2010 Summer Guide
"For weirdness to flourish, it has to have the right compost made up of dramatic history, amazing environments, and truly unique, off the grid characters," writes Charmaine Ortega Getz, author of Weird Colorado. "Colorado is blessed with all three."
She should know, because she's been exploring the intersection of these three elements for a new book that chronicles many of this state's weird, wonderful spots — everything from Bishop's Castle (featured in Weird U.S.) to Cañon City's Prison Museum to the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill at the University of Colorado to the haunted corners of the Denver Botanic Gardens. And in this guide, she offers up her Top 10 favorite weird places to visit this summer — just the map for a wild road trip.
Summer Guide 2010
But you don't have to love weird to love summer in Colorado. And you don't even have to jump on a highway. You could simply grab a seat at the nearest outdoor patio in downtown Denver and get a complete taste of this state by pouring down local microbrews and enjoying the inevitable sunshine, then the balmy evening air. That could be enough.
But there's more, so much more, to experience. That's what Jessica Chapman learned when she told friends she was moving to Denver, and they loaded her up with suggestions for things to do in this city, plus places to see around the state. She culled through all their ideas and admonitions and came up with her own Top 10 lists: the Top 10 Things for a Newcomer to Do in Denver, and the Top 10 Things for a Newcomer to Do in Colorado (and, yes, there is a difference). Even if you've lived here for forty years, though, you never get tired of summer in Colorado — not with a favorite park to picnic in, a new festival to explore, as Jonathan Shikes reveals in his own list: the Top 10 Things for a Native to Do in Denver.
And still, these lists just begin to capture all the wonders of summer in Colorado. From Buffalo Bill's Burial Commemoration the first week of June to A Taste of Colorado, the giant festival in Civic Center Park that brings the season to a close over Labor Day (although the good weather and good times will continue for many more weeks), there's always something to do, always something to see — and quite often, those somethings are free.
So what are you waiting for? There's a world of weird and wonderful things right outside your door. Get out and enjoy summer in Denver.
Stay Weird and Wonderful, Colorado
Charmaine Ortega Getz was weird before she came to Colorado from her native California more than a dozen years ago — but she was delighted to find that her new home was also filled with weird attractions. "As a kid, I would read the newspapers, and I would always wonder, 'What happened next?'" she says. "I always thought there was more going on."
She made it her mission to find out, working as a journalist and always looking for the story beyond the story. And she didn't give up that habit when she met her future husband, who'd lived in Colorado all his life, and moved to Boulder to be with him. She got her MFA at Naropa ("a different kind of weirdness," she says), slapped her car with a "Keep Boulder Weird" bumpersticker, and started doing some freelance writing. A fan of Weird New Jersey and its Weird U.S. offshoot (www.weirdus.com), she scoured the book for references to Colorado, and, finding only one, sent a note to the founders of the Weird series, Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman ("The Marks," she calls them). "Gentlemen," she told them, "you don't know from weird in Colorado."
And so the Marks and their publisher invited Getz to share her discoveries not just with them, but with readers across the country, as the author of the just-released Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorado's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Getz spent more than a year researching the book, traveling around the state and talking to everyone she met. "Some of the best sources are the teenagers, who will glom on to the urban legends," she advises. She tracked down authors who'd put out their own books "about everything that was strange or colorful or oddball or bizarre," and dug into history.
"What I found out as I was going around was how key it was for many of these small towns to have something unusual," she says. "I think every town needs to find the good weirdness and nurture it. You can nurture pride in your town; you can nurture a whole tourism economy." In fact, she hopes that her book convinces people to get out of town this summer and see these sights for themselves.
Because as she discovered through all her time in journalism, "Truth really is weirder than fiction," she says. "There's always something weird or quirky or strange, not just the ghost stories. It's the history."
After a year of travel and research that resulted in more than 260 pages of weird stories and photos of attractions across Colorado, she knows she's only started to capture this state's eccentricities. "I have not begun to mine the huge vein of weirdness in Colorado," she says. "I've just scratched the surface."
Want to see what else she'll dig up? Getz will be signing her book at local stores this summer; she's also started a blog, http://weirdcoloradan.blogspot.com/, where she'll update you on her finds. And to get you started on your own exploration of this state, she's offered up this list of a few of Colorado's many-splendored weirdnesses, picked with summer road trips in mind.
