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Late Summer Getaways

As summer winds down and “back to school” looms, take a few days to explore our state.

Not everyone can take a two-week summer vacation. But almost everyone can manage a few days away, especially if they stick fairly close to home. You know, something between a staycation and a trip to the Bahamas.

Maybe you want to do day-trips to Denver, where the possibilities are endless. You can go to a world-class zoo, a fabulous museum of natural history, a botanical garden or two, and even indulge in the arts to your heart’s content.

Or think about Pueblo, less than an hour away with many attractions of its own. It’s worth visiting at other times beyond the state fair. It has a cute, walkable zoo—perfect for older folks and kids—an extensive aircraft museum, a fascinating raptor center, and its own charming Riverwalk, not to mention some great Mexican restaurants.

But if you want to go beyond a day trip, for a real, albeit short, getaway, Colorado is chock-full of interesting, entertaining possibilities. We’ve explored three of them for you.

Glenwood Springs

One of the world’s largest developed geothermal pools is right here in Colorado. Glenwood Springs offers not only natural hot springs–fed pools, water slides, and other family fun; it also offers vapor caves and opportunities for sublime relaxation.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, atop a small mountain just on the west edge of town, has been rapidly developed and expanded over the past two decades. The newest feature is an “adventure river” that mimics a fast-moving whitewater rafting trip, complete with boulders, a waterfall, and appropriate landscaping.

The adventure park, which was closed this winter, just reopened with a new, state-of-the-art gondola that can transport 1,000 people per hour. Once you get to the top, be sure to take a walking tour of the Glenwood Caverns, which include the King’s Row, the most highly decorated cave room in Colorado. They also offer some wild rides, including one that flings you out over the deep canyon below. Yikes!

If you prefer culture to craziness, check out the Frontier Historical Museum, home to artifacts that shed light on what life was once like in Glenwood Springs. For the artistic types, wander through its galleries to glimpse a wide variety of visual art, including paintings, fiber arts, pottery, sculpture, jewelry, and woodworking.

If you’re really into history, walk up to the old cemetery and visit Doc Holliday’s grave. It’s about a 10-minute walk uphill through a residential neighborhood and anyone can tell you how to find it.

Glenwood boasts two great historic hotels, the Hotel Denver and the Hotel Colorado (undergoing renovations under new ownership), and both are worth a visit if only to admire the architecture. They’re both within walking distance of the pools. Glenwood also offers many fine dining choices from casual to elegant.

For more information, https://www.visitglenwood.com.

Grand Junction

On the Western slope, there are lots of options from Durango to Dinosaur, but give Grand Junction a try.

First of all, it abuts the stunning Colorado National Monument, a bit like a mini Grand Canyon (with just one rim). Summer brings bursts of wildflowers to highlight the gorgeous rock formations. This drive will take you into another world, but if you peek over the edge, there’s a city! Watch out for wildlife.

On the other (east) end of Junction is the town of Palisade, where those wonderful peaches come from each summer.  The annual Palisade Peach Festival is Aug. 15–18 this year, and it’s worth a visit. (For more on these juicy, wonderful stone fruits and the festival, see p. 54).

And that’s not the only celebration on tap. If you opt to go in September, the Colorado Winefest, the largest in the state, is Sept. 19–22. If you’ve never stomped grapes, here’s your chance. For information, https://coloradowinefest.com.

Can’t wait until then to taste some award-winning Colorado wines? The Grand Junction area is home to a dozen fine wineries, all with tasting rooms. Pace yourself.

You can also check out the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita on the western edge of Grand Junction. (It’s also the entrance to the monument.) Jurassic Park fans—kids and adults, too—will love it.

There area also offers hiking, biking, and river-rafting opportunities. In fact, this is where the state starts to flatten out and biking becomes a joy, not a chore.

There are plenty of fishing opportunities here too as well as some relaxing float trips, especially if the thought of whitewater rafting terrifies you. The Colorado River gets calmer here as well.

For more information, https://www.visitgrandjunction.com.

Salida

Salida? Oh, yes. This charming central Colorado town calls itself the “Heart of the Rockies.” Located in the Upper Arkansas Valley about two hours from Colorado Springs, it can be your base camp for lots of exploring.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Blue Mesa Reservoir, just to the west, offer hiking, rock climbing (experts only), and water sports and activities. Bring your personal water craft or your boat—or just a fishing pole (and a license, of course).

But you don’t have to go that far to appreciate the mighty Arkansas River, which runs right through town. You can see kayakers and other watercraft shooting down the waterway almost any time of year. The riverside park makes for a lovely evening stroll. All-day or half-day whitewater rafting trips in legendary Brown’s Canyon are advertised everywhere you look.

Salida also is a favorite destination for rock hounds. The local Columbine Gem and Mineral Society even offers guided tours to the best places.

Looking for a little excitement? Try the Captain Zipline Adventure Park, which offers six different zipline tours as well as an aerial park with its own challenges. The Aerial Adventure Park offers nine courses of varying levels of difficulty.

After a day of hiking or biking, relax by soaking in the Salida Hot Springs Pool, an indoor developed pool that’s popular all year round. Or head out of town, toward Buena Vista, and check out the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, with more soaking options, including in a river.

For more information, http://salida.com.