Mt Sopris towering ahead.
Boy Scout Trail
The Boy Scout Trail, is easy the best in-town mountain biking trail. It’s difficult and It’s a wild ride that begins with a 3-mile climb. Views above the canyon are incomparable. And the ride down is ridiculous and fast. Dan and some friends rode the Boy Scout Trail a few years back. Now, Dan’s no expert mountain biker, but he’s crazy ahtletic and he went over the handlebars 11 times! Bring your bikes, 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, do not worry. I advise you to check out Wulfsohn Trail to perfect your skills. This trail is a great 4 mile ride, with steep hills, narrow spots and everything else that makes mountain biking fun, just not the consequences of a fail as on the Boy Scout Trail.
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 and ease of acessibility. 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.
If you need some information, or want to hire a guide, look no further than our friends, the Harcourts. This family knows their stuff, but better yet, are honest, kind and go out of their way to ensure a great fishing experience! Dustin Harcourt runs Harcourt Fly Fishing … check him out. He’ll help ya with anything.