Top 10 Weird Places to Visit
1. Flossie McGrew's
1824 South Broadway, Denver
Even if you don't happen to meet proprietress Grandma Goth, this place is worth checking out for its eclectic, even bizarre inventory of used goods. Don't forget to take photos with the fantastic storefront in the background.
This tiny town, just minutes west of Denver, was founded in 1874, and nearly every old building has a ghost. Or so say the residents, who have stories of "shadow people" hovering around the stump of the former Hanging Tree, people in antique garb floating about in eateries, misty faces seen in windows, etc. And then there's the legend of the Hatchet Lady...
3. Canyon Pintado
Along Highway 139, between Fruita and Rangely
Strange figures, stylized animals and cryptic images left on rocks by ancient Native Americans can be seen at 400 known sites in the Canyon Pintado area, but only sixteen sites have markers — probably because such sites too often become targets of vandalism. You're free to look around for more; just don't touch 'em. Take a self-guided tour with the help of brochures you can pick up in Rangely, Grand Junction and Fruita, or find more info at www.rangely.com/CanyonPintado.htm.
4. Mike the Headless Chicken memorial
And speaking of Fruita, this Western Slope town is home to Mike the Headless Chicken. Even if you missed the annual May tribute to small-town wackiness, you can take a photo of Mike, immortalized in larger-than-life steel, on Mulberry Street. More information: www.miketheheadlesschicken.org/index.php
Go to the Our Journey website (www.ourjourney.info/Default.asp) and download a "train ticket" that will give you free admission to twelve Eastern plains historical attractions — several of them featured in Weird Colorado — before September 6, 2010. Particularly not to be missed:
5. World's Wonder View Tower
30121 Frontage Road, Genoa
This vintage tourist attraction was once a combination dance hall, motel, gas station, Greyhound bus stop and restaurant. It's none of those today, but it still has the prime lure: a tower from which you can See Landmarks in Six States! And if you can't find a souvenir in the eclectic clutter, then I congratulate you on attaining that yogic level of non-possessiveness that Gandhi spoke of.
6. Kit Carson County Carousel
Kit Carson County Fairgrounds
815 15th Street, Burlington
You may never see another amusement ride like this — a jaw-dropping, restored 1905 antique with the original, individually hand-carved and painted steeds. Not just horses, but an exotic menagerie of bears, giraffes and more, led by a single mythical figure, a hypocampus (half horse/half fish). The music is provided by the fabulous Wurlitzer Monster Military Band Organ.
7. Brothel Museum
353 Myers Avenue, Cripple Creek
Actually, it's known as the Old Homestead House Museum. But that makes it sound like one of Colorado's restored pioneer structures, brimming with historic wholesomeness. It's all of that — except for the wholesome part. The structure was built in 1896 for madam Pearl de Vere, with no expense spared.
Located near Colorado Highway 9, between Cripple Creek and Cañon City, Guffey has a population under thirty, and the mayor is a black cat called Monster. While Guffey has the only services around for 25 miles, it's worth a stop just to look around at the quirky rustic buildings, antique cars and art scattered about. Every Fourth of July, the population swells as people turn out for live music, barbecue and sports involving both live and dead chickens. For more: http://www.guffeycolorado.com/
9. Lake City
Fifty-five miles south of Gunnison is Lake City, a lovely little village surrounded by National Wilderness areas and chock-full of historic buildings — including the original courthouse where the nineteenth-century man-eater Alfred Packer was first tried for his notorious crimes. It has a history museum with an impressive display of authentic Packer memorabilia, including the dollhouse he built in prison. And just outside of town is Cannibal Plateau, where the less fortunate members of Packer's party are buried.
10. San Luis Valley
Yep, the whole thing. As former resident Christopher O'Brien, author of The Mysterious Valley, once said, "It's paranormal Disneyland." UFOs aplenty. Strange lights. Bizarre critters. Anomalous critters. Unexplained animal mutilations. Bigfoot.
But if you don't happen to stumble onto any of that, there's still the Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Gators Reptile Park, the UFO Watchtower, Cano's Castle in Antonito and so much more.
Stay weird, my friends!
