3 Day Getaways / Explore Colorado

3 of My Favorite Road Trip Destinations Less Than 2 Hours From Denver

I shared three of my favorite Colorado summer and fall destinations with Kathie J and Chris Grundy (who was filling in for Chris Parente) on the Everyday Show on Fox 31 Denver.  Here’s more information if you want to travel to three of my favorite Colorado road trip places.  All three of the spots are less than 2 hours from Denver.  Here’s where the stay, eat/sip, explore, and a couple of hiking gems in Fort Collins, Breckenridge, and Snow Mountain Ranch.

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Front Range Fun:  Fort Collins

It’s a craft beer town and a college town, but if you haven’t been to Fort Collins in awhile or never been, you’ll be surprised at the charm of Old Town and the wonderful outdoor adventures you can find.  Plus, the live music scene is exploding in FoCo!

Stay:
The Elizabeth – This is the newest hotel in Fort Collins and it’s fabulous.  Great location in Old Town.  You’ll have a record player in your room and there’s even a music lending library if you want to borrow a guitar or banjo.
Eats/Sips:
Breakfast at Ginger & Baker – Go for a latte and the G&S Signature Omelette.  It’s a coffee shop, restaurant, and cute gift shop all housed in a historic building.  Make sure to grab a slice of pie to go!
Sunset Lounge at The Elizabeth – Sip a Sunshine & Roses cocktail while taking in sunset in this rooftop lounge.  After the sun goes down, enjoy live jazz music.
Chocolate Tasting at Nuance Chocolate – I’d never done a chocolate tasting and absolutely loved this unique experience.  Similar to wine or beer tasting, you can really pick up on the nuances of different chocolates during the tasting.  This is a tasting that is fun for the whole family!
Explore:
Jessup Farm Artisan Village – This was my first stop on a recent trip to Fort Collins.  There’s a great coffee shop, the most unique barbershop I’ve ever seen, some great shops, and several restaurants.  I noshed on a beet salad at Cacciatore at Heller’s Kitchen, then picked up a few great finds at Hey Day boutique, and picked up a Rosemary Berry Lemonade and Magic Muffin at Bindle Coffee.
Riverbend Ponds Natural Area – This is close to Jessup Farm.  I was surprised to find 200+ acres of ponds, wetlands, and trails on this stretch of the Poudre River.  I parked off of Prospect and hit the trail that took me past several ponds.  I even saw pelicans!
Hiking Gems:
Arthurs Rock at Lory State Park – You get similar landscape to the iconic Horsetooth Rock hike, minus the crowds.
Red Mountain Open Space – This is a unique hiking experience as you explore rocks that are 3 billion years old.
Mountain Magic – Breckenridge
Stay:
One Ski Hill Place – Stay where you play!  This luxurious resort with condo-style rooms sits at the base of Peak 8.  That’s where all the action is on the mountain!  The kids can pan for gold, test their skills on the climbing wall, run through the maze and more while you kick back on the patio at T-Bar and enjoy an adult beverage while basking in the sunshine.  The resort offers a shuttle service to and from town too.
Eats/Sips:
Clint’s Bakery – Grab a coffee and bagel from Clint’s and head out the backdoor to sit on the rocks on the Blue River.  It’s breakfast with a view!
Sancho Taco & Tequila – Breck needed a great taco joint and this is the newest dining spot in town.  Enjoy a gourmet taco or two out on the porch while you sip a margarita.
Relish – This is my favorite dinner place in Breck.  The food and service are always wonderful and they have a great wine list.  Go for the trout – it’s outstanding.  Save a little room for a Baked Alaska for the table to split!
Explore:
Epic Discovery Alpine Camp –  To get to Alpine Camp, you get to take the scenic ride on the Colorado SuperChair lift to experience an exhilarating aerial excursion. This is for the more adventurous, or those like me who get talked into challenging their fears.  I have a fear of heights, but I love zip lining.  There’s a catch with the Expedition Zipline Tour – it’s 8 lines spanning over a mile and you have to hand brake.  That was a new one for me.  I was fine on the first six but the last two lines, the longest and fastest ones, took every ounce of courage I could muster, along with friends who where doing it with me singing and cheering me on.  Oh, and you have the repel off the last platform!  I thought the suspension bridge would be the toughest part for me, but it ended up being the easiest.  For the adrenaline junkie this is a must.
Stroll Through Downtown – I love popping in and out of the many fabulous boutiques in Breck.  Some of my favs:  Mountain Goat, Marigolds Farmhouse Funk & Junk, Valleygirl, Ruby Jane, Bear’s Closet Boutique (best cashmere ponchos ever!), and the revitalized Main Street Station area.
Hiking Gems:
I’ve done a lot of epic hiking around Breck.  More challenging trails include Mohawk Lakes and Quandary Peak.  Here are two of my favorite more unusual hikes suited for the entire family.
Fairy Forest – Yes, there’s a Fairy Forest in Colorado.  Park at Snowflake Lift and walk up 4 O’Clock Road for about a quarter of a mile.  Be on the lookout for the fairy sign on the left.  Stroll through the forest filled with fairies, fairy houses, and more for about a half mile.  Continue on the trail to reach the Sawmill Reservoir.  Take your shoes off and wade into the refreshingly cool water!
Preston Ghost Town – This hike is just a couple of miles from downtown.  Drive up to the Gold Run Road Trailhead.  About a half mile up the trail, you’ll see the Jessie Mill.  Continue on for about another mile to reach Preston Ghost Town.  You’ll see the A-frame of what once was one the highest post offices in the United States along with what’s left of some of the cabins.  It’s a great place to explore Colorado’s mining history.  If you want to add more miles, you can easily connect to several trails from Preston.
Giddy Up to the Ranch – Snow Mountain Ranch
Stay:
Yurt – I haven’t stayed in one yet, but this is where I want to stay on my next summer or early fall visit to Snow Mountain Ranch.
Lodge Room or Cabin – I’ve stayed in both.  The cabins are great for large families and groups.  The lodge rooms are nice too.  In the lodges the kids will enjoy the great room style open areas.  These are no-frills kind of accommodations that are perfect for a ranch stay.
Eats/Sips:
Definitely do the meal plan for buffet-style dining hall.  I’ve gone summer and winter and have found this option to suit everyone in my group.  It makes meal time easy!  Plus you never have to leave the ranch.  If you’ve got a hankering for a burger, Buckboard Grill on property has you covered.  Fries are yummy there too, especially after a long hike!

Explore:
There are SO many great activities to do at SMR, from archery to horseback riding, I’ll admit I had a hard time choosing just a few to share.  But, here are some different ranch experiences you might not find at other places.
Summer Tubing Hill – Go flying down the hill!  I bet you laugh, or squeal, the whole way down.  This tubing is on a snowflex material and it’s a blast!
Canoe at Gaylord Reservoir – When was the last time you went canoeing?  Exactly!  Grab on oar and paddle around the reservoir.
Hanging with the Huskies – This is brand new this summer at SMR.  Have a doggone good time in the dog park with some of the huskies that pull the dog sleds in winter.  You’re guaranteed an abundance of puppy love with this experience.
Hiking Gems:
God’s Mailbox – I’ve snowshoed to this in winter and would love to hike it in summer.  Write a note to God and take it will you.  Drop it in the mailbox when you get there.  It’s part of the Grand View Trail on Nine Mile Mountain and is 3-miles round trip.
Waterfall Trail – Hiking to a waterfall is a rite of passage in Colorado in the summer!  This one is 2.5 miles round trip.  It follows a lovely creek and ends at a refreshing waterfall.

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