This adventure and others await you in Winter Park, a small mountain town surrounded by vast forests, towering peaks, and unbeatable scenery that's nestled on the Continental Divide. Whether you visit for a weekend or a week, Winter Park offers a welcome respite from crowded tourist attractions. And it’s all just 70 miles from Denver!
The name suggests a constant white wonderland, but Winter Park offers outdoor adventures in every season. In summer, you’ll find some of the nation’s best downhill mountain biking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and hiking. After the leaves fall and seasons change, Winter Park is blanketed in white with spectacular skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.
If you're an adrenaline junkie looking for your next fix, don't miss the downhill mountain biking at Winter Park Resort.
Newbies are welcome, and though I'd mountain biked before this trip, my limited experience of clumsily, and blessedly, making it down in one piece left me fearful about trying again. Luckily, Winter Park Resort's Trestle Bike Park School is made for people like me. All levels of mountain bike coaching are offered in Trestle Bike Park, but our group opted for Trestle 101, an intro downhill mountain biking course that includes 2.5 hours of instruction, lift ticket, downhill gear, and bike rental for $89 per person.
After putting on padded gear that better resembled that of a football player than mountain bikers, our talented instructor, Dave, took us up the chairlift for our ride. He taught us basic skills from braking to steering while showing us some of Winter Park's most exhilarating and beautiful trails. As a beginner, I learned that looking ahead to your next turn prevents dangerous collisions with trees, and that when in doubt, save yourself, not the bike, from total destruction.
If this information is old news to you, then Trestle 101 isn't for you. Get tackling Trestle's toughest terrain with Advanced and Pro level coaching sessions that help you safely advance your skills.
For those who like watching mountain biking as much as riding (or instead of riding) visit July 26-29, 2012 for the Colorado Freeride Festival.
This multi-day event features world-class riders competing in Slopestyle, a Singletrack Series Cross-Country Race, and a new three-day, five-stage Enduro Race. The Festival's most amusing event, Intergalactic Pond Crossing Championships, will be back to entertain spectators as mountain bikers attempt to cross the pond on skinny boards floating on pontoons.
Experience other great lift-serviced mountain biking at Granby Ranch where there are trails for every level of rider. Lessons are available most summer days, and free skills clinics are offered most summer Saturdays to help mountain bikers improve steep terrain, hill climbing, and more.
Other Outdoor Activities
Downhill biking not your style? Winter Park has plenty of activities for all ages and fitness levels. Winter Park Resort is home to Colorado's longest alpine slide, which offers beginning and advanced tracks that send you speeding down the mountain at speeds reaching 35 mph. Open June to September, this cement slide is worth riding at least once...or twice. The user-controlled carts are a thrill to drive, but be wary of critters on the track. Don't ask, just trust me on this one.
Cool off on scenic rafting trips with Adventures in Whitewater in Kremmling. Their trips cater to families and adventure seekers alike and give you a break from civilization for an afternoon. First-timers or visitors with little ones will enjoy the Colorado River trip. This scenic float splashes you with mild whitewater rapids, and you'll enjoy hot springs, eagle sitings, and the famed “jump rock.”
For an easy family hike, try the Jim Creek Trail located just off US-40 across from Winter Park Resort on Forest Road 128. This 4.6-mile roundtrip hike is ideal for spotting moose in the morning amidst a backdrop of Aspens. Many other excellent biking and hiking trails can be found on this map of the area’s 600 miles of trails.
Want a tougher trek? Hike to the Devil’s Thumb on the High Lonesome Trail II just east of Winter Park in Devil’s Thumb Park. This strenuous hike takes you through beautiful scenery to 11,670 feet for striking views of the valley below and to the finger-shaped rock outcropping known as the Devil’s Thumb.
Then give your feet a rest and take on Winter Park western-style with Fossil Ridge’s horseback trail riding guide service. Their expert guides take you through forested trails, along the river and to scenic viewpoints on rides for any level of rider.
For unbeatable access to Winter Park Resort's amenities, stay at the Zephyr Mountain Lodge, which offers spacious one-, two- and three-bedroom condos with full kitchens, fireplaces, decks, and luxurious beds. Their large outdoor hot tubs are a welcome respite after a day of recreating. In the summer, one-bedrooom suites start at $188 per night. Founders Point and Fraser Crossing, also located at Winter Park Resort, offer modern slopeside accommodations in studios and one- or two-bedroom condos.
Fill up early with breakfast at Mountain Rose Café with hearty choices like Egg Biscuit Sandwiches and Corned Beef Hash, or indulge in sweeter fare like Cinnamon Roll French Toast and Happy Hippie Granola. Everything from the salsa to the bread is homemade, and their hearty breakfast sandwiches are hard to beat.
For lunch, grab a quick, cheap bite at Rudi’s Deli where huge sandwiches like the popular Turkey Avocado Melt or the vegetarian Spinach Nut Burger are sure to fill you. Each giant sandwich includes chips, Dijon-vinaigrette coleslaw, or Italian vinaigrette pasta salad. Get yours to-go and enjoy it on a picnic during your hike or bike ride.
Delicious Southern cuisine in the middle of Colorado? Sounds unlikely, but Fontenot's Fresh Seafood & Grill offers Cajun favorites in an elegant atmosphere and has been a local favorite for 20 years. Happy hour food and drink specials are available daily from 4:00-6:00 p.m.
You can't beat the atmosphere at Hernando’s Pizza & Pasta Pub, a laid-back eatery decorated with $20,000 worth of one-dollar bills from past visitors. A locals favorite since 1967, this is the place to get your fill of hand-tossed pizzas or bountiful servings of pasta paired with cold brews. A great spot for socializing; grab a drink at the bar and make some new friends, as the wait for a table can be awhile.
Winter Park is easily accessed from Denver’s International Airport. The gorgeous 67-mile drive through small towns and over mountain passes takes just over an hour.
Jenny is the Managing Editor of Outdoor Sports Guide in Salt Lake City and a self-proclaimed gear and grammar nut. She studied Journalism at Seattle University and enjoys snowboarding and horseback riding in Utah's mountains.