Top 10 Things for a Newcomer to Do in Denver
Before I'd even rolled into town last month, I was itemizing the things I wanted to do in Denver this summer. The list included such ambitious intentions as "learn to snowboard" (A-Basin was still open, after all) and "bike to Boulder," as well as some tamer, more indulgent activities, like "drink lots of Old Chub," "check out local hippie bars" and "get some good Mexican food for once." I was also armed with suggestions from friends, all former Coloradans. Eat at Sushi Den, one insisted. "Say hi to Charlie Brown's for me!" another wrote. "You're going to get a dog when you get there, right?" a third asked.
As it turns out, I could not have picked a better time to move to the Mile High City. It was the day the cherry trees blossomed, creating a fragrant canopy of intoxicating red and white blossoms everywhere I went. Not surprisingly, I immediately decided that my first summer here, I'm going to get to know this city from the outside in. My Top 10 Things to Do in Denver list:
1) Go to a Colorado Rockies Game
Summer just wouldn't be summer without baseball, right? How about tossing some Rocky Mountain oysters into the game? At Coors Field, you can score both baseball and balls, all with a breathtaking view of the mountains. The Colorado Rockies' home fits so comfortably into downtown's old warehouse neighborhood, it's like the ballpark's always been there — though it saw its first pitch in 1995. Get a seat in the nosebleeds along the first-base line for the best glimpse of the mountains (not to mention a better deal); during evening games, you can enjoy your Rockie Dog while watching the sunset over the Rockies. For game schedule and ticket information, go to www.coloradorockies.com.
2) Drink at My Brother's Bar
Lock yourself inside an old museum? Not this summer, not when you can get a history lesson while still getting your drink on at My Brother's Bar, Denver's oldest continually operating watering hole. This building, at 2376 15th Street, has held a saloon since the 1870s; more than half a century later, it was a favorite with the Beat generation's Neal Cassady, who wrote a letter about his tab that's still on the wall. Order a burger and a beer (and maybe a box of Girl Scout cookies) and enjoy the outdoor patio, a true urban oasis. Afterward, you can stumble down to nearby Confluence Park, where Denver got its start back in 1858. For more information, call 303-455-9991.
3) Eat Local Ice Cream
If you moved here in the winter, you might want to dive into endless bowls of this city's hot green chile. But in the summer, adventurous eaters scream for ice cream — and rather than head for Ben & Jerry's, why not try one of this cowtown's offerings? There are popular newbies like Little Man, Sweet Action and Red Trolley, as well as a couple of ice-cream parlors that qualify as local institutions. Bonnie Brae Ice Cream will cater to your more traditional cravings, with flavors like strawberry, cookie dough and Rocky Road, served up just a few blocks from Washington Park at 799 South University Boulevard; call 303-777-0808. And over at 2039 East 13th Avenue in the heart of Capitol Hill, Liks challenges the palate with such ingredients as ancho chiles and Amaretto; for more delicious details, call 303-321-2370.
4) Join the Moonlight Classic Bike Ride
One man who's lived in Denver for more than a decade cites the Moonlight Classic as his all-time favorite activity in the city — a bold statement, but one delivered with conviction. The annual ride brings together all sorts of people — some in costume — for an intimate, convivial and leisurely ten-mile nighttime ride that starts and finishes at the State Capitol, going through downtown, LoDo and Cherry Creek along the way. This year's Moonlight Classic goes down on July 17, and tickets cost $35 — though rumor has it that this ride is pretty easy to crash. For more information or to actually register (it's for charity, after all), go to www.moonlight-classic.com.
5) Attend First Friday in the Santa Fe Art District
Newcomers and natives alike agree that First Friday in one of the city's arts districts is a must-stop not just in the summer months, but throughout the year. The hottest district is along Santa Fe Drive, which incorporated as a nonprofit in 2003 and has grown to include more than fifty galleries, museums and theaters, with an emphasis on cooperation and lack of pretension. Openings, receptions and other celebrations take place all summer long, but First Friday is the time to see and be seen. The district is located on Santa Fe Drive and Kalamath Street between Alameda and 12th avenues; for more information, go to www.artdistrictonsantafe.com.
6) Ride the Wild Chipmunk
Inexplicably, but also awesomely, Denver has two amusement parks, within four freaking miles of each other. While Elitch Gardens is the more prominent of the two, the family-owned Lakeside Amusement Park is a quaint slice of Denver. This historic park has been around for more than a century, and admission fees are half of what the competition charges (and are even more of a deal on weekdays). And only at Lakeside will you find the Wild Chipmunk, an improbably named steel roller coaster dating back to 1955. The pod-like cars look like they belong on a kiddie ride, but the precipitous drops are definitely adult. All-inclusive tickets to the park cost $13.75 Monday through Friday, $19.75 on the weekends, but you can also pay per ride, fair style. For more information, go to www.lakesideamusementpark.com.
