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From the Plains to the Peaks of the Rockies, from the shores of the Colorado River to the deserts of the Western Slope, the state of Colorado has an endless number of landscapes to explore and adventures to be had. If you’re up for a thrill, head to the mountains to experience climbing a via ferrata or hiking Mount Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado. What about rafting on the Arkansas River or exploring an old mining ghost town? We’ve put together a list of the some of the most unique adventures in Colorado for you to add to your summer bucket list—how many do you think you can check off this summer?

1. Experience a Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata - AVA Rafting and Zipline - courtesy of AVA Rafting and Zipline
Climbing the metal rungs of one of AVA Rafting & Zipline’s via ferrata routes. Photo courtesy of AVA Rafting & Zipline.

The term “via ferrata” is an Italian phrase, meaning “iron road”. Iron rungs were built into the sides of cliffs during World War I to scale rock faces as an alternative to traditional climbing. AVA Rafting & Zipline‘s has taken their recreational via ferratas to the next level. Their routes integrate man-made structures into the natural environment so that instead of feeling like you’re climbing on a jungle gym, you’re actually scaling cliff faces and routes. If this sounds intense, it’s meant to because the specialized construction that includes ladders, rails, cables, and suspension bridges is designed to give climbers an extreme mountaineering experience. AVA’s professionally trained guides, however, differentiate AVA Via Ferratas from other routes around the United States. The guides facilitate the whole via ferrata experience by helping climbers learn how to use the safety equipment, including harnesses and helmets, providing instruction for the proper technique for clipping in and out of the thick wires that run the length of the route, and guiding the traverse of the route’s many features.

Mount Evans Via Ferrata

Located above Idaho Springs and Chicago Creek, the Mount Evans Via Ferrata is a three-hour guided adventure during which you’ll climb ladders and traverse iron rungs, rails, cables, and bridges to move across and up a cliff face, a route that takes you more than 300 feet above the ground. You’ll be required to clip in and out of the safety cable throughout the route, though the internal locking system makes it so you’re never completely unclipped from the cables. This is one of AVA’s newer extreme adventures, so be ready for a 50-foot free-fall and a 70-foot rappel in addition to the challenging features along the route.

Granite Via Ferrata

AVA’s Granite Via Ferrata in Buena Vista, Colorado is their newest adventure. Two ziplines will take you to the start of this three-hour excursion at the base of the 14,000-foot Collegiate Peaks. You’ll rappel down a rock face, ascend crags, cross suspension bridges, and jump down a 65-foot free fall from the Via Ferrata to the ground. This is an active adventure that’s designed to be more exposed than the Mount Evans Via Ferrata, so be ready for some challenging terrain and an awesome good time.

Rappel - Via Ferrata - AVA Rafting & Zipline
AVA Rafting & Zipline’s Mount Evans Via Ferrata route requires a 50-foot free fall. Photo courtesy of AVA Rafting & Zipline

2. Raft through Browns Canyon National Monument

Rafting through Browns Canyon National Monument - AVA Rafting & Ziplines
Rafting through Browns Canyon National Monument. Photo courtesy of AVA Rafting & Ziplines.

AVA Rafting & Zipline offers a huge range of rafting trips (more than 70 rafting trips and packages!), but the Browns Canyon Sizzler rafting trip is a full day trip perfect for a variety of experience levels and ages on one of Colorado’s most iconic waterways. The beginning of the day takes you past views of rolling fields and more than a dozen 14,000-foot peaks. You then hit your first set of whitewater rapids and enter Browns Canyon, a section of the Arkansas River flanked on either side by sheer granite walls. Halfway through the canyon, you’ll stop for a hot, homemade chicken fajita lunch and finish out the day by hopping aboard the shuttle back to the AVA outpost.

Rafting trips can be made into overnight excursions and can also be paired with via ferrata adventures for a truly action-packed day. For more information, visit coloradorafting.net.

3. Hike Alongside Dinosaur Tracks

Dinosaur Ridge - Morrison Colorado - James St. John - Flickr - OutThere Colorado
Dinosaur Ridge. Morrison, Colorado. Photo Credit: James St. John (Flickr).

Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado is home to an incredible track site in which dinosaur footprints have been forever fossilized into the rock of Dakota Ridge. You can visit Dinosaur Ridge by hiking up the 1.1-mile paved route that passes more than 15 fossil and geologic sites, including a dinosaur bone site and cross-sections of Brontosaurus footprints.

4. Visit Tallest Free-Falling Waterfall in Colorado

Bridal Veil - Terry-Foote - Creative-Commons - OutThere Colorado
Bridal Veil Falls during summer. Photo Credit: Terry Foote (Wikimedia Commons).

Located in Telluride, Colorado, Bridal Veil Falls is the tallest free-falling waterfall in the Centennial State. The falls drop a roaring 365 feet from the top of the cliff to the base. The cascade is situated at the far east side of a box canyon that also houses the town of Telluride, one of Colorado’s most iconic and beautiful mountain towns.

5. Hike the Tallest Mountain in Colorado

Twin lakes colorado sunset of amazing colors of alpine glow RoschetzkyIstockPhoto OutThere Colorado
Sunset over Twin Lakes and Mount Elbert near Leadville, Colorado. Photo Credit: Roschetzky (iStock)

Though the total can be debated, there are approximately 53 mountains in Colorado measuring over 14,000 feet in elevation. Mount Elbert is the tallest, reaching 14,433 feet above sea level. The standard route up the mountain is a nine-mile round trip hike. You’ll hike a section of the Colorado Trail and have spectacular views of Mount Massive, Colorado’s second highest peak, on this route.

6. Fly Fish Gold Medal Waters

Devils Thumb Ranch - Flyfishing - Grand County - OutThere Colorado-23
Fly fishing at Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Photo Credit: Stephen Martin (OutThere Colorado)

Colorado has 322 miles of Gold Medal trout fishing water spread throughout the landscape. These 13 locations are known for having 60 pounds of trout per acre and at least twelve 14” or larger trout per acre.

7. Visit a Ghost Town

St Elmo Ghost Town Photo Credit: Spencer McKee
St. Elmo Ghost Town near Buena Vista, Colorado. Photo Credit: Spencer McKee, OutThere Colorado.

The modern state of Colorado was largely built on the historic mining history of the turn of the 20th century. People arrived in droves in search of their fortune and a pioneering lifestyle all their own. The remnants of these homesteaders can be found scattered throughout the mountains of Colorado.

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