This comes to Colorado Ski Country USA from Amber Johnson, editor of the Denver Post’s Mile High Mamas.
Though ski season is right around the corner, I’m trying to squeeze every last morsel out of fall before the snow flies. Translation: Do as much hiking and biking as possible.
Last week, I was in Steamboat Springs for the Governor’s Tourism Conference for three days. I spoke on a panel about the New Media Landscape, which took about 90 minutes.
That left a lot of time to play.
I was pleasantly surprised that Steamboat was not a ghost town, like so many resorts during the shoulder season. Though I’d missed the peak of the fall colors, the trails were still clear, most shops and restaurants were open and the town was abuzz.
I tapped into my friends from the Steamboat Springs Chamber for some recommendations and these lower-elevation adventures are perfect for fall.
Fish Creek Falls: This popular hike is four miles east of downtown Steamboat Springs and a 283-foot waterfall pours out of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. But here’s a tip: Legions of tourists do the short hike to the base of the falls but I opted to do the steep 4-mile round-trip hike to the Upper Falls, which was well worth the extra effort.
If you’re even more ambitious, Fish Creek Falls is the jumping-off point for miles of unpaved day hikes and the 6-mile hike to Long Lake leads to the Continental Divide trail where the real backcountry explorations can begin.
Rabbit Ears Peak: The 6-mile roundtrip hike to Rabbit Ears Peak is my nemesis. Several years ago, my friend Kristy and I attempted this locally famous hike, named for its twin rock pillars visible from the highway. It begins a casual walk (with gorgeous wildflowers in the summer) and gradually gets steeper until the last 0.25 mile to the “ears” poses a challenge; to others, it’s a fun rock scramble. Either way, the views near the summit are grand.
Allegedly. We got lost, wound around the mountain, and never made it to the summit. Next time, those blasted bunny ears are mine.
The Yampa River Core Trail is a fantastic option for running, walking, biking, sight-seeing, people-watching or roller blading. I stopped in at the Visitor’s Center (125 Anglers Drive) to get a map with the intent to bike it from one end to another and then back again (7 miles one way).
I parked my car at the U.S. Forest Service (925 Weiss Drive), which was the perfect launching pad for my 14-mile trek. It was the perfect tour of Steamboat Springs—I raced past leaf-strewn gazebos, parks, botanic gardens, restaurants, the rodeo grounds, hot springs, and the library (which had a fantastic outdoor play area for kids and the riverbanks were strewn with people).
The Yampa River Core Trail dead-ended at Steamboat’s skate park. I momentarily debated taking my mountain bike for a spin but one look at my competition (able-bodied skateboard dudes) and I opted to stick where I belonged: on the paved or dirt trails along the Yampa River.
Though I didn’t get the chance to try hit any real mountain trails on my bike, my friends at the Chamber recommend these two areas that are easy to access.
Emerald Mountain: Across the valley from Mount Werner lies the town’s mountain biking jewel, Emerald Mountain. Accessible from the heart of downtown via the Yampa Core Trail, Emerald fits the needs of a wide range of rider abilities with more than 4,000 acres of public land and miles of connected singletrack.
Spring Creek: The 6-mile (one way) Spring Creek trail starts with a mellow climb and gradually grows steeper, narrower and more technical- making it great for a bike ride. Pick up the trail at the corner of Maple Street and Amethyst Drive in downtown Steamboat.
For more information on these and other trails, be sure to visit the Ranger Station (http://www.exploresteamboat.com/marketplace/businesses/us-forest-service-ranger-station/ or Visitor’s Center http://www.steamboat-chamber.com/info/visitor.center.asp.