Getaway Guide: Spend a Weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat Lake State Park. Photo Credit: Brent G. Lounsbury.

Steamboat Springs is an old ranching town turned four-season resort. Steamboat, despite its tourist and ski industry, remains off-the-beaten-track and still a place for raising cattle, wheat, and hay. The Boat, as locals call it, is one of Colorado’s best places for a weekend getaway. There is so much to do, including hot springs, hiking, and horseback riding, that you’ll be planning your next Steamboat trip as you drive back up Rabbit Ears Pass on your way out of town.

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Here’s some ideas for the perfect weekend in Steamboat Springs with plenty of diverse activities to keep you busy making new mountain memories.

Day 1—Waterfalls, Hiking, and Hot Springs

First, stop at the Steamboat Springs Visitor Center when you pull into town for maps and insider tips. Steamboat, surrounded by wooded mountains, is the perfect spot for a morning hike. The Fish Creek Falls Trail, about five miles from town via Fish Creek Falls Road, is the classic Steamboat hike to a spectacular 283-foot waterfall. Do a short handicap-accessible trail to a gorgeous overlook or another trail to a bridge below the falls. Keep an eye out for moose.

Alternatively, get out on the paved, 7.5-mile Yampa River Core Trail, a multi-use trail along the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs. The trail is perfect for families and ideal for a morning jog, leisurely hike, or bike ride, with lots of stops on the trail. One of the best stops is the six-acre Yampa River Botanic Park, with lush gardens, sculptures, and pathways. Opposite downtown Steamboat, the trail passes Howleson Hill, site of America’s first ski jump. Kids love the double-track Howler Alpine Slide which speeds down a 2,400-foot track from the hilltop. The trail also gives river access for fishermen to pull rainbow trout from placid pools and families to float inner tubes through rapids like Charlie’s Hole and D-Hole on hot summer days. On the west side of town is the Depot Art Center, Bud Werner Memorial Library, and natural hot springs, including Black Sulphur Spring and Steamboat Spring.

You’re going to work up an appetite in the hardy mountain air, so next stop is a patio lunch along the Yampa River. Good choices are  Sunpie’s Bistro, Sweet Pea Market and Restaurant, and E3 Chophouse. Farther from the river are Freshies, Winona’s Restaurant and Bakery, and Rex’s American Bar and Grill, all three serve vegan options.

Steamboat Springs offers plenty to fill the afternoon. Take the gondola to Thunderhead Lodge high on the ski area for expansive views down the Yampa Valley, a one-mile hike on Vista Nature Trail, hike on 10 multi-use trails, or ride 14 trails in the Steamboat Bike Park. If you want a relaxing afternoon, take a walk down Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat and check out the stores, boutiques, and galleries or visit the Tread of Pioneers Museum for a glimpse into old Steamboat.

RELATED: Colorado Hot Springs Winter Road Trip

Late afternoon is a great time to soak in Steamboat’s hot springs. As many as 150 bubbling geothermal springs once attracted Utes and early settlers to their healing waters. Now two wonderful hot springs— Strawberry Park Hot Springs and Old Town Hot Springs—attract soakers. Old Town, on the east side of town, offers family-friendly fun with two waterslides, a kiddie pool, lap pool, and adult-only pools. Strawberry Park, nestled in a canyon north of town, has big pools, smaller hot pots, and plenty of room to rest weary muscles. For dinner, try the much lauded New American restaurant,  Aurum Food & Wine.

Steamboat Lake Park Colorado Parks and Wildlife OutThere Colorado

Day 2—Mountain Biking and State Parks

Grab breakfast at The Shack Café, Johnny B Good’s Diner, or, if it’s Saturday morning, wander around the Farmer’s Market downtown for a fresh cinnamon roll or pastry and hot coffee, and decide while you eat if you want to go mountain biking in the morning and explore the state parks north of the Boat in the afternoon—or vice versa.

Steamboat Springs, nicknamed Ski Town USA for its stellar skiing, is called Bike Town USA in summer. The town and the surrounding mountains were made for bicycling with hundreds of miles of singletrack trails, bike parks, paved cruiser rides, and a summer racing series. The Emerald Mountain Trail System south of town is as good as it gets for a morning ride with over 25 miles of cross-country singletrack trails from easy to technical on 4,000 acres of public land. The lower trails can be steep, but once you’re on the upper mountain—watch out! The trails wind through open meadows and aspen groves. Good value rides are Hudson, NPR, Quarry Mountain, and Blair Witch trails.

After lunch in town, drive north on Elk River Road through a broad valley to Pearl Lake and Steamboat Lake State Parks. Sparkling Pearl Lake, tucked against wooded mountains, is a watery playground. The lake, a designated Gold Medal fishery, has a thriving cutthroat trout population for fly fishermen. It’s also ideal for canoers, kayakers, windsurfers, and standup paddlerboarders.

Across the valley is 1,053-acre Steamboat Lake, a gorgeous lake below conical Hahns Peak and mountainsides covered with aspens. Toss a line for brook, cutthroat, and brown trout or get out on the lake or rent a boat at the marina, including fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, standup paddleboards, and 22-foot pontoon boats for a lake barbecue. There’s also hiking trails and a swimming beach. If you’re energetic, complete your weekend getaway with a 3.6-mile, roundtrip hike to the summit of 10,839-foot Hahns Peak and the best 360-degree views near Steamboat.


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