Having lived in Colorado for the past five years, I have explored much of the state. I have summited — or attempted to summit — peaks, climbed hills, soaked in hot springs and have the bruises, sprains and scars to prove it. These activities are made for those who want to take a pause from the hotel scene, a brain break from the conference, or may have an extra few days to relax post-conference and enjoy Colorado’s outdoor bounty.
So, my fellow ONA-ers, here is what I have for you: a list of suggestions from me, with input from my friends and family and the Internet.
About: Red Rocks is 868 acres, consisting of two, three hundred-foot monoliths and surrounded by red sandstone rock. The park is located at 6,450 feet above sea level and is the only naturally-occurring “acoustically perfect” amphitheater in the world. You can hike, bike, shop, dine and enjoy concerts.
Distance from host hotel: 16.2 miles (28 minutes with light traffic)
About: The park has nearly 4,000-acres and according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, is filled with dramatic red-rock formations, abundant flora, and wildlife from deer to bear. I’ve never been, but after looking at the photos, I want to go. Warning: No drones allowed.
Distance from host hotel: 27.7 miles (59 minutes with moderate traffic)
About: As the name suggests, this park is filled with dynamic sandstone rock formations and breathtaking views. That description is about as good as it gets. Enjoy lunch at the glass-enclosed café with views of Pike’s Peak.
Distance from host hotel: 68.5 miles (1 hour, 29 minutes with moderate traffic)
About: Speaking of Pike’s Peak, why don’t you take a ride on the cog railway? The railway has been taking passengers to the 14,115 summit of Pike’s Peak since 1891. When I took it last May, we only made it halfway up because of snow drifts, but I don’t think you’ll have that issue in September.
Distance from host hotel: 72.4 miles (1 hour, 42 minutes with moderate traffic)
About: A suggestion from my sister-in-law that is now going on my Colorado bucket list. Many Jurassic Period dinosaur fossils were found at sites along the ridge and it continues being a site for excavations.
Distance from host hotel: 14 miles (23 minutes with light traffic)
About: The incline is a difficult, physically active (not ADA accessible) hike up a one-mile trail, which climbs 2,000 vertical feet. That is all you need to know. If you go, I’ll go.
Distance from host hotel: 72.6 miles (1 hour, 44 minutes with moderate traffic)
About: A few weeks ago, ONA board members Mandy Jenkins, Kim Bui and I hiked in Roosevelt National Forest and made our way into Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a delightful experience, with amazing views. Pack plenty of water, bring a jacket and snacks and have fun! Bonus: 2016 marks the centennial of the US National Parks. What better way to celebrate than to hit up one of the earliest parks established?
Distance from host hotel: Entrance in Larimer County, 67.9 miles (1 hour, 45 minutes with light traffic)
About: The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America that climbs through nearly 9,000 feet of elevation gain to the 14,264-foot summit of Mount Evans. It’s AWESOME and one of Colorado’s famous “fourteeners,” or peaks above 14,000 feet above sea level.
Distance from host hotel: 60.2 miles (1 hour, 41 minutes with light traffic)
8 Other Places to Explore
- Tour the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
- Ride roller coasters at Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park.
- September is a bit late in the season, but Clear Creek will still have white water rafting tours.
- Check out many of the breweries or head to the Stranahan’s for a tour of the whiskey distillery.
- Up Interstate 70 is Idaho Springs, where you can swing from a zipline.
- There are 85 miles of bike paths in Denver. You can rent a bike from BCycle.
- Kayak Confluence Park in Denver (Warning: Can get quite crowded)
- Visit 430 rescued animals, including lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) at the Wild Animal Sanctuary
Kelly Metz is the ONA16 Volunteer Coordinator.