7) Meet Peeps at the People's Fair
Want to rub elbows with fellow Denverites? The Capitol Hill People's Fair is a good place to do it. Organizers estimate that a quarter of a million people attend the weekend-long event that got its start at the East High School Esplanade in the early 1970s and moved to Civic Center Park in 1987. This year's fair — set for June 5-6 — will feature four stages of music, as well as arts and crafts corners, community mural painting, food vendors and booths touting just about every activity in town. The free, multi-culti, feel-good event is organized by Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, which uses the proceeds to fund other nonprofits in the area. Find a complete schedule at www.peoplesfair.com.
8) Walk the 16th Street Mall
Sure, it's a tourist trap — but as you stroll past Niketown, the Gap and the multiple Starbucks outlets that line the 16th Street Mall, you'll dig up some true Denver nuggets. The roughly two-mile stretch will take you from near the Capitol to Union Station, ending right at the door of the fabulous, independent Tattered Cover bookstore; along the way, you can stop at local eateries like Crepes 'n Crepes and Biker Jim's, or grab a seat at an outdoor cafe. The pedestrian mall is car-free, with a free shuttle coming along every few minutes. The mall is due for a facelift soon: Maybe the city could swap out a few made-in-China souvenir shops for some Denver-centric retail operations?
9) Kayak the Platte
You've walked along the Greenway, you've biked the Cherry Creek Bike Path to Confluence Park. Now it's time to take the plunge into the Platte. Confluence Kayaks, at 2373 15th Street, rents kayaks (go to www.confluencekayaks.com or call 303-433-3676), and you can also recent paddling gear — as well as sign up for instruction — at REI, which occupies a historic building at 1416 Platte Street that includes a very modern climbing wall (find out more at www.rei.com or call 303-756-3100).
10) Catch a Concert at the Botanic Gardens
Denver is filled with the sound of music in the summer, with concerts taking place at a number of non-traditional venues — think the Denver Zoo, Skyline Park and patios around town. The loveliest venue of all could be the Denver Botanic Gardens, with a lineup this round that includes Natalie Cole, Nanci Griffith, Béla Fleck and Shawn Colvin. Tickets are pricey and very hard to get. But at least one night this summer, you should stop and smell the roses — while listening to some very sweet music. For more information, call 720-865-3500 or go to www.botanicgardens.org.
Top 10 Things for a Newcomer to Do in Colorado
When you tell people you're moving to Denver, this is what they hear: Colorado. Even before I'd crossed the state line, I had a long list of suggestions — many of them more like imperatives — of things I had to do outside of the city during my first summer in Colorado: hikes and bike rides and concerts and festivals. And, of course, mountains. So I plan to head to the hills whenever I can this summer, to experience my My Top 10 Things to Do Outside Denver.
1) Conquer a Fourteener
When you ask people what to do outside of Denver, everyone recommends hiking — and some will even suggest you climb a fourteener, one of Colorado's 54 peaks that top out over 14,000 feet. "I think everyone who moves here should try to summit a peak (not necessarily a fourteener, but something that will whet your appetite and maybe put a fourteener on your radar for the future)," one contact wrote. And a particularly helpful friend pointed out that if you're lazy, you can drive a fourteener: Both Pikes Peak and Mount Evans have roads to the top. For more info on fourteeners, including how to protect them, go to www.14ers.org.
2) Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park
Colorado may not have the ocean, but it has thirty square miles of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park in the south central part of the state. Sandboarding and sledding the dunes is popular, as is camping and just hanging out — basically, everything you'd do at the beach besides swim. The park entrance fee is $3 per person; children sixteen and under get in free. For more details, go to www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm.
3) Soak in a Hot Spring
Whether the season is winter or summer, soaking in a hot spring is apparently some kind of Colorado initiation rite. There's just something about the way people encourage you to try it, with a blend of urgency and mild admonishment. For a quick jaunt from Denver, there's Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs (www.indianhotsprings.com or 303-989-6666.) For a pleasant drive, a friend suggested Cottonwood Hot Springs nestled in the San Isabel National Forest near Buena Vista (www.cottonwood-hot-springs.com or 719-395-6434) or Strawberry Park Hot Springs near Steamboat Springs (www.strawberryhotsprings.com or 970-879-0342). And you can combine two Colorado pastimes with the challenging Conundrum Hot Springs hike between Aspen and Crested Butte, where the springs are reportedly clothing-optional.
