With the change of every season, I get a rush of excitement. While others mourn the loss of sunny days and warm weather, I try to stay positive about the cold front coming our way. It means snow, after all, and I love winter just as much as summer. Having four seasons is something I cherish after living three years in Los Angeles where the weather rarely strays from an average 70 degrees, and one year in Thailand, where the three seasons are often referred to as hot, hotter and hottest. I’m approaching 15 months of calling Fort Collins, Colorado home, and so far I’ve loved every minute of it, zero degrees and all.
Here are my 9 favorite things to do in Northern Colorado:
1. Climbing at The Palace
It’s surely no secret by now that I’ve developed a love for the sport of rock climbing since moving to Colorado. It’s rather unparalleled to any other sport I’ve played (volleyball, basketball, tennis, dance, climbing, snowboarding…) because it is the only thing that successfully takes my mind off of everything else, requiring full attention to the task at hand. One foot, and one hand, in front of the other, hanging on for dear life as I dangle about the jagged edges, rocks and cliffs below. Read more about my climbing adventures here.
2. Lake Agnes
Hanging high above sea level at just over 12,000 feet rests Lake Agnes, a “floating” lake in the Never Summer Mountains of northern Colorado. It’s a short five-mile hike from the campground below, and visiting in the cooler months like I did a few weeks ago meant my friend and I had the place all to ourselves. The water is crystal clear, and a narrow trail winds around the corridor. It’s a great place to have a picnic, read a book or just enjoy the gorgeous scenery. It might even be called base camp in the summer months for a hike up nearby Mount Richthofen. (It’s on the list!)
3. Hiking Mountains
Did you know Colorado alone has 54 mountains standing taller than 14,000 feet above sea level, and that most of their peaks are accessible by foot? I’ve only managed one so far (read about that adventure here), but it left me yearning for more. It’s important to keep an eye on the weather though, for we wanted to attempt our second feat in early September but there was already two feet of snow on the summit. Mount Richthofen
Home to both macro and microbreweries, Colorado is beer country through and through. It’s rare to see a winery or tasting room, or even a distillery (though some do exist) because beer is the obvious favorite. And what’s not to love about the great choices we have, from New Belgium to Odell’s and Budweiser to Coors? Though I personally prefer locally-owned microbreweries (I’m still saddened by the sell out of my favorite brewery in Oregon, 10 Barrel to Anheuser-Busch) to the big daddies of brewing, there is something to be learned on a tour from each. The process of making beer is a fascinating concoction of wheat, barley, hops, etc with a whole lot of patience and love. In the photo of the Budweiser Brewery above, there are 11.6 million gallons of beer in that one room alone. I think it’s safe to say it’s not only Coloradoans who enjoy a cold brew.
At the base of the Rocky Mountains, nestled at the end of a long, winding canyon and just before the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park sits a small community called Estes Park, where the population of elk rivals that of the humans. The herds move in and claim their territory, lounging in front of businesses and homes, playing in the nearby trees or grazing on the grass.
Estes Park is also home to The Stanley Hotel, one of the nation’s most haunted locales and the shooting location for The Shining. It’s still open for business and tours, and though the bar has been remodeled since the filming of the movie, one can still see the resemblance and even order a drink of Red Rum.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park
Venturing into the park and taking a left will take one to a variety of hiking trails and lakes at the base of the Rockies, but a right will follow a road all the way up to 14,000 feet above sea level, with spectacular views of the mountains and valleys below. Long’s Peak is the tallest mountain in the park, standing high and proud at 14,259 feet. Inside the park, one can see elk, moose, deer, a plethora of colorful birds, and it’s rumored that bear exist, though I have yet to see one.
7. Horesetooth Reservoir/Rock
If you follow me on Facebook, you see frequent updates from my favorite place in Fort Collins, Horsetooth Reservoir. Whether it’s a scenic drive around the reservoir, or a hike up Horsetooth Rock on the west side, or climbing at Duncan’s ridge on the east banks, the views are spectacular. In the summer, the water is rife with boaters and kayakers, but in the winter it’s a peaceful place to get away and relax. Regardless of the season or the weather, Horsetooth is a beauty.
Though it lasts mere weeks, I get excited to see the fall foliage that comes and goes so quickly I might miss it if I’m not paying attention. Sometimes it lasts for only a week or two! It’s also interesting to watch the seasons change quicker in higher elevations. In Rocky Mountain National Park, for instance, seasons comes much sooner than here in town. So I drove up to catch Fall in the park, and then saw it again in the city, thereby extending the season in my mind!
9. Snow Sports
Perhaps the inspiration for this post was the snow flurries that fell a couple weeks ago, our first snow of the year. It made me eager to gear up for winter. I headed up to Winter Park for opening day, though they’re still making snow and haven’t quite caught up to the demand. This coming weekend, I’m headed to Copper for another day of play on a snowboard! I bought a season pass, and I’m ready to make use of it. Let it snow!
10 Things I Love About Northern Colorado