While much of Colorado experiences cold air and frigid conditions, some quadrants remain relatively dry and mild during the winter.
Consider this your guide to a possible escape.
Fremont County mountain bikers rejoice: The Royal Gorge region sits along a banana belt that is making for a warmer climate.
Over the past decade, Cañon City has jumped at the opportunity to expand singletrack that is typically more rideable than Dirt North in Colorado Springs. The Oil Well Flats and South Cañon networks have popularized the area, while more recently the non-profit organization Fremont Adventure Recreation has focused on building hiking trails along the north rim of the Royal Gorge. Check this group’s website for current trail conditions.
These places can also be hiked. Another walking option is Tunnel Drive, which winds through historic rock passages above the Arkansas River. Another option is of course Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. The iconic bridge and attractions remain open year-round. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad offers Christmas train rides.
Winter might be the best time to book a reservation at the remodeled Desert Reef Hot Springs closer to Florence. Calling itself the ancient capital of Colorado, Cañon City’s neighboring town has also strived to be the culinary capital, with a surprising mix of cuisines flocking to the small downtown area.
Grand Valley The Western Slope Desert has been a mountain bike destination since the 1990s, when a ragtag group of riders saw high hopes in the surrounding sagefields and canyons. Fruita saw its fate reversed as the base camp for the Kokopelli and Lunch loops, as well as 18 Road and Greater Rabbit Valley trails.
Utah’s famous red rocks across the border seem to overshadow the similarly magnificent formations that make up Colorado National Monument.
“Winter is upon us,” Arlene Jackson, the reserve’s interpreter, told us. “We’re getting some snow. The road is rarely closed at the top.”
The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive stretches between Fruita and Grand Junction, offering numerous viewpoints and hiking opportunities along the way. Equally endless are the options in Grand Junction, including golf courses that remain open through the winter.
Fruit trees aren’t in bloom at the other end of the valley, but amazing flavors can still be found at Palisade’s restaurants and wineries.
PuebloLake Pueblo is a water destination in the summer. In winter it is a destination of the country.
Mountain bikers appreciate the rocky terrain on the banks. For hikers, Arkansas Point is an easy-to-reach precipice with panoramic views. The campgrounds remain open throughout the winter, allowing you to stay longer to spot bald eagles, which soar here from mid-December through March.
In the city, the Arkansas Riverwalk is a must-see. Pueblo calls the 32-acre waterfront venue its jewel, a restful San Antonio-inspired retreat near downtown.
Afterwards you can warm up with the legendary Slopper. Gray’s Coors Tavern is considered the birthplace of the green chili doused burger. Traditionally, it’s washed down with a schooner of beer. Another local institution is Pass Key, home of “the best Italian sausage sandwich in the world”.
History buffs can visit the El Pueblo History Museum and the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.