Outdoors

The Five Most Romantic, Outdoorsy Weekend Getaways in Colorado

Stacy Gold kayaking Brown's Canyon of the Arkansas River by Salida.
Stacy Gold kayaking Brown's Canyon of the Arkansas River by Salida.
Boulder-based author Stacy Gold is an avid outdoorswoman who's spent much of her life out in the wilderness. She's used her experiences as inspiration for outdoor romance novels, and has just published her latest, Wild at Heart. The novel, which Gold calls "a modern-day flip on your typical damsel-in-distress-style romance," follows protagonist Jules Martinez as she kicks off a year of celibacy with a five-week hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Although Martinez plans to do the trail solo, she meets out-of-work financial analyst Evan Davenport — who just broke things off with his fiancée — along the way.

"He gets all the latest gear and has no clue what he's doing, and she ends up having to rescue him a lot," Gold says. "And as part of that, he keeps ending up naked a lot."

Gold and her husband of 25 years frequently go on outdoor excursions. In advance of National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4, we reached out to Gold for recommendations on the most romantic weekend getaways in Colorado, where you can hit the trails with your partner, a romantic interest or even alone — self-love is important, too!

Arkansas River Valley
Gold and her husband bonded over their love of kayaking and whitewater rafting, and often make a splash in the Arkansas River Valley on a weekend getaway.

"There are so many options there," she says. "You could stay in Salida if you like a little more of an artsy scene. You've got Mount Princeton Hot Springs there. And then, of course, you've got access to amazing hiking, mountain biking, road biking, whitewater rafting or kayaking. It's all available over there. And even if you just want to do some driving tours, you can drive to the top of Monarch Pass or drive to the top of Cottonwood Pass. You can hike on parts of the Colorado Trail or bike, depending on which sections [you go to]. And then there are tons of great restaurants and shops in town."
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Double rainbow over Garden of the Gods.
@larsleberphotography
Colorado Springs
Gold considers Garden of the Gods one of the most romantic spots in Colorado, but she admits that "there's nothing romantic about bumper-to-bumper traffic that you get there." Her pro tip: Park at the visitor center and bike into the park.

"Take a bike lock and pack a picnic," she recommends. "You can go to every single trailhead you want; you don't have to fight for parking, and you can do it all on your own time. It's super lovely. And, of course, going earlier or later makes it better in terms of crowds, and then you get the golden hour, which is always so gorgeous. But regardless of what time of day you choose to go, take your bikes. It just makes it so much cooler."

She suggests making a weekend trip out of the excursion by heading over to the Manitou Springs Incline or taking in other surrounding areas. "You could head up to Pikes Peak, or you can go to the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. There's hiking, biking and rock climbing to be had there. And that's a little more off the beaten path, a beautiful place to explore as a couple," she says.
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Glenwood Springs is about two hours and 45 minutes from Denver.
Kenzie Bruce
Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs is often overlooked as people head off on Interstate 70 toward more popular destinations, such as Aspen. But in Glenwood Springs, Gold says, you can get the same ski-town vibe without the overwhelming crowds.

"It's a great little town with a cute historic district with some good restaurants," she notes. "You can stay at the fancy historic hotel in town. And you've got whitewater rafting and tons of hiking around. You want to go spend the day down in Aspen? It's 45 minutes away. So you have a lot of options, and I heard they're reopening the trail to Hanging Lake this summer." Indeed: The Hanging Lake trailhead is slated to open on June 25.

Gold advises always checking the CDOT website, particularly for this trip, to make sure the section of the highway leading to Glenwood is open; mudslides closed it frequently last summer. But that obstacle aside, Glenwood Springs makes a perfect weekend trip because "it's really centrally located to go do so many different things without being too big of a drive for a weekend," she says. "And. of course, hot springs abound."
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Horsetooth Falls
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Poudre Canyon

This is one of Gold's favorites: Poudre Canyon was where she had her first backcountry ranger job and saw a herd of elk "barreling down the hillside forty yards behind." She recommends reserving a campsite or, for the less outdoorsy, planning on a stay in Fort Collins, where there's more lodging and restaurants. "And you can always go to a concert at the Mishawaka," she adds.

"There are loads of fabulous hiking and biking up there in the spring, when the rivers are running great," she says, noting that there's also whitewater rafting for all levels, rafting and kayaking.

And this is a place where you can find waterfalls, possibly the most romantic sight on a hike — and the most elusive, considering the drought. "You can hike up to Horsetooth Falls, which is not a super-hard or long hike," she suggests. "The falls themselves are beautiful. Even when they're not running, they're pretty cool. They are arranged almost like tea cups, which the falls drop into before dropping into the final fall that's about 35 feet. I was up there in the winter one time, and the falls were frozen. While I was standing there, the entire frozen waterfall broke off and fell to the ground." And after hiking Horsetooth Falls, you can return to the trailhead for another route to Horsetooth Rock for sunset views. "There's just lots of nice options," Gold says.

There's also Poudre Falls, but Gold describes those as "less of a big-drop kind of waterfall and more of a whitewater rapids waterfall." Either way, prepare for an adventurous weekend.
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Grand Lake
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Grand Lake

This is the perfect town for "people who aren't as aggro outdoorsy," Gold explains. Another plus is the romantic drive to get there: "Going over to Grand Lake via Rocky Mountain National Park is so lovely. You can take the drive right through the park, although you'll need a reservation to drive through. You can do the Fall River Road going up and come down the other side."

Gold enjoys the town itself as much as the great recreation access it offers. "Grand Lake I love and find super-romantic because it is a little resort town still trapped in the ’60s," she says. "It's got the cute little cottages. You could walk down by the lake and get an ice cream cone. There's great hiking and biking; you can rent paddleboards and kayaks and go out on the lake. So super charming and low-key."

Learn more about Stacy Gold at StacyGold.com or follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @AuthorStacyGold.
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Emily Ferguson is Westword's Culture Editor, covering Denver's flourishing arts and music scene. Before landing this position, she worked as an editor at local and national political publications and held some odd jobs suited to her odd personality, including selling grilled cheese sandwiches at music festivals and performing with fire. Emily also writes on the arts for the Wall Street Journal and is an oil painter in her free time.
Contact: Emily Ferguson