A Colorado summer can be short, which is why those in the know hit the road early and often, from Memorial Day to Labor Day -- and even later if they can. There are plenty of campgrounds, RV sites, motels, condos and luxury resorts to choose from, but it's hard to top the character or quirkyness of the following list of ten unusual places to stay.
Our Summer Guide, which hit the streets last week inside the regular issue of Westword includes this list along with information on hundreds of events and things to do this summer. Keep reading for our picks.
Movie Manor 2830 U.S. Highway 160 West, Monte Vista 719-852-5921 bestwesterncolorado.com For fifty years, the Kelloff family ran what is the world's only known hotel/drive-in movie theater, and although new owners took over in 2013, Movie Manor -- now part of the Best Western chain - still allows guests to catch flicks on the big screen from the comfort of their own rooms. When you call to make reservations, check to see what movies are playing on the two screens and at what time. They're usually action or family-friendly blockbusters.
Yogi Bear's Jellystone Camp-Resort 650 Sky View Lane, Larkspur 220-325-2393 jellystonelarkspur.com Jellystone is not where you go to get back to nature. It's where you go to be surrounded by other people, who are in turn surrounded by nature. You also need to have a good sense of humor - and kids, probably, since the 100-acre private campground/resort includes pools, themed weekends and innumerable activities. And while the resort offers tent sites, cabins, huts and yurts, the most famous lodging option is the tipis, each of which sleep six people. The rates start at $50 per night; the photos will be priceless.
Starlite Classic Campground 30 County Road 3A, Cañon City 619-467-3876 starliteclassiccampground.com Wanna go back in time? Back to a place where Tupperware was brand-new, pink flamingos weren't ironic and Americans could afford to buy the cars they made? Then head to Starlite Classic Campground near the Royal Gorge, where owners Sylvia Davids and Larry Hill have restored ten mid-century trailers and RVs. Pick from Sally, a pink 1962 Shasta Airflyte; Baily, a metal-encased 1950 Spartan Royal Mansion; or Shaggy, a 22-foot 1972 Ken-Craft, among others. The nightly rates for these historic classics aren't quite as vintage, but the experience will make camping seem peachy keen.
Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower San Juan National Forest 970-533-7060 fs.fed.us/r2/recreation/rentals/ Used by the U.S. Forest Service to spot wildfires from the 1940s to the 1970s, the 55-foot-tall Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower was converted into lodging in 1991. Located fourteen miles from Mancos, the one-room tower is equipped with its original furniture, propane heating and lighting, a stove and a fridge, but no running water. It does have 360-degree views, however. But to stay there, you've got to be able to climb five flights of stairs with all your stuff at over 10,000 feet in elevation. Rent it May through October for $40 a night -- but do it early, because it sells out fast.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs 44200 County Road #36, Steamboat Springs 970-879-0342 strawberryhotsprings.com Soaking in the enormous, multi-layered and rejuvenating basins at Strawberry Hot Springs is an experience that every Coloradan should have at least once - preferably naked and at night. Really dig it? Then stay overnight in one of the rustic cabins on site or in the Train Caboose, a renovated little red caboose that features a gas fireplace, a bathroom, a kitchenette, a futon and a generally funky feel. The cost is $120 per night (which includes hot tub admission), with a max of two people. All aboard!
Wyman Hotel & Inn 1371 Greene Street, Silverton 970-387-5372 thewymanhotelandinn.com The mining town of Silverton welcomed its first Denver & Rio Grande Railroad train in 1882, and although the majority of the people who walk its streets now are tourists, you can still get that railroad ambience by staying at the Wyman Hotel and Inn, a luxury B&B that has several themed rooms, including one in a converted Southern Pacific caboose. The Candlelight Caboose is furnished with an antique bed from Spain, a fireplace/stove and a two-person whirlpool tub. Available from June 1 to October 31, a stay in the bright-red Candlelight Caboose costs $175-$215 per night, but the romance is right on track.
Dunton Hot Springs 52068 Road 38, Dolores 970-882-4800 duntonhotsprings.com While the hifalutin' nature of Dunton Hot Springs - and its $1,000-a-night price tag -- might have the miners who once called the town of Dunton home rolling in their ghostly graves, you'll be very comfortable. That's because the owners restored all of the vacant buildings in what was once a ghost town and turned into a luxury resort, complete with several finely appointed cabins, an on-site chef and, of course, the hot springs. Set in a scenic mountain valley in southwestern Colorado, Dunton makes the wealthy feel woodsy.
UFO Watchtower Campground 2502 County Road 61, Hooper 719-378-2296 ufowatchtower.com Be forewarned: This is not so much a campground as it is a place to sleep in an unshaded desert. But if you do stay the night, you'll be rewarded by one of the clearest night skies in the western United States, one where there is so little light pollution that you might just be able to see...nah, couldn't be. Is that a light moving in the sky? Camping is 24/7, but the real attraction here is Judy Messoline's "watchtower," UFO garden and tiny museum dedicated to all things extraterrestrial and out of this world. The truth is out there.
Yurts at Colorado State Forest State Park 970-723-4070 neversummernordic.com Yurts - the large circular tents used by Mongolian nomads - are also popular in Colorado, and the 71,000-acre Colorado State Forest State Park, located in the Medicine Bow Mountains west of Fort Collins, offers eight of them in the remote backcountry. But far from what other backcountry travelers might be dealing with, these yurts - which are operated by Never Summer Nordic - include beds, an outhouse, wood or propane stoves and basic cooking gear, as well as protection from the elements and any marauding moose, which are abundant here. Some require hiking to get to. Call Never Summer for rates, availability and other specifics.
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Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge 800-537-7946 415 East 6th Street, Glenwood Springs hotspringspool.com With the plethora of mountain towns and hotel pools that beckon during Colorado's summer months, it's easy to forget that the pools behind the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge are fed by underground mineral springs. The facility was opened 126 years ago as a resort, spa and bathhouse, and is now divided into two swimming pools: a smaller, hotter therapy pool, and a larger, cooler pool (although still mighty toasty at 90-93 degrees) that also boasts a diving board, two water slides and a kiddie pool. The lodge itself offers many amenites, but it's those warming, healing (and somewhat odoriferous) waters that have kept visitors coming back since 1888.