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The Top 20 Free Things to Do in Colorado

By: Spencer McKee

Experiencing Colorado can get pretty expensive. There's gear, gas, admission fees, permits, etc. We can't save you much on gas or fees, but we can help you out with gear and this list of awesome things to try for free around the Centennial State. Think of something we missed? Let us know for a chance to get it added to the list!

Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation Spencer McKee

1. Get Kisses from a Wolf

NOTE: This spot is closing at the end of 2020. Find additional spots to find wolves in Colorado here.

Have you heard of Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation? Check out their website and book a free visit. You’ll get to interact with wolves and learn a lot about this awesome species. While a private tour here is free, donations are accepted. Considering that many wolf parks charge hundreds for interactive visits, that’s quite the deal. Donations tend to fall in the $20 per person range.
Photo Credit: Spencer McKee

2. Take a Drive Through America’s Best City Park

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs regularly gets awards for how awesome it is. Believe it or not, it’s actually in the terms of gifting the space to the city that this park must forever remain free for all.
Photo Credit: Inspired Aerial Views
Bishop's Castle - Chris Waits - flickr

3. Climb the Towers at this Castle

Located near Rye, Colorado, Bishop Castle is the largest one-man construction project in the country. Jim Bishop has been building this magnificent structure by hand for years. It’s free to visit, but donations are accepted.
Photo Credit: Chris Waits (flickr)

4. Explore the Incredible Terrain of the Paint Mines

If you want to explore a bizarre ecosystem, head to Calhan and check out the Paint Mines Interpretive Park. You’ll see multi-colored rock formations on several trails. If you do visit, please follow the posted rules. They’re meant to protect the park so that future generations can enjoy it. Don’t climb on the formations!

5. Summit an Iconic Colorado Fourteener

You’ve got more than 50 peaks to choose from and every fourteener makes for a new adventure. If you’re a beginner, start off with one of the easier summits like Sherman or Grays. Make sure you research the trail beforehand as this can be a dangerous activity. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Photo Credit: Kimmy Saavedra
Manitou Incline U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) OutThere Colorado

6. Scale the Steps of the Manitou Incline

While there have been recent talks about making this hike pay-for-play, the Manitou Incline is currently free to the public. It consists of roughly 3,000 steps and 2,000 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile. It’s hard to find a more strenuous workout than this. Looking to avoid the hefty parking fees, too? You’ll find free parking and a shuttle service that will drop you off at the incline as you pull into Manitou Springs from the east.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC)
Conundrum Hot Springs. Photo Credit: Savannah Hodge - OutThere Colorado.

7. Soak in a Natural Hot Spring

A spa day doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Several hot springs around Colorado are completely free to visit, including Conundrum Hot Springs. If you do choose to visit one of these spots, make sure you follow the leave no trace principles. These spots are often very remote and are difficult to clean. Want to go the extra step? Bring a plastic bag to pick up after others that are less considerate.
Photo Credit: Savannah Hodge
devils head -@mrspenceproductions

8. Stand Watch from Devil’s Head Lookout

Open seasonally, Devil’s Head Lookout is a unique hike that’s totally free to access. It’s not too long, but it ends with a staircase to the top of an old lookout tower that’s still used to spot fires across the Front Range today.
Photo Credit: Spencer McKee
Island Lake - San Juan National Forest - OutThere Colorado

9. Go Wildflower Spotting

In the summer, Colorado’s hillsides light up with multi-colored wildflowers. Few things are more relaxing than taking a stroll through their bloom. A couple great places to do so are in Crested Butte and in the Flat Tops Wilderness. If you do so, please leave no trace and don’t pick the flowers. Instead, take only pictures and leave the scene for someone else to enjoy.
Loveland Pass Summit OutThere Colorado

10. Reach the Continental Divide

Did you know that you can easily get to the Continental Divide in several different places around Colorado? Two great spots are at the top of Loveland Pass and at the top of Hoosier Pass – both spots you can drive to. Dress in layers if you make the trip, as it can get cold at these altitudes any time of the year.
St Elmo Ghost Town Photo Credit: Spencer McKee

11. Hunt Down an Abandoned Ghost Town

Leftovers of Colorado’s rich mining history, tons of ghost towns are scattered around the high-alpine areas of the state. One of the easiest ones to visit is St. Elmo. You can drive there instead of making a long hike. Looking for something a little more rugged? Crystal Mill is a great spot to track down. As with any remote location, take only pictures and leave only footprints while you’re visiting.
Photo Credit: Spencer McKee
Floating the Might Yampa Spencer McKee

12. Take a Float Down a River

All you’ll need for this fun-filled day is an inner tube. Do your research before you float though, as Colorado’s rivers range from calm to powerful and can vary by season. One great spot is the pictured Yampa River in the section by Steamboat Springs.
Photo Credit: Spencer McKee
Arapahoe Basin 1 - Ashley Ojala - OutThere Colorado

13. Ski Free via Uphill Access

While lift tickets can get pricy, a lot of resorts will let you climb the mountain yourself and ski down their inbounds terrain. Here’s a list of where you can do this and the requirements for each spot, including Arapahoe Basin, Aspen, and Telluride.
Photo Credit: Ashley Ojala
Stargazing - MarcoRof - iStock

14. Spot a Shooting Star

Thanks to Colorado’s many remote spots, spotting the stars is never too difficult if you’re willing to drive. One awesome place to go star hunting is in the San Luis Valley.
Photo Credit: MarcoRof (iStock)
Camping - Summer 2016 - Clear Lake - OutThere Colorado

15. Go Pitch a Tent

Did you know Colorado has a ton of places that you can camp for completely free? Here’s a short list we put together, but the options outside of this are almost limitless. Here are a few tips to make the experience better and safe for the Colorado landscape.
Yoga at Red Rocks, Photo Credit: ShanMcG213

16. Try Yoga Somewhere Spectacular

Colorado is full of awesome places to practice yoga, whether you’re on a remote mountain peak or in a huge group at Red Rocks Amphitheatre’s “Yoga on the Rocks.” Go find the vibe you’re looking for and get started. Haven’t tried yoga before? Tons of videos on Youtube will walk you through a few basic poses.
Photo Credit: ShanMcG213 (Flickr)
Free things to do around Colorado

17. Track Down Some Bison

If you’re looking to see an iconic Colorado mammal, bison are typically pretty easy to track down – if you know where to look. This shot was taken near Westcliffe, but a couple other spots include a wildlife reserve in Park County and another one in Genesee. Here’s a list of a few other places you might spot some wildlife.
Cadet Chapel - OutThere Colorado

18. Check Out the Iconic Air Force Academy

From the surrounding peaks to spectacular buildings like the Cadet Chapel, the United States Air Force Academy is an entertaining spot to stop in Colorado Springs. Have a bike? The mountain biking is great here too.
Will the Internet Destroy the Outdoors

19. Take Action to Help Preserve Colorado

As Colorado’s population continues to boom, more people than ever are flooding the trails. If you want to help take steps to preserve Colorado’s awesome landscape, do something about it. Bring a bag along to pick up trash while you’re hiking. Share the leave no trace principles with people you’re talking to. Lead by example. Not sure where to start? Here are a few basic guidelines.
Photo Credit: Stephen Martin
Weekend Warriors - OutThere Colorado

20. Practice Your Anger Management Skills on I-70

It’s no secret that the traffic in Colorado can suck sometimes. Might as well make light of it and pretend it’s simply training you to be a more patient person.

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