Last I told ya about Telluride, which being in the Southwest corner of CO looks more like New Mexico or Arizona. Now, let me introduce you to Steamboat Springs, which is in the Northwest corner of CO and with its ranches, cattle and rolling hills is said to resemble Wyoming. (I’ll attest to that once I see Wyoming 🐂🐎🐏)
My solo 3-day road trip from Denver to Steamboat Springs and back was a dry run of the cross country adventure I’m about to take. Before I head on the road for months I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable driving around and exploring by myself with some schedule, lots of flexibility, staying very open to local recos and allowing for serendipity to strike (and it did!!!).
DEN -> ‘Boat
I left Denver around 930am. I suggest you either leave before 7am or after 9am so you are not stuck in rush hour traffic. It’s a city after all. To be expected (and avoided 🚗). Rule # 1 – you are not in a hurry, you are just road trippin’, darlin’! 😋
My first stop was Silverthorne Visitors Center as I needed a paper map of Colorado. Come to find out they have very nice bathrooms too. Rule # 2 – know thy restrooms 🚻 Rule # 3 – get a paper map (your phone may die, your GPS may lose reception, better safe than sorry)
Driving north from Silverthorne I was astounded by the beauty of the Green Mountain Reservoir near Heeney. It looks like a mini version of Blue Mesa (more on that in an upcoming post about our Coloradical Road Trip). The reservoir offers fantastic opportunities for biking around it as well as paddle boarding. Better yet, hop on your mountain bike, throw an inflatable SUP in a backpack, and head on an adventure. If you swim, run, or hike as well, I consider it a triathlon 🚴🚣🚶. Rule # 4 – always stop for photo opportunities. When in a hurry, refer to Rule # 1. 😋
There is another reservoir further up north after Kremmling on the right (Wolford Mountain Reservoir) but I didn’t find it as picturesque. That campground and rest stop are also your last chance to get services in the next 50 miles until after Rabbit Ears Pass. Rule # 5 – always have plenty of gas (I try to stay above 1/4 tank at all times).
Normally, it takes 3 hrs from Denver to Steamboat Springs. With a few stops I made it in 4 hrs. The beauty of the ‘Boat deserves its own post (coming…) so I’ll just tell you that the rolling hills, the sun, the Yampa river, the hot springs, and the streams bubbling up from everywhere make it a desirable vacation destination both in winter and summer and, honestly, I didn’t want to leave. But more on that later… Rule # 6 – have enough time to explore your destination!
The ‘Boat -> DEN
As the saying goes “all good things come to an end” so eventually after a couple days in town, I had to leave the ‘Boat (for now) and make my way back to Denver. It was a very foggy morning, it had rained all night, and I seriously couldn’t see 10 ft ahead of me…and I had a mountain pass at 10,000ft to climb. I won’t lie to you, I was shit scared, you realize there are vertical drops on your right, you veer off the road 5 ft, you’d be testing if the car flies (doesn’t, no need to test it 😲). Rule # 7 – when in doubt, go slow. By the time I reached the top of Rabbit Ears Pass the fog had burned off and there were 2 inches of fresh snow on the ground. And spectacular views awaited!
Coming down from the pass slowly and steadily (you don’t want to slip on a wet road), I literally stumbled upon the highlight of my road trip – a cattle drive across the highway! Rule # 8 – know your car but trust your driving skills more!
I have always been fascinated with ranches, farms, and especially horses. So for me to see real cowboys on horseback driving cattle was a dream come true 😍. I pulled the car to the side of the road and started snapping pics. A few moments of utter fascination later, I exchanged some words with the cowboys and came to find out they were actually cowgirls (SO COOL!!!). The ladies were equally interested in me as a blond Eastern European girl with pigtails rarely stops by to observe a cattle drive in the middle of nowhere. I was so curious and asked them all these questions about the ranch, the cattle, the horses, etc. eventually they suggested I stop by a coffee shop a few miles down the road and meet the old ranch owners who were having their morning brew and talking politics there. I didn’t need to be told twice, Big Shooter Coffee Shop in Kremmling was next! Rule # 9 – be friendly, be positive, and SMILE (sometimes A LOT) 😆.
As I walked in, a few elderly gentlemen got up on their feet from around the table they were sitting at, lowered their cowboy hats, and welcomed me with “Morning Miss, Howdy?” I was in heaven, those were real ranchers, long silver mustaches, belt buckles, boots, et all! And they were talking to ME! Seriously my heart was going to explode of excitement and I may have lost my speech for a second there! Coffee was had, politics were talked, and a warm welcome to Grant County, CO was extended.
My next stop were Hot Sulphur Springs, CO (because when you see hot springs on the road, you stop by for a soak 🛀) #snowboardergirlwithhotspringsproblem I had gone to 2 hot springs already in CO visit but none of them were sulphur and I really wanted to experience the difference (sulphur stinks). It also has medicinal properties and is prescribed for skin problems, so there were my facial and body treatment for the day 🙄.
The town of Hot Sulphur Springs is in the middle of nowhere, no phone reception, dirt roads only, a few dingy motels by the side of the highway, and you have to drive down a dirt road across the train tracks to the aforementioned hot springs. If I were to get murdered somewhere, I think this town might be the place…but then I would have just soaked outdoors in natural hot springs, so how bad could such death be… Rule # 10 – be vigilant and be aware but don’t let the unusual/unknown scare you unnecessarily 😱. (Only disappointment – these hot springs are NOT clothing optional…yeah, we got spoiled in Ouray and Steamboat.)
Safe and sound (and alive) I made it out of Hot Sulphur Springs with beautiful skin and got some tan too. See, it wasn’t that bad after all 😇. In about an hour driving east Rocky Mountain National Park was in front of me. I had chosen not to drive over those mountain passes as with the new snow above 10,000ft I was chancing to encounter a closed road. I took a turn south and with Rocky Mountain National Park remaining on my left and behind me, I climbed Winter Park pass, where another 2 inches of fresh snow awaited, and saw an amazing backcountry bowl that looked totally rideable… #cuzsnowboarding
2 mountain passes, 4 climbs and descents from 5,000 to 10,000 ft, and 5 hours driving later, I arrived in Denver where my #sisterfromanothermister took me for amazing cocktails and bubbly at Linger before my flight back home! #myhostsknowmewell
Thank you Steamboat, thank you Ned, thank you Janna, thank you Seton, I promise to be back! (Oops, I didn’t ask if you want me back 😈)