4) Rock Out at Red Rocks
Coloradans sound like a bunch of robots when it comes to Red Rocks: must go must go must go. But in this case, the robots are right. From the pictures I've seen of Red Rocks, the world-renowned, Denver-owned amphitheatre carved into the rocks just outside of Morrison, it looks breathtaking. And it has a rocking summer concert lineup, with acts ranging from Vampire Weekend to Crosby, Stills and Nash and Widespread Panic. Although the concert tickets aren't cheap, you can visit the Visitor Center — an official state facility filled with rock-and-roll history — for free. For schedules and ticket information, go to www.redrocksonline.com.
5) Tube a River
My advisors recommended tubing over its wilder cousin, whitewater rafting. Maybe that's because you can drink a beer while tubing, maybe because the sport doesn't require a safety helmet. Tubing Boulder Creek, a frequent suggestion, does include rapids, though; for an easier trip, you can set sail on the St. Vrain and float through Lyons. Tubes generally rent for $11-$16; for more info on tubing Boulder Creek or the St. Vrain, go to www.whitewatertubing.com or, after June 15, call 720-379-6055.
6) Sample the Suds in Fort Collins
Visit four breweries in one day — on a bike. Only in Colorado. Specifically, in Fort Collins. Start at the big boy, Anheuser-Busch (2351 Busch Drive, www.budweisertours.com/home.htm, 970-490-4691), then head to Fort Collins Brewery (1900 East Lincoln Avenue, www.fortcollinsbrewery.com, 970-472-1499), Odell's (800 East Lincoln Avenue, http://odellbrewing.com, 970-498-9070) and New Belgium (500 Linden Street, www.newbelgium.com, 970-221-0524). But you'll need to plan ahead: Fort Collins Brewery only has tours on Saturdays, and New Belgium requires reservations (summer's filling up). Cheers!
7) Sleep in a Yurt
There's no telling how the traditional homes of Mongolian nomads became fixtures in Colorado, where these structures resemble their East Asian counterparts in name and shape only. Colorado's yurts are basically round cabins, typically without indoor plumbing. Still, it's much more fun to tell your friends back east that you're staying in a yurt than in a cabin. A few of the recommendations I received: Never Summer Nordic in Walden, which rents its remote yurts for $60-$80 a night in the summer (www.neversummernordic.com or 970-723-4070), and Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa, which cost $80-105, are a little more cushy and have hot springs, which means you can cross another activity off your top-ten list here (www.joyfuljourneyhotsprings.com or 719-256-4328).
8) Eat Colorado Peaches
Turns out peaches come from more places than Georgia. Who knew? A friend back in Minnesota clued me in to Colorado's crop, even reporting that the revered Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul will be getting peaches from Palisade's Rocky Mountain Peach Company and Durango's Kokopelli Peach Farm sometime in early August. That's when I'll be heading to the Western Slope, where many of the state's peach orchards are located, and Palisade even hosts an annual peach festival. This year's is August 19-22; for more information, go to www.palisadepeachfest.com.
9) Watch a Double Feature at the Drive-in
There aren't many drive-ins left across the country, and just a handful still operate in Colorado. Still, there aren't many better ways to spend a warm summer evening than kicking back in a lawn chair with some Twizzlers and brews, watching a B-list movie or two. You can do it in Denver at the Rosemary 88, but one former Colorado resident insisted that the Holiday Twin Drive-in in Fort Collins is a can't-miss locale. "Watch the sunset from the back of a truck and then watch a double feature," she advised. "Cheap! Especially if you bring your own provisions!" Tickets are only $6; for more information, go to www.holidaytwindrivein.com or call 970-221-1244.
10) Enjoy a Ski Town in the Off-Season
Helloooo, mountains. Colorado's ski towns don't pack up when the skiers do. In the summer, these spots have charms all their own. Breckenridge, an old mining area turned ski giant, still has some of its quaint, gingerbready, small-town charms; in the summer, it feels sleepy but at the same time vibrant. Rent mountain bikes and try out the local trails or cruise through town; you'll feel like you own the place. And you can, if you camp for free on nearby Bureau of Land Management property. Watch out for beavers! Find more info at www.townofbreckenridge.com.
