If Telluride is the crown jewel of the Southwest, then Steamboat Springs is definitely the hidden gem of the Northwest part of the state. Remote and somewhat isolated in the midst of ranch lands and behind mountain ranges, it is not a popular day trip destination for folks from Denver and the front range and that’s what keeps the region authentic and the mountains uncrowded. Read more about my drive from Denver to Steamboat and back in a previous blogpost “The Road to The Boat”
I fell in love with Steamboat the very moment I drove down into town from Rabbit Ears Pass (which is impassable in Winter 🐰 I don’t know why folks in Colorado use the word “pass” for mountain roads when they are absolutely impassable and often closed in Winter 😄 ❄ 🛣 🛇) It may have been the cloud porn that Routt County greeted me with that stole my heart, or the sun rays sneaking in from behind mountain peaks, or the afternoon storm raindrops falling from the sky and leaving a rainbow trail behind.🌫⛆🌈Or it may have been the hot springs bubbling up literally from under your feet or the river meandering through town and playing its own melody to the willow trees above.
Steamboat Springs was my very first SOLO road trip out West. I wanted to test myself and be prepared for my upcoming cross country road trip so I started with a 3 day adventure. It was also my first time couch surfing and staying with a friend of a friend of a friend that I was yet to meet. Couch surfing ended up being my preferred accommodation during my cross country road trip and there are too many people to thank who in the following 3 months offered me a roof over my head and a warm and cozy bed to rest on.
View outside my Fall couch surfing slope side “home”. I didn’t think it could get better than that until I returned in Winter and my couch surfing “residence” overlooked town…and had a private hot tub!!!
A great place to start your tour of Steamboat is the Town Library. It is a beautiful, well appointed building by the river right across from the old railroad depot which has recently been turned into an Arts Center. The railroad station reminds me of the TV series “Doctor Queen the Medical Woman” which used to keep us kids glued to the TV screen while growing up in Eastern Europe.
The first walking tour of town you could take is the loop to the 10+ hot springs in different locations alongside the Yampa river. You will learn how Steamboat Springs got its name from the first European settlers and you will see this incredible natural resource that made the valley famous long before the Europeans brought skiing to town. I stopped by 3-4 of the 10+ springs to dip my hands/face in the healing water. Do use the power of minerals just watch over for temperatures above 120F. #hotspringsarehotindeed
Another incredible opportunity for outdoor adventure is the mountain bike system around Steamboat. My favorite path on a rental bike ended up being the Yampa River Bike Trail while runs for 20 easy, flat-ish, family friendly miles by the river and passes many bridges where you can take pictures of the natural beauty that surrounds you.
Howelsen Hill is a great location to get a bird’s eye view of town and take some more pictures of the mountain across. Climb the ski jumps at your own risk, it is a fantastic workout but the rangers may not be impressed with your initiative…unless you speak with a cute accent 👱😇😈 and tell them you are an European athlete scouting winter training locations. #dontaskdonttell #whathappensinsteamboatgoesonmyblog #accenthelps
If you get to visit just one thing while in Steamboat, do NOT miss Strawberry Park Hot Springs. It is a completely off the grid hot springs resort with outdoor pools carved into natural rocks and tiny huts for overnight stay or massages. Off the grid means – NO electricity, NO lights, NO lockers, a teepee hut with a fire in the middle for a changing room. Go prepared, bring plenty of water, no valuables, and a flashlight to see the paths. Arrive around sunset so you can take pictures of the pools, waterfalls, and tiny huts before dusk rolls around. After dark the springs become clothing optional and you can gaze at the moon while floating in your birthday suit in mineral water.
I really wanted to hike Mt Zirkel or Devil’s Causeway but since weather wasn’t cooperating in early October, I ended up going to Fish Creek Falls instead. I attempted to do the full trail to Long Lake, which is a leisurely 6 mile walk in the woods, but an afternoon storm cut my hike short right before I reached the second waterfalls and upon hearing the first thunder in the distance I turned back and ran down all the way to the parking lot. “Run as if a Colorado storm is chasing you!” Never had I ever run on a trail before. #thereisalwaysafirsttime Colorado storms in summer roll in around 2pm #learnedthatthehardway Hike early if you don’t want to be caught in thunder and lightening at 10,000 feet. #notsmartorsafe
When Mother Nature gave me rain, I offered gratitude in return and went to Yoga Center of Steamboat for a stretch and twist. I highly recommend yoga every other day when road tripping – to realign your body and soothe your soul. #justwhatthedoctorordered Later that day in town I heard of 2 other quick trails to explore in the area – Hahn’s Peak and the Vista Nature Train from the top of the Gondola. Well, so far I have ridden the Gondola only in winter when I returned to Steamboat to snowboard champagne powder.
Onto winter activities – Steamboat is famous for its dry powder and for harnessing the last flakes of the powerful Utah storms that roll into Colorado. It is the only resort that has trademarked the term “champagne powder” and powdery it is! I had purchased the early season pass which allowed me to ride for 3 days for about $50 per day. I was incredibly lucky to have fresh pow on my first and third day in town and took full advantage of all the terrain that was open that early in the season. If you visit the mountain in winter, go to the far right (or left) to avoid crowds and enjoy some fluffy tree runs by yourself. (Not that there are any crowds in the ‘Boat to begin with 👫👬👭)
A couple of food and drink places to visit in any season are Rootz for juices and healthy fare and Off The Beaten Path for coffee, tea, and books on a rainy day. I most definitely frequented the “happy hour” in town. Gotta stay “hydrated” at altitude. (For the newbies to Colorado, please do not drink or abuse coffee or substances in the first couple of days here. It is high in altitude and anything that normally dehydrates you may make you very sick. Eventually you will become bionic 💪 (aka superhuman at sea level) but that will take time.
My original plan was to write a blog post during my 3rd visit to Steamboat but since I couldn’t make it back this winter I thought I’d tell the tale before it’s too late. My blog just happened to be published on the same day Aspen Snowmass announced the acquisition of Steamboat Resort!