Steamboat Springs: A Three-Day Ramble

Uber-cool weekend festivals permeate Steamboat Springs’ summer calendar, celebrating everything from vintage Mustangs to wine, hot air balloons to bikes. Festival agendas fill the days and are largely self-explanatory for anyone ready to jump in to the fun. But the perfect three-day Colorado summer getaway can also be more of a ramble.


Consider an eclectic agenda as you explore from Hahn’s Peak to the Flat Tops, with Steamboat Springs making the perfect home base. The region is steeped in rich ranching and mining history and is home to a vibrant arts scene, but this is a getaway for action and adventure too. Bonus to you if you can finagle your time off to align with some of this summer’s special one-off events like the Drepung Loseling monks making a sand mandala at the Bud Werner Memorial Library (July 29-Aug. 2), the free Ziggy Marley concert at Howelsen Hill (Aug. 5) or Emerald City Opera’s full professional staging of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” (Aug. 16).

Here’s a lineup of ideas for three jam-packed days surrounded by three glorious Wilderness Areas in and around Steamboat Springs.


Day one:

Grab a monster breakfast burrito from Azteca Taqueria and get on the trail early. Hiking choices are seemingly boundless since Steamboat is surrounded by Wilderness and National Forest lands. Really, it depends on your appetite for distance. Mad Creek is a highly rewarding four mile round trip, or the Zirkel Circle loop is an 11-mile gem. Three Island Lakes is 7 miles out and back. The Fish Creek Falls trail can take you up and away, past the glorious upper waterfalls, all the way to Long Lake for an 11-mile out and back. In the Flat Tops, head for the Stillwater trailhead and knock one vertigo-inducing adventure off your bucket list by hiking the Devil’s Causeway.



At the end of the day, enjoy a casual sunset dinner along the Yampa River. Heck, you probably earned a steak, so try the deck at E3 Chophouse (where the house salad is amazing too). Then take your weary legs to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs for a leisurely soak under the stars. Have no fear, Ciao Gelato is open late for Steamboat’s favorite sweet treat before you hit the sack.

Day two:

You hiked a lot yesterday, so today stretching is on order – and maybe a reinvigorating sensory deprivation float at Neptune Healing & Float Spa or a massage with one of Steamboat’s abundantly talented therapists. Call this your spa day. Since it’s summer, try some outdoor yoga. Depending upon the day, there’s Yoga on the Green in the Yampa River Botanic Park, class at the top of the gondola on the Steamboat Ski Area, a practice in Strings Festival Park accompanied by the classical music rehearsal, or yoga on the Torian Plum grass sponsored by the Yoga Center of Steamboat. Grab a nourishing juice at Rootz Cafe for morning sustenance after class, because today’s suggested trail is more of an urban meander: saunter through the botanic gardens (where there’s also a 45-minute free noon concert there on Thursdays) and along the Yampa River Core Trail, before you head for lunch at The Paramount.

The sun is hot and the river is cool. Summer afternoons are for tubing the Yampa River, so get hydrated and slather on the sunscreen, then catch a shuttle with your rental tube. While you float through Steamboat, consider your evening’s diverse options for intriguing cultural offerings – a concert at Strings Music Festival, an informal evening of dance or theater at Perry-Mansfield, live rodeo, a brilliant talk at Seminars at Steamboat, or a First Friday Artwalk in galleries and restaurants downtown. Whatever your cultural menu may be, make sure you enjoy a handcrafterd beer at one of our three local breweries (Butcherknife Brewing Company, Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Storm Peak Brewing Company) to prime the pump, then slide in to Low Country Kitchen for dinner that promises a tantalizing mountain rendition on Southern cooking.

Day three:

Splurge a little and go for a hot air balloon ride. It’s an early start to the day, but a seriously great memory. In this season of bright green hillsides, blue skies and raging rivers, the high-altitude sightseeing is intoxicating. After your flight, a decadent breakfast of Eggs Benedict and a bacon-laden bloody mary at Creekside Café will duly celebrate your maiden voyage. Spend your afternoon in the saddle: tackle a mountain bike ride on Emerald Mountain, the glorious backdrop to downtown Steamboat; or head out on horseback for a genuine Western experience at Del’s Triangle 3 or Saddleback Ranch. Wind down with sunset happy hour at the top of the gondola, which includes fun live bands and a panoramic view. Linger as long into darkness as you like, then slide on down to The Laundry for a Fiery Margarita and loads of small-plate taste sensations to share with your traveling compadres.