Top 10 Things for a Native to Do in Colorado
There's so much to do in Colorado in the summer, you could spend ten years just picking the low-hanging fruit. But after you've lived here a long time, a lifetime, you want to tackle some superlatives. See the biggest mammal. Canoe the biggest lake. Drive the highest road. For that, you need the native's guide.
1) Drive Trail Ridge Road
Open only from late May through September, depending on weather conditions, Rocky Mountain National Park's Trail Ridge Road is one of the most scenic, most elegant drives in the nation. It's also the highest continuous road in America, reaching 12,183 feet at one point and connecting the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. Learn more at www.nps.gov/room/planyourvisit/trail_ridge_road.htm.
2) Travel to Coney Island
No summer road trip along U.S. 285 is complete without a stop at Coney Island Colorado, the 1960s-era diner shaped like a hot dog (with mustard and relish on top). Although it has been moved a couple of times (and is now located on Old Stagecoach Road in Bailey), the giant wiener does Colorado proud. Dig in.
3) Climb a Trio of Fourteeners in One Day
By now, you've surely conquered one of Colorado's fourteeners. So try summiting three in one day — and then tell your friends about it. In Park County, mounts Democrat (elevation 14,148), Lincoln (14,286) and Bross (14,172) can all be reached in a single hike...if you have the lungs.
4) Soak Your Feet in a Mountain Lake
The trailhead to Cathedral Lake is just fifteen minutes from Aspen, and the route itself, which crosses ancient glacier moraines at the foot of the Maroon Bells, is only about three miles each way. But by the time you climb the eight killer switchbacks, your feet will be aching for the shock of the ice-cold, blue-green lake at 11,866 feet. Take the plunge at www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=HGR250-013.
5) Gaze at a Moose
There aren't many moose in Colorado, but two of the best places to find them are at the state-run Moose Center on Colorado Highway 14 west of Fort Collins, and in Grand Lake, the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, where the massive ungulates roam the forests — and the campgrounds — looking for delicious leaves. Learn more at http://wildlife.state.co.us/Education/TeacherResources/ColoradoWildlifeCompany/HauntsCWCF00.htm.
6) Haunt a Ghost Town
Colorado's past as a freewheeling cluster of high-country mining towns is still visible in places — if you know where to look. And summer is the best time to visit these old ghost towns, since many of the roads leading to them close in the winter. Some of the best include the well-preserved St. Elmo, in Chaffee County; creepy but starkly beautiful Independence, east of Aspen; and Gunnison County's Tin Cup, which can only be reached with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Raise the dead at www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/co.html.
7) Pay Your Respects to Buffalo Bill
William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody made his mark on America with his storied Wild West Show, and now he rests forever in one of the wildest of those states. Lookout Mountain, just minutes from Denver, is home not only to the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, but also one of the coolest gift shops this side of the Mississippi. Hunt it down at www.buffalobill.org or call 303-526-0747.
8) Boat to Your Campsite
What's the biggest body of water in Colorado? The answer, at twenty miles long and with 96 miles of shoreline, is the Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area near Gunnison. While the reservoir serves as a base for just about any Colorado activity you can imagine, it also has cool, boat-in-only campgrounds. Dock your canoe at the entrance to West Elk Creek and walk past diving, violet-green swallows to the campground near an old sawmill and homesteading operations. You'll be glad you did. Go to www.nps.gov/cure/planyourvisit/boatincamping.htm.
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9) Blossom at the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
Colorado's mountain winters are notoriously brutal, but when the snow finally melts, the crushing cold gives way to a spectacular array of brightly colored, delicate wildflowers. And while these gems can come and go in a flash, the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival lasts for a week, offering up a bouquet of hikes, tours and classes. For info, visit www.crestedbuttewildflowerfestival.com.
10) Catch Sunset at Garden of the Gods
Not all sunsets are equal. There are the ones you miss while you're still at work, the ones you catch a glimpse of between buildings, the ones you forget to look for because you're too busy. And then there are the ones you watch in the late-evening peace of Garden of the Gods, a Colorado Springs spot filled with towering red sandstone rocks. One of the state's most beautiful, more spiritual landmarks, Garden of the Gods offers summertime sunsets that make up for all the ones you've missed. See for yourself at www.gardenofgods.com/home/index